23 July 2008

Glimpses of His Love

As previously mentioned, I’m reading The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge, and he discusses the six phases of the masculine journey. (I encourage you to read this book and Wild at Heart, whether you’re a man or a woman, because it’s very enlightening. I also highly recommend Captivating, which is about the feminine journey.) They are Adored Son, Cowboy/Ranger, Warrior, Lover, King, and Sage. I am just beginning the chapters on the “Sage” part, and to this point, the most difficult part for me to read has been the “Lover” section. However, one thing in the Lover part of the book struck a chord in me, and that was when Eldredge was speaking of this communication between God and man. He spoke of the way God has shown His love over the years, and that resonated with me, because I understood. I have been there. I know what you mean. Shortly after I read that section, I had one of those little things happen that communicated to me that God longs to be intimately connected with my life. That experience led to the poem that I posted yesterday and began this post brewing in my head. Some things are really clear in my mind, but become much more complicated when I try to get them out and put them in words, so I hope I’m not confusing this issue too much in the telling…

Someone once said that when you talk to God it’s called prayer, but when God talks to you it’s called schizophrenia. :) I still think that’s hilarious. Have you ever spent time thinking about the ways in which God carries on conversations with His people? Chances are, if you’ve spent any time in prayer, ever in your life, you’ve at least considered the reverse. Perhaps you haven’t spent much time thinking about it. Perhaps you’re one of those people who think that it just doesn’t happen. Perhaps you’re not even sure that God exists. On the other hand, maybe, like me, you’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about it and have begun to enjoy a more regular intercourse with your Creator because of your careful consideration.

The two typical interactions that people automatically assume you’re talking about when you refer to the voice of God in your life are the Bible, and other people. It’s true. Those are great sources of interaction with God. I firmly believe that the Bible is our primary source for understanding the Mind and Heart of God, because it is His love story that He put in writing for our benefit. I believe, like many before me, that the Bible is the divine Word of God, that it is a living Word, and not a dead writing. I believe, as the Bible says of itself, that it is “able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” In addition to Scripture, I believe that God uses people to speak to one another to convey His thoughts. In my life, He has used many people, even some unlikely sources.

This thought always reminds me of the little girl who was afraid of the dark. She called for her daddy, and he came into the room. She told him of her fear, and he said, “Don’t you remember that you learned that Jesus is with you all the time? You don’t ever have to be afraid of anything, because Jesus is there to take care of you.” She replied, “I know that, Daddy, but I just wanted someone with skin.” In our frailty as humans, we sometimes need someone “with skin,” and God faithfully provides that. He places people in our lives to help us through things, and for that we are grateful. On the reverse of that is the fact that sometimes you and I become the someone with skin to help others through. Sometimes we know it, and sometimes we don’t, but it’s a blessing to be that someone, either way. But I digress…

There are many other ways that God shows us that He is present, that He cares, and that He is interested in even the most mundane details of our daily lives. Sometimes He speaks directly to our spirit, using words that are almost audible in our heads. Sometimes He conveys an emotion or alleviates a negative emotion. There have been moments in my life that I could very clearly, in my mind, hear God’s voice speaking to me. Those things have not always been life-changing words, in fact, most of them were just moments shared between two close friends, but some of them have been very eye-opening. The first time that I felt God joking with me startled me and delighted me. But when I thought about it, I thought that if we’re created in His image and we joke with each other, why wouldn’t He joke with us, too? There was a time, a little over a year ago, that I had found a song that I loved, and I was listening to it one morning while getting ready to go somewhere, and I heard Him speak to me, in echo to the words of the song. That song has, ever since, been my love song with my Lover, my Lord: OUR song. Every time I hear it, I smile, and it renews my commitment to Him.

It’s interesting to note that trying to explain to someone else these moments is nearly impossible, even to someone else who understands. There’s such a POWER in the voice of God that it’s impossible to convey, so the re-telling of the experience loses something big. I’ve learned that those moments are generally to be shared only between the two of us, and in the sharing of those moments alone with Him, a precious intimacy is developed.

