If words carry the weight of intention and illumination, presence breaks the sound barrier.
Not long ago I had to undergo some surgeries. The doctors wanted to see if they could improve my hearing with repair to my ear canal. The recovery was unbelievably slow. My sister came to stay with me for both surgeries. She accepted no arguments. I didn’t even know she was there, really, or that my niece had tag-teamed with her for a few days. The two surgeries, both failures, occupied an entire year of my life. How deeply I needed the warm touch of friends. How much I needed to know all was going to be right again.
I think it was this experience that has heightened my awareness of presence. Following that experience, I’ve not been able to know someone was in the hospital, having a baby or a health setback, without just showing up.
I’m reminded of the way my aunt and cousin drove 400 miles to be with my family when my Dad passed. Time and again, they have quietly set aside their own lives to be.there. No fanfare. They’re just standing in the doorway every time something major in my life occurs. Over and over and over again. And every single time I think to myself, “They get this. They understand presence.”
We have such ability to change the atmosphere when we enter a room. The Godhead lives inside of us. Wherever we go, we have that choice to usher in love and goodness, kindness and laughter; or we can scowl and bring judgment, create schisms and cliques. I choose love.
I want to be that person. I want to be a person whose presence carries the weight of Heaven, the gentleness of “I get you.” And, “I can’t solve it, but I’m here.”
Monkey bars. Do you remember them? They sort of beg you to hang upside down and look at the world from a different viewpoint, don’t they? It’s a structure so you’re either on the monkey bars or you’re not. You are either willing to climb and stretch and twirl. Or you’re not. And it’s okay, really. There’s always the teeter totter that will knock your chin into next week, if you like that sort of thing.
But, really. We’re all grown-ups here. And this is still the playground. And you can either see London, France and Stinky’s underpants, or not.
The big decisions come as little ones. Actually. They masquerade as, “So whaddya think?” And your answer to “Whaddya think?” sets the whole trajectory of your life. Or, at the very least, it exposes what is in your heart.
As a Christian I have at my fingertips the concept of Grace. And Christians are wildly prone to apply grace to themselves but be really super stingy when it comes to other people. We just do this. I don’t know where we learned it. And I’m really grossed out by that, and apologize. Yeah.
Grace, we’ll happily recite to you is unmerited favor. Awesome. Let’s throw a few Christianese jargon-y words in there so you can’t be on the team, once again. We’re still in Junior High apparently and picking teams, and if you know the words and how to use them then you’ll be picked to be on the team. Good grief. What a recollection. I hated Junior High and being the last one to be picked. Late bloomer. Whatever. I’ll need counseling after this.
Using other words I’d say that grace is about open-heartedness. It’s about giving the benefit of the doubt without requiring a person to change, without requiring that they give me, or anyone, all the precise details about how.you.got.here. In the first place.
That’s God’s nature. Actually. If we want to connect with Him in authentic relationship, that’s really how He rolls. Is it because He’s really artistic and does the broad stroke and misses detail? No. It’s because of His Son. And love. You know, love makes us all do really crazy things. And that’s what God is like. It doesn’t really matter where you’ve been or what this is all about. It’s about relationship.
Copeland produced a song called Brightest, and the lyrics are like this:
If you find yourself here on my side of town
I’d pray that you’d come to my door
Talk to me like you don’t know what we ever fought about …
To me, that’s what love looks like. Love just can’t figure out a reason to fight anymore. Like a surfer yields to the next wave, you lean into the equity of what you have together and just drop it. You let it all go, and yield to the covenants that you share with one another, whether its a lifelong commitment between best friends, or it’s a couple, or even siblings. It’s the best picture that I have for the way Father God is with us. Instead of looking at the mess, He just nods quietly and looks over at His Son. He sent His Son for our messes. Christ died the most gruesome death. But there was a purpose, so that Father could gaze at us, eye to eye. So that we could connect with Him. Father and Son. Father and Daughter.
Watch for real Love. Wait for it. Don’t accept the counterfeit. Because real love lets you be you.
While visiting an orphanage in Mozambique, several of us decided to have a little foot-washing ceremony with the children. We hoped to demonstrate a selfless and servant-hearted love to them. We wanted to erase the pain in their hearts and replace it with Father’s love. Since it was evening some of the little fellows had already tumbled off to sleep in the dormitories by the time we arrived, armed with water, strips of old bed-sheeting and some leftover dish soap. We didn’t wake the three little guys who were asleep arm-in-arm all in the same tiny bed, but several were still awake and curious as to our presence.
