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For those “Extra Grace Required” days

 

Over steaming bowls of apples and oats, Husband reads the words.

“It was good…”

Things don’t seem so good. The skies keep pouring rain and our support has run out and the bills are starting to pile up and Husband’s already gone 7am-10pm and how in the world can he ~ all of us~ take on more?

“It was good for me to be afflicted,” Husband reads. I sit up in my seat. Really? Who says that, that affliction is good? I need to tune in right about now.

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.”

Husband glances over at me and smiles. He knows.

“Although He was a Son, he learned obedience from what he suffered…”

I can’t help the breath from escaping heavy and the shoulders from stooping. I’m a child too, receiving correction.

“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

Oldest is looking at me now too, smiling, laughing. Everyone in this family knows this Word is for me.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and test you…Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.”

Was it just last night that I told God He had to break through for me, that I couldn’t do this anymore?

We finish eating Words and oats and we clear dishes and I rinse sticky bowls… and I know Words will be my staple food today.

The kids get dressed and  make their beds and I sit down again with today’s Daily Light.

There’s a purpose to affliction.

I pour over the words and make a list in my journal, all the reasons given for hardship.

Like a bride’s veil being swept back, I see the beauty beneath. There are reasons for the mind-numbing days and the never ending pain and the deep deprivation and the soul desperation.

Affliction teaches us obedience.

I meditate and I chew and I imagine. I see Jesus, driven by the Spirit into the wilderness, that harsh season of pain, need, and trial. Cold nights in isolation and dark days of testing and hunger.

This wasn’t about Him proving His worth, earning God’s favor. The Beloved Son had already been approved, accepted, and publicly validated.

No, the wilderness was not about performing. It was about power…the kind only possible through learning obedience.

And with that wilderness account, Jesus, in the flesh, set the example for us on how to live powerful, purposeful lives.

I hear Him beckon.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…”  “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.” Luke 4:1, 14

The Spirit, alive and aching to be made manifest in Him, led Jesus into the wilderness. The word for “led” means “to drive.” So intent was the Spirit to unleash His power upon Jesus’ life, He drove Him to the wilderness.

There He ”learned obedience from affliction.”

Before His first miracle…before His name became known…before He stood up in the assembly and said the time was fulfilled, Jesus learned submission. And He returned in power.

I ponder these things while I help children buckle up in the van. We drive into town to take Little Bit to her speech therapy appointment. The rain slaps hard and the wipers rush to keep up.

The children are quiet. Dark skies have us all silent.

Again, I imagine Jesus, our example to living full of the Spirit’s power. He’s crouching low to spit on the ground. Even this was purposeful. Even this was powerful.

Could the wilderness have prepared Him for that, to know when, where, and how to spit?

Yes, it’s how He knew to stop and stoop and spit on the ground and do the miraculous.

It’s how He wasn’t shaken by major disruptions and changes of plans and dangerous situations.

It’s how He could sleep in a storm.

He had learned obedience through affliction…the obedience of living in complete submission and unity with the Father and the Spirit. It empowered Him to live His life, fulfill His calling.

And I sense deep within that same Spirit urging me, driving me, calling me in the wilderness. “Learn of Me,” He says. “I am jealous for you.”

I’m ashamed of my bellyaching…what when God has such a divine, noble purpose for me.

Affliction is good. Surrender is learned, and this is how.

It is when we are returning from Little Bit’s speech appointment that the kids start to fight. I sit at the stop sign with wipers pumping and I hear it on the radio: “You want to overcome the stress in your life? I’ve got one sentence for you to pray, just one. It’s simply this: “Teach me to do Your will, O Lord.” (Ps 143:10)

The rain pours and the kids fight and I sit at the intersection in shock.

I can’t believe He would orchestrate all of this for me to get this message right. He is Spirit driving and Jealous Lover and I asked and He answered and is making sure I don’t miss it.

Preacher says it right there on the radio: “Get into yoke with Jesus. 90% of the stress in a Christian’s life comes from unwillingness in the heart to bring their lives under the control of Jesus. (Pastor David Jeremiah)

“I know what you are longing for,”  Meek and Gentle whispers. “Learn from Me. Let this affliction teach you obedience.”

“My burden is easy, there is no need to fear. Come and be a disciple; learn submission to Me. Let me teach you how to live under My control and domination.”

Affliction is good.

Yes, Lord,” my heart responds. “Teach me to do Your will.”