For those of you who know something of my spiritual journey, you know that it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve begun to grow by leaps and bounds. I had the foundation, being raised in a Christian home and being “saved” since the age of 4, but the personal relationship side of Christianity was, for me, a roller coaster ride. Sometimes I wasn’t even near the theme park, and sometimes I was at the height of the highest hill in the throes of the ride. I just couldn’t seem to get a handle on the supposed intimacy that God offered. He’s so big, and I’m so small. Why would He care about the little things in my day, when He has so much else to do? (This is why I intensely dislike the song “God Must Be Busy” btw. I understand it, but I detest the theology of it.) In thinking that He wouldn’t care about the little things, I effectively cut Him out of those parts of my life. When you consider the fact that the majority of our lives revolve around the little things, that cuts God out of the biggest part of who we are. I didn’t, at that time, see how those “minor” exclusions broke His heart. He wanted to be a part of those things, and I just didn’t want to “bother” Him by sharing them. It makes me sad to think about that.

One of the best things about God is that even when we hurt and reject Him, He keeps pursuing us. He keeps blessing us. As David put it in Psalms, “He knows my frame. He remembers that I am dust.” He doesn’t let it get Him bent out of shape. He doesn’t say, “Well, if she’s going to exclude me, I’m just going to forget it! Let’s see if she can make it through the day without me being there to fix things for her. Hmph!” He just continues to woo. He loves us, demonstratively, overwhelmingly, each day, even when we fail to notice. It’s really incredible.

You know, when I thought of the gifts of God, as I was growing up, I would think of the really obvious things: life, health, salvation, prosperity, etc. I didn’t think of actual gifts. My parents gave me the gift of life, too, but when I think of gifts they give me, I think of the littler things: a book, a memento, a card in the mail. It took a long time, but I started realizing that God gives little gifts, too. He gives us evidence of His love in tangible form, much the way a suitor would give his beloved when he’s wooing her. This is where we get the imagery of Jesus as the Lover of our souls. All aspects of human experience directly relate to aspects of divine experience. Our relationships among ourselves mirror the relationship we have with God, and He did that intentionally.

I want to give you an example, because this was the event that got me thinking about this post in the first place. I attended a business conference over the weekend, and Saturday morning I wound up parking a significant (in 4” heels, 8-10 blocks is much more significant) distance from the convention center and walking. It was the first spot I could find, and I was in a rush because I was running late. Little did I know that the distance was orchestrated by God. With hands full of the things that I “needed” to get through the daytime sessions and into the afternoon break, I was trotting down the sidewalk (yes, trotting) toward the conference, and something caught my eye. It was a flower, or rather a little batch of flowers off some bush like a lilac. I saw it, pristine, beautiful, recently cut, unbruised, untrampled on the sidewalk. I looked around for the bush, and I didn’t see it. I thought, “Oh, that’s nice, God, thank You,” and I kept walking. I felt a little twinge of guilt for not stopping to pick it up, but I was running late, hands full. I didn’t have anywhere to put it. I kept walking. “You could put it in your hair.” True. I could, but I’m a block away from it by now, and I’m still late and I’m still carrying stuff. “Alright.”

I thought about that flower off and on for the rest of the morning/early afternoon. Before the evening session, I decided that I needed to take some of my stuff back to the car so I wouldn’t have to deal with carrying so much after the late night session ended, so I hauled my proverbial cookies back to the car. I didn’t see the flower, but about a half-block down from where I remembered it being, I saw the bush it had come from and thought, “How could I have missed that bush? It’s so beautiful and has flowers all over it.” The answer was, “I meant for you to see the flower I wanted to give you, not the bush it came from. If you’d seen the bush, the flower wouldn’t have been as remarkable.” I took my things to the car, dropped them off, reorganized and started back, at a slower pace. I was looking for my flower now. It was still lying there, a little wilted from the heat of the day, but unbroken and untrampled. I thought, “Oh, it’s wilted. That’s too bad.” I got about 10 steps past it when I thought, “I’m an idiot. I’m not walking by that AGAIN.” And I stopped, turned around, and went back and got it.

Now, had someone been with me, they would have thought I was crazy. I turned around and went back and picked up a wilted flower. I carried it in my hand back into the hotel, into the restroom where I changed my clothes, and then placed it in my hair where it had belonged all day. No one said anything. It would have been beautiful in my hair when I arrived, because it just matched my dress, and it was fresh then, but I had, as a friend of mine says, “delayed intelligence.”

