“Open My Eyes, That I May See”, and Let Me Know “Your Voice”

Recently, I made the acquaintance of a man whom I shall call Philosopher. He is a quiet gentleman with an understanding laugh and years of experience softened by a great compassion. Best of all, he knows the art of the well-asked question–which, as many of you may know, is often far better than the most exhaustive answer.

Now, some of those well-asked questions concern my life. Philosopher is the only one who can get away with many of them–questions about how I handle criticism and whether I might be a more contented, less anxious person if I took life less seriously and found a way to distract myself in the face of difficulty. Questions, in fact, about whether I am happy in general. Few people would ask these questions, and fewer still could get away with it if they did, but Philosopher always does. In fact, I’ve come to welcome the self-examination these sorts of questions provoke.

Until Monday. After positing his usual series of queries, Philosopher remarked, “I’d like you to really consider this for a few days… To what extent does not having sight affect your personality and the way you perceive society and your place in it?”

In hindsight, I am so very, very glad he asked me to think this over for a few days–though I was not grateful for that opportunity at first. When he asked this, I wanted to immediately give him my classic I’m-not-Joni-Eareckson, are-you-defined-by-your-shoelaces, personality-is-never-sensory-dependent, pursue-this-no-further rant. Those of you who know me well understand exactly what I’m talking about. As the hours in which to practice delivering that speech have ticked by, however, I’ve been reminded of a better way. For one thing, a rant is not terribly intellectual–and it’s boring. For another, is not a positive reply much more edifying, loving, and glorifying to God than a negative one? Perhaps this is a time to demonstrate, to clarify through analogies and illustrations.

A few rules, and a bit of background: For this exercise, I will attempt to keep negation to a minimum–more “will” and “would” than “isn’t” and “am not”. Any negative phrasing was intentional in accenting my point. Also, you should probably know where I’m coming from as I write this. I believe in the active, continuing power and gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healing. That said, I believe for a healing of both blindness and the Protein C deficiency that caused it, in His timing. I’ve waited for many years, and I’m willing to wait for many more. How long did Abraham wait before begetting Isaac? How long did Simeon wait before the promises of the Holy Spirit came to pass in his life? So, I will be patient and wait on the Lord’s timing, will, and ways. Unless the Lord convicts me to do so, though, I will not tell Philosopher of this. As I write this, I will focus on what I “will do” when I “am healed”. If this makes you uncomfortable–and I understand that continuationist teaching is controversial–or if you wish to imagine what I will actually be telling Philosopher, envision all verbs in the conditional tense–what I “would” do if I “could” suddenly see.

Here, then, is my answer to Philosopher. I will revise it for spoken communication, but writing the ideas may help define them in my own mind–and, I trust, may be an intriguing journey for my readers to embark upon.

At present, blueberry tastes like promise–like rising early in the morning for a moment of mountaintop praise, like rarified glory and purest joy.

Then, when the Lord heals me, I’m quite sure the principle will apply to the color blue. To all colors, in fact. If corduroy presently calls to mind “Father, I Adore You” and velvet sounds like many voices in unison, imagine what colors will do for my heart! Will I forever associate the color of a certain church pew’s seat cushion with “King of Love”?

At present, I listen to a live worship song until I hear one man, woman, or child obscured by other congregational voices. That individual is often so anointed that s/he causes the rest of the worshipers to fade into the background as I listen to the song, that new and beautiful song sung only and ever unto the Lord.

Then, I will watch old live worship DVDs and videos. As cameras zoom in on dancing worshipers, hands raised before the Lord, I will catch glimpses of those hands. They won’t be full-on analyses by any means, but they will be enough–strong, sturdy men’s hands, not fully raised but enough to let you know he wishes he were a little bolder in worship, hands that support a family of four, hands that belong to a man who is always contemplating other hands, nail-pierced ones. hands of women, some frail and pleading, others with long, perfectly-manicured, brightly-colored fingernails that suggest a life very different from the worship service they are attending–but with a softening of fingers that make one believe that there is a softening of heart as well. Hands of teenagers surreptitiously tucking cell phones into pockets, hands of children reaching out to trust. Hands of old and young, grasping for answers and surrendering questions, strong and weak, but all of these hands reaching for the hand of our Heavenly Father. I will not see all of these hands captured on film, not like I can now listen to a single worshiper in a congregation of thousands–but I will see some hands, some eyes, some faces and clothes and postures, and will piece together stories of these servants of God and their lives.

