Wednesday, October 29, 2008

His Heart in Mine

"Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.'"
John 14:23

Just short of eighteen years ago, I can clearly recall getting into my little, white sports car with tear-filled eyes and heading north on Interstate 35, leaving Baylor University and Waco, Texas far behind. I had just said farewell to some of my sweetest college friends, not knowing when I would see them next. I was off on a another sort of journey, newly engaged and rather unsure of the road ahead, but committed to navigating by faith. I ultimately would be landing out west in California to be near my man; however, the first couple of summer months would find me at my parent's new home in Missouri, about eight hours beyond where I grew up and all that was familiar to me.

It didn't take long for those tear-filled eyes to break open the floodgates. I was in a full fit of sadness and confusion. Will I ever see these people again? Am I making the right decision? Why, if I feel led to go, does this hurt so much? Am I not excited to be near the one I love and become his bride? What's wrong with me? Why in the world did my parents have to move and uproot me right now? How am I going to make it? And, where exactly am I going, because I feel so lost right now? These were just a few of the questions flying around in my head.

Then, all of a sudden, the strangest thing happened. I heard Someone say, "I am your Home." I kind of quieted down a bit, and because what I heard was so real, I even looked over at the passenger's seat, knowing there was no one else in the car with me. Oh, but there was a Passenger, (or a Driver, really), with me; He was living in me, and I wasn't alone at all. I knew this Voice! "Wherever you go, My daughter, I will be your Home." So, ok, I only cried more at this point!

I didn't know at the time what Christ's promise of being my Home would mean to me in the years to come. I had asked Him into my heart at the age of twelve, believing Him to be God's Son, the Savior Who took all my sin upon the cross and came to life again to give me new life. So, my heart became His home. In all of my immaturity, though, I wrestled within myself for a few more adolescent years and pretty much ignored Him. His home in my heart was very messy, and I certainly did not provide Him with much room in which to stretch out and get comfortable. I really didn't know what to do with Him, so I just left Him waiting.

Then, a few years later at the age of seventeen, after living a drama-oriented life filled with lies and hypocrisy, I crumbled. I had always valued truth, so to walk in untruth was very unsettling in me. One night, tucked away in my bed in the darkness, I begged God to take my life. I guess at that point, I think I was asking that He either just make me stop breathing or show me something more, something real--namely, Himself. Guess what? He did take my life, and He changed everything, not instantly but step by step, day by day, through victory and failure. He unleashed the Spirit He had deposited within me. He was there, and He was faithful. I was beginning to see what a home in Jesus was all about.

So, now there I was, a young woman at the ripe old age of twenty, making her way across the country and out into the world. I would get married ten months later. A month after our wedding, my husband was in the NFL draft, and off to Denver we would go two months later. We were in Denver for two years, back to California for a year; to St. Louis for a few weeks; and, after completely moving into our 100 year old rent house, my husband was released and signed by the New York Giants. Hello, New York! We were there for a year, back home in Texas for three years, in New Jersey for three months, home to Texas for another few months, back to California for a few more months, then back to Texas. And, finally, we went back and forth from Texas to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania about every six months for five years. Now, we have been back home in Texas for almost three years full-time.

Whew! The Lord, obviously, knew more than I when He spoke His sweet words over me. He knew what was to come and how lonely I would be for the comforts of "home" at times. Move after move, I remembered His promise that I would always have a Home, no matter where I happened to be living in the world. I may have felt lonely at times, but I was never really alone. In fact, the longing and the loneliness only drove me closer to Him, clinging to His Word, searching out His heart, and lavishing in His goodness. Not only is He Savior, Creator, Father and King, He's also a Best Friend in tow! He is Everything, and I love Him; He's my Home.

Now, that I've stayed put for a while, I've been enjoying home in the sense of family, friends, and simply in living where my roots are. Even still, I am learning that home is so much more. I have a home in Christ Jesus; He has a home in me, and that's the state of my being, my identity. This Home will not perish; it will sustain the strongest of storms and shelter me from raging winds. This Home protects me and even provides for me. I will never be Homeless, though I am given the choice to live like I am homeless in my own neglect and disobedience, which would be much to my dismay and so grieve the heart of my Housekeeper Who also happens to be Owner of the house. (Oh so complex, but by faith made simple!) But, oh, the joy of having such a blessed Home, for His love is truly better than life, (Psalm 63:3), and His steadfast love is the foundation of this Home!

