Friday, February 12, 2016

A Very Present Help

November 21, 2011 Diary Prayer

Prayer, written April 21, 1994:

"I give myself again to You to do what You please with. I know all things work out for good for those who trust in the Lord. And I trust in You because You help me to.

"Help me never to think I did it (earned this by my efforts). Oh Lord, if You think it necessary to show me exactly what I can do on my own, I give you my free permission, Lord. I know what I'm asking for (a lot of failure.)

"But oh Lord Who "will not let my foot slip, Who watches over me," I pray You will hold me in Your hand no matter what happens, and like with Job, be always ultimately in authority over me.

I ask this in Jesus' name, depending on Your mercy."

I wrote this prayer when I was sixteen, in the same diary entry at this:

"I am created just to please God. In one way it's humbling, in another it's more exciting than I have yet imagined.

"Well, this spiritual high will go, but God will still love and care for me as He does right now, and my roots in Christ will be deeper."

I found this diary entry about a week ago, and the deep mystery of my writing this prayer and the resulting events of my unfolding life linger in my mind and I don't know how to understand it.

(I still feel this way. I cannot come to any conclusions about this, except that I did pray that prayer and it is in fact hand written in one of my oldest diaries, and that Jesus is faithful and good and merciful.)

November 22, 2011 Unfailing Love

So, last night I was having a hard time, and I felt distant from Jesus. I was still processing residual anger at Him for my first marriage. It kept flailing out without my control and each time it bothered me deeply.

This kept getting in the way of my usual resting in Him. Because I was back to worrying that my anger would offend Jesus, especially because I thought I had moved on. I was disappointing myself by still feeling angry, and ashamed of this and worried that this would offend Jesus. I said to myself, fine, I shouldn't be around Him right now- I'm too angry. That way I wouldn’t bother Him until I could get into a better place- which is exactly the thing Jesus keeps telling me not to do, but it’s truly a difficult thing to remember in the moment when it’s needed.

I turned my attention away from Jesus, but to my amazement, I felt myself enclosed by the shadow of His wings, which has, of late, been normal. I've grown accustomed to going to sleep feeling encased by His love and presence. But I didn't expect it under those conditions.

I tried to justify this gift of love from Jesus. I said to myself, that's just because He's faithful. He can’t actually love me like I am now.

In response, I was enclosed in His arms of mercy and Jesus said to me, because I love you.

That stopped me in my tracks. I was thinking oh my goodness. Is there no end to His love? Who loves like this?

I began our little exchange, because I say it to Jesus often. I said, You love me because You created me.

You are Mine, He agreed.

Then I went off on a tangent, remembering something from the Gospels, and I quoted it to Jesus- “And You knew what was in the heart of man, You needed no one to tell You,” I said, and waited to see what He would say.

I gave up; I stopped testing His love. Jesus loves me. He loves me because He created me on purpose, because He wanted me to exist and to be with Him. Jesus wanted me enough to pay a huge price for me.

And Jesus certainly does know what is in the heart of man, but it doesn't seem to throw Him off. After all, He knew before He became the Word Incarnate, He died to save us while we were still sinners. Jesus loved us then.

(I wrote this being overwhelmed by that much of Jesus' presence, but writing this now, five years later, I know that was just a sip of what was to come. Over time, Jesus prepares our hearts continually to receive more of Him- so that He can entrust more of Himself with us.)

Why is Jesus like this with me? Why? Am I going to die? Is something really, really terrible going to happen to me soon? Is that why He's pouring out His presence and His love into my life in such astonishing ways?

I don't understand.

November 28, 2011

It's raining and outside my windows everything is slowly being filled by a soft pearly light as the sun rises unseen. The headlights of neighbors pulling out for their morning commute slide across the road in a long slick of yellow light.

Sometime before our trip to Indiana, I was praying about it and before I had finished my worried sentence, Jesus replied, I've gone up ahead of you.

I was all flustered. That's the not the first time He's interrupted me while I was still talking to Him. At first I was thrown off by it, but now I pause, marvel and regroup.