At present, I feel that there is much more value in a small, shabby travel blanket we purchased two years ago than in the $85 genuine Toyo blanket I purchased in 2009, plush and rose-adorned though the latter blanket is.

Then, I will see a woman wearing expensive gemstones and say that her apparel is gaudy, but will attach deepest sentimental value to costume jewelry.

At present, I see comma splices in others’ writing, resolve that I will never commit said grammatical faux pas, and continue with my day.

Then, I will be exposed to glaring slogans on everything from coffee mugs to toy Frisbees, billboards to words at the bottoms of television screens. I will resolve not to use the colloquialisms I see… and then I will move on with my day in the firm knowledge that Ready Writer, Bethesda Lily, the Grammatic Fanatic, will be swayed by neither the sight nor the sound nor the printed nor the Brailled syntactical misdemeanor.

At present, musical accompaniment in audiobooks is too reminiscent of narrative interpretation and does not allow readers to think for themselves. I avoid said music, as well as multi-voicing, at all costs.

Then, I will see onscreen garments and old chalets and cups of hot chocolate, gestures and facial expressions and posture, good acting and good set design in movies or plays, as the visual equivalent. ‘Twill be back to a leather-bound classic for me!

At present, I read the Bible voraciously–be it Braille versions, audio renderings, or the copy of the Scriptures that has been engraved upon my heart for the past eleven-and-a-half years. I compare Scripture with Scripture, linking pearls as it were (see Lois Tverberg, SITTING AT THE FEET OF RABBI JESUS). It may take time to cross-reference, but I love this Bread of Life far too much to allow myself to go hungry. When the Lord uses a passage to speak to my heart, I either write about it or place it in the audio journal.

Then, I will not only cross-reference using what I know, but use the references provided in print Bibles that are never present in other editions. I will underline and highlight voraciously. I will still love the Bread of Life too much to allow myself to go hungry–pant like a deer for the waters too much to spurn the rivers of living water provided in those pages. When the Lord uses a passage to speak to my heart, I will take notes in my beautiful Revised Standard Version.

At present, I use a digital voice recorder to make extensive journal entries. These may range from thirty seconds to an hour and a half in length, and every one of them currently finds a place on my iPod.

“Then,” you say, “then, you will write in a journal–a beautifully-bound journal to match your ornate thoughts.” Ah, but you would be mistaken, Dearest Reader, Kind Philosopher, or whoever you may be who are reading this. The purpose for the audio journal is that I can’t keep a regular journal without obsessing over every metaphor, every possible redundancy, each and every semicolon or colon or comma. That is no way to pour out your heart before the Lord! I will practice writing–beautiful, calligraphic cursive of the sort most people no longer know how to write–in a delicate, beautifully-bound journal, but I will not douse pages with a seeking, searching blend of ink and tears.

At present, I use that same recorder to catalogue every detail of daily life. I have been known to record chapters of the Word, excerpts from Christian books, magazine articles, a story about Hannah’s day at work, off-key songs, a pastor’s sermon that came out so poorly that it can scarcely be heard, an entire church breaking Communion wafers together as they prepared to partake, the coffee machine at a guide-dog training center, set upon set of chimes, the creaking of the porch swing, the rice cooker, tea kettle, and coffee maker, memos about when to see my doctor for the sole purpose of capturing an “audio image” of my doctor’s voice, the sound of typing, the loudspeaker at the grocery store, conversations during a medical infusion, a musical Christmas carousel decoration, Hannah’s computer-game skills, the unceremonious unearthing and unpacking of boxes… Are you breathless and exhausted yet? My one regret: I did not know enough in high-school to record the ringing of the bell announcing the beginning of classes.