The rest of the walk, after I picked it up, I realized what it meant. God gave me flowers. He gave me a little bouquet, for no other reason than that He loved me and wanted me to be happy. He knows that the question of my heart and the journey of my life is the quest to be beautiful. He blesses me with little bits of beauty that He leaves for me alone to see because He knows I’m searching for beauty in my heart. He gives me beauty that complements my own beauty (matching my dress, even) as an affirmation and in answer to my question, “Am I beautiful, God?” “Yes, my Love. You are beautiful. You are more beautiful to me than anything. I love you. I delight in your beauty, and because you delight in the beauty in which I surround you, here is a token of my love. Wear it in your hair as a gift from your Lover.”

My primary love language is gifts. God was speaking my language, physically, so that I could hear, see, smell, touch, and experience His love. I love flowers. I’ve only received flowers from a handful of people over the years, and they mean the world to me. I told my daddy that if I ever got married that it would be his job to make sure that my husband knows how I love to receive flowers. He said, “When you get married, your husband should know that without having to have me tell him.” Well, God’s my Lover, and He knows my heart so well that He gives exactly the gift He knows will delight me. And, not being a gracious lover in return, or perhaps more accurately, not always being in the frame of mind of being the Beloved, I noticed, but didn’t really notice. It took Him several tries for me to acknowledge His gift, and being as boneheaded as I am, it took me a bit, but I got the message.

God speaks to us. He gives us glimpses of His love. He showers us with gifts, even tangible ones, and we are so wrapped up in our tiny, little lives that we miss them, but He keeps trying. He woos. He calls. He loves. He leaves it up to us to open our eyes, to be receptive to His love, and to share the amazing lives that He longs to give us. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to work at keeping my eyes open, at being available when my Lover calls me to come out and play, at hearing His voice. May you see Him in your life. He’s there, just pay attention, and you’ll see Him.

Much love.

P.S. Yes, the picture above is of the actual flower from God. And, yes, I still have it. :)

22 July 2008

A poem

In the not too distant past I have read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. I am now reading The Way of the Wild Heart by John Eldredge. I intend to read most of his/their books. My loyal readers know that I have been doing a self-directed study of femininity and masculinity for a couple of years now. These books are a part of that.

The poem below was inspired by these works. Captivating maintains that the central question of a woman's heart is "Am I beautiful?" The idea is that while the man is the rough, warrior side of the image of God, that the woman is the beauty side of God. We are meant to engage others in God through our beauty. Since I know how difficult this particular issue is in my own heart and mind, I tend to believe that the beauty premise is true. While the natural inclination will be for the reader to assume that this poem is written about a man, the fact of the matter is, it's written about my relationship with God. There are things in my other relationships that point me back to Him and to the way He sees me, and it is true that I am more capable of seeing His hand at work in my life, when my other relationships are working properly. Here it is:

The Warrior and the Beauty

In dreams the Warrior came to me.
He’d whisper in my ear;
His strength was big, his heart was strong,
His power drew me near.

I wondered who I was to him
And why he ever came,
For I was nothing special then
No one to take a name.

But in my mind, my Warrior stood
So handsome sleek and strong,
And in my heart, he softly wooed
And brought to me a song.

The Beauty that I longed to be
He recognized before.
He loved in me the things I sought,
Though having them in store.

And as I learned my Warrior’s love
The Beauty in me grew
Until I learned that it was I,
And it was then I knew

That what my Warrior saw in me
Had been there all along,
And what his strength inspired in me
Was my own Beauty’s song.

So now the Warrior, with his queen,
The Beauty, measures free
The love they share; for from now on,
His Beauty will be me.

Great Is His Faithfulness

(This post was written on 7/18/2008. I didn't get a chance to post it until now, though. Please forgive my untimeliness.)

His mercies are new every morning; great is His faithfulness.. This blogpost has been a long time in coming. There were dozens of posts that I didn’t write, for various reasons, and this one will probably contain a slight smattering of them all. I didn’t write them out of fear. It sounds odd, and it’s unreasonable, but fear is a funny thing. Fear comes to us in many forms, and it catches us at odd moments. Sometimes it’s obvious, and others it masquerades under the guise of more “logical” emotions. The fear of which I speak for this post is a relational fear.

