Friday, May 20, 2016

On the Threshold

All of these posts have been shared already, and some several times, but I must include them once again. This is where they fit into the story, and they mark a pivotal point.

December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve. I've always loved Christmas Eve.

I'm up in Indiana, by the way. Keith's back was so much better we decided to head up after all.

I've been wanting to blog this for a while, but with travel and all, I haven't had a chance. I've just been carrying it around in my heart, so I wouldn't forget.

After I wrote the blog about the third chapter of John, I wanted immediately to write more like that, just because it was such a pleasurable thing to write. Who knows what it was really like- but just illustrating it with words was satisfying, even if the words can't do justice to the reality.

So, in bed that night, I was thinking through all the other scenes in John, thinking which one I might chose. But none of them had that "spark" or inspiration that let me know I could actually write it out.

As usual, I was resting in the close and loving presence of Christ, so I said to Him, "You're not in any of these."

That may sound strange, because the whole book is about Him, so of course He's in it. But what I meant was that I didn't see Him as vividly in those other scenes.

He said, That's because I'm right here.

"Yes, Jesus," I said, with a kind of humble joy.

I like this response- the response He's teaching my heart to say- I like it much better than my old response, which was to flatly deny His grace and love out of a deep feeling of unworthiness.

For a while there, I began saying, "Yes, Lord," as a sort of automatic response to His voice and it wasn't long before I felt Him check me.

Jesus reminded me of how I had used to hide my true self behind formality, and among those behaviors was using the title "Lord." Which is a completely appropriate title- He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. But Jesus didn't want me to go back to hiding behind the formality of the title, or to respond in such a way that, for me, didn't require any vulnerability.

When I was first getting used to having Him so close and real, one night, I used the phrase "I worship You," as opposed to the outflow of my heart, that springs up like a song without words. It was as though I were trying that phrase out for the first time, and it did feel a little stiff to me.

When I said "I worship You," I felt Jesus draw even closer to me. I felt His tender love of me, and most surprisingly, I felt His loving humor.

He said tenderly, How formal my little one is tonight!

That was the first time I ever experienced His loving humor. It took me by surprise- that was not at all the response I had been expecting from Jesus. But, oh! How it made me love Him more.

It's like He said to the woman at the well:

"It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration."
-John 4:23-24, The Message

Tonight and tomorrow, we celebrate our God with us. Not far away, not unreachable, not aloof- He is with us. Our God is living with us, suffering right alongside of us, speaking to us, teaching us and above all, loving us in each moment of each day, right where we are in our life.

How could we not worship Him in adoration, in the truth of who we are and who He is?

Let every heart prepare Him room!

December 25, 2011 Unpublished

This phrase keeps going through my mind: my Jesus, I love Thee; I know Thou art mine. For Thee, all the follies of sin I resign.

But sin is pretty easy to give up. So I sang: For Thee, all the follies of false righteousness I resign, and I felt His delight at my small joke.

He was close to me all day today, starting when I got an eyelash in my eye. I was totally stressed out anyway, so my anxiety just reached an unbearable point and I cried out to Him about the stupid eyelash.

And Jesus put His arm around my shoulders and held me against Him and I became quiet and calm. And the eyelash came out.

I thought, Oh my goodness. I just called upon God concerning an eyelash in my eye. And, He answered me.

Jesus met even that small, insignificant matter with His presence and peace. Then I remembered that He had said that even the hairs on our head are counted. Maybe we don't take that seriously. Since that's true, what other small, insignificant detail about ourselves is He not involved in and concerned with? I would venture to say that there is nothing He is not involved and concerned with.

When I woke, I didn't even have a moment to rest in Jesus. I felt all flustered and sent Him a quick, half garbled apology and I felt Him right beside me. He said, I'm here. All though the anxiety ridden getting ready for church, I felt His touch to calm me down and center me. Just do the next thing, He kept saying. One thing at a time. Trust Me.

One two three, I said, in relief.

I came down, and I was not late and there were cinnamon rolls and fruit salad for breakfast and everything was fine. And I adored Him. The whole trip to the church, I rested in His love and worshiped and adored Jesus.

In church, (which was a Catholic church) I alternated between grief and joy and exhaustion. A lot of it seemed strange to me. It was like taking a core sample of an entire landmass and saying, all the date in this core sample is what we know and do, when the entire landmass is their home and belongs to them.