Jesus was with me, up there. For some reason, I was worried that He wouldn't be- almost as though I expected the presence of God to be a purely localized phenomenon.

In my mother-in-law's house there were pictures of Jesus all over the place. I was familiar with those pictures from childhood- the picture of Jesus standing and knocking on the door, the picture of Jesus with serenely folded hands, praying in the garden of Gethsemane. There was one picture of just His hands, outstretched, as though He were saying, take My hand.

The pictures increased my longing and so I could hardly look at them, because they made me long for the fullness of His presence, to know what He looks like, to be with Him, living.

Many times during the trip I was drawn to the doors or windows, all but putting my nose to the glass, and longed and longed to go out, out into the solitude- to shake off the noise and bustle around me and step into the silence that is full of Him, the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

I could not- it would be too rude. I had to turn away and be once more in the midst. He was there too, near me in the warmth and voices and TV sounds, but I couldn't concentrate on Him the way I can in the silence.

At night, I threw myself into Jesus with desperation. The first night, I was filled with extraordinary relief- You were with me! You were with me the whole time! I declared to Him, with joy. But oh, tomorrow... what will I do tomorrow, when I am exhausted and have even less resource to make it through?

I felt myself cradled in His arms, as though I were very small, so I knew Jesus would be carrying me the next day.

The next day, a conversation occurred between Keith and his mom that was healing for both of them, and the room was full of the presence of God. It was so full of light that the sharp edges of the objects disappeared into the haze of it.

As it happened, I marveled. Then the light and the warmth faded away and we were just people in a small apartment, talking.

Yesterday, as I was busying myself with cleaning and decorating the house for Christmas, I felt this incredible longing for Jesus. It was as though I were carrying the longing around inside of me. I kept thinking, I'll get this one thing more done, and then I'll stop and deal with this longing.

But then I couldn't stand it anymore, so I stopped everything in sheer desperation, actually knelt down by the side of the bed and dragged the Bible toward me and I read again Psalm 63, that begins:

"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."

When I feel such a longing for God, I am very thankful for the Psalms, which contain such phrases as:

"As the hart pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God.

My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?

"Deep calls to deep at the thunder of Your waterspouts; all Your breakers and Your rolling waves have gone over me."
-Psalm 42:1-2, 7

"My soul yearns, yes, even pines and is homesick for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out and sing for joy to the living God."
-Psalm 84:2

"Whom have I in heaven but You? And I have no delight or desire on earth besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the Rock and firm Strength of my heart and my Portion forever."
-Psalm 73:25-26

"I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my supplications. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live."
-Psalm 116:1-2

November 29, 2011 Bible Study

I got caught up in sheer terror today concerning the high probability of my being in some kind of doctrinal error, since I do not use a system when I study the Bible. I failed around wildly and reached out for Christ, my Rock and my very present help in times of trouble and I said, “What about this, what about this? What should I do about this?”

Jesus reminded me that He gave me the Holy Spirit, Who will guide me into all truth.

I said, “That was just for the apostles, wasn't it? Or was it for all of us? Was that just for the early church, because they didn't have the New Testament, they were actually writing it? I bet that's what it was about- I bet You gave them the Holy Spirit so they could write the Bible and now we have the Bible, so we don't have the Holy Spirit in the same way.”

He reminded me that all the believers who waited in the upper room were baptized with the Holy Spirit, with tongues of fire.

Phew! Oh, sweet relief! I remembered then. Yes- all believers had the Holy Spirit. And some were made teachers and some apostles and some shepherds and some helpers and some gave generously and some shown mercy and some spoke in tongues and some interpreted tongues, all as Christ gave them, gifts individually.

So I have the Holy Spirit, Who does lead me into all truth, gradually, and into a deeper and deeper understanding and knowledge of Jesus, who has all wisdom and the very Wisdom of God.

And besides, of course I am in error! How arrogant to even hope to be absolutely doctrinally correct! That would be to make myself God. I am not God, I am just a disciple of Jesus Christ. So of course I get things wrong.

