Each of us has the capacity to lead others to places in the Spirit of God where others have never been. Just as our fingerprints are unique so our experiences of the Spirit-realm bear a likeness of our personal journey with the Godhead.
Reader, listen to the notes and the chords and then slip down in between. I’ll take you to the places where I’ve broken fallow ground. The prunings from previous seasons were planted here. Irrigated with disciplines I’ve cultivated and tears I’ve shed … a vineyard has come of it. First along the edges of our experiences, and then further in. The Glory pierces through us as we plumb the depths of the place where God has made Himself at home.
With the Glory of God covering me as with a garment, I step into the unknown place. I slip through the crease, the weight of Your Presence pulls me into another realm, an atmosphere heavy with Your gaze. Underneath the Everlasting Arms. At once I’m with You, alone with You. You who sees my heart. You that are acquainted with all my ways. There is nothing hidden.
Unwinding, unravelling twisted places. Setting down straight places. Pulling captives from the briars. Pillars of unbelief bend toward the Light. Portals open wider. Glory floods through. Encompassing, engulfing, surrounded by Presence that floods my being with Light. And in Thy Light we see Light. I am laid low. I rest. He’s carved out a place for me. A place that is safe. A deep breath. Rest. Sing to me, Father. Your songs that refresh my soul. I am alive in You. And there is no place that is covered. In all my being I find my safety in You.
Partnering with God for creative miracles. Lining broken places with the Glory of God in such a way that they are recreated. Their design and function are not replaced with something that works, they are completely recreated in accordance with the blueprint of Heaven. Glory is smeared like oil in all the ravaged and torn places. The breath of God finds its way through every crevice.
Hebrews 4:12-13 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
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.
Have you ever thought about how love feels so much like grief?
I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately because the symptoms are so similar … emotions careening outside the fabulous yellow lines and leading swiftly toward the guard rails. The truth is the two ends of the spectrum demand a lot from us emotionally, and we feel. We’re not permitted to leave the moment without admitting that we feel something.
And feeling something is a poignant part of life.
Different people have different impacts on us. When we find ourselves attracted to a man or a woman, it completely jams our sensors. Bright lights go off and bells sound. Of course it triggers, silly. But its more than that…
I remember ten years ago or so, I was attracted to one of the pastors of our church. A worship leader. Just a guy with a lot of charisma, and charm. Everybody adored Van. There was something about him, perhaps it was his transparency or wonderful personality but it caused the women to drop their guard and FEEL. They felt loved. They felt cared for. They learned about themselves and were drawn into a deeper relationship with the Lord. I didn’t know a single woman who, at one point wasn’t positive she was going to marry Van.
As women we often tether ourselves to one man because he has caused us to feel. When a woman doesn’t know herself very well, or if she has some past wounds that she’s not dealt with, she suddenly feels safe as she discovers who she is, and her own inner beauty. She finds the courage to deal with her past pain and makes tremendous progress in her personal journey. But somehow that deep well of thanksgiving translates romantically to the man who helped her along that journey.
It’s wholesome and yet a tiny bit fractured.
Feeling is not optional. A full life demands that let people into our lives, to thaw, and forgive. True freedom comes when we set those men free, when we release them and move into our own emotional freedom, whether love, grief or something in between.
Be truly free to feel.
And … she speaks. Finally.
Did you ever find yourself completely outside your normal way of behaving, and have trouble finding your way back to the Central Headquarters that define *you*? I’ve been there. Sometimes a man throws us so far off the rails that we find ourselves gathering our skirts and scrambling back to that place we are comfortable. Unfuffled reathers. “You haven’t permission, Darling, to mess with our world as we know it. You, in fact, are too complicated. Not we.” As handsome and beautiful as you are, you take us so far off the grid that we desperately need to get back to zero, even alone-ness, to regain our sense that we’re going to be okay.
Yeah, there’s one or two of you out there.
I know what it is to have every interaction feel like you’re being clobbered in the solar plexus. It’s messy, caring for someone It’s certainly not as you thought it would be. It’s a bit like being in a fender bender car accident where you walk into moving traffic to collect your bumper and put it into your trunk. Or examine a headlight that got crunched because you didn’t measure spatially quite right. Smile. You know what I’m talking about. Easy Captain, don’t crush the Girls.
In fact when you speak, it’s the language of the Kingdom, the words you speak call us higher. Our parents told us about you. They told us that one day you would walk into our lives. They counseled us to wait for the one who reminded us of Home. To wait for the one who loved us so well, not saying and being the things we wanted to hear but the things that would make us become a better person. A Giant. That’s the one to marry. Be-friend and employ whomever you like, but marry the woman who reminds you of your selfless mother. The man who reminds you of your servant-hearted father.
There’s nothing wrong with needing the ministering heart of a friend, but a husband or wife comes along as a peer. They appear as one who floods Life into the picture. Fire-breathing Strength. Tenderness and transparency are to be cherished, but a good marriage is built on the bridging of two healthy people standing on their own … not to steal strength and emotional stability from us, but to give.
Lastly, there’s something to be said about one being able to feed one’s self, to eat of the meat that is Christ, and to stand. “And having done all these things, to stand…” That’s what life will demand of us as individuals in Christ, the ability to walk it out: to make a plan and stick with it. To discipline ourselves to bring about healthy change. To bear fruit that lasts. A healthy marriage will require no less.
There’s nothing more beautiful or demanding than the call to love someone. It wouldn’t be honest of me to let you walk away thinking I know what it’s all about. I don’t. But I love *you*, and that gives me an idea of what this concept of marriage might be about.
“My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” —Galatians 4:19
Do you ever wonder what Paul really meant when he spoke about Christ being formed in us?