Then, I will keep all of those recordings–but I will branch out. My new “toy”, the camcorder, will zoom in on our lives with the same minute detail. One of these days, I will devote an entire filming session to all the clocks in the house. Another will display every Christian banner, placard, or picture we have ever hung. Slow, careful pictures of the kitchen, of the less-than-perfect garden, of our vehicles, of a rickety fence, and even of not-so-pleasant things like peeling paint. Why? Not to capitalize on something depressing, but because healing will be such a precious gift that even things that aren’t particularly beautiful will seem so. I will capture Naomi cooking, Naomi sewing, Naomi with hands clasped around the laptop she uses to reach out to people in need of spiritual encouragement. Jedidiah on a ladder, Jedidiah reading his Bible–though not posed!–Jedidiah with a look of consternation on his face when he discovers that someone ate his last piece of German chocolate cake. Hannah at work, serving others, Hannah with her face alight with laughter, Hannah sitting on the sofa with a look of utter repose on her face after a long day. The rest of you just scrapbook; my means are audio scrapbooking and will ultimately become video scrapbooking.

At present, I use Bookshare, the Talking Book Library, and my trusty flatbed scanner to read memoirs–and nothing but memoirs! I take life so seriously that I can’t really find any lasting distractions. For me, the term “vedge out” is both grammatically skewed and foreign to my way of life.

Then, I will use my newly, joyously-restored retinas to read memoirs–and probably nothing but memoirs! When I am healed, “vedge out” will mean “to take vegetables from the refrigerator and make oneself a nutritious, sentimentally-oriented, God-glorifying sandwich”. The seriousness that characterized the previous sentence will remain intact–and I won’t have it any other way.

At present, I listen to others’ voices until I feel I have them quite figured out. Naomi sounds like Rita Baloche as the latter sings “Jesus, You Are”, but also like Joy Chan narrating WITH CHRIST IN THE SCHOOL OF PRAYER for Librivox. Infusion Nurse, who happens to be a very quiet Christian, has a voice that fairly sings with the joy she is trying to contain. Good Samaritan lives her life by books and rules, and her calm, steady, confident voice shows it. Holy Hands sounds exactly like what Elizabeth (Luke 1) would have sounded like had she lived in our time and spoken English–such praise in both of them! Some people, though, reveal secret brokenness with their tones, accents, semantics, pich, speed, and timbre. I know a sister in Christ who structured her face so that everyone believed she was happy, but there was such weariness in her heart that I kept hearing her voice crack–not breaking, as in tears, but groaning with the weight of the pain she bore. I have heard a brother in Christ enumerate the things he was doing in life, stacking detail upon encouraging detail, but I have wondered whether he might be feeling the weight of “too much”.

Then, I will have one more venue for this sort of analysis–one more means of seeing the love, joy, and peace, and conversely, the sorrow, fear, and weariness, in others’ hearts. I will use this to pray for the people whose facial expressions will not be hidden by muscle contractions that look to others like big smiles. A smile will be a smile, and it will be beautiful, but something that tries so hard to be a smile when it isn’t will register as such, and I will pray accordingly. On the same note:

At present, I pay no attention to the television because I find most programming either unintellectual or unedifying. So many sounds, telling so many unrealistic stories. When I do hear characters’ dialogue, I drive Naomi and Company crazy with comments like, “That woman’s inflections don’t match the situation. The man she is speaking with has perfect inflections, but–oh, my!–he is hurting so much. What’s that actor’s name? Let’s pray for him…”

Then, I will pay little attention to the television–see above. I will probably look away from it whenever possible, find something else to engage my mind, fill my vision with red letters on onion-skin paper. When I do look at the television, I will not see the story–no backdrop, no cluttered desk as part of an elaborate set, no action, no gestures. I will probably look beneath costumes, makeup, hairstyles, and props and continue driving Jedidiah and Company crazy by saying, “I wonder if all that makeup is covering up a very, very hard life for that poor woman. And is she supposed to be that thin? What is her name? Let us pray for her…”

At present, I hold out my heart to people as I tell them about Jesus.

