Maintenance – We Have a Place

th-86Have you ever dared to allow your inner child to imagine what it might be like to sit on God’s lap on a big comfy chair with Him, or to sit across the table and share a cuppa with Him, to lean against the doorframe and have a casual chat with Him, or even to gab with Him as you drive? I confess even as an adult I have. And regularly. I’ve imagined Him sitting in on a meeting, gardening with me, folding laundry with me, making dinner with me, even shovelling snow with me. This time though I was swept up into more than just my own imaginings, and I’m convinced what I experienced is as much for your benefit as for mine, which is the (gulp) why I’m sharing. If these words manage to bring any comfort, any hope, any wonder to even one searching heart, it’s worth my taking the risk.

If I dare reduce the very real, very tangible impressions to a soundbite, what would it be?

Quite simply:

We are loved, and more, we have a place.

Come. Risk reading the following in first person, as if it be you recounting it, for my friend, this truly is as much for you as it is for me.

“I was sound asleep, but in my dreams I was wide awake…”
(Song of Solomon 5:2, The Message)

It was as if I had one foot in the bedroom this nighttime, the other in a stunningly spectacular Palace, so dazzling it takes the breath away. I am abuzz with excitement and eagerness, dusty and sweaty as if returning from travels, standing in the arches ready to enter an absolutely strikingly splendid Throne room. There is no palace, no golden ivory arches, no garden on earth that matches the utterly stunning magnificence! I am hugging my Bible (though I know I am welcome without it), and looking directly at my King, my Lord, resplendent in His richly elegant long and stately and radiant robes, sitting on the throne with majestic and welcoming ease. Ah, how I am filled with an inexplicable and beyond-words, beyond-deep love for Him! I am so excited to see Him, so utterly excited that it hums in me. And oh my stars He is excited to see me too! I am at home. These pillars, this floor, this whole experience – all have an inexplicable familiarity to them. “Family” and “wanted” and “Mine” seems to ring and mingle in joyful song in this place. I am relaxed, filled with the serenity of unrestricted and unlimited love, with utter security in Whose I am, with where I am. I have a place. And this moment is mine. Mine alone with Him.

He looks directly at me and in His eyes and His body language, His whole manner really, I see and am immediately drenched in a love so real, so deep, so broad, so high that I know that I can and never will see its limits, for there are none. I have the impression that we have spent time together before: out and inside the archway, on the steps, over there in the chairs surrounding that rather large and substantial round table. A flash of Him walking beside me in my garden, lifting my arms as I shovel snow, holding me as I cry, sitting with me at my computer, hanging onto the strap beside me on the crowded bus, laughing with the family at the dinner table.

“Come,” He calls me by name. “Come, dear one. Come, my precious child,” I hear in my deeps and am soaked in the warmth of the real and kind and broad and inviting smile. “Come, and take your place and sit with Me.” Ooooo! I have a place, I thrill and I can feel myself squeal with delight! I have a place with the King Most High who calls me His very. own. child!!  With arms open wide, He gestures that I come close to His bosom, up upon His lap where I long to be.

I ignore the inner jeer that tries to yank me back down to the bed: Tsk! What are you doing? You’re an adult and don’t sit on anyone’s lap! and besides you’re not yet worthy – and really, let’s face it, won’t ever be. I wave its vapour away and leap forward. I just don’t care. As I run toward Him, it is as if I’m running through and am soaked in a translucent gossamer veil of Love, and all the soot and dust and smelliness of my travels seems to wash away, evaporate behind me. As I bounce forward, I am clean, sparkling even, and am covered in soft, comfortable, and humbly splendid robes. How did that happen? Surprisingly, I’m not really consumed with wanting to know, and my now soft and un-calloused feet press on the cool cobalt-blue marble-like floor as I bolt in sheer delight toward Him, the K.i.n.g., and gleefully snuggle comfortably into Him. He is delighted! This is how He sees me – how He sees us all; this is the relationshipthe culmination of the Plan decided at the foundation of the world so long ago, that our Father and Jesus and the Spirit had prepared all along, and made happen by His Life and the Cross and His resurrection. I am filled with deep, deep gratitude beyond all human expression, so much so that I feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust!