If we think about the formation process, whether it’s cinnamon rolls or a pot pie on the manufacturing floor, there are the ingredients, climate, assembly, and cook time. Drawing on my experience in the food manufacturing business there are a lot of complexities to a pot pie or a bag of hermetically sealed, ready-to-cook popcorn. It’s important to note that in every case there are the ingredients, the DNA of the end product. Cinnamon rolls always have cinnamon, and popcorn almost always has genuine popcorn kernels. With us it’s true as well. The end product of who we are meant to be always begins with the right building blocks. Take heart, even if you are deeply in process of becoming your best you, you have the right raw ingredients! The Lord has seen to that already.
I’ve noticed when I take a step and venture into a new space even though I may fail miserably, I can’t help but see the raw ingredients of potential. At times it’s easier on my pride to focus on the potential instead of seeing and admitting to the growth opportunities too. Do you ever notice when a package arrives, even if it’s damaged beyond recognition you still have to acknowledge it’s arrival. The UPS guy stands there until you sign. I have a friend that wisely says, ‘You can denigrate the witness all you like but that doesn’t absolve you from acknowledging the message.’ And it’s true. Our growth opportunities can arrive in completely mangled packages but the package has still arrived at our doorstep.
The formation of Christ within us, or within a person that we love, is completely messy. No one ever prepares us. To care is freakishly messy. If you want to be tidy about your life, do not get involved. Do not care about a single person and you will be just fine. You’ll be alone. But tidy.
Our days are filled with repeat performances. Over and over again we go through something. The Lord is not about beating us with a stick. He’s usually building a skill set. The responsibility factor increases and we continue to repeat the same circumstances with greater authority, greater responsibility.
There are people who coach us, pray for us, contend for our best selves … they are the ones who labor until we get it. Likewise, we stick with a friend until she learns how to fight without being freakishly defensive and hurt. When we all learn to stand in love, to not capitulate at the sign of conflict, but manage our emotions and positions with kindness … that’s when the picture of Christ begins to emerge in our lives.
… till Christ is formed in you!
2013, a new year. The difficult thing about anything new is that one is at the start of a path never taken before. The Lord and I have a bit of a standing dialogue with one another on this. I’ve played this card with Him so many times in the past, thinking it will get me out of an insane circumstance I want no part of. For example, haggling with repair men over prices, car purchases, home purchases, big-anything-purchases. Minor stuff? I’m on it. Major? I want to bury my head in His shirt, and pretend I don’t need to make a decision. He knows it. The conversation:
“Then why are we having this discussion? I’m right here. Now, take a step.”
Sounds a bit toddler-ish, doesn’t it? Pfft. Nevertheless, a new beginning contains unknowns, scaries, and funky, “In 800 feet turn left on Cahuenga Boulevard.” Cal Hung a Whacky Who? Oh left! Left! Turn left now!
I’m thoughtful of how the Israelites everlastingly did.not.know. where they were going, when they’d get there, what they’d eat… wait a minute, what would they eat? The passages in the book of Exodus 16 are familiar but the principle is not as well known. The Lord daily supplied a substance called manna which, translated means, “What is it?” (Pretty cool, huh?) The substance was completely unknown to them, just as was the idea of daily relying on God’s provision. If the people gathered more than they could use it would not last until next day, it would rot. His intention was that they would daily gather just what they need for that day, for their family and that they would focus on Him a little bit more than they did before.
Scripture, if you take a step back is God’s story of increasing intimacy with mankind.
Oftentimes stories in the Old Testament foreshadow or project a visual image of a concept that is explained in the New Testament. This OT story is a visual image of the concept of grace, His daily provision. In order to walk at rest or better, to proactively love other people on a daily basis we have to connect with the Lord. It’s necessary to re-align ourselves, our hearts and needs with His heart. It’s not something we can soak up plenty of, and make it last. I like the analogy that grace is an awful lot like a good wine, which is meant for the present moment.
May your days in 2013 be rich and full of moments where you find His grace, His daily provision for rest, peace, laughter and above all, the ability to outrageously love those around you.
Have you ever had a friend remind you of who you are?
I love those rich moments when, as if looking in a mirror, I am re-anchored to my true self. We cherish our dearest friends because they, of all people, hold the looking glass while we listen and resonate to the sounds of Heaven. We hear the truest words with them.
When I told her my concern — that I’ll never be the life of the party — my friend reminded me of our deep friendship that we have cultivated over the years. When I shared my fears, she pushed them away with a “Pfft!” and reminded me of who I am, a wordsmith and an analyst. I see stuff. Without trying, really. Wordless discoveries, brilliant leaves freshly washed with dew beneath my feet. Clumsy attempts, and tiny blushes of color creeping along the edge of the sunrise.
I’ve heard people talk about the Now and the Not Yet.
I think sometimes we see it best when we put our best foot forward, each day working at loving people more than we did yesterday.
The Now. From within my vehicle I snap and snarl at the driver in front of me who takes far too long to make a turn. Knowing with all my heart that this is not who want to be, an impatient curmudgeon, I drive away with my head slumped because I did not choose love.
The Not Yet. It’s about understanding that God enjoys my heartfelt “yesses” toward Him, and celebrates those way more than my lapses into self-centeredness. It’s realizing He’s not torque’d at me, or even mildly irritated. Father God is pretty big on transformation projects. He goes about things in the most unusual ways, and chooses the most unlikely of candidates. A pregnant virgin, a blind man, a prostitute, a leper. Why? I think because when He showed them the mirror of who they were, in His eyes, they would be the least likely to forget what they saw there. They, of all people, would be so grateful that they would cling to the picture He reflected back to them.
When the blind man encountered Jesus, his sight was restored. There was much debate about his healing – sort of like there is today and yet the one thing he said was this, “I was blind, but now I see.”
What do you see?