Then, I will look into their eyes as I do it!

At present, I tend to be woefully lacking in the departments of diplomacy and political correctness. If asked a question, I answer it as honestly as I know how. It has been a difficult process, but I have learned because I feel it’s right. Besides, it allows for a freedom in the Lord that I would never willingly relinquish.

Then, I will use gestures as well as words to convey my points–lofty, sometimes whimsical, not-always-diplomatic, honest, spontaneous gestures!

At present, I ask nurses, lab technicians, and other professionals to enumerate every step of a procedure as they are doing it. “Most people don’t look, even though they can see the procedure–even if they do have a choice.” But…

Then, I will look! Very likely, with the barrier of Protein C deficiency being removed, I won’t have so many medical procedures to contend with, but for any routine test, I know myself–I will watch the professionals. I’ll need to know what’s going on, won’t I?

At present, I use Roman numerals when Arabic numerals are considered more acceptable, insist on British dates, and use an uppercase E when writing the word “E-mail”. Oh, and there’s that little matter of punctuation marks going outside of quotation marks rather than burrowing down inside.

Then, I will add unconventional fonts, footnotes, elaborate colour schemes, intriguing caesuras, and spacing eccentricities to my list of writing quirks.

At present, I feel that wearing dresses, maintaining long hair, and refraining from dyes and makeup are Biblical practices. My opinion only–I don’t necessarily expect anyone to agree with it.

Then… Well, those principles, and the verses on which I base them, won’t have changed, will they?

At present, I believe that all material that proclaims the Gospel should somehow be distributed for free. Naive? Perhaps. Biblical? I think so…

Then, I will have the pen and ink, the printers and skills, and the transportation, to leave Christian writings–for free!–in coffee shops. Unconventional? Perhaps. Thought-provoking? Maybe so…

At present, I deal with overstimulating circumstances by grasping onto one thought and using one sense to temporarily narrow my world for the five seconds it takes to calm any feelings of being overwhelmed. Think on peppermint resembling hyssop, and clutch the steaming cup of tea, allowing myself to focus only on the heated pressure of that cup and the intricate weave of the cozy that envelops it–oh, yes, and also on hyssop.

Even then, it may still be necessary to fight anxiety–unless the Lord, in His infinite power and grace, heals that along with the rest of me. He is able! But, should there ever come a moment after that glorious healing when I need to narrow my world, I’ll have one more sense with which to do it. Hold in my gaze the painting of rugged mountains, marvel at God’s majesty even as expressed through artwork, and contemplate the life of the artist in the five seconds it takes…

At present, one of my favorite hymns I “Open My Eyes That I May See”, especially the third and fourth lines in each verse.

Then, I have no idea what hymns and worship songs will speak to my heart–how can we know the future? Perhaps, though… PERHAPS, a favorite will be “Your Voice”, from the Vineyard album YOU ARE IN CONTROL. I know I love it now, and I will likely love it then. “Open My Eyes”, in heart and spirit, AT PRESENT; “Your Voice” is my joy and delight, THEN and always.

At present, and then, I have and will be serious, unconventional, quirky, a lover of music and of beauty, and wholeheartedly devoted to my Savior.

At present, I love Jesus.

Then, I will love Jesus.

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“How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

Ordinarily, I make a point of trying not to post two blog entries on the same day. However, the Lord has impressed this on my heart, and I feel I ought to write it.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let me ask you two questions. Answer them with whatever comes first to your mind. It may be helpful to write down your answers.

Does God love you?

Do you love God?

And now, did your answers to those two questions tell you anything about yourself that you didn’t already know?

