Last night I was reading in Isaiah and I noticed, for the first time, how many times the Father said, "You are My witnesses." He repeats it several times.
It made me think of this passage from Hidden Things:
"It's not that God likes anyone better or that they are more worthy than the rest. God's chosenness is for the sake of communicating chosenness to everybody else! That is the paradox, and it often takes people a long time to learn that (read the Jonah story)."
You are My story, Jesus told me, a few days ago.
But I know that He has lots and lots of stories; He is writing Himself into people's lives everywhere you turn, and each story is unique. I am just one of them.
February 18, 2012 excerpt from a letter I wrote to my mother
It's taking me a long time to get used to this new way of relating to Jesus. Almost everything sounds different to me- songs, scripture, my own blog- everything has this new and deeper meaning.
Last night, I saw it suddenly like an ocean, and Jesus was the ocean, and He was drawing me out deeper and deeper into Him, until my feet were swept up off me and I was upheld and surrounded by Him. I remembered Him saying, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch."
But lots and lots of people were on the shore still, on dry land. I couldn't understand why they stayed there, but I knew that one day, they too would be swept off their feet and carried away and healed and loved and named by Jesus.
It makes me think of that line from the hymn: "What more can He say than to you He hath said? You, who unto Jesus, for refuge have fled."
What more could He say to me? I mean, really? I suspect a great deal, though. For one thing, I'm grasping the barest edges of what it means to be His sister, His spouse; I suspect that for the rest of my life He'll be laying this teaching in deeper and richer. Anyway, Jesus certainly never runs out of lessons.
But isn't He wonderful, isn't He marvelous? He gave me this intense, unrelenting longing to be with Him, and then He meets it. Even when I was a young girl, and writing story after story about how there was another world, a better world beyond, and as a small child, caught up in the mystery and beauty of Jesus displayed before me in the world around me.
He has a perfect harmony of desire and design for every one of His children, and each of them are unique in all the world, and irreplaceable to Him.
This is our God! Isn't that extraordinary? This is God! The God that created us, He is like this- He loves this deeply, Jesus is this invested in us- that He should use marriage as an illustration of how we relate to Him. It's beyond understanding.
February 23, 2012
I saw this, when I sat down at the computer:
"How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in Him should ponder them. Everything He does reveals His glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails." (Psalm 111:2-3)
Last night, I was thinking about the pleasure of having a story with God, a story that has no end. We are His living stories; we ourselves are some of the most amazing of His deeds. In a way, we worship God just by existing- our new life in Him is a living testament to His glory and grace.
The story God has with you, He has with no one else. The way in which you are with Him- the voice with which you talk to Him- is unlike any one else's. If you were missing in the crowd, He would go to search you out. He would not be satisfied until He had found you.
The very heart of God stands wide open to us. It is an open door. We can have as much of God as we dare to believe possible.
It's like waking up from some cloudy, dreary dream- to look up and see that God is not distant, He is not frowning, He is not unobtainable.
Jesus is with us in the very moment and place where we are living. That's where we find Him.
February 24, 2012 Unpublished
In the night I was awake and Jesus was there, as He usually is. Only He was so present that it caused an immediate, instinctive request to spring out my heart without forewarning. I forgot about persevering.
"Take me home," I pleaded. It just slipped out, a little whisper, a little plea.
You are home, He said tenderly and I felt His arms around me, and His presence around me and knew that I was resting in His heart, and that would always be my home.
What could I say to that? How could I argue with that?
"But I want all of You..." I tried, vaguely.
You do have all of Me, He assured me.
Jesus has said that before. He means that we have all of Him all the time, we just don't realize it. We don't have Him divided up by the number of all of us- a little piece of Him. We have all of Him. I don't know, obviously, how this can be, but that’s the way it is.
I thought over my long, empty unproductive day. "If You aren't with me in order to make me more productive, or to cause me to do or produce awesome things for You, then why are You with me?" I asked Him, in bewilderment, in frustration.
To be with you, Jesus replied, just as intently.
Jesus is not calling me to the mission field, or wanting me to read the Bible nonstop or even to keep a spotless house. He just wants to be with me. God likes just to be around His children. It continues to boggle my mind.
Jesus said this to me a long time ago, back in the fall, when I got up the courage to ask Him if I was going to die or not- if that's why I was experiencing Him in the way I was.
"Why are You like this with me?" I asked Jesus, that day at the park. "What am I supposed to do with this?"
Because you're Mine and I want you with Me, Jesus had replied.
And He drew to my mind the blog, so I knew that sometimes I would be blogging about it, but that was like a side issue, a side concern. The main concern was that I was His and He wanted me with Him. That was the deal, right there. That was the answer.
Apparently, that's still His answer. My goodness. Jesus is marvelous beyond belief.
February 25, 2012
A book I ordered arrived yesterday. "I Come Quietly to Meet You: an Intimate Journey in God's Presence," by Amy Carmichael.