They sat side-by-side on the long bench, grubby from a busy day in the hot and dusty African sun. We knelt before them, gently and simply explaining that this is what Jesus would do, if He were here, and the translator helped us request the honor of showing our love in the same way. Will I ever forget the roughness of their feet, caked with mud and little torn toe nails? How they responded to my loving touches! Tousled heads, bashful and yet hungry for love, cheeks like downy feathers, their eyes searched mine to see if they could trust this act of love.
I couldn’t help but wonder where these grubby little toes had been that day. Many of the children had been rescued from the dumps that overflowed with the stench and smoke of burning filth. Where would these same feet be in 15 years? Would they become the refined and reliable feet of one who runs in the will of the Father? Or would these feet be caught in the thicket of life once more, and struggle to stay in the Presence of the Holy One? And what about these bruised and bloody knees in front of me? How easily I perceived Father’s thoughts when He has gazed at my wounded heart and mused, “Now what was it that caused My daughter’s heart to bruise like this?” And yet He needn’t ask the questions for He knows the answers. He knows our times and our places, and is intimately acquainted with all our ways. As we washed the feet of the little boys, it was impossible for any of us to hold back the tears because all were aware of the dirt and pain being washed away, and what newness of life comes when we’ve been washed clean.
Take a moment today, while basking in the presence of the Lord, and allow Him to wash your feet, and your heart. Allow His living water to break down the hardened places in your life which have become calloused from running your life your way. Sit with Father a while so that He can bandage your wounds. Like the Good Samaritan He’ll be faithful to pour in the oil and wine, first softening our wounded places so they’ll be receptive to His cleansing touch.
“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:30-37
Pictured is my dear friend Kim Campbell as she prays for her sweet refugee children. This is what love looks like.
Here in LA, moreso than any other place I’ve lived, I have very different roles.
I’m one person but my day job demands that I be on, analytical, and accurate down to the semi-colon that is required for SQL script to execute. I yank apart Java script over and over and over until it runs. I love what I do. And yet there’s an entirely different side of me that is wildly creative, a side that has been completely overlooked and is vital to my life. It needs expression too.
In order to transition from one role to the other, I need to know that I can. I am unaccustomed to the freedom to operate in that wildly creative, let it all go, rest, let someone else open the door, color outside the lines, fluid personna. But it’s in me and, wow, do I ever want to nurture that. A person doesn’t shift from a high control role into a flimsy, whimsy, walk among the daisies mindset easily. It takes work to dial down and, here in LA, everybody’s doing it. Everybody has their money-making gig, and their creative gigs. We’re all shifting from one to the next on a day-by-day, or even hourly basis.
I’ve talked about the bird who circles and circles until she can find a place to land. Without revisiting that allegory, it’s important to know that there are people in life with whom we can land. Who are those people and why are we so drawn to them?
Safe people have been broken and tested. They have walked through the dismantling of their ego, and had it handed to them in a baggie. They have found their space in the heart of the Father. It’s not that they lack motivation or drive. On the contrary, they’ve little need to prove their identity to you.
Safe people have learned the hard way. They’ve walked around the mountain a few times more than they care to let on.
Safe people like to pay the bills and appreciate financial security, even tremendous wealth, but have no illusions in regard to image or a certain salary solving their problems. They can be trusted with a little or a lot.
Safe people are free.
Safe people have been strengthened by their life’s lessons and they know how to stand. And, honestly, they just stand there. With nothing to prove, and at home in their skin they just stand beside you.
Be a safe person.
When you think of a woman you utterly respect, what does she look like? She might be your mother, and she might not. Perhaps your wife, or even a family friend. More often than not that woman has a proven track record of wisdom. Flawless? No. She’s probably poked your eyes with pins a time or two, but likely you respected her in the morning.
Ruth of the Bible was a woman of excellence, and the whole city knew it. She followed her mother-in-law into a foreign country to serve her and be a companion in her old age. It was mainly because Naomi had walked out faith in the God of Abraham. Ruth had abandoned the religious beliefs of her family and adopted the faith of her mother-in-law. This was extreme sacrifice to accept a life of likely widowhood and poverty, when she legally could have returned to her family of origin and lived much more extravagantly.