It made me think of this passage:

"So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
- I Corinthians 3:21-23

During the service, everything happened quickly and there was no time to really think through each thing. Everything had to do with the surface. Guilt was openly employed as a motivator for behavior at every turn.

Every time I thought about how this imperfect and incomplete knowledge will fall off of us in eternity, and how brightly we will shine and how truly we will love and be loved and just bathed in compassion and knowledge and the love of God, I felt comforted.

In the meantime, some seem to prefer to live in these small containers. But that is okay, everyone grows at their own rate and in their own path, and Jesus is responsible for their faith and their salvation. Thank God the government is on His shoulders, not mine.

I heard or read something and I thought, oh, how will I convey enough love to this person to heal them?

Jesus said, I do that. That is what I do.

And I felt comforted. I said, right, of course, that is what You do. What do I do?

You are a mirror, He said.

I thought, oh my goodness! Of course. I mirror His love and what I see in Him to other people. The better I see Jesus, the better I can reflect Him. The better and deeper I let Him love me, the brighter will be the love that I can reflect.

But it's His work in the heart of the person that matters the most. He doesn't need a mirror, He just likes to use one if I'm available for the work, because doing that work is how Jesus also perfects me.

December 26, 2011

So we are home.

We stopped by Keith's mother's house in the morning before getting on the interstate. His mother is a kindred spirit, and I had the pleasure of talking out loud about the things I normally simply write about. I have two mothers with whom I can actually talk out loud about my inner life.

When she hugged me goodbye, she squeezed me tight and prayed a blessed, half under her breath. I didn't catch what she was saying, but as she prayed, I felt my spirit flare up. So did hers.

She pulled an arm's length away and looked at me, her eyes shining. "The Lord is using you, sister," she said, with a grin.

I felt unexpectedly and hugely shy, and ducked my head. It was as though a veil had been lifted, and she had a glimpse of something that normally is seen only by Christ.

My spirit is all liquid warm and flares up easily like that because I'm held in His arms all night long; my spirit belongs to Him. He delights in me; He actually tells me so. All day long He carries me under the shadow of His wings; I am the apple of His eye and His dove hidden in the rock.

On Christmas, I learned that my sister in law is pregnant again. I was upstairs wrapping the gifts, lost in thought. I’d been putting off talking about this with Him, but then in the quietness, I could. "Why?" I asked Jesus. "Why are You making me a barren woman?"

His response was layered and hard to grasp. It was as though He were saying that I wasn't barren in the spiritual sense. It was almost as though He were saying that I was full of Him instead.

But I still don't understand that, and it seemed so weird. A person doesn't have to be physically barren in order to bring forth fruits of the Spirit, or be in close fellowship with Christ.

Does the suffering of being barren, given over to Him, cause a harvest of spiritual good? I don't know. I guess it would make sense, though. But, again, wouldn't the suffering and sacrifice and joy of motherhood bring forth just as much growth in the spirit?

When Jesus begins to teach me something, I usually have a hard time grasping it at first. He always returns to the idea, again and again, to explain and expound on the original lesson. He does this in many different ways, and sooner or later, I understand it. It begins to be worked into my life.

But the one part I truly understood was that Jesus was with me- I had Him! This caused me so much joy that my spirit went up in flames.

"You, You, You," I cried, with joy. "I choose You, every time, over everything. Let my life be what it must and let me have You. So be it."

When I returned to the living room, my pain had been consumed by comfort and joy. I took my little nephew and rocked him in my arms and smelled his delicious baby smell and just enjoyed the little guy.

He is a cuddly little man and very good natured, but he was sick and coughing that afternoon. As I rocked the baby in my arms, I thought of his spirit, newly brought into the world and how much pain and suffering and molding he would go through, as we all must, and my heart broke for him.

Already he was suffering! It didn't seem right. I reached out for Christ, without words, and I felt both the baby and myself enveloped in His love. I felt Jesus standing behind me, His arms around myself and my nephew. We were bathed in love and peace.

I understood that right in that moment, Jesus was with that little baby, suffering with him. That little guy wasn't alone and never would be. Jesus walks through our lives with each of us, and what we feel, He feels alongside of us, and in us and with us.