I sit on His lap as He sits on His throne, my back leaning into Him as He is leaning forward around me, His Face pressed to the side of my own. His right arm is wrapped in a loving embrace, a hug around me, and His left holds the Bible that I have since opened in my lap. I have my King’s full and complete attention. He affectionately whispers my name, and I feel His breath warm not just my cheek, but radiate to consume me. I feel and hear His Heart beating.

“Show me. Show me, Papa, my King. Read its words into my mind and heart and spirit and soul and body,” I ask of Him, as eagerness to absorb what He is about to say overwhelms me. I am impressed again with the notion that to come empty-handed would be just as welcome: to come as I am, wherever I am is the most important. I have peace in where I am in the bumpy, sometimes jarring and choppy journey that brought me here, and in what I am about to learn. My eyes easily focus on the Word, and my ears on His deep and soothing voice that at the once fills the whole space and soaks my whole insides and outsides. My heart and spirit and soul lift and open themselves like a bud reaching and opening up to warmth of the sun, to the dewy rains of Spring. Even if it is correction that is coming, there is no fear bubbling up within me, no anticipation of condemnation. Rather, I know that I am truly loved, and with that there is only His honest and True wanting for my utter fullness to come to be, and so the need for – and help in – the correction of errant habit or manner in me. It is for my good, to prosper me. I swell with a whole host of emotion. With utter tenderness He wipes it all away, and fills me with His teaching and His encouragement literally lifts me up.

What other word is there than Joy? Joy watered and saturated in Love? Everything embodies Love and I am swept up in Joy in my every iota, every atom, and we share and savour and relish in it together. This, He impresses on me, all of this, is for everyone!

the-narrow-roadOur time is drawing to a close. I don’t really want to leave, but I am comfortable that I must – at least for now. The joy has not lessened in the slightest; instead another layer of contentment is added and renewed purpose is poured into me. I have a place, an important and specific place meant just for me – in this world, and in His Story: a place along my own journey with Him, intertwined with all friendships and acquaintances, and woven together within the greater and vast masterpiece that is all of His Creation, His Narrative.

Re(a)lationship” – this I am to continuously consider. With Him. With everyone.

I am caught up: He has something exciting on the horizon! He leans in first and we share a deep, deep hug as He tenderly whispers my name. Though not sure of the details of steps ahead, their duration or direction, it doesn’t seem to matter. I am oddly content with not knowing the minutia (!!), and am cheerful and I agree to whatever He has for me yet to do. And I want to live long to do for Him! With almost a nod to the Father, the Spirit in my deeps assures me that He knows the way.  I am covered. In many ways it seems.

As I bound toward the archway, clothed in freshly cleaned travel clothes, I look back and we exchange wide smiles. I will tell of this!, I promise Him. He holds my eyes, my spirit, my mind and heart and body in a crazy-loving gaze. Though I have a notion that He doesn’t really need them (after all, He is everywhere at all times I tell myself), I am captured by His delight in my sharing with Him ‘progress reports’, my ‘this and that’. Today, I am to continue to discover His Presence in my everyday, to practice ‘re(a)lationship’. I am to come back often. And He is so looking forward to the next time. I am to come as often as I wish and need, in whatever position – plight or praise, shattered or searching or singing, or anywhere in between. But I am to come. At any time. I won’t ever be interrupting Him. Never bothering Him. And never, at any time, at any moment, will I ever be alone.

Ever.

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God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”
(Exodus 33:14, The Message)

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. (2 Corinthians 3: 16, The Message)

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

 

 

Maintenance – The Opportunity and Choice

So the other day I was at the garden centre 🙂 looking for new residents for two pots. th-96Granted, the official planting season is somewhat over (somewhat), and so the selection was far from the vast, robust and bright one that had been on display earlier. I scoured the aisle for potential, and spotted a pair of Gerbera on sale. One, clearly watered, shimmery and refreshed, the other exhausted, haggard and gasping for hydration. Should I take them both, or just the healthier one? Oh the decision!