 

How to Walk in the Heavenlies

We sit at the table together, books scattered and colors all around. Little brother “helps” as the girls and I do school.

“Find four mice and one cat. Then color them green.” I give the instructions and hand out the sheets. Then I repeat and wait.

“Can we color the grass?” Little Bit asks.

To answer her, I repeat the instructions.

Both girls find the animals and color them green. Then Little Bit reaches over to grab a blue crayon. She starts coloring the grass.

“Are you supposed to color the grass?” I ask her.

She puts the crayon down and looks at me hard. No, the instructions don’t include coloring the grass but she isn’t satisfied with those rules. She wants the grass colored. She looks at me like I’m depriving her of her rights, I’m the reason for her un-happiness, I’m a terrible mom that won’t lighten up.

Surely parenting this girl has brought out insecurity in me like never before. In a split second, I wonder….

“Is it really that important? Are following the instructions really a big deal? I mean, we’re supposed to be having fun…right? What if I’m teaching her to hate learning? Should she be treated differently because of her emotional hang ups? Am I being too hard? Should I really lighten up? What is the right thing?”

But I know that following directions is the foundation for learning and until we “get” this, we can’t truly receive anything worth having. We can’t learn how to read…we can’t learn math…we can’t learn how to build a lego ship or put a dollhouse together or follow a recipe to its delicious end.

Following directions carefully and closely is the key that unlocks the treasure chests of life.

Isn’t this why God tells us to obey?

Where did we get the notion that we obey because He is mean and wants our robot-like performance and will strike us dead if we don’t? He asks our obedience not because He’s tired of a messy world and wants somebody to help keep things orderly. It isn’t because His name and reputation are at stake so we. better. behave. pronto!

No, it is because careful and close adherence to His instruction is the path to life. Joy. Fullness. It’s because He’s jealous for us to have that life.

As Little Bit glares at me, I long for her to understand this. As it is, she thinks I’m a mean mommy. She completely misunderstands my intentions whenever I give her instructions. She still doesn’t know my character. She doesn’t trust my intentions.

The Whisper fills my inner places and I know it’s true, how His children do the same. We want to color in the grass because we think our lives look prettier that way, and really, what’s the big deal? Or so we think. We don’t understand that life’s greatest things come through carefully following His plan, His ways that are in such contrast with ours.

Things like forgiveness.
Like humility.

Like generosity.

Like service and sacrifice and hidden-ness.

We would never color our own lives like that. And we will never learn advanced spiritual mathematics and practices without first learning to follow little, seemingly meaningless, instructions. “Don’t color the grass.” “Use a yellow crayon.” “Find the cat without a tail.”

How long will we continue believing that when He tells us “no” He’s just a big meany who wants us to suffer and who keeps good things from us?

Isn’t the opposite true? He tells us “no” because He wants us to learn to listen to His voice, trust His character, and move on to walking by faith through the spiritual realms. He wants us to live in the spiritual realm, a place we will never be able to understand, fathom, or live in apart from simple trust and obedience.

He wants us to stop our spiritual scribbling and start walking in the heavenlies.

He wants us out of Kindergarten.

We get there through following simple instructions.

I watch two daughters…one daughter is following instructions, learning letters, putting sounds together to make words; she will be reading soon. I see the other daughter glare at me every time I give the slightest command. She lags behind, mimicking sister but never really getting things for herself.

Which daughter am I, I wonder?


Which daughter are you?

Declaration of Dependence

I’m sitting at the corner table and never would have paid mind, except for the fact that Big Momma was so confident and so…big.

“You know if you need anything, you call yo’ momma.”

“Yes ma’am.”

And I looked up to see the extraordinary people having this conversation. Big Momma stood with her back against the door, ready to push off and leave behind and her son, an 18 or 19 year old fledgling man, sat at a booth with a friend.

“You know where’da come to.” Big Momma succored with her words.

“Yes ma’am.”

Then she was gone and the young men continued with their conversation like everything was normal, but I was not normal.

I felt a pang in the heart that lodged in the throat. “What would it be like to have that kind of momma?” I wondered, “the kind of momma that nourished and nurtured with her words, built up instead of tearing down?”

“What would it be like to be that kind of momma?” I wondered that too.

I’m a mare, eyes wild, swishy tail, antsy feet. It’s inbred in me- to run. Just like the forefather’s scrawling bold names to their Declaration, I’ve stamped my heart with the word “Independent” as a warning sign to anyone who might try to capture me…and I’m real good at hightailing it.