I thought about how Jesus Himself was born human- was as helpless and humble as any infant. To be honest, I couldn't actually wrap my mind around it. I think there can be no greater courage or love and humility than His.

The entire trip back down to Georgia, I felt His love poured out on me.

December 27, 2011 Message on Facebook, written to my mother

I have to write about something so astonishing that just happened.

So, I'm pretty sure it was on the trip home that it began. I was talking with Jesus like I normally do. He was with me closely that entire time, just flooding me with His love and care of me.

Jesus held me in His arms and cradled my head against His shoulder and it was as though I were tucked deep, deep in with Him, safe and sound and cherished, under His wings. He kept taking my face in His hands.

It was so moving that I frequently found myself on the verge of tears. Especially when this one song came on:

I remember how it used to feel
Ridin' down ol' two mile hill
Tennis shoes up on the handlebars
Payin' no mind to them passin' cars
No doubts no fears
Just like when you are here

Chorus:
No chains, no strings
No fences, no walls
No net, just you
To catch me when I fall
Look heart, no hands

Took a little time to get up to speed
To find the confidence and strength I'd need
To just let go and reach for the sky
You know, sometimes it felt I could fly
No doubts, no fears
Just like when you are here

Chorus:
It doesn't take much
Just a smile of a touch
And I'm a kid again
I can almost feel that wind
-Randy Travis, Look Heart, No Hands

And I was just sitting there in the car, overwhelmed by love, tears tricking down my cheek- my heart was so full. I pleaded to Him, No more love, Jesus, no more love, or my heart will burst! I’m only a mortal girl.

Then, later on, I was thinking about a picture I'd seen on a Bible, of Jesus knocking at the door. I thought about how dolorous Jesus looked in that picture, how calm and pale and somehow almost disinterested.

He said in my heart, that is not who I am. He said this with tender humor. He didn’t mind the picture, not one bit. He was just letting me know that it did not capture who He truly was.

I said, “Yes, Jesus.”

I remembered how the verse read, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens to Me, I will come in and eat with them.

The verse lingered with me. I thought, surely there’s no way He’s not in with me, after everything lately! But still, it kept lingering in my mind, so finally, I said, with joyful abandon, okay, sure, I’ll ask Him in.

I surely want Him in, if He isn’t in already and it can’t hurt to invite Him many times. I would love to eat with Him. So I threw the arms of my spirit wide open with love and joy and I said, “Come, come, come!”

And Jesus filled my spirit like fire; it took my breath away. For a moment, I felt myself absolutely filled and flooded with Him. I relished this sensation and marveled and then it faded peacefully away, and I was as I normally am.

When we got home, I got things somewhat organized and went to bed. I was talking with Jesus as I normally do, and I was thinking about how certain things were sacred. And I remembered that I was sacred, because I was the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So I said to Him with a kind of childlike joy, “I’m sacred!” And I imagined myself as a building, with columns and doors and walls.

He said with loving humor and with passion, You’re no building to Me, and He reached out and pulled me into His arms.

Then I felt as if His presence became more intense, as though it had more force and density and it was as though there was a veil in my mind and I kept wanting to hide behind the veil.

Jesus kept gently lifting it and finally I said, okay, and tore the veil away and I was confronted with the overwhelming reality that I was talking to Jesus.

To Jesus. To God. To the Son of God. This knowledge that went through me like fire. I was terrified. It was an awe-filled terror. I couldn’t speak. I was completely overwhelmed.

The holy terror was so great that I started to recite the Lord’s Prayer, but as soon as I said, “Our Father,” peace began to spread out from my spirit and it calmed all my trembling. But the awe, in the incredible awe was still all through me.

I just couldn’t speak. Finally, I said His name, I said, “Jesus, Jesus!” And I felt His answering joy and love.

I said, It’s really You! You’re Jesus! You’re the Son of the Living God! You’re Jesus who was crucified! The first born of all creation. You're my Redeemer and my Creator.

And each time I spoke, I felt His affirmation like fire in my soul.

I said: You’re really here!

And Jesus said, I’ve been here all along.

I said, that’s true! Oh my goodness, it’s been You!

He said, I’ve been with you your entire life.

I said, Yes, You have. You’ve shown me that. I know that now.

He said, I’ve been your Companion all this time, the One that has been speaking to you all along.

