Monday, March 31, 2014

Don't You Know Me?

"Don't you know me ... even after I have been among you such a long time?"

Jesus asked the age-old question of Philip in the book of the Apostle John (John 14:9), but the way the query of truth resonated in its quest of probing my soul, it was as if the Savior had asked the heart searching interrogation directly to me this morning. The words popped off the page and stabbed the place in my heart that needed convicting. The particular passage was a re-read on my journey through the New Testament; familiar words that speak volumes, taking on a voice of their own with each new round. This habit of daily spending time in the Word and prayer, nearly twenty years now of  a quiet corner with a cup of coffee and a worn version of Scripture, comes down to this question: Don't I know Jesus? Even after all this time?

Philip had asked for a clearer revelation. One clearer than physically walking, talking, living and doing life with the flesh and blood Jesus. As I read the account, I wondered if he had witnessed the Pharisees asking this same question, or heard Jesus' response to them. I wondered at Jesus' presumably shaking head, the hurt, the deep pain of doubt as, again, one of His own stood before him wondering if He was telling the truth.

I saw myself.

I saw my doubt.

I saw my petty requests for a clearer revelation, maybe the skies parting and a glimpse of Heaven, then I could live the rest of my life believing beyond a doubt and would get off my keester and commit my whole being, laziness and all, to being poured out as a fragrant offering to whatever the Lord asked of me. Then I wouldn't grumble or complain about the paths my Maker had wisely designed for my existence. I would happily suffer whatever was necessary for the sake of the gospel to resound loudly through my life, for the sake of the glory of God, for the anticipation of seeing His face on That Day, on hearing the longed for words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Yes, I had profoundly decided, a glimpse of the eternity where my son now resides would settle it all for me.

But then came the words... "Don't you know Me?"




Yes, I know you, Lord. You are the One who allowed me to see my son's body lying on that emergency room gurney and to praise you for it. The One who carried me through those anguishing first days of grief with an enormous outpouring of grace, a grace so thickly poured out that it could be felt, a grace that cushioned and comforted and baffled. The One who has shown me where I am with you. The One who is proving my hearts true desire. I know You.

You said that you wouldn't leave me. You said that you would send a Comforter. You said that your Word was you; that your Word was enough to sustain us to know you until we see you face to face. You said that my sorrow now would turn to rejoicing. You said that it is an honor to suffer alongside of you. You said that you are coming soon. You said that these trials are less than nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed. You said that I can trust you. You said to ask for anything in your name, and You would do it.

I ask, Lord, that Your will would be done. That Your name would be high and lifted up. That I would become less as You become more. I pray that You would be glorified and that the personal cost to my temporary life would be my least concern. I pray that You would continue to give me the eyes to see the worth of dieing to self in order to live for You, the heart to trust, and the ability to go forth proclaiming the good news so that the captives might be set free. I pray that You would get all the glory in it.

Monday, March 17, 2014

But the Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me,
"Go, prophesy to my people Israel."
Amos 7:15

I was a goat farmer when God called me. My days enjoyably consisted of tending my flock of critters and children, gardens and home, while I pursued what I thought was a deep walk with Christ: reading my Bible, attending church and prayer services, doing my duty in the nursery. Then God showed up with reality. Eternity appeared before us with a dose of acknowledgement that couldn't be ignored. The truths that God had been laying as a foundation in my life were now called upon to be lived out. He shook my world and called me to greater desires.

When the grace of God is poured out on a person there is no going back, only going deeper and closer to that Light. The world around you dulls in the presence of Jesus and the previously glittering distractions are no longer a lure. You have no choice but to want more. Not more of the world, but more of the moments when it is all about God's glory.

I don't know how to adequately describe the transformation. I don't know how to tell you what it feels like to be so close to Holiness where you are allowed to sense the very near presence of your Maker and still breathe. The day of Trent's death was a day of repentance. "I believe you now, God, help me overcome my unbelief." I thought I was living for Christ before that day. Now I only long to live for Him. To live with nothing here that I won't want to leave on the day that He calls me.

To live desperately needing God for everything is addictive and satisfying. But I don't have a need for God now in the same way that I did three years ago. I want to live where I need Him. I want my life to be poured out to walk like Jesus walked. I am excited to see how God plans to fulfill that longing in the days that I have left to live for Him alone.