I have a healthy fear of God. That fear of God bleeds over into a healthy fear of my parents. I don’t mean fear as in “I’m afraid of my parents” so much as “I’m afraid of hurting or disappointing my parents.”

Let me tell you a little about my parents. My parents are two of my best friends. They are my trusted advisors. They are the voices, arms, and bodies of God in my life. They are my heroes, my mentors, my examples. Their opinion(s) means more to me than any other. It’s only been in the last few years that I have developed to the point that I feel that they can count ME as a friend, too, but that friendship that I share with them is rich with the many facets of a well-cut gem. I am their daughter, true, but I am also their friend, their companion, their spiritual sister.

In my younger years, I regrettably developed the habit of not communicating with them about some important things. Under the guise of “what they don’t know won’t hurt them,” I excluded them from portions of my life. I didn’t share the things I should, and I reaped a large harvest of heartache for my, well, deceit. Hurts that could have been prevented weren’t. Things that Satan meant to destroy me almost did. The lies in my head were bigger than my faith in my parents, and I’m truly ashamed of that. I bought into the lie that they couldn’t possibly understand, that the hassle wasn’t worth the trouble, that they’d be disappointed in me, that they might reject me—whatever lie was most convenient for whichever occasion.

Since moving away from my home state, I have learned to be more frank with them. I have learned to discuss things with them, to rely on their wisdom and input into my life, to understand their perspective more, to include them in my life. However, there are still times when I struggle with being forthcoming, because it was such a way of life for so long—hiding things. I would justify it in my head with whatever reasoning I needed to, such as “they don’t need to know,” “they wouldn’t care,” “it’s too much hassle,” or the ever-popular, “I’m an adult, and I get to decide what I do with my life, and I don’t have to explain that to anyone. I don’t live under their roof anymore; I pay my own bills…”

Cut to 2008. I’ve had an interesting month or so. Since Monday, 16 June, I have been in some rather interesting conversations with “Bonehead” as my friend calls him—the somewhat-subject of an earlier blogpost about my relational life. (I still maintain that the post was about me, but he did feature predominantly in it, so I won’t argue semantics.) In the course of those conversations, and the developing friendship that I share with him, I have had many ideas that I longed to put on paper, to post here. I didn’t do it. I didn’t share, because I knew that my parents were set against him, and it was just too much to poke the hornet’s nest, when there wasn’t really anything going on. Well, over the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of development on that scene, some of which I will share here, and I have come to the point where I faced my fears and actually had a couple of conversations with my parents.

At this point, I’m not sure where to really begin, but I’ll give you a smattering of the developments and allow you to draw your own conclusions. I’m going to refer to him as Beast, here, because I like it better than Bonehead, and it’s a little more flattering, if only in my head. haha

Conversations began over a misunderstanding (intentionally fostered by an interested third party), but quickly evolved into a serious discussion (hereafter referred to as The Conversation). Beast had heard a conversation between his uncle and me (herafter, Uncle Beast or UB) on his mom’s (Mama Beast or MB) radio phone. He had listened intently to most of the conversation, and I was surprised at the degree of attention he paid. UB and I were discussing some fairly weighty topics, such as the state of the family in America, personal responsibility, the roles of masculinity and femininity in our society, and the devolution of sin from the time of the Fall of man. Beast said that during that conversation, he had developed a greater realization of my spiritual state. He said that the contrast between where I am, spiritually, and where he was, spiritually, was huge, and that he knew, for the first time, how far he’d gone the wrong direction. He realized that his condition was so bad that he didn’t even know where to start to get back on the right track. He asked for my help in changing the course of his life. That’s where it began.

As some of you know, he had broken my trust when we were together before. Unfortunately, trust broken is not easily mended. I am loyal to a fault. I care for people more than I should, most of the time. But, when I’m hurt, it takes time and faithful effort to move past that. I’ve spent too much time making excuses for people who hurt me, and I’ve gotten to the point where I won’t do that anymore. I can’t. This desire for my help put me in an awkward position. Not only had I been hurt, but my parents had been hurt on my behalf. They were dead-set against him. I called my mom to tell her about the conversation, and she told my dad, who called me. While not unpleasant, it wasn’t pleasant, either. He doesn’t want to see his little girl get hurt. I can understand that.