So, that's it...His Heart in Mine, in a nutshell. Christ Jesus is my Home and forever will be, wherever, whenever, and come whatever! Amen!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In the Quiet Place

"This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, 'In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength...'"
Isaiah 30:15a

I have been reminded quite a few times in the last few weeks of the urgency and importance of what is said to be the "quiet place" through a great book I'm reading called When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper, conversations with friends, and mostly the steady pressing of that still small voice deep within my soul. For the last few years, in each home that we have lived in, I intentionally designated a simple place in it for me to go and just be still with God. Now, let me tell you, I say "be still," but maybe what I really mean is "be with," because sometimes there is anything but what appears to be stillness going on. There, I go to praise, offer thanks, confess, cry out, shout, laugh, converse, wrestle, dance, sing, question, (Oops! Don't tell mom, b/c I was politely taught as a child not to question God; however, I have learned when I have questions and faithfully bring them to Him, He usually answers and always proves His character worthy. He surely is not required to do so, but He welcomes my respectful, and often naive inquiries, as my heart is earnestly searching for Him, just like a good earthly parent does for their kiddos.), and, yes, I also have to hush up, sit still, and listen.

Some of my most joyful, as well as most painful, moments have been spent in this quiet place. When things get hectic, it's the place I run to, or, rather, should run to, when I feel cluttered. Left unattended, my scatteredness leads to feelings of fear and insecurity, which leads to whining, complaining, or attempting to control what I cannot, and a whole lot of nothing productive for my good, the good of those around, and overall, the good of His Kingdom. The quiet place is a place of safety; it's a shelter and a haven from all of the madness swirling around outside. Sometimes the distractions come from the overbearing weight of the world in which we live, other times they come from daily life as we know it, and sometimes the struggles are simply within us. Whatever the challenge may be, journeying to the quiet place is a step in the direction of peace, for it is symbolic of intentional surrender upon entrance with humility and sincerity before the One Who is waiting to lift up my weary head. (Psalm 3:3)

We bought our current home a year ago last summer. Even before we moved in the furniture, I remember looking around wondering where my quiet place would be. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me a good, sensible spot. (Sometimes He just plops the solution before me before I can even blink, but a lot of the time, He allows me to keep searching and exploring to find His answer in order to grow my faith, patience, trust and spiritual tenacity, so to speak.) We moved our stuff in, and there seemed to be no room left over for any sort of quiet anything. There was just mess. I got rid of many items that we no longer used or had the space to use, and as I was pondering what to do with one lonely little ottoman that wouldn't fit with its chair counterpart, it hit me. I walked into my closet, which is also my husband's closet--and, by the way, he has the golf apparel to prove it--and, there in the middle, was the perfect place to set the ottoman. "This is it!" I heard Him whisper. "This is your quiet place, baby girl." (Oh my, do you ever hear Him call you that--or maybe precious daughter, son, My beloved, sweet one, or even by name? He is calling you by name--whatever name that touches the very depths of your soul--the name you long to hear spoken over you. The world may be calling you something else--but your Savior, Redeemer, and Father wants to call you His precious child, His own. Can you imagine the Creator and Sustainer of the universe calling you by name, or even the tender, loving name you have always wanted to be called? It can happen...and is happening, but that's why getting quiet--not just in the audible but in the deepest places of your soul, deliberately directing your heart towards the Lord of Hosts is so vital. Ok, woa! Sorry, for that insert...couldn't help it!) Anyway, He showed me the place, and I promised to keep it clean, not realizing what I challenge that would be for me.

I got away to the quiet place just about daily for a while. I was tempted, usually multiple times a day, to quickly toss the piles of clothes that I attempted to wear before I found the perfect match for my mood. In fact, I did make a pile, but as soon as I realized how careless I was being with my prayer ottoman, my altar, I frantically cleaned up the mess. In fact, I started spending so much time and energy trying to keep my altar, my ottoman, clean that I totally neglected my prayer time there. Oh, yes, I do most of my morning devotionals and have prayer time at the dining room table, but there was a special invitation to intimacy with the Father that I was missing in the quiet place. After a while, I got tired of housekeeping and just let the ottoman go; it got really messy.

I continued on with life as I knew it. Rush, rush, rush! The new fall routine kicked in, and now my oldest child gets up as early, or earlier, than I do to go to school. I wasn't finding enough quiet time at the table, and once the morning rush passed--I was off and out, too. Then, one day, (I can't honestly remember if it was before or after reading Piper's comments about the need for a specific place of prayer within your home? If it was before..that'd be God's prompting, if after, then His confirming. Whatever..because He's in it!), in all of my internal clutteredness, I took a good, long look at my little ottoman, my poor altar! The pile of junk upon it represented all the chaos within me.

Well, I had enough of that, and mama got to cleaning! Of course, the Lord is the owner of me; He got the deed to my life when I gave Him my heart, but He has also given me a few responsibilities. Now, He is the ultimate Housekeeper, but before one can come in and really do some deep cleaning, all those extra things just laying around have to be picked up. Even better, we can scoop them up and hand them over to Him. Forget putting the mess away, we can just give it all to Him to throw out. Amen!

