I remember one quiet, sunny afternoon -I must have been between fourteen and sixteen years of age- when I went creeping quietly up the stairs to the gallery of the Sanctuary building.
The Sanctuary was a very special building for the church that I grew up in. It was used for large meetings and on Sundays for worship services.
It had two galleries that overlooked the main room and large glass windows that let in the blue sky and in the summer, the sight of green leaves moving in the wind.
No one was supposed to go in the Sanctuary, but for some reason I was drawn there that day. Even at that age, I had the vague idea that maybe I could find God in that building, more than in any other place.
The stairs creaked, so I went up the side, clinging to the rail and then stepped cautiously out to the edge of the gallery.
I could look down over the rows and rows of chairs and the raised platform where the pulpit stood. All was hushed and empty.
I began to pray, earnestly and passionately, that God make me like a sturdy oak tree, with my roots planted so deeply in Him that nothing could ever shake me loose.
As I prayed, I felt this growing desire to lift my hands into the air.
This was a strange urge. I was not raised in a church where we lifted our hands; it was not a part of how we praised or worshiped God, that I can remember.
However, the urge grew so strong that I simply had to give in to it. Cautiously, I lifted both my hands up into the air, palms out.
Doing this caused me to feel vulnerable and open, but I had hardly a moment to experience those sensations before I felt God take my hands in His.
A holy awe swept over me like goosebumps.
That was the first time I ever felt God's touch. When this memory came back to me several weeks ago, it increased my understanding that God was calling me to Himself all my life.
There is no other reason for me to have done that, or to have prayed like that. No one asked me to; no one knew where I was.
One night a few weeks ago, as I was resting in Jesus, I was thinking about my childhood, and how much I had liked to go out in the evening.
Especially on windy or snowy nights, I liked to be outside in the weather. I would stand under the street light and watch the snow flakes falling endlessly through the halo of golden light.
I remembered the mysterious beauty of shadows in the night, how it softened all the land and the woods and how the wind breathed over all of it.
As I remembered this, Jesus said to me, I was in the wind.
Wonder and understanding dawned in my mind, as I heard Him say this. It made perfect sense to me.
"I knew it!" I cried, in delight. "I knew You were! That's why I out there; I was looking for You."
"He makes His home on the waters. He makes the clouds His wagon. He rides on the wings of the wind. He makes the winds carry His news. He makes His helpers a burning fire."
I think that Jesus is talking to us all our lives, all the time, but we only recognize a few of the times, especially after we've become an adult.
Sometimes I think He's hard to recognize simply because of how much love He has for us- we're so often expecting something different.
It's like we hear a knock on the door- Someone is calling our name! Eagerly we go to open the door and there's this scruffy looking Person standing there, with unloosed sandal straps, unwashed, scarred hands and no place to lay His head. He smells like sheep.
The love in His eyes is almost unbearable, because He sees right through us.
We don't understand how He can love us that much. It hurts. It takes away from us anything else we had ever held on to, anything else that had ever defined us.
In that one moment, in the light of that love, we know that all our good works are meaningless, all our accomplishments nothing more than sandcastles. We are looking in the face of God and we have nothing to offer Him.
He sees everything we are not, and everything we have tried to hide, even from ourselves and He loves us absolutely, completely. We know that if we let Him in, we will be undone by that love.
So we look away. Urgently, we dig in our pocket for some loose change and we tell Him that there's a homeless shelter on down the road, in the center of town. We don't look in His eyes as we speak.
Then we close the door, and we think, with desperation, about the next thing we must do, and the next, and the next and then it's dinner time and there's no time think. We don't pause to consider why that's such a relief.
In bed that night, we decide that on Sunday, we'll donate some money to the church homeless fund. This comforts us, and we fall asleep.
I have done this to Jesus countless times. Countless times I have closed the door in His face, because I could not recognize or accept His love.
But He keeps on knocking- that's the thing.
Then one day, that pestering Stranger comes by and we are so exhausted and our back is so strained and our hands are so aching with all the things we have tried to carry and tried to hold on to and tried to hold at bay, that we must lean against the doorjamb. We are so ashamed that we cannot lift our eyes to Him.
And that scruffy, loving Shepherd opens His arms to us, and when He does, we drop everything and go running to Him like children.
And then we are found. There is laughter and warmth at our house; there is so much to talk about, so much to say.
He stays with us, each day and each night. He makes the garden grow up all around the house and He makes the house snug and warm against the storms outside.
In the evening, when we sit curled peacefully up against Him, He tells us stories and teaches us, and the light shines out all the windows and the open doors.