When I began developing this friendship, again, it was slow going. I couldn’t see this growing to be more, and in fact, I saw an end in sight and coming quickly. Why bother my parents? Why needlessly concern them, if nothing is going to come of it? Why stir up the hornets?


Shortly after this conversation began, Beast and his brother, the honorable Mississippi Pimp/MP (long story—don’t ask) were scheduled to move to Florida. Florida isn’t nearby. My thought was that they’d move, and that’d be it. Well, he asked me to come visit him in Florida when they went, so we made the plans, and I got tickets to fly to FL the weekend after they moved. Ok, so maybe it wouldn’t end when they left. I helped them pack, played babysitter quite a bit, shared a piece of their lives, got closer to them, and planned for a brief Florida vacation.

When I went, I thought that I’d get down there, there’d be a lot going on, we wouldn’t get much time to talk, and then we’d have some argument, and I’d go home and never hear from him again. That didn’t happen.

I got home and thought, “Crap.” Yes, it’s good to have a burgeoning relationship. Yes, it’s exciting to know that there’s a mutual understanding and caring. Yes, it’s terrifying to think of telling your parents that you’re seeing the one guy they really wish would drop off the face of the planet, especially when they don’t know that you’ve just spent the weekend in his home state in his mother's home.. Crap.

For some weeks in advance of this, and even prior to The Conversation, talk had been happening among his family that I would be joining them on their family vacation, this year. It sounded like a lot of fun, and something I would LOVE to do, but… well, but. But, when the topic originally arose, Beast was essentially not speaking to me, but he wasn’t planning to go on the trip, either. As our friendship emerged, and as the potential for romance was rekindled, it became an ongoing topic of conversation. He decided to go. The family had adopted me as one of their own, and they wanted me to be part of this event in their lives. “I’d really like to go, but I just don’t know if I can swing it.”

Somewhere, sometime, behind my back, the decision was made. Satin is going on the family vacation. The family is buying her tickets. It’s a done deal. No arguing. Yesterday, that happened. The tickets were bought, the arrangements were made. Crap. Now I HAVE to tell my parents. Crap, crap, crap.

So, I made the call. Mom was NOT thrilled. She’s the single most relaxed, easy-going, gentle-natured individual I know. She was NOT happy. She passed the phone to Daddy. A conversation was had. I had broken Daddy’s heart. He was deeply concerned. There were some things, to his way of thinking, fundamentally wrong with the concept of my having a relationship with this man. How does a concerned dad protect his daughter from heartache and not inadvertently push her away instead?

After that phone call, I received calls from MB, Beast, and UB. I spent a lot of time on the phone. Much was said. In the end, it was time to pray. I sent an email to my 4 best female friends asking their intercession on behalf of the matter. When I awoke I had responses already from three of them. Later, I found out that UB had spent most of the night saturating all of those involved in prayer, specifically my dad.

Partway through the day, I got a call from my dad, and we visited more, coming to a greater understanding of each other. He had spent the night praying and studying the Bible to search out truth, where it relates to the fundamental issues with my relationship, and in his studies, he came to a different understanding of the grace of God than he had possessed to that point. We became closer through an issue that threatened to tear us apart. THAT is why this post is entitled “Great is His faithfulness.” Through the faithfulness of God, I was brought forth from a crippling fear. Through the faithfulness of God, my dad was brought to a deeper understanding of scriptural truth. Through the faithfulness of God, my relationship with my dad was strengthened. Through the faithfulness of God, a very important friendship was spared and the potential for a future was preserved.

Now, I don’t honestly know if Beast and I have a chance at making this a forever thing. We both have much to learn and a long way to go. This is just the first step in a long journey, however, it is one of the most difficult steps I’ve envisioned needing to take. These two men in my life haven’t yet met, but I’m not as worried about them killing each other on sight, now. Perhaps we stand a chance. With each step, the “hope and a future” that God speaks of in Jeremiah is more in evidence. Great, GREAT is HIS faithfulness, in my life. His mercies are truly new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

Much love.