The Art of Asking

I resisted the impulse to turn on the car radio. I sat in the car going to work, and I submitted to this beckoning to silence and listening.

My devotion time prior to this was very unfocused. Really, peace eludes me often when I am praying for myself. Then, when I listen to the ache in my spirit for specific people and I press into to prayer for them, my own burden lifts. And it did some this morning.
Still, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me concerning my life circumstances; what I should/shouldn’t do; how I ought to think about all the above. Sometimes, praying for myself (filling space with words) doesn’t help me hear.
 
QUIET YOUR HEART & ASK
I tend to want God to give answers to questions I didn’t ask. In my hurried mind, I don’t have time to ask the question. Give me the answer first, like some sort of Divine Jeopardy game. Now, I know it can work like this sometimes (He gives an answer to a question before we ask). When I haven’t known what to ask (or my questions don’t get to the heart of the issue), God has opened my eyes to truths I didn’t know I needed.
But when, if I took the time to quiet my heart, I would know what to ask, and I don’t, I hinder my own ability to receive. The folly in my impatience is that I refrain from quieting my heart before God to present my concerns in humility, and stubbornly expect to receive with clenched fists.
LISTEN 
Technically, it is still praying, but it’s not speaking so much that helps. Surely, He could speak above the noise of my own excessive pleas and grab my attention, but He knows what I need. I don’t need Him to be louder. I need to be quieter. I need to quiet my mind, intentionally; ask the question and listen for the answer. It seems obvious that in order to hear, I need to listen. But I neglect that essential element, as obvious as it may be.
NO, REALLY, LISTEN
Ask the question. Be silent. Listen for the answer. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks plainly, and I make it more confusing than it ought to be. I hear an answer I don’t like, and say, “I don’t think I heard You right.” I ask others to pray, I beg God for wisdom, and I refuse to listen. I have refused to listen.
Sitting in the car this morning, I asked a question, and in His kindness, He gave me an answer I didn’t like. He loves me too much to spare me the momentary pain of “No.”
His “No” is like a big hug to me. It stirs up a lament that only He can soothe, and He loves to care for me in this way. He is kind enough to speak exactly what I need to hear without fear of my response. His love is strong enough to lean on. I can put all my weight on His all-knowing goodness.
I can believe and trust Him completely. Even when it hurts. This resting & trusting  in Him began today with a silent car, a quiet heart & asking.

How I Look At You

You love when I’m hurting
How I look at You
When my soul is yearning
How I look at You
And I am delighted by Your Presence
Fulfilled in Your Presence
Even when the pain is still present
I will look at You
And when I do
Your smile down on me
Your heart bursts to hear me sing
The fullness of my every feeling
And You delight in and You love me
And I delight in and I love You
My King
I am amazed by You
My gaze is for You
And You dance around me
A whirlwind around me
Together in the Throne Room
My Bride Groom, My King

Tree of Life

landscape photography of tree and sea
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

In the Garden, there were many trees, but two were mentioned specifically. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Tree of Life. Because Adam and Eve ate of the former, they could not eat of the latter and life forever. (Genesis 2&3)

That is the tree of life, only referenced again in Revelation. And it’s amazing. From Genesis, we learn that this tree grants those that eat of it to live forever, but Revelation tells us more. It is the paradise of God (Rev 2:7).

And then this next part is too marvelous for me to paraphrase.

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22:1-2)

Did you catch that? The “river of the water of life, bright as crystal flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb” feeds this tree that bears TWELVE kinds of fruit. And its leaves were for the healing of the nations. I told you I couldn’t paraphrase it. I basically just quoted it again. How good is our God?! He gives fruit for each month and leaves for healing. This tree is never not producing goodness and health for all who are granted to eat of it.

light nature sky water
Photo by Mabel Amber on Pexels.com

Did you catch the description of the river? Flowing with the water of life, bright as crystal coming from the throne of God! I love rivers. Who could hear of this not be amazed? But it feels like a special kiss from Heaven, because He knows how I love rivers, so He delights my heart with particularly joyful expectation.

And can you imagine a different fruit each month of the year from the same tree? And healing leaves! Sweet Jesus, is there going to be tea in Heaven?! Can I have tea made from the leaves of the tree of life? Okay, forgive me. I got a little excited. Tea makes me happy. 🙂 Now I am imaging a cup of healing tea under the tree of life by the bright crystal river flowing from the throne…

food healthy nature water
Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

And I am sure now beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is something else I am missing. The glory of God in Heaven on His throne will certainly be more awe-inspiring than any created thing – even this delightful river and tree. Will I ever tire of bowing before His throne? Or want to take my gaze away from my King long enough to look at any other living thing? I will be surrounded by so much beauty, but He alone will forever be the most beautiful thing.

Goodness! I was planning on writing about lesser “trees”, but God knows this is the meditation I need.

If you want to look up what I was going to write about, here are the passages: Proverbs 3:18Proverbs 11:30Proverbs 13:12Proverbs 15:4.

Timely Reminder

When I got home last night, I knew I couldn’t go straight to bed. My mind was running, going nowhere but going in a frenzy. “Well, if I cannot make another’s heart my home, might as well make this room more like a home,” I said out loud to no one, as awfully melodramatic as it sounds. But I proceeded to turn on a couple lamps and sit in my arm chair with my journal.