They certainly did for me. I actually got this exercise from a little book of Christ-centered questions–a combined journal, private Ungame, and compendium of writing prompts. Here’s how I answered:

Does God love me? Well, um, I think so… I mean, the Word says He does… Sometimes, I don’t feel it–don’t feel forgiven, can’t accept His grace. God loves me, because the Bible says so and I trust the Bible–but I don’t know that He always likes me, that He is pleased with me… most of the time.

Do I love God? Yes, yes, yes! Yes! He is my all in all, my everything… He has given me all that I will ever want or need…

Dearly beloved, do you see something grievously, heart-breakingly wrong with this picture?

Besides the fact that I wasn’t accepting God’s grace to begin with, which is horrible enough, what I was initially conveying was that I somehow thought my love was stronger, more emphatic. It isn’t! I was clinging to the Savior, but forgetting that He was still holding me, still loving me like the heavenly Father He is. And whose love is ever greater–the Father’s for His young child, or the child’s? My thinking is both presumptuous and sad if I don’t understand the depth, the riches, of God’s infinite love.

I see this attitude in my daily interactions with others. When I don’t understand the love of my Lord, I tend to wonder if my relationship with Him will be destroyed in one fell swoop. Day by day, I fear that someone or something will separate me from the love of Christ, despite what is written in Romans 8:38-39. It is then that I become almost defiant. On one such occasion, I was asked by a very sincere individual what is important to me. My response: “My faith is most important, and if ANYONE were to take it away from me, I fear I would waste away from grief!” This is what happens when I do not remember that the Lord loves me–and you, beloved brethren–too much to allow that to happen. And, in the light of what Scripture says about God turning no one away, and about no one being able to snatch the sheep from the Good Shepherd’s hand, what I said was really rather silly.

But what happens when I remember His great love? Then, I can answer the question with gentleness: “My faith in Jesus Christ is foremost in my life–I’ve never known such great and infinite love.” I can respond with confidence because I know that our heavenly Father will not forsake one of His children, even if His child sins against Him. It’s a different, beautiful, wholly trusting mindset–and all of us, particularly perfectionists like myself, will find our walk with the Lord much more satisfying if we practice it.

Some Scriptures for your further edification and encouragement: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (I John 3:1). And again, “We love, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). . What is more, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). What wondrous AGAPE!

Or, feast on this: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:15). And this: “”Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Or, for a vivid picture at this endless love of our infinite God, what about this: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away. … Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:3-5). Now, would He make those glorious, comforting promises if His love were not far, far beyond what we could ever conceive–great and powerful, filled with grace and mercy?

But really, beloved, what is most important are these words of our Lord Jesus, words that convince us of His love like no others: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. … Truly, I say to you, you will be with Me in paradise. … Woman, behold your son. … Behold your mother. … My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? … I thirst. … Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit. … It is finished.” (Luke 23:34; Luke 23:43; John 19:26, 27; Matthew 27:46; John 19:28; Luke 23:46; John 19:30). I could go into all of these in much greater depth and hope to do so, if the Lord wills, in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Day–particularly “My God, My God” as it applies here–but for the moment, let us just focus on that wondrous, blessed gift. It should have been my sin to bear, but He bore it. What greater love is there than that?

The same questions, new answers:

Does God love me? To the point of cleansing–grace and mercy washing over me. Infinitely, mightily. More than I know, enough to cover a multitude of my sins and errors.

Do I love God? Yes, but falteringly, compared with His HESED. I will grow in love and obedience, but only through Him. He is still my all in all, but His greatness is so much more. Yes, I whisper, I love God.

Addendum: “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”, from the album KING OF LOVE by the Stoneleigh Worship Band.

Jedidiah: A Words Sketch

And you didn’t know that Words Sketches could apply to people–did you? Now, you know!

As far as I can deduce, his name means “Beloved of the Lord” or “One whom the Lord loves”. He is like David in that he loves to praise his Creator and in that he knows how to defeat the giants of pain and difficulty through the small, smooth stones of prayer and the slingshot of faith. Like Solomon, too, in the wisdom he has received.

