Friday, January 30, 2015

January 30th

Originally written on October 28, 2011-

I'm beginning to realize more and more clearly that we really can delight the heart of God. He is huge, vast beyond understanding, but we can actually make a significant emotional dent in Him, either in grief or in love, in pity and compassion, or frustration and anguish. He's never indifferent to us.

And I'm beginning to realize what are the things He loves. Believing in Him is a simple thing, but obviously, He enjoys that. Any kind of faith in Him pleases Him, and trust in Him is very good- I think that's precious to Him. He's constantly telling people "Don't be afraid..." Any kind of simple, loving trust in Him, He loves.

And any time we claim the identity Jesus bought for us, it pleases Him deeply. Any time we cast away our shame and guilt and self-hatred and instead, claim that nature and perfection and beauty that we have in Him, He loves that.

And even better, once in that identity, to draw near Him, that is the best. Every time I think of that phrase "I have held out My hands all day long to an obstinate people," I see His nail scarred hands outstretched in yearning love, and it breaks my heart and then, in my spirit, I run into His arms myself, and He catches me up in His arms and He loves me, loves me, loves me.

My love cannot make up for the loving fellowship and communion from others that He is longing for, because they are unique and their place waits for them, but He has already opened my eyes, so I can run right to Him and love on Him while He is waiting and calling.

Written two weeks ago, on January 13, 2015-

I was with Jesus in the inner room, peaceful and quiet, looking with pleasure upon the space that is as familiar to me as my own house. The outer walls are nothing but pillars and the beams of the ceiling span open space through which the sky can be seen, and at the end of the room was a window revealing the thick green leaves of the grape arbor built against that side of the house.

My renewed understanding that what I was seeing had meaning returned to me- and how often I've been doing that lately. So although I know full well what the inner room means and what it looks like, I declared with playful joy, "I will describe what I see!"

What does it mean? Jesus asked, smiling.

“This is a symbol of my inmost heart, which belongs to You and only to You and where we are together," I replied, which is the short hand answer.

The other answers Jesus taught me is that He keeps me under the shadow of His wings, in the secret place of His tabernacle, and that He has come and made His home in my heart, and that my life is hidden with Him in God, and that I am in Him and He is in me, and that I am seated with Him in the heavenly places, raised up with Him through His life, death and resurrection and made His own through the blood of the New Covenant and sealed to Him by His Holy Spirit and therefore His alone- those are all the answers Jesus has taught me to understand how I can be with Him.

This is not because I have earned it, but because Jesus is faithful, and so I have given my entire self to Him in this trust of His faithfulness and love.

While I was with Him, I kept wanting to serve Jesus something, so I went to the kitchen which is placed along one of the inner walls.

Jesus placed it there once, when I finally realized that it was only my lack of faith that kept me from understanding that the preparation, serving and enjoying of food is a wonderful way of enjoying and displaying love, and that this kind of loving communion is possible even in the inner room.

I've never been conscious of being hungry there, but occasionally, I feel the joyful desire to express love through food or drink, in which case, it becomes a little festive occasion.

I kept seeing water pouring out of the faucet, so I caught it in a clear glass and was bringing it to Him. As I was bringing it to Jesus, I paused, uncertain about whether or not to bring Him just water. I wanted to offer Jesus something more than water straight out of the faucet, so I said to Him, “I’ll make You tea!”

At first, I went to dump the water out and get more, but then I felt bad about casting away the first gift which I had seen clearly as it came out of the faucet, so I poured that water into the kettle where it could get hot.

While it was heating, I dropped honey into the glass. I saw this clearly, the golden liquid adhering to the sides of the clear glass and falling slowly down to the bottom, catching the light, rich and sweet.

The honey came out of a thick ceramic jug with an old fashioned, wooden utensil that is like a slotted ball attached to a wooden handle. I knew this honey was organic, made slowly and naturally- it was not the kind you buy in the store, in a plastic container.

When the water was boiling, I poured the water into the glass and put in a tea bag. “Those are the herbs,” I said to Jesus, knowing that He likes herbs and spices. Then I stirred it until the honey had dissolved and the tea had stewed to a lovely amber tint.

