Friday, July 22, 2016

Behold, What Manner of Love

January 10, 2012 Unpublished

Last night I was resting in the arms of Jesus and talking about the day and my talking became like a prayer and my prayer became like a song of praise that poured out of me, phrase after phrase after phrase, until I had emptied out my heart like a vessel. And I felt Jesus holding me, soaking in my praise and pouring out love at the same time.

January 10, 2012

I remember one quiet, sunny afternoon -I must have been between fourteen and sixteen years of age- when I went 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 unusual. 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 goose bumps.

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 snowflakes 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."
-Psalm 104:3-4

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 efforts to earn Him were like a tower of Babel and all our accomplishments nothing more than sandcastles. We are looking in the face of God and we have nothing to offer Him.

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. We don't remember this again until early Monday morning, when the alarm goes off, but we don't have any more time to think about it.

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. I put Him off with impersonal, future good intentions, and sometimes just by being shocked by His love, so shocked I turned right away.

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.

January 11, 2012

It continues to amaze me when I wake and find Jesus still there. I often think of David's verse:

"And when I wake up, You are still with me!" David writes with such wonder, in Psalm 139.

I come out of that haze of dreams to the bed covers and the light through the blinds. And there, surrounding me and close beside me, is unmistakably the loving and personal presence of Jesus.

"Jesus!" I said in wonder this morning. "My Lord and My God! Why are You here?"

I will never leave you nor forsake you, He reminded me.

Last night I read in Luke 14 how Jesus warned His disciples to count the cost before following Him.

As I remembered this in the morning, I got scared, thinking of the day ahead. What terrors could Jesus be leading me into?

Should I count the cost? What if I didn't have enough to complete this life in Him?

"That scares me," I told Jesus.

He brought my mind back to the scene itself- how He was traveling with great crowds up into Jerusalem and to be crucified, and how many of those who were following Him were doing so because they had simply gotten all caught up in the excitement of the moment, and all the crowds and the miracles, and hadn't thought things through.

Jesus was giving them a chance to really consider if they wanted to follow Him into Jerusalem and beyond, to the intense trials of the early church. They were perhaps thinking they were going to gain everything- an earthly kingdom- when in reality, they would likely lose everything.

I took all this in, and it all made sense to me. "So," I asked Jesus, "should I count the cost now too?"

You have, Jesus said, with loving humor, many times.

I remembered all the times, just over and over again, I had given myself completely over to Him.

Then Jesus reminded me of those crazy Galatians, who thought they could complete by their own strength what only God could have begun in them. Jesus reminded me that it is His responsibility to complete the works that He has begun in my life, and to perfect my faith.

"So, all I have to do is walk beside You, day by day, trusting in You to guide and strengthen me and to complete the work You began in me, until we're finished?" I asked, assuming there might be some cut off point to His close involvement in my life.

We're never going to be finished, Jesus said to me, with tender love.

By which He meant that our relationship would never come to an end. We would always be together, and I would always be growing in Him, because Jesus Himself is without end.

Then I got up and began my day. I stood outside on the front step, looking at the clouds that were passing so swiftly over the sky.

I was getting all settled in at the computer and was looking up the verse Jesus had quoted to me, and I found this, in the Amplified Bible:

"...for He [God] Himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!]"
-Hebrews 13:5b

As I looked it up, I realized that I had misquoted this particular scripture to Jesus once, a week or so ago, and I felt so embarrassed! I misquoted the Scriptures... to Jesus!

Lord help me.

Had He corrected me, set me straight, given me an offended lecture?

No, of course not.

Actually, come to think of it, Jesus did correct me, in a way. I thought He had said that to His disciples.

When Jesus corrected me, He said, "I said that to you."

And I could not help but notice and then laugh helplessly at the love and mercy and attention to detail that Jesus shows, in all things, when I read today's verse on

“Out of my distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free and in a large place. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” Psalm 118:5-6 AMP

As I got up to get my coffee, I knew Jesus wanted me to flip the calendar page. So, I grabbed my coffee and sat down and with great interest, turned the page.

And this was the scripture for today:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; He leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to His name."
-Psalm 23:1-3

How unbelievable is that?

How extraordinary He is!

Now I know why: I'm studying more about the Revelation of Jesus Christ, etc and it's excruciatingly difficult and frightening.

Did Jesus just lead me head on into this? No. He layered and layered and layered love and assurances before beginning to teach me.

And continually, He reminds me of this:

"For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect).

"But when the complete and perfect (total) comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away (become antiquated, void, and superseded)."
-I Corinthians 13:9-10

Even Paul's understanding of Jesus and the will and plan of God was incomplete and imperfect. Not that it was wrong, just incomplete.

So we are all of us, all the time, growing in knowledge of God, Who is Love.

Have you ever wondered why it is that He loves us so much? I have. And every time, Jesus gives me the same answer: we are His children.

I myself forget the incredible implications of this statement. I forget, because I've heard the phrase "the children of God" all my life, so it begins to be meaningless, after a while.

However, if I stop and think about it, it becomes so huge that I begin to be unable to take it in. It is, for example, impossible for an earthly father to love his children more than God could love His children.

This means that the love of God for us is more intimate, more authentic, more lasting, more tender, more protective, and more joyful than any earthly father has ever loved his children.


See what an incredible quality of love the Father has shown to us, that we would be permitted to be named and called and counted the children of God!

And so we are!

For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Beloved, we are even here and now children of God, and it is not yet made clear what we will be after His coming. We know that when He comes and is revealed, we will, as His children, be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is, in all His glory.

And everyone who has this hope confidently placed in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure- holy, undefiled, guiltless.

-I John 3:1-3, from the Amplified Version