According to quora.com, “multiple sources on the Internet (indicate) the average amount of remotely conscious decisions an adult makes each day equals about 35,000. In contrast, young children only make about 3,000 decisions each day.” That’s a lot of decision-making! And just as I was faced with a choice of deciding between the healthier and less so of the Gerbera, so am I with every decision I choose to make. Do I deliberately make one that exhausts or the one that hydrates?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1: 2-4, New Living Translation)

Do you see it friend? Opportunity! In every circumstance, there is opportunity … for great … joy. Hmmm… An opportunity, a choice to be seized or not. When troubles of any kind come my way, I can choose very deliberately to be rooted in joy in every circumstance. The choice is up to me.

Okay, so bear with me as I slip into my wild imagination and consider snatching the choice of rooting my decisions in joy. What would happen I wonder…

Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path. The path went through the vineyards. There were walls on both sides.
(Numbers 22: 24, New International Reader’s Version)

By mindfully pushing myself away from my go-to mindset into the resolve to choose joy, I The Narrow Roadliterally steer onto a different fork in the road. Rather than straining on my well-worn, parched and wide trail of wallowing, questioning, doubting, fearing, grumbling, whining and complaining, I switch gears and venture onto a slightly narrower but captivatingly different and excitingly unusual path. The trail is peaceful and protected; there is calm and easy assurance here, and I am carried along the pathway, able to stretch out my arms to feel the mist of its refreshing hydration. Is that excitement bubbling? Almost like an unmistakable sense of partnering in something wonderful and glorious – and it seems to give mysterious expression in sustaining me to endure the ache and brave the pain of the troubles. I can straighten up and the eyes of my heart catch glimpses, hints that reassure all is woven into “what is good, what is holy, what is right in God’s sight”.

Wild imagination indeed! Hang in with me here as I venture a little further down the trail.

Palm of His HandThis path seems to open to a vast and glorious meadow, a  “Land of Joy” if you will, a place where I relax physically, psychologically and find myself in spiritually healthier place. God still guides me through inevitable testings, proofing and purifying, but this time I seem to see them from a different perspective. Joy boosts and lifts me higher, and from this aerial overview, difficulties are transformed into glistening opportunities, and joys seem multiplied. Of course, far in the background are the siren calls of resentment, anger and frustration that vie for my attention, but here, choosing joy, I have indescribable peace. Here it’s almost as if joy gives me new eyes, shifting the attention away from me and my efforts, and handing everything over to One who gladly assumes responsibility for our care, the One who gladly includes us in His opus. My ungodly character traits are disclosed and recognized, as is mutual agreement in their relinquishing. In return, love for the Gardener, the very first lover of my soul, takes on extra-new measure, texture, dimension, and deepness. In joy, it is easier to cooperate with Him, and to endure to see His desire for me to grow in me.

“Ofercryinoutloud! Come back to reality!” comes the smack-down. “Sounds like nothing more than an escape, a place of whimsy!” But honestly there’s this part of me that insists, and persists in hope, it’s very real. That our reality is not The Reality. That this place is not one of ‘faking it until you make it’, not grinding teeth and setting jaw in ‘grinning it and bearing it’. Within joy, in a mystery of mysteries mixed in with steadfast promises comes a comfortable tranquility of heart and peacefulness in soul. I’m okay with God knowing everything, and me not; not even needing to know or control. Blessed with flashes, fleeting glimpses of The Reality. I need only choose joy at any given moment.

Can I choose joy? Can we? Could it be possible? Even in this crazy mixed up and aching world?

It makes me think of Pollyanna, the main character and title of the book by Eleanor H. Porter. Pollyanna would play the “glad game” to find something positive in every situation, and was often misunderstood and ridiculed as “unrealistic”, “fake”, “disconnected from reality”, and as having “a blind eye to circumstance”. Could it be she decided to see and live in the joy, living in gladness, believing in the best concealed deep within of each person? Joy rooted in trust in Good? Well, judging from how the story unfolds, that simple joy transformed in wonderful and exciting ways.