Then I brought it to Jesus, where He was seated on the couch, carrying the glass carefully in both my hands but at the last minute, I was anxious and wondered about my gift- after all, it did not physically exist, so I wondered if I was giving Him anything of value, or if I was just being ridiculous.

“This is just a gift of my heart,” I said, uncertainly, holding it up.

Bring that offering to Me, Jesus commanded, His voice overflowing with tender love.

So I brought it to Him and He drank all of it at once and set the glass down on the low table that is before the couch.

Then I had another thought, so I said, “I will make You toast.”

So I got up and cut bread, and said to Jesus, “I will pour honey on it,” which I did, and I brought it to Him on a white plate and knelt down beside the couch and Jesus took one slice and I took the other and we ate companionably, looking out into the green hillsides.

January 14, 2015

In the night, had a lot to process. I kept checking in with Jesus, to ask if it was okay that I was spending so much time working through everything that I was learning, instead of dropping it and giving Him my full attention.

Jesus assured me that He knew that I needed lots of time to think things through, because He created me that way, so I would go back to it. But finally I got weary of processing.

“Can I just settle down with You now?” I asked meekly, knowing I needed His help to let go of those other things that kept grabbing my attention and if unaided, I can remain in circling thoughts long past the point where it is productive.

His presence took gentle hold of me, and I saw His face and that I was with Him. Peace saturated through me, from within to without, and as I settled into His peaceful presence, I had this quiet little thought- "Oh good, now that I am actually resting with Jesus, I’ll receive more visions and mysteries that I can blog about and I will appear even more spiritual…”

This thought seemed to me one of the worst I have ever had- to use a gift as sacred and precious as communion with Jesus for the sake of my ego. This was not the innocent joy of knowing that He's asking me to freely share something that highlights the beauty of His nature and the goodness of His love. This was a different kind of thought.

Without hesitating, I brought it up for confession.

That is one of the first things I taught you, Jesus said quietly, with pleasure.

I had to think all the way back to how Jesus had come into my life right where I was, exactly as I was, and began to pour out His love and presence on me. At first, I had been euphoric, quite naturally, but this faded away because Jesus never left.

My efforts to be perfect and on my best behavior could only last so long before I fell flat on my face, and the only thing that kept me from becoming a nervous despairing wreck was Jesus' indescribable grace and unfailing love.

Whenever I failed, my first instinct was to wrestle with it myself and to lash out at myself in anger, to try and punish myself so that I wouldn't do it again.

Quickly I learned that this broke Jesus' heart and it was not what He wanted me to do. He taught me to turn toward Him openly and immediately, not hiding the fault, but just as I was, trusting in His willingness to forgive, His love and  His ability to rescue me and set me back on my feet.

At first, and for a long time, His grace offended me. It offended and confused me when Jesus didn't punish me every time I failed.

One night I took my miserable, shameful, at the end of my rope self off to bed, lashing out at myself for my ridiculous failure to be patient and kind and loving, in the presence of Jesus, and if I couldn't manage even these small, simple things, how miserable a failure was I, and why couldn't I do better and what would it take and what was wrong with me and why couldn't I just do what I was supposed to do?

I went into the room, closed the door and snapped at Jesus before He could speak. "Don't talk to me!" I cried, in this awful combination of despair, shame and anger. "I can't take any more of Your mercy! Why doesn't my bad behavior drive You away?"

It wasn't because of your good behavior that I came in the first place, Jesus replied, quite firmly.

(I blogged about that here.)

I had to learn to let go of my first and compelling instinct to make myself presentable in my own strength, and instead to hand myself to Jesus in perfect trust, exactly as I was. It took me months and months and months, and then years, of His presence and love to teach me that and I fought it for a long time, and sometimes even now I forget.

But in this case, my natural weakness is actually an asset, because I cannot take a hardly a step in my own strength before I fall and remember, with relief, that I am not meant to do it on my own and that I am not on my own and I hand myself over to Jesus with grateful love. If I were a naturally stronger person, it might have taken me much longer to learn.