Some people call it intimacy disorder. The inability to attach. I’ve got it.

It’s the result of trauma. Abuse. Woundedness. Or the inheritance from forefathers who never learned attachment themselves.

It’s the deadly disease my parents have and their parents before them and I can’t help myself and I’ve asked for years how do I change?

I come from a family who confuse religion for relationship; sex for intimacy; possessions for presence; a clean house for affection.

I’m deeply touched by Big Momma standing in that doorway telling her son, “You know if you need anything, you call yo’ momma. You know where ‘da come to.”

I’ve never, ever had a momma (or a daddy) like that. Mine pushed me away. They weren’t strong enough to handle their own lives and messes and inner turmoil, much less the deep and growing, seeping mess of mine.

So I learned independence and independence became my savior.

I’m un-versed in attachment. I never learned the rules of relationship. I do “independent” destructively well.

But there in the voice of that momma, I hear the voice of my Daddy. He wants those unversed in attachment to stop running and “come to yo’ Daddy.”

I don’t have to be independent.

In fact, that is a lie. After sin entered the world, the first man and woman believed they had to run and hide. They believed they were on their own. Relationship was severed. Intimacy disorder became part of mankind’s birthright.

Yet God sought them out and He still stands at the door and knocks and anyone who opens up, He will come in…and bring dinner too! (Revelation 3:17f)

In spite of what we believe about ourselves and our condition, It’s a lie to continue thinking we must live independent.

I leave my corner table and go home in time for the family breakfast table and ask myself some hard questions.

What are the ways I run from relationship?

I ponder the ways and it all boils down to not giving presence. Giving presence is the building block, one gift on top of the other,  of relationship. The more you give, the stronger and deeper the relationship.

Presence in the lovely and the unlovely. Presence when you know what to do and when you don’t. Presence when it’s convenient and when it’s not. Presence when it’s needed and presence when there isn’t awareness of need.

It is the way an infant is cared for and we consider the sleeplessness, the inconveniences, a small price for the precious life given us.

But then they get older by a year or two or ten and we expect them not to need presence. We punish them by taking presence away when they are un-lovely.

We substitute possessions for presence…just because it is more convenient and fits our busy lifestyles better.

We don’t know what to do, so we don’t do anything…forgetting that we always have presence to give.

Isn’t this how God Himself teaches us the ropes of relationship? “Fear not, for I am with you! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.”

We who confuse relationship. We think relationship is doing, going, buying, providing.

Relationship is mostly being. Together.

“God, an ever present help in time of need…”

So I ask how can a relational derelict like me be redeemed? It sure isn’t through independence.

The words come from the Ever-Present One: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Start investing.

Later, I go look it up because I want to make sure the principle really is there in black and white. It is:  Our hearts follow our treasure.

For a relational bum who treasures self protection and self preservation, the easiest way to change my heart then is to start investing in a different treasure chest. Start making deposits in a more lasting, more worthy account.

I can change investment plans.

I can reverse intimacy disorder.

I can give my children a different lineage.

It is Father’s words that succor me this time: “Remember, I was in the burning bush, and it burned but was not consumed. You feel that pouring out to all the needs of your loved ones will burn you clean up, dry you out, take every drop you’ve got… but where I am, the bush is not consumed.

“I’m in presence. I AM Presence. You will burn but not be consumed.”

I sit and jot down a Declaration of Dependence. It’s my new investment strategy. I’m learning the rules of relationship from Father and I need another Cheat Sheet. It’s crude but it’s a start.

4 ways to invest in relationships:

~Time: Give presence by limiting (even scheduling!) the time each family member spends on the rectangles in the home (TV, computer, ipod, DS, cell phone, etc) Replace rectangle time by drawing loved ones close instead and ask, “What do you want us to do together?”

~Touch: Set kitchen timer to chime every hour and draw little ones close for a short story in the recliner, a back scratch,  or an “I Love You Ritual.”

~Talk: Be available whenever your spouse or children want to talk. Even when it’s at 11pm and you are dead tired. Or when it is your computer time. Make it a principle of life to prioritize presence, even when the demands seem downright unreasonable.

~Throne of Grace: Daily pray for each family member; fast once a week with spouse for children. Give presence before the Throne of God on behalf of your kids.

**Will be traveling most of July, investing in relationships. Sporadic appearances around here for awhile…

 

 

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