It was a dark place. And I gave my thoughts room to roam. This is how I journal. I write down my feelings and ask for God to lead my thoughts. Though I didn’t get full relief, I did settle on knowing that God made me for Himself.

I slept restlessly and fought the morning until I had no choice but to get up. But then I got outside. It was cloudy, with a slight breeze. The greens seemed greener, and I wanted nothing more than to roll down the windows and drive with nothing on my mind. Just me and the wind, traffic roaring and birds singing.

Though I longed to keep driving, responsibility stopped my wheels. I sat down at my desk inside. When I opened my e-mail, cup of tea in hand, I found the link to this article – Will I Be Single Forever?

And the words hit home.

The reason we grow discontent in our singleness (or our job, or marriage, or car, or children, or anything else) is because that person or thing (whatever it is) looks so big and eternity looks so small. If you hold a coin close enough to your face, it will obscure an entire city skyline.

That’s what I was doing. And it happened so seamlessly. I lost focus on eternity with as much ease as a toddler losing focus on his green beans.

When our present circumstances look bigger than eternity, we have lost perspective. When we lose perspective, we tend to load too much of our contentment onto something never designed to bear the weight. We look to a spouse, a friend, a vacation, or an accomplishment to give us the happiness they never can.

I’ve known this. I could have written this article. How quickly I forget! Even in my despair, I knew I could not rest my hopes on a man. I literally said those words last night, but my heart wasn’t hearing it.

The more restless we are for the new creation — the more our thoughts and emotions are captivated by it — the less we’ll be shaken by disappointment in this life and the more we’ll see every present blessing not as a final destination but as a signpost pointing toward eternity. The more restless we become, the more contented we are.

God is so faithful to remind me of truth I am so prone to forget. This world and all it’s pain does not get the final word. And every blessing is only a taste of an unshakable reality to come.

Eden was lovely fragility. The new creation will be gorgeous stability. Eden was like an exquisite china bowl — beautiful but breakable. The new creation will be like the Alps — breathtaking and immovable.

Live New

Stop hating yourself before
You accept what you hated you for.
You’re tired of fighting, I’m sure,
but step away from the anchor
you want to drop in these
poisonous, restless seas.

It’s the waves you must fight,
while you rest in the Light.
Speak peace to the wind
And sail on from your sin.

Because it’s not who you are,
though it rises from within.
You’ve been given a new heart.
Stop hating your own skin,
as you war against your sin.

You are new. Live new.
Free from condemnation,
Free to deny what is no longer you.
Accept this liberation
and live new.

 

Iconoclastic: reflections on A Grief Observed

I had to look that word up. C.S. Lewis does that to me – makes me look up words. And it’s a good one. Iconoclastic. It means “attacking or ignoring cherished beliefs and long-held traditions, etc.,as being based on error, superstition, or lack of creativity…”

In A Grief Observed, Lewis dives into the necessity of shattering our false ideas about God.

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence?”

And, of course, the main subject of the book is Lewis’ grieving the death of his wife. Therefore the following relates to the image and ‘cherished beliefs’ we have of people being shattered, particularly of loved ones. He wrestles with the fear of loving the memory of her rather than her herself. He loved her iconoclastic reality.

“All reality is iconoclastic. The earthly beloved, even in this life, incessantly triumphs over your mere idea of her. And you want her to; you want her with all her resistances, all her faults, all her unexpectedness.”

Can I swoon for a second? I want a love like that. Love that cherishes the reality of who you are and not the mere idea of you. To have the freedom to contradict the idea of yourself, and still be loved, and loved even more for being real. ❤ How many of us have lost love for not being “what I thought you were” ? Surely then, we were in love with an idea rather than a person.

If indeed we love people and God rather than our ideas of them, it is a relief when our ideas are shattered. What a relief to be shown where we are wrong! Oh, God, I didn’t know! And now “I have come to misunderstand a little less completely,” (Lewis) What a blessing it is to get that much closer to You by destroying my false ideas about You!

“And all this time I may, once more, be building with cards. And if I am He will once more knock the building flat. He will knock it down as often as proves necessary.”

And at the possibility of being even better understood by his wife after her death, he did not shrink back – confident in her love. 

“For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives – to both, but perhaps especially to the woman – a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.”

And this intimate knowledge and love is what our Savior Jesus Christ possesses for us.

“His love and His knowledge are not distinct from one another, nor from Him.”

Fyodor

I want to say to you, about myself, that I am a child of this age, a child of unfaith and scepticism, and probably (indeed I know it) shall remain so to the end of my life. How dreadfully has it tormented me (and torments me even now) this longing for faith, which is all the stronger for the proofs I have against it. And yet God gives me sometimes moments of perfect peace; in such moments I love and believe that I am loved; in such moments I have formulated my creed, wherein all is clear and holy to me. This creed is extremely simple; here it is: I believe that there is nothing lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic, more rational, more manly, and more perfect than the Saviour; I say to myself with jealous love that not only is there no one else like Him, but that there could be no one. I would even say more: If anyone could prove to me that Christ is outside the truth, and if the truth really did exclude Christ, I should prefer to stay with Christ and not with truth.

Letter To Mme. N. D. Fonvisin (1854), as published in Letters of Fyodor Michailovitch Dostoevsky to his Family and Friends (1914), translated by Ethel Golburn Mayne, Letter XXI, p. 71