I said, yes, oh my goodness. Oh my goodness.

He said, You’re the girl that longed so desperately to follow along with Me like one of My apostles.

I heard the loving smile in His voice, I felt His love and intimate awareness of me- and I remembered feeling that, so many times in my life. Not because I wanted to be an apostle- heavens no. But just because I so longed to be that close to Him.

Oh, I was abashed- just, so shy. I said, oh my goodness, yes that was me. I did want that.

I was so overwhelmed that I couldn’t speak. I kept trying to speak, to speak of my love and my adoration and my need and my longing and I couldn’t. It was so much that it was as though it were lodged in my throat by the sheer size of it.

Finally, I got it out. I cried out, in my spirit, “I’ve longed for You! I’ve been longing for You all my life!” It poured out of me and my spirit went up in flames all over again. I said to Jesus, in a garbled kind of prayer, please don’t leave me, please don’t ever leave me.

I felt Him smile. He said, we’ve been through this already. He said it was such tender love.

Awe swept over me all over again. "We have,” I said with awe. “You did teach me about that.”

I remembered Him saying, I will never leave you nor forsake you and awe swept over me again. I said to Him, “You said that! It was You that said that to them.”

He said with great love, I said that to you.

(Obviously, I remembered this incorrectly, and wrote this incorrectly in the note to my mother, as I didn't realize my error until later, at which point my consternation at misquoting Jesus, to Jesus, was almost too great for words. What I was thinking of was when Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." However, it was also only at that point that I also realized the gentleness and abounding compassion of His correction.)

I said, excitedly, “I’ve been reading all Your words!”

He said tenderly, I know you have.

Then later, I whispered to Jesus, “But I’m so afraid now I’ll lose that sense of intimacy and familiarity that I had with You before, when I knew You through that veil.”

In response, He took me by the shoulders, pulled me close to Him and kissed my face. Fire went through me all over again. For a moment, I could not move or breath or think for the fire that consumed me.

Okay, but the night did not end there. I was still confused about the fear. I thought, how can this be Jesus, if perfect love casts out fear?

So He brought to my mind all these verses and situations when other people had been afraid and trembling before God- it's a normal human response. Abraham felt a holy terror, Gideon did, David wrote about it in the psalms. Even just the sight of an angel can fill a human with holy fear.

I understood then about "the fear of the Lord." It's not a dread, it's a holy awe that fills a person's entire being. It's part of knowing that one is in the presence of God. It's part of knowing with absolute certainty that He exists, that He is.

I think that must be why the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom- because the fear of the Lord is to know absolutely that He exists, and that He alone is God. It doesn't mean dread or horror or shame. I didn't feel any of those things. It's not a dark fear.

Then I longed and longed to leave this brokenness and to go home. But I pulled myself from the longing. I felt Jesus close by, and loving me, as I worked through the longing.

I said, I will be here. Being here is good for my spirit. I will learn so many wonderful things; I will grow in such wonderful ways. It won't be long- it will be for just a moment, and then I get to go home, and with such a wealth of knowledge and depth of soul!

This is worth it, I'll stay here and let my soul be sharped as iron sharpens iron. I'll be pulled and deepened and I will grow into knowledge of Jesus. Then, when I return home, I'll be full of good things, things which bring the Father honor!

I'll do this because Jesus does it through me. All I have to do is stay abiding in Jesus and He produces all the lovely fruits of my spirit.

It won't be long. I'll do this, I'll be here, in the weight and heaviness and cloudiness of sight (naturally speaking). It's okay. Jesus has me safe and sound. He'll get me through safe and sound. All the dross will get burned away, I won't carry it forever.

When I woke in the morning, I was still stunned by everything that I had moved through the night before. I lay in bed for a while, letting my spirit adjust to everything.

Jesus was there, filling my spirit with His quiet love and peace. I felt His presence as I normally do. I lay back and rested in it. Then I got up and opened the French doors and stared at the sky. It was all full of white and gold clouds and layered sun shining through on the eastern horizon.

Wonder flamed up in my soul all over again, to think that Jesus, Jesus Himself, was with me.

I'm still a little scatter brained, and trying to process all this. Anyway, I have to go and get ready for the day. If this isn't too long to fit into the message box, I'll send it to you. Love you!