I contend that joy is not blind to circumstance  – choosing it changes our posture within the circumstance. It enables us to acknowledge the power is our Creator’s, and to be comfortable with the knowing that there is much more going on than the seen, and that in fact what we can see might actually be deceiving. It hints at the part we can play in the Greater Part, the real Reality. Joy is the Master key that offers to open the door to peace and freedom in the midst of conflict both within and beyond ourselves.

But it is a difficult challenge.

Today’s dynamic is much the same as it was in Pollyanna’s time –  choosing joy is rarely the go-to inclination, the norm in this world we live in! In fact, if we dare to do the same today and to persist, chances are we’ll be just as bitingly scorned and bestowed the dictionary’s contemptuous definition of Pollyanna – “an excessively or blindly optimistic person.” But if we pay attention to the message and outcome of her story, we might agree that Pollyanna was onto something very powerful! She took hold of the key, flipped the switch and changed tracks. She persisted and transformed an entire community, freeing and soaking the parched hearts first of her aunt and then the whole Town! Each of us has the flicker of joy that waits to be fanned within to do the very same! Each of us can literally rise above “no-good-terrible-day”s and recalibrate our best and worst and everything-inbetween relationships, our homes, our streets, and our communities! All it takes is daring to choose and persist in joy!

th-83Jesus, it is so hard to choose joy in every single circumstance. Sometimes situations can be just so darned tough and overwhelming. Sometimes I know I need to, but I honestly just don’t want to. Sometimes the world and its worst to douse any vestige of my joy and peace gets to me. Grant me your patience and wisdom Jesus! In the midst of trying times, please draw my eyes, even just briefly, to the hope of choosing joy. Help me to genuinely and determinedly answer its whisper – and I mean genuinely! No faking it Jesus. The real thing. Soften me so it is genuine! Help me to recognize and take my hold of the peace, and to sit in it, to wade in it, even if just for a minute. Help me to risk living it inwardly and outwardly, even if just once. But help that one time to spread into many times, until it becomes a part of my character, part of a settled posture of outrageous-to-the-world peacefulness, easiness, gentleness, compassion, calmness, goodness, mercifulness and tenderness.  Nothing is too great for you Jesus! Help me to live in joy in you so that you can be seen in me.

Honor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his place.
(1 Chronicles 16:27, Revised Standard Version)

Behold, this is the joy of his way; and out of the earth others will spring.
(Job 8: 19, Revised Standard Version)

I will be glad and full of joy because of you! Most High God, I will sing the praises of your name!
(Psalm 9:2, New International Reader’s Version)

 

Erin
Soil and Seed

 

 

Preparation – What Covers the Surface?

 

th-66Doesn’t it delight and surprise you when, amidst a vast vista of concrete, steel and glass, a lone perky flower unexpectedly and bravely peaks through?  It can’t help but make you smile! Even if it’s a dandelion! When you consider that all our communities, large and small, are built th-56upon a garden of some kind, I guess it makes sense that we should see evidence of its life sprouting up once in awhile. But, what more could be under there? Have you ever wondered? Life surely bustles underneath: worms still burrow, ants still march, roots still strain and spread. There is vibrancy that whispers from below, and if we were to remove what covers, it would surely spring up with energy and enthusiasm, a fertile ground that takes in, and stretches with gleeful purpose. That little flower is but a hint to tickle our imaginations to what lies below, and its defiance to the nature of its strength.

th-64One of the first steps we undertook in our new garden was to remove the ocean-liner of concrete slabs that cut a path through our back yard. Fledgling but fainting wild daisies that dared to slip around its fortress walls were gingerly transplanted. Hunks of concrete were heaved and removed to stacks elsewhere. No glamour here. Muscles were pulled. Mud was flung. Colorful expressions discovered. Hot, hard and heavy work! Phantoms of what had been were manifest in the bleached strip of shriveled and starved limp grass, its pale and frail roots bare to the unrelenting and blistering sunshine. We quickly pulled out the dead, liberally scattered grass seed, covered the raw wound with cool and soothing enriched soil, and saturated it with refreshing water.