Some of it is very good, but then I read the section where she talks about being God's Nazirite- someone who gives up the pleasures of the world in order to have more of God, to be belong more intimately to God.
Hearing this set off all kinds of warning bells in my head. I grew up hearing this sort of message, over and over again.
On one hand, I empathized with her, simply because I don't enjoy most of the bright and flashing pleasures of life, pop culture and all that, but I have no illusions about that making me a "special" or more Godly person- all that it means is that I'm an introvert.
It's no merit to me to live out my own nature. He created both introverts and extroverts- they obviously must both reflect Him.
Personality aside, abstinence from pleasure also does not, in itself, assist one to meet with God either, in my experience. In fact, in the past, the more I attempted to give up this or that- that music, that object, that desire- in order to gain more of God, not only did I fail miserably, but I felt distant from Him, dry and desperate.
That is what worried me, when I read about giving up this or that pleasure, in order to have more of God. It's not that I'm clinging to any particular thing, glaring at Jesus and daring Him to come and take it away from me, if He dares.
It's just that I've tried that before, and it didn't work for me. It took me backwards.
But I'll bet it's right for someone else, at some other point in their walk with Him. And it's certainly true that we can get caught up in the cares and worries and pleasures of this life, and be distracted and hedged in by them in a destructive way.
But maybe the answer is not so much trying to weed whack as it is to simply look up at Jesus.
Lately, I have experienced intimacy with God unlike anything I ever had before, or even guessed was possible. This did not happen because I gave up anything before hand- I know, because I hadn't given up anything.
I had not "prepared" myself in any way to meet with Jesus. I had the desire and I followed my desire and He met me as I was.
Eventually, my appetite for certain things died away, but that wasn't in order to have more of Jesus- it was because I already had Him. Or He had me.
February 25, 2012 Unpublished
Went for a walk today, skipped over the Passion. At first, I couldn't- I felt guilty. I kept checking in with Jesus; I kept feeling His so tender love of me, His little one, so often caught up in these little, personal conundrums, but loved, loved, loved by Him.
Eventually, I realized that it wasn't necessary and that doing something out of anxiety is not a gift. As soon as I heard the chords of "But Thou didst not leave His Soul in Hell," my heart lifted right up into joy, pure lovely joy- joy like the blue sky, like the sunshine, like the wind.
Jesus was there, in me and around me and delighting in me, the way that He is, because He loves me more than I could ever imagine or know. In fact, He put a crown on my head and pulled me into His arms and I remembered, Thou hast crowned the humble with salvation and But You, Lord, are my helper and my glory and the lifter up of my head.
I threw my arms around Jesus and dissolved into Him and was drunk on Him and loved Him without reserve. And I gave the crown back, because that is what they are for- they are for joyfully and lovingly and exuberantly throwing them at His feet. That is the pleasure of crowns.
I kept putting my face against His. That is what it feels like, I don't know what it really is, because it's in the Spirit. But my goodness- sometimes it’s as though I can see details of His face- the shape of His face and even His eyes, which are so bright and clear and beautiful and with eyelashes. I was seeing this and then I realized that I was seeing it and then I couldn't see it anymore and I marveled and wondered.
It is a mystery.
February 27, 2012
Last night, I was reading, Keith fast asleep beside me, Lynn was curled up beside the bed and Abby was at my feet. The whole house was quiet.
In the quietness, I put the book down and I thought about how God has woven rhythm and growth into every part of His work- the seasons, night and day, life and death, and growth itself.
It struck me how important that must be to Jesus, if He is displaying it everywhere we turn, in everything great and small. What is it that He wants us to learn from that, I wondered. What was that meant to cause, to illustrate?
I thought, it must be necessary for the growth of our spirit- all that natural change that comes on us either suddenly and throws us all out of joint, or sneaks up on us all unaware and one day we wake up and realize we aren't the same person we used to be.
Then I wondered, could it possibly reflect His own nature? But then I chided myself.
"But You never change," I reminded Him. "You are the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow."
And Jesus reminded me of this:
"For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."
-Hebrews 2:10 KJV
Even Jesus was perfected by suffering! That extraordinary fact hit me all over again, that critical event around which all of human history turns.
In fact, Jesus experienced birth, and growth and loss and death. He passed through all the stages of human life that are so beautifully illustrated by the world all around us. It's His story as well, through His Incarnation.
The thought of Jesus' suffering sunk deeply into me, as I lay so quiet on the bed, the book forgotten, but still held upright in my hands.
It's over now, Jesus said to me tenderly, releasing me from the stillness of sorrow.
"Finished!" I cried with relieved joy. "And never again!"
Then another thought struck me. I had to work through the thought very slowly and cautiously. "But it could never have been just the physical suffering that You dreaded so much, as excruciating as that was," I said to Him, slowly. "That could not have been the worst thing."