So, now, my little prayer ottoman is clear and clean, except for my husband tried to lay his football/gym clothes on it last night. (Another lesson...don't allow someone else's stuff--even the ones you most love--keep you from getting to the quiet place!) I relocated his goods in a hurry! Last night, tired and weary, I made myself sit down on the couch for a bit. Although the physical inactivity was nice, my soul could not rest. I went to the quiet place. I knelt at the altar beckoning the Lord Most High, my Best Friend, my King. We had a precious meeting.

He is everywhere, you know, but He was so, so there; I was so there, in sync with His sweet, perfect melody, such music to my soul, just for a little while tucked away in His presence. Ever so often outside the quiet place, I could hear voices calling, "Mom? Where's mom? Jen..." They figured it out, though, and have learned not to interrupt holy business--unless there's fire, blood or something of the kind. Maybe, they, too, will have a quiet place someday, because, I know, He wants that with every child. He knows we need it, and I'm learning more and more how much I need it. And, in the realization of my need, I want. I want more time in the quiet place so I can better withstand the unquiet places in my everyday world; I want more of Him.

I know the journey to that place will always be a fight, for my flesh in this fallen world wages war against the needs and desires of my spirit, His Spirit in me. The more I get there, though, the more of Jesus I encounter, and quite frankly, He is very contagious.

Today, there's only one thing that rests on my ottoman. It's a open invitation to enter into the quietness of His unconditional love and infinite mercy and grace, and a reminder that "when anxieties multiply within me, His comforts delight my soul." (Psalm 94:19) He is waiting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thanks for the New Song, Lord!

"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord."
Psalm 40:3

I love today right now! The sun is shining, and the air feels so perfectly soft. I've kind of been caught up in the wonder of the simplicity of a peaceful, beautiful day. It seems so effortless for the Lord to create and maintain such balance and splendor. He's Something Special!

Days like today are harmonious to me. All things seem to flow right out of His heart for us to take hold. I am reminded, though, of how the day began. I woke up early, way early, and started running--to work out, to school, to mom's in order to check on her house while she's away, to errands, back home for a shower, and off again. I got honked at by a big truck who greatly and passionately opposed my decision to change lanes, (Oops, I didn't mean to offend.); I got locked out of my mom's house with my car keys and cell phone inside; I ran over 2 or 3 curbs--not uncommon for me, (Don't know why but think it's a mental spatial deficit), but still frustrating since I just got new tires; and I got hurt feelings because my fifteen year old asked me to drive faster and scrutinized my choice of drop-off location, like it was too close to the door or something. (So, it must be official; I am not the coolest mom around. Shoot!) All little things, not such a big deal, but this gal who has a tough time mustering up the tears when they are completely appropriate and even invited, fought back the tears this morning. (And, I guess the hormonal combination on hand today wasn't helping either!)

Oh, but then, guess what? The Lord stepped right into my day. I mean, He was there all along, but just at the right time, (Is there any other kind of time with Him? No!), He played a new song for me. You know those times when you can barely hear a song playing in the background, but that's just enough to draw you in? That happened when I left the car wash. This sweet, little, melancholy, yet piercing song just jumped into my heart.
The Lord speaks to me so very often through music. I can carry a decent tune much of the time, but I can't play a lick of any instrument. (Oh, not true. I took a guitar class at Baylor many years ago and used to torture my roommates with my acoustic version of "Rocka My Soul." Poor them, but I made an "A" in the class, for effort alone, I'm sure.) I love a precious melody, though, and I appreciate when individuals gather up their gifts and collectively give glory to the Lord by exercising those gifts through song. I even hear the Lord sometimes when people don't recognize that the particular musical gift they are using is from Him. He just moves me through me music, and my response usually is to worship Him.
So today, He gave me this song that touched the very depth of me. The Lord set it before me and gave me ears to hear. He turned my day around, just like He turned me world around many years ago now. The words in this song are so honest and real. When I heard it, I felt kinship, and the yearning within in me for a time made so much sense. I know I will continue to desire perfection and completion; I will keep reaching, as Paul says, to lay hold of that of which Christ Jesus took hold of for me. (Philippians 3:12) But, I know Hope is coming. He Who called me is faithful. In the meantime, I have some beautiful days to enjoy and a new song to keep singing, every breath unto Him, my Lord and Savior.
C.S Lewis Song
Brook Fraser

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here.
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
Then of course I'll feel nude when to where I'm destined, I'm compared.
Speak to me in the light of the dawn.
Mercy comes with the morning.
I will sigh and with all creation groan,
as I wait for Hope to come for me.
Am I lost or just less found?
On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
'Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become.
For we, we are not long here.
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it.
And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know You.
Hope is coming for me.
Hope, He's coming