“Yes, that was one of the first things, one of the oldest between us,” I replied to Jesus, remembering all this loving history.

This exchange was quick, almost without words, just the quick thoughts of my heart to His and back again. Then I returned to the main thing and articulated it, because I wanted to make a more formal petition.

“Don’t let me do that,” I pleaded with Jesus, looking into His face. He was listening with tender and patient love. “Don’t let me use You as a means to a private, prideful end. Already I have thought it! No doubt as I go further, this thought will return to me. Without Your help, I will surely succumb to this, for I have no strength in myself and it's so subtle! I could easily hide this selfish instinct by saying that I am wanting to receive from You for others, but it would really be for my appearance, and it would be like a cancer and how callous to use our love that way! Help me never to do it!

"Without You, I would surely choose what appears to be good over the best in life- which is You! Don’t let our house become sadly deserted. Please, for the love- for Your love- please guard my heart against ever, ever using communion with You as a means to an end- You, who are the golden heart at the center, You, the pearl above price, You the prize and the inheritance…”

As I was saying these things, Jesus' fiery love was flowing through me, so I said, “Burn away all this dross by the fire of Your love and set me as a seal on Your heart- right on Your heart of consuming, unquenchable love and as a seal on Your strong right arm and keep me in the fire of Your love, for I cannot seal myself. Seal me for Your courts above and keep me only unto Yourself for as long as we both shall live…”

I realized I was starting to quote the marriage vows, which made me laugh. “Which after all, will be forever,” I continued, simply going with it, as it is, in one sense, appropriate enough, and looking into His laughing, love filled eyes with trust and love. “Please keep me always only in Your love, looking only straight at You and not at myself. I know You will do this, because it is Your desire as well."

Then I gave Him space to speak, because sometimes it's possible to chatter on and never let Him get a word in edgewise.

With all My heart, Jesus said.

Those words and the quiet authority and pleasure with which He spoke them, pulled me down into stillness and I thought about what He said as though I were tasting it- with all His heart. My Lord and my God, the Creator of all that is, the One to whom all authority is given, will guard my heart and the love that springs up from it with all of His.

I let go of my fears then, like letting out a long breath of relief, and gratefully went back to resting in His love.

Jesus whispered to me, What comes first?

“The first thing is that I love You and only You with all my heart and soul and strength and mind, and give only to You all my trust and worship and adoration, because I belong to You and was created to be with You,” I whispered in reply.


"And the second is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39)

I feel that I must add that part, lest anyone think that I am advocating for a purely spiritual love of Jesus that does not overflow and translate into acts of love and service toward others. I would be a very poor disciple of Jesus were I to give that impression, and the fact of the matter is, I have to remind myself of this often.

Otherwise, I would be tempted to say to my poor husband, "Don't talk to me about petty things like your dinner and your dirty uniform when I have Super Spiritual, Very Important things to do."

As much as I cherish my experiences with Jesus, and as much as they move His heart, I can't help but think that the most profound and beautiful times that I ever loved Jesus was when I was kneeling at the feet of the frail elderly in the Alzheimer's ward, pulling their elastic socks over their swollen ankles and tying up the laces of their sturdy leather shoes, or using all my strength to lift and tilt their weak, broken bodies from the bed and into the wheelchair, so they could be wheeled to the dining room and fed breakfast, or when I walked along beside them, trying to comfort them as they ranted and raved, pushing their walker from one locked door of the ward to the other, crying out in grief, wanting to be let free, so they could go back home.


O God, You are my God, earnestly will I seek You;
my inner self thirsts for You,
my flesh longs and is faint for You,
in a dry and weary land where no water is.
So I have looked upon You in the sanctuary to see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.
So will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My whole being shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness;

and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips
When I remember You upon my bed and meditate on You in the night watches.
For You have been my help,

and in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice.
My whole being follows hard after You and clings closely to You;

Your right hand upholds me.
-Psalm 63:1-8

For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings.
-Hosea 6:6-7

Then Jesus spoke to him, “Simon, there is something I want to say to you.”

“Very well, Master,” he returned, “say it.”

-Luke 7:40, Phillips