Monday, August 26, 2013

The Grace-Smeared Face

I had a lovely lunch date with the boy Friday.  A monkey-bar jumping off incident led us to the doctor’s office for a sprained foot.  

“I don’t think that was a wise decision,” said the boy.  

And thus we were gifted a short school day and three hours of stolen moments between doctor’s appointments.  Just us.  

Stolen moments are the best because they come without expectation.  Really, though, they are not stolen, but graced, as all good gifts come from our Heavenly Father.  A true gift by nature is always unexpected.  You can’t ask for it.  Then it wouldn’t be a gift.  You can’t dictate it or control it.  It has to be given freely.  All you can do is accept it.  And love it back.

Linger in it and be contented.

I watched the boy gobble up the good gifts that God had given us this day on the patio of Zoe’s Kitchen.  Steak kabobs skewered with sweet peppers.  A warm breeze sliced by a sunbeam.  The quiet companionship of kindred hearts.  No need to talk.  I just watched him enjoy these small gifts with unselfconscious abandon.  It satisfied my soul.

He looked up at me sticky sweet with greek marinade.  He paused and smiled a little.

“There’s the look,” he said with soft surprise.

“What look?”

“The look on your face,” he said.  “The one that makes me feel like this world is an awesome place to be.”

That boy melts my heart every time.

I wonder what would happen if we consumed God’s gifts to us with such gratitude and trust.  What if we ate up Holy Spirit fruit until the juice ran down our arms?  If we accepted salvation-our own and each other’s-accepted it at face value and just loved it back?

What if we wholly lingered in God’s warm grace and were simply contented?

Shame, though, will glut our bellies and leave us nibbling at the smallest crumbs of grace.  How can we ever expect to be content if we can’t consume the grace right there on our plates? 

We were never meant for crumbs.  Jesus invited us to linger at the banquet. Linger in His presence and savor Him until our hearts are full, not act as if He begrudges to look the other way while we raid the dumpster out back.

Shame marinates in the idea that grace can be somehow deserved.  And it can't.  Ever.  That’s not a statement about the depth of our wretchedness.  It’s a declaration of the depth of God’s love for us, the immeasurable depth of a love that freely sacrifices not itself, but it’s own son.  It’s own son.

Do you see?  It will never, ever matter the depth of our failures because God’s grace is sufficient for even the greatest depths of our sinThe greatest debts of our sin.

There is no condemnation in Christ.  He gave us the full gift of Himself and He wants us to love it back.  Love it all the way.

You, sweet friend, are free to feast at Christ’s banquet until your belly is warm and full.  Dig in.  With both hands.  And when grace smears your face, when it runs over your cupped hands and spills down your shirt, stop right then, right then and see Christ’s face.  It will let you know that His kingdom is an awesome place to be.

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: “Don’t push these children away. Don’t ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.” Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.  -Mark 10:13-16, The Message

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Still Small Voice

I heard God’s voice today.

I haven’t heard it in a long, long time.

Technically sound travels better in the desert- something to do with the dry air and lack of obstructions that absorb sound.  

Not so in the spiritual desert.  In the spiritual desert, there just is no sound.  None, at least, but the sound of our own sufferings and dried up prayers.  And the shuffle of one dusty footstep dragged after another...

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  Romans 8:26, The Message

Last week I begged, not prayed, but begged God, through tears and desperation, to let me hear Him.  Please speak to me.  Speak to me in a way that is so clear I cannot possibly miss Your voice.

All I got was listen harder.

Not the message I wanted.  But He is God and I am Beverly.  He does not cater to my weakness, but endeavors to lift me out of it.  If I will let Him.  

Listen harder.

For over a year now, I have been in a season of refinement, one of taking away and paring down, of accepting and forgiving.  It’s been a season of truths revealed, hard truths, some drawn painfully from deep, deep places.  And all of it sandwiched between two diagnoses that changed everything.  At each turn I think, “Surely this is the last.”  But it is not.  

This morning I went to sit down with a cup of coffee and spend some time with my husband before church.  But as I was folding my legs under me to settle in my chair, I somehow dislocated my right knee.  There it was, in a moment, my walk was broken.

So now, we add to this season crutches and an orthopedist.  We just did this 3 years ago with my left knee- two surgeries and months of rehab.  It was hard.  I don’t want to do it again.  

All the way to the ER I cried, but not from pain or dread.  I cried because I surely must be the most stubborn child of God.  

How broken do I need to be before I will listen?

In the waiting room of the ER, I saw a couple huddled together.  She was in a wheel chair, bundled in blankets with an oxygen tank.  He leaned close and held her hand.  She was fear and precious frailty.  He was strength and utter compassion.  

She could not talk, but cried pitifully and wailed in her small voice.  Her words were unintelligible, but he looked in her eyes and nodded.  He understood.

Wordless sighs, aching groans.  Is this how we sound to Jesus?

And as soon as I asked the question, God whispered to me, “Yes. Go and pray with her.”

And so I did, one broken footstep dragged after another across the waiting room to lay my tainted hand on God’s beloved and speak her suffering.

His voice did not bluster or the shake the earth.  It did not blaze and smoke.  It simply compelled.  In peace and rightness, it compelled.  And I knew it to be truth.

I then understood that I miss His voice because I listen for it in this life, and He simply wants me to hear it in this moment.  In each moment.  Every moment.  One at a time.

Listen harder.  I am always speaking.

Yes Abba, I hear You.

My sheep respond as they hear My voice; I know them intimately, and they follow Me.  John 10:27, The Voice