As this thought grew in my mind, I felt the atmosphere around me change. It was as though the air around me took on weight; it was as though the air turned heavy and golden and hushed. I had the distinct impression that Jesus was bending closely over me and listening intently- even though, of course, He knew my thought before I spoke it.
Even know He knows our thoughts before we speak them, He still likes to hear us speak. Isn't that interesting about God? He likes it when we talk to Him. He loves any gift of ourselves that we freely offer up to Him, because He loves us.
"The worst thing must have been the separation from the Father," I said at last, almost reluctant to speak it at all.
Jesus poured into me an acknowledgement of that being true but also, a second agony- the agony of being opened up to and taking on Himself all of our brokenness and suffering and sins and misery. I was caught up in His arms and a flood of His love and His grief came to me without words, out of His heart. This understanding swept through me, leaving me speechless.
After a little while, the atmosphere changed- it grew lighter and I realized I was still holding the book in my hands.
I couldn't read any more. I turned out the lamp and settled in.
In the morning, I read this:
"I am overcome with joy because of Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul. You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set me in a safe place."
-Psalm 31:7-8 NLT
February 27, 2012 Crying on the Road
All those signs of His affection and love were not enough for me on my walk. I wanted Jesus more and I wanted Him more deeply and more present and more real. I wanted to see Jesus and touch Him and hear Him.
I wanted this life to be done so I could be free to go to Him. But, I knew it was not time yet.
"One more time," I told Jesus, trying to pull my determination together. "Once more into the gap. Yet once more." Because that is what I say when I drag myself from the longing and back into the present living.
But it could not keep away the longing for more. I ended up standing on the side of the road, groaning and in tears at my grief and frustration at being kept apart from the full knowledge and experience of Jesus. My spirit kept going out and going deeper. I kept reaching for Jesus and falling into Him and longing and longing and the longing was like roots deep into the very joints of me and it set loose all this grief.
I kept telling myself, pull yourself together! This is insane! No one cries over this! You're being so ungrateful! Stop crying! Stop being dramatic.
And then I would turn inward, the grief and longing were real, and present and authentic to myself. After a while, I had to simply stop walking and wrap my arms around myself and just be in Jesus and in the moment and just let it be what it was.
I went up into the path into the woods. I told Jesus, I love this about me, I love that You made me this way. I would rather live in this longing for You then spend one day distracted by lesser things, by the stuff of life.
Tears kept welling up. I knew Jesus was there, that He was all around me, even though I could sense just the smallest part of His presence.
I was listening to Handel's Messiah, and I heard the song about the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night, and tears welled up again. I thought of those guys, those normal, workaday guys, doing their thing, caught up in their life, and suddenly caught up into the glory of God, the glory of God just washed over them and poured into their life, and they were stunned by it and caught completely off guard by it and transformed by it.
Then peace came seeping into me and I thought of that verse, "I have quieted my soul like a weaned child." Jesus reminded me of the good and comforting things waiting for me at home- hot soup and chips, and creative work and my small chores.
February 29, 2012
I have been reading more of Amy Carmichael; she is astonishing. She puts Scripture together in unexpected and beautiful ways.
In one of the chapters, she quoted this passage:
"May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it."
-I Thessalonians: 5:23-24
I've read this passage before, of course, but you know what I was hearing, as I read it?
"Maybe the God of peace Himself might sanctify you completely and maybe your whole spirit, soul, and body might be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful (but only if you are faithful in every little, single thing, every moment of every day), who also will do it (if you obey completely and can be perfect all the time.)
So, I was sitting there, reading Carmichael's devotional, reading that whole passage wrong and not even realizing it, and she goes on to write this:
"He will do all that I long to do, and cannot. Faithful is He: He will do it!"
In those moments, for the first time, the full meaning of that passage sank into me. It was blinding. It was like having a dirty, flimsy curtain be pulled aside to reveal the strong light of the noon day. It filled me with joy unspeakable.
This is why we can be close to Jesus without shame; this is why we can shout for joy in the secret places of His tabernacle and go to sleep in His arms. The God of peace Himself sanctifies us through and through.
It's not a maybe; Jesus will do it.
We can lean ourselves, with joy, into this promise- as though we are leaning into His arms, against His loving heart. Wherever we go then, we never leave His arms.
At the very end of the book, Carmichael writes this:
"He who begins, finishes. He who leads us on, follows behind to deal in love with our poor attempts... He gathers up the things that we have dropped- our fallen resolutions, our mistakes... He makes His blessed pardon to flow over our sins till they are utterly washed away. And He turns to fight the Enemy, who would pursue after us, to destroy us from behind.
"He is first, and He is last!
"And we are gathered up between, as in great arms of eternal lovingkindness.
"As we travel on to another day, another month, or another year, we need never fear!"
-Amy Carmichael, I Come Quietly to Meet You, ch. 40