"These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Wake up!
Strengthen what remains and is about to die,
for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard;
obey it, and repent.
But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief,
and you will not know at what time I will come to you."
Revelation 3:1-3

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Building Castles

Do not work for food that spoils, 
but for food that endures to eternal life, 
which the Son of Man will give you. 
John 6:27a

Doing crazy things like selling the farm and most of your worldly possessions in response to what you acknowledge as the calling of God opens your life up for speculation. Especially when that calling includes a double wide trailer house, the stigma of how weird you really must be can't be faked on the kind people's faces who can barely help but offering their opinion. The past few days have included more human contact than I have had most of this long, cold winter thanks to tax appointments and social obligations. Honestly, the weather was a good excuse to hide from the world and just bunker down with very few other opinions than God's.

What a strange awakening to come out of my little cocoon and get a taste of the outside world. I assumed, because of how we live, that every professing believer was actually a believer. Since my days are consumed with thoughts of God and eternity, I figured that every other disciples thoughts were, too. I spend my days thinking about how to please the Lord, what my first glimpse of eternity will be, wondering what Jesus really looks like, anticipating the full redemption of my sinful nature and the body it is trapped in, wrestling with Scripture, and longing desperately for the satisfaction of being in the presence of my Savior.

So what a shock to not find that, especially in church going folk who gather regularly on Sunday mornings. It baffles me. Makes me shake my head and wonder if I am too radical. Maybe too gung-ho about all this Jesus and salvation stuff. Maybe I am the one who has made too much emphasis on the fact that eternity is going to be such a long time. Maybe I should tone it down and just live for now, building my castles here rather than seeking to build them in Heaven. Maybe Jesus was too intent on His Father's kingdom. Somehow, I don't think so.

There is a recently signed contract to sell the farm sitting on my cluttered computer desk. Whew. Holding our breaths, realizing all the crazy emotions combined in one that this is really happening, we now wait for the end of the month when there will {Lord willing} be no more farm mortgage payments. At the same time, being cautiously excited for what the future holds and praying that it will make us available and willing for whatever God asks next, all the while believing that having less of this world will give us a greater longing for eternity.

My ever wise daughter, Alexis, calmed my frazzled response to the varied opinions on our move when she wondered out loud if others were scared that God might call them to what He has called us to, therefor it is easier to call us crazy than to wonder if God really meant that we should live wholly for Him and not invest the majority of our time, money, emotions, talents, etc., etc., in this world. After all, the rich man preferred his riches over having Jesus, she reminded me.

It makes me stop and ponder every object that I think I can't part with as we pack up this junque. "Will this go with me to eternity?" I continually ask myself as I am sorting through our possessions. Nope. None of it. Like the good folks in Hebrews who gladly gave up their belongings because they knew there were better and lasting ones awaiting them (Hebrews 10:34), I try to remember what all this stuff really is.

I remind myself to be patient as I resist the urge to build my castle here, and instead longingly look forward to a lasting castle. I don't think Jesus was kidding. He is coming soon. He does expect His children to be looking and waiting for Him. He will separate the sheep and the goats. Eternity will be a long, long time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sixteen Years Ago

But I am the Lord your God...
I cared for you in the desert,
in the land of burning heat.
Hosea 13:4a

Sixteen years ago a son was brought forth from my womb. This morning I am again recalling that day. I remember the pain and the contractions on top of contractions caused by the induction medicine that was administered because he was thought to be several days overdue. I remember the doctor who insisted that I would labor eight hours longer than I did. I remember my mother's hands braiding my hair in an attempt to soothe the pain that was so necessary.

I remember the nurses taking him from my breast shortly after he was born to administer oxygen, a foreshadowing of his life perhaps. I remember my husband stealing him back, refusing to be separated from his firstborn son.

I remember the struggle to feed him from my body over the next several months, and to draw near to him for fear of my intense love that seemed like too much. I remember the battles over his little soul in the years to come. I remember the day of his salvation, the acknowledgement of a Savior's grace, the hope of eternity in the presence of a holy God.

I remember counting his toes again on that hospital bed in the emergency room the day he died, just like the day he was born: one, two, three, all the way to ten. I remember God's grace when He gave and when He took away. This same God, who cared for the Israelites in the desert, who cared that a twelve year old boy needed a Savior, who knows the sound of a mother's falling tears.

I find this pain to be a driving force that pushes me closer to Him, not away, lest I be satisfied here in the temporary, becoming proud and comfortable and ultimately forgetting my God. This beckoning found through suffering, the hurt that penetrates so deep, is an offer to draw near to the Almighty.

The calming words of Scripture from the Sovereign One who intends to carry me all the way until I see His face has assured me that His plans are perfect. I can't see the full eternal worth of this suffering right now, but the God who called me to this trial continues to prove over and over again that He is faithful. He cares for me in the desert. In Him will I be satisfied.