Hard and heavy work too for the Gardener of my heart and soul, as he removes the weights and rigidity that afflict and burden heavy upon the growth he has nourished, upon growth he further envisions. But he has never stopped, nor ever will, working in the underneath. That little flower only hints at the much more that he wants and anticipates to carpet the world with. More. Our God has and wants more for his children. Splendiforously more. More within and outwardly to be extravagantly seeded, to be nurtured and grown, to be spread beyond in the tag-team of relationships to light up the world. If only I would agree to remove the slab to expose the effervescent glory, to absorb his much more! Thankfully, he is not one to stand aside and watch me do it alone. Nor is he one to stand on top to make it an impossible task. No. He helps.  th-50Whether the soil, the fainting flower or the limp grass beneath the weight, I can be encouraged that he is actually willing to get hot and sweaty and do some heavy lifting. But he won’t do it alone.

As we work, I can be assured that I am the love of his heart, that he is eager to lift that little bloom out from under, to uncover others ready to push upward, to scrape away the lifeless, to lavishly scatter seed for new. But for goodness’ sake, Erin, let’s lift that comfort-zone slab off of all this potential! I can choose to believe and know that he will soften and break the surface that has been hardened by th-78my ego and pride and their thorny relatives, to uncover, to scrape away the deadwood of my own misguided doings, the misguided doings of others upon me, and my chosen reponse to their misguided doings.  But for heaven’s sake, Erin, let’s get this slab of hurt, resentment, anger, fear, snap-judgements, hopelessness and faithlessness out of the way to let the sunshine in to truly heal, and render this patch fertile soil for new seed! I can choose to believe that these very difficulties are his affirmation that there is always something glorious, surprising and persistent deep beneath to be sown, watered, and ready to push through resistance in perky bloom. Will I get out of my own obstinate way to let him in?

Can I muster the strength to push aside my ego, hurt, fear and stubborn willfulness, to invite the Gardener through the gate, to survey together and to begin? Will I agree that a condition rarely stays the same but is always dynamic, and when I look back, grows into something good? His good? And when I do, will I trust his hands to bring me there, trust him to judge whether the slab needs to be gently lifted, ripped in whole away, or given a good, hard wallop to smash it into a layer of dust that serves to somehow fertilize future growth?  Can I find hope that he could choose to open floodgates of tenderness and love to wash over the ossification and wear it down to powder?

Will there be pain? I don’t care for pain. I’d rather not. th-81But have you found like me that avoiding pain only seems to prolong and actually intensify it, propagating like a poison? That it takes little to unexpectedly trigger it and send you into its dizzying spiral all over again that seeps into everything you think and do?  But what if I were to turn it on its head, to use it as an opportunity to tune into a truth – that it can be a whistle and wink to the truth of our Gardener’s pure nature and heart and his desire to see a change in me? Could I lean into his heart, to agree that he wants only what is best for me, that he will accompany me through these moments into a healthier, new direction? What if I held a vice-grip on that assurance that he will face it with me, prescribe according to the condition of my condition, and take my heart into his own and move me ahead?  If today is a living and breathing testament to his past work in me, I will live to tell of that day, and tomorrow will yet again. In fact, I think he delights in each moment of victory right along with me!

cropped-seedling.jpg“Let’s do it,” whispered with unexplained and newfound determination. Erin, keep eyes on the well-equipped and deftly skilled Gardener, no matter his prescription and method. Eyes on him who grieves deeply out of love over my hardness, and to spare me its outcome. Eyes on him through the pain, and as he and I work together, uncovering the shriveled seedlings and starved roots of dormant resplendent beauty. Eyes on him as he gently removes the deadwood, soothes with the rich soil of his love, seeds with his lavish abundance, waters with his tears, and cools with his grace. Eyes on him as he softens and tenders, transplants and prods growth to infuse and spread across his masterpiece creation. Eyes on him as he rejoices with me, with us, at each interval!

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“Study this story of the farmer planting seed. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so the Evil One comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road.”
Matthew 13: 18,19 (The Message)

All the days of the poor are hard, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Proverbs 15: 15 (New Revised Standard Version)

 Jesus was angry as he looked at the people. But he felt very sad because they were stubborn. Then he said to the man, “Let me see your hand.” The man put his hand out for Jesus, and it was healed.
Mark 3: 5 (International Children’s Bible)