Friday, May 26, 2006

A Night of Sabbath With God

When I arrived at my hiding place of Sabbath last night it was late for "convent life." (Yes, I'm hidden in a combination convent/retreat center. Who would have guessed?) Nobody was up and I had only the code access number for the front door. After entering it into the keypad I found the small office to the left and there was the promised envelope with my name in it. It gave me my room number, 212. I went back to my car and grabbed my stuff and came back into the building, found an elevator and punched the second floor. The door closed and reopened into a long hallway with subdued lighting. Numbers on the wall indicated that room 212 was to the right. As I walked along, pulling my luggage behind me, I could not see the room numbers in the dim light. Every now and then I approached a door to check the number. It was becoming a long walk to my room. The hallway made an abrupt right turn and, as it did, I began hearing a distant "beep." I checked a door number. Not yet. I walked on. The beeping increased in intensity and the numbers slowly decreased in altitude. I reached 215 and the beeping was nearly on me. After passing one more room on my right and one on my left I assumed I was now at the entrance of room 212. I glanced at the door and had my suspicion confirmed. The door, like most of them along the hallway, was open because they were unoccupied. The room I looked into was dark with only a pulsating red light emanating from the dresser to call for my attention. I entered, turning the wall light on, and discovered that the throbbing light was my alarm clock. It was pulsating because it was "alarming." It seems that the beeping sound that I had heard was the clock in my own room calling me home! I accepted this as a warm welcome not only from the Mercy Center, room 212, but the Holy Spirit. God has a sense of humor. He knew I would arrive late at night, enter a huge building that I had zero knowledge of and look for one particular room among many and so he set the clock for me. The flashing time read "4:40." I have no idea why it was about six hours off. You might think all of this simple coincidence but you will never convince me. I've walked with this God of ours for too long to think that chance rears its ugly head when one goes seeking Him.

My journey since that time has been a good one. I quickly settled in and asked God to select a scripture to lead me through this time with Him. I did the old "open a page and see what it says" routine. I don't generally recommend this method. As Steve Brown told me in an e-mail, sometimes God uses it ... but so does Satan. This time God did.

I have been living in Psalm 19: 7 - 14. Allow me to quote it here.

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings from the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern His errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer."

This portion of scripture is so very significant to me. Oh how welcome it is. I am still mining its depths. Simply moving beyond the first verse has proven difficult. I am in great need of having my soul revived. How to explain the difficulties life throws in the direction of any given individual? I will not even try. Suffice it to say that my soul is sometimes flat. Bland. Tasteless. All of the enthusiasm has been beaten out of me. Time does that. Life does that. Life is lived at a cost. We are instructed over and over again in scripture to be sure to count the cost. I have counted. It has occasionally been enormously steep. Yet I think it not as steep as the cost of disobedience. And that is why I am on Sabbath. A flat soul beckons me here to seek an audience with the Savior. I cannot afford to live this way. Too many people depend upon me to hear what the Spirit says. And, quite honestly, that is the way I want to live my life. I want to have a "hearing life."

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul..." The paraphrase according to Ron says, "God's way, decisions, and direction is perfect and will revive the flat soul..." May it be so. I have not yet figured out how that works. I suppose I am just asking for His working in me to produce the revived soul. Quite simply, I am asking for His miracle. He is God. That is not asking for too much.

"...the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple..." God can be counted on. There is no need to get a second opinion after God speaks. And I love this thought, though I be simple all I must do is hear and obey the direction of the Holy Spirit. I do not have to understand it. I do not have to figure anything out. All I must do is hear and obey. And if I will do that I will always come out on top, looking wise, leaving the doubters and nay sayers in the dust. How beautiful is that? How wonderful the thought! My Father will look out for me if I will turn to Him in simplicity, listening to His voice and doing what He says. It does not get any better!

"...the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart..." God shows me the way to go by the statutes He has put in place. His precepts ... statutes ... never change. If I follow them I will move through life with great joy because the guide posts have been placed perfectly. Not one is out of place, out dated, or missing. Learn the precepts and live in joy!

"...the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes..." Because God tells me which way to go, moment by moment, and because His directions are pure of ill motivations or evil gain, I will find delight along the path. That delight will display itself through "enlightening the eyes." In other words, knowing and following God's pure and holy commands will give me shining eyes! Oh how I love that thought! Oh how I love to serve beside people with shining eyes! One place I find shining eyes these days is in the youth ministry. I love looking into their eyes and seeing the boundless passion for life. Satan is evil and will do his best to extinguish that all too soon. And I fear that in many of them he will have his way. But he won't manage it without a fight from me first. I want my eyes to shine again. I have lost track of His commands. They have been misplaced under mountains of policies, procedures, and heart ache. I am here at the Mercy center looking for my shining eyes. Today I have been battling to reintroduce myself to His commands. I will be leaving the center tomorrow but I will fight on, if necessary, to obtain those eyes again. God help me.

"...the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever..." I stand in awe of my God. And yes, I stand in fear of Him. Not just awed fear. I stand in old fashioned, knees knocking, teeth chattering, fear. I have seen Him at work, tearing apart what displeases Him. I have seen His mighty power as made manifest through what we call "nature." Nature can do nothing without it being a part of His plan or permissive will. Have you ever seen the devastation brought on by a tornado? I have. Up close and first hand. No cloud has ever spawned a tornado without my God's permission. And it is an awesome, fearful thing to behold. And because I know Him to be a fearsome God I also see His strength. And His strength works to my advantage because He loves me. It is as simple as that. Will a tornado tear up my stuff someday? Maybe. But not without His permission and not without His reason. Even if He does not tell me His reason He still has one. And I can trust forever that His reason is right, pure, and I can count on it for good.

"...the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous all together..." God always decides correctly. His placement of every grain of sand, every kernel of wheat, every cloud in the sky is flawless. Every day. Every where. To the most minute detail. He is all together correct in everything He does.

This is the God I worship. My short time here at the Mercy Center has reminded me of that. I had hoped to stay longer but a magnificent occurrence of life is calling me home. My own precious daughter, Kelli, will be making me a grandfather for the first time very soon. Most likely within the next 48 hours. I want to be with my family when this wondrous event occurs. And so I depart from here sooner than expected. But it is ok. I remember now what I had forgotten. Life, faith, joy, shining eyes, the future. They are not about what any human says or what any policy imposes. They have nothing to do with a calendar of activities or a long range plan. Life, faith, joy, shining eyes, the future. They have everything to do with remembering Psalm 19: 7 - 14. They have everything to do with Him. Day by day, moment by moment. It is His faithfulness that makes me free. It is His enduring love that breaks my chains. It is His smile that enraptures my soul. It is His voice that captivates my heart.

He has reminded me of that today. He did it without my setting a foot on the labyrinth, without bending a knee in the chapel, without the wise counsel of a spiritual director. I simply found a quiet place. I asked Him to lead me. I opened His Word. I read. I sat in silence and meditated. And now that it is nearly all said and done, I have found that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart has been acceptable in the sight of my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

how i will go out...

Your Famous Last Words Will Be:

"I can pass this guy."