Many mornings, I awake to find an E-mail from him in my inbox. “Daily Bible Verse”, it proclaims. But he doesn’t just send every Bible verse he receives from a daily-devotional service; he chooses those that speak to him, those he knows will speak to me. Yesterday, it was Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” What does that verse say to him? Or what about the one from II Corinthians 1 on the comfort of the Holy Spirit? What does he think, feel, hold dear in his heart, when he reads these? Someday, someday… I will ask him.

His favorite version of the Bible is the NIV. He owns a small, thin, leather Bible given to him by someone very special in our lives. It’s worn and beautiful. When it’s open, as it often is–to John or Psalms or Proverbs–the pages crackle with use as he turns them. He also has an audio edition that I know he listens to in those quiet hours that so shape our spiritual lives. He is an extremely early riser; I wonder if those are his “quiet hours”, and how he spends them–or if his moments come later in the day. Again, someday, I will ask.

He loves the book of Hebrews. That General Epistle was the first portion of Scripture he read after giving his life to our Lord Jesus. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,” I can hear him intoning. “[Jesus]… has been made so much greater than the angels…” “The Word of God is powerful… sharper than any two-edged sword…” Words about entering God’s rest, ad our Great High Priest. I will ask him what his favorite portion of that precious book is someday, I will.

He knows Nehemiah. And Exodus, and John, and Isaiah, and Psalms. He does not quote them linearly. Instead, he strings passages together until they exude the awesome power of God. Part of this, I know, is due to the fact that the Lord has given him a pattern of sorts to follow in his Bible reading–one Psalm, one Proverb, and two chapters of the New Testament. That explains that, but when in the day, and with this pattern, is he getting the opportunity to read Nehemiah, Job, and Exodus? More questions.

He is strong of heart, mind, and body. Time and again, I have heard him proclaim that he will tackle some great project that requires much advanced thought and planning. He isn’t a computer geek, exactly–that’s not his life’s passion–but he can fix almost any piece of technology you set before him, albeit the software ever so outdated or the hardware ever so damaged. Analytics, my dear reader, analytics. He will install a new bathroom toilet and sink, he says, or fix the wiring and light/fan fixtures from thirty years ago, or build a much-needed wall in such a way that it is indistinguishable from the other existing walls. And if anyone can do it, he does. He builds and fixes wooden patio decks, removes and installs landscaping, and generally shores up any indoor and outdoor structure he comes across–all while listening to “Better Is One Day” on that radio of his. That, or the news–but I remember “Better Is One Day”. What goes through his mind as he is doing these projects? More I ought to know, more I don’t, as yet.

He loves to praise the Lord, and he loves good Christian music. I know for a fact that he likes Keith Green, particularly the songs “The Lord Is My Shepherd”, “Pledge My Head to Heaven”, and “Trials Turned to Gold”. He has a familiarity with Don Francisco’s early music that I would love to share. When he hears a song at church, his heart picks it up almost immediately and clings to it. Keith Green notwithstanding, I know he knows so many of our modern anthems–“How Great Is Our God”, “Holy Is the Lord”, “Ten Thousand Reasons”, “My Redeemer Lives”, and some older ones like “His Name Is Wonderful” and “Because He Lives”. I wonder if he knows “In Christ Alone”, if he has sung it in some Christian gathering where I was not present. Note to self: inquire. There for awhile, he was wearing out Michael W. Smith’s worship albums until, I suppose, the car stereo ate them up. Or did it? Does he still devour Michael W. Smith’s versions of “You Are Holy”, “Open the Eyes of My Heart”, and “Alleluia, Alleluia, Worthy Is the Lamb”? I must remember to ask.

He is my transportation to hymn-sings, church services, and coffee meet-ups with other brothers and sisters in Christ. He also lends out the car and his services for medical appointments, the occasional journey to the local French restaurant, and trips to WalMart and King Sooper’s. Does he remember shuttling me from place to place on 10 December 2003–from one boring function to another? Does he remember transforming the decidedly unedifying experience into a Spirit-led venture, remember that somewhat rickety vehicle and how its heating system warmed our hands agains the winter chill while the Christian radio station kindled joy and peace in our hearts? Does he remember?