The plot thickens though. There’s a man, you see. (Hum, there’s always a man when the plot thickens. Just sayin.) His name is Boaz. And so as to shorten this blog entry, she basically asks him to marry her. I know, right? Shiggy-diggy. She goes for it. His response?
Then he said, “May you be blessed of the Lord, … You have shown your last kindness to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich. … do not fear. I will do for you whatever you ask, for all my people in the city know that you are a woman of excellence. Ruth 3:10-11
When I think of what it means to be a woman of excellence, I’m a bit dumb-founded because this book of the Bible (or any) was written in a time when women were incredibly oppressed. Okay, understatement there. But the whole city knew she was a woman of excellence. That says to me that she didn’t go around in secret begging for mercy every step of the way.
She had a voice. She made herself heard … in wisdom.
She had compassion. She served sacrificially, and people knew it.
She knew how and when to stand, in her Esther moments, and she didn’t back down.
She knew what it meant to pay the price of obedience, and to walk that out before God. Yup, she put on her big-girl knickers and dealt with stuff.
She had the humility to admit her wrongdoings, and to correct them.
A woman of excellence.
Looking back to the woman of excellence in your own life, we both know she had failures the length of her arm. And yet. Her successes outweighed those failures by far.
A real woman keeps standing up when morning comes. She keeps clothing herself with courage and humility. A real woman sets her face like flint, and is unashamed because she knows her King.
For the woman who wanted more children. The Dad who always wanted a little princess. For the unmarried woman who sees her wee ones in every child that passes.
As a write this I’m seated in a crowded restaurant and the couple next to me cuddles an adorable little girl dressed in white patterned tights and lime green corduroy dress that has delicate smocking across the front. The dress looks just like dresses I wore when I was a little girl. She’s getting ready to launch from her Daddy’s arms, flapping her wings, certain that she’s ready to fly. At the table next to them is a little boy who is trying out screaming tones for the first or second time …By jove, I think he’s got the hang of it.
This morning the Lord gave me a glimpse of the babies I’ve carried in my heart. So numerous they were! I watched as they turned somersaults and toddled around Heaven’s playground. When I asked the Lord about what I was seeing He said this …
Every time you agreed to carry something in your heart for Me, I gave birth to it in the realm of the Spirit. So many broken people have abandoned what I was birthing in their womb and while it does break My heart I have a place for these little ones.
You have not known the fullness of what I’ve been doing but perhaps you’ve felt it?
While showing me these children He reminded me of all the times that I carried a dream or a prayer in my heart … a willingness to dream big dreams with a friend, or believe for healing of a friend’s illness … In Heaven’s economy we are owning another person’s pain, linking our strength with their fragile faith. It’s the heart of a parent manifesting. And Father never withholds, never ceases to reward a single glance of our eyes. Our heart expands and Father tucks another wee one under our wings.
When I mentioned that I wasn’t exactly clear on how the dots connect, He simply said, “My economy rocks My way.” And at that moment, I just saw Him as a man with His arms full of babies, rocking one with His foot and the woman in me cannot help but smile and do what I’m wired to do.
He was an old man. He knew that now. Unprepared for the winding road of life, he froze. He couldn’t find his way, really. Grasping for answers to the questions too deep and too bare, he grasped the bottle in his hand. It was the only thing that would stay.
She wouldn’t stay. He knew that now. He’d hurt her too deeply with cuts far too deep to stain with blood. The bruises he’d left with his steely words would never heal. They would, in fact, become her heart ache that would snatch at her life for the rest of her days. His vice grip on her heart would pain the windows of her soul until she, too would know she had to let him go.
The twisted tunnels of Life contorted a marriage whose walls once rang with laughter, and whose foundations once whispered about the way of Love. When Sorrow calls where will you go, and whose arms will grip you while you keen? When yawning Need and Lack knock at the door will you shout them down, or will they scratch at the screen far into the night until you let them in? One by one, they’ll steal their way in … abandonment, isolation, loneliness, greed and all their cousins. But seal the door you must. Let no one in who isn’t guided by Love’s keys.
Bow low before the Father. Kneel before one another. Let Agape lead the way.
— Agape: love without requirements