But that is okay, because Jesus is in control and is larger and more powerful than my limitations. He is faithful to guide me into the truth, step by step. He is tender and kind and meek of heart and He is faithful and true and I can put all my hope in Him, and just know that I am His, and He keeps me safe.

Oh, Jesus is good! He is my ever present God, the Friend and steadfast Guide and He is my Everlasting Father, and I am His small girl- His forever family and He won't let me go.

“O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever. O give thanks to the God of heaven, for His mercy and loving-kindness endure forever!” Psalm 136:1,26

November 29, 2011

I am filled with a kind of nervous energy today, as though charged with static electricity. I fear that to brush my hair will ignite a shower of sparks.

I read Psalm 116 again, and how beautiful is this psalm in the New Living Translation?

Here are the first nine verses of it:

I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
Death wrapped its ropes around me;
the terrors of the grave overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Please, Lord, save me!”
How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.
Let my soul be at rest again,
for the Lord has been good to me.
He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
And so I walk in the Lord’s presence
as I live here on earth!

November 30, 2011 Companionship with Christ Over Fear

Last night I was resting in the close and loving presence of Christ, and I suddenly thought, what am I doing, being this close to God? How ridiculously presumptuous of me! How dare I! Who do I think I am?

I withdrew from Jesus and lay there, wide awake in the room, wondering what on earth I was doing- how had I ever felt as though I could curl up in the arms of God? As I was beginning to think about this, I felt Jesus waiting for me to choose what I would do- would I withdraw completely or return to Him.

Gingerly, I started thinking things through, one thing at a time. I remembered how patiently and how powerfully Jesus had dealt with my shame and my fear and how He had been slowly coaxing me closer and closer to Him, lovingly and faithfully.

I thought of how Jesus had poured out His presence on me, in a way I had never experienced in all my life, and how He had walked me through the entire Bible, so that I could see glimpses of Him and our Father all through it.

I thought about how Jesus had laid aside His glory and honor, and came down and suffered to be born human. He lived a life of hardship and obedience. He was faithful and true, and completely finished His Father's work. He suffered violence and unspeakable pain and suffering, He who knew no sin became sin, and suffered shame and grief and injury, and died.

Even the Son of God was reshaped by suffering- by our own suffering. But through His suffering, He purchased sons and daughters to God. The travail of His soul brought forth our new lives in Him.

It is ridiculous to think that after all this, Jesus would prefer a respectful distance from His own family, His family that He purchased with His own blood. He wishes to hold us close.

Then I wondered at myself, that just because of one stray thought, one old thought from my former religion, I would give over fellowship with Jesus and instead remember again the old fearful, demanding, and unmerciful beliefs about a god that does not exist.

So then, I paused, right on the edge of returning to Jesus, of abandoning myself to Him again in trust, and holding up my old beliefs as though for His final review. "And You are not like that, are You?" I asked, my voice becoming tentative at the end, aware that Jesus was right there, listening, watching and waiting. "Are You?" I asked again, timidly.

And Jesus came like fire. I felt fire rush through me from the top of my head to the soles of my feet and then the sensation faded away and I was just as I normally am, warm and cozy and wrapped up in Him.

Then I began trying to think about how I would blog about the experience, and how I could possibly put it into words. I spent a fair amount of time doing this, and then I stopped, aware that my thoughts had traveled far away from Jesus, and He was right there.

"There I go again, composing another blog no one will ever read," I said, with a little grin.

I enjoy them, Jesus replied, with His loving humor.

It has surprised me to realize that a relationship with God also deepens and grows over time, in many ways like a relationship with another person. Probably because God is a person, the Divine Person. Somehow, I had this thought wedged in the back of my mind- the thought that my relationship with God must always remain static because God is immutable.

Well, of course Christ is always the same, but we are always learning more about Him. That, and the fact that we do in fact grow and change, means that our relationship with Him does change and does grow.