He colaborates on profound spiritual projects. Last year, it was the Red Letters from the book of Luke. Many, many hours were spent with cups of coffee, a voice recorder, and the precious Word of God as his firm yet peace-filled voice read of salt light, wheat and fig trees, minas and talents, faithfulness and rest. Does he remember the joy of it all? Another time, he and several others close to me took turns reading THE CALLING by Brother Andrew–primarily at a time when I could not gain access to the book save through human narration. I wonder, does he remember reading about Project Pearl, Brother Andrew’s quest to deliver one million Bibles to Chinese Christians during the 1980s?

He knows what an allegory is; he learned, because I love that literary device. He knows that I can’t stand carbinated beverages but love tea, chai, and all manner of coffee drinks. He even knows how to make a delightful concoction I have designated the ChOrNillaMon Mocha–chocolate, orange extract, vanilla, and cinnamon. He is the only one who knows how to make it, and that requires a certain amount of gentleness beneath the oaken strength. He knows not to offer advice when some part of me breaks–he knows to pray and offer Scripture instead. He knows that the best remedy for Hannah’s ails is an iPad game and a funny television show, but the best way to cure my temporal pains is to offer a brisk walk that culminates at a park somewhere. He knows how much I love the chimes–the Northern Lights, I call them–and so presents me with copious sets to be hung wherever a breeze is likely to blow. He knows all these things, but does he know how much it means to me that he does–that he understands and remembers and respects the important things in life? Does he know?

This is Jedidiah–David-Solomon, beloved of the Lord.

“You Alone Are Worthy of My Praise!”

Ever since my first infusion of it in 2007, I have dreaded Cathflo–and not just because that spelling drives me nearly berserk each time I see it. Cathflo, or TPA, is a medication used for maintaining infusion ports, among other things, and it has historically been extremely helpful. However, my experience of it has always been fraught with difficulty in some form or other: first, nurses at an infusion center placed too much emphasis on side effects for any personal comfort; then, about three months ago, the TPA didn’t infuse properly. That, coupled with some negative associations that really have nothing to do with the TPA, have combined to make life a little more challenging during those monthly infusions.

Yesterday was particularly difficult. I was already feeling overwhelmed and needed little help from this infusion. Then, too, I was consumed in many a spiritual worry. I know–I should have heeded Jesus’ words not to worry and gone on with a joyful heart–but the Lord still has much work to do in my life. Yesterday’s concerns were twofold–first, that I simply wasn’t feeling terribly close with God, despite my efforts at daily worship and Scripture reading; also, that I really hadn’t had many people to discuss the things of the Lord with over the past several months. And, my beloved readers, you have no idea how much you need to discuss Galatians with someone until said individual(s) are caught up in their own busy lives, and you must resort to journaling about Galatians instead.

So begins the narrative about the needle and I. A few minutes of distracted singing while the procedure was being performed, some manipulating of claves and IV-like tubes and syringes, and then the TPA was left to do its work. Oh, yes–did I mention that part of the TPA process involves waiting an hour–in my case, a sixty-minute timeslot filled with crawling, anxious seconds?

My beloved readers, never underestimate the power or the love of God.

About ten minutes into all of this, the phone rang–a nuisance call, I thought, some call about an upcoming conference or a meeting that would soon need to be scheduled. The area code wasn’t local, though–perhaps…

And then, I recognized it. No one I know has that particular area code save Spirit-Filled Nurse.

Now, you really can’t grasp the depth of this without a bit of background. I first “met” Spirit-Filled Nurse as an infant, just before I went into surgery. While I don’t actually remember any of this, my mother was quite concerned about the outcome of the surgery. S.F.N. approached her without hesitating–without even stopping to inquire about what she believed–and said, “I’m going to stay right with that baby, and I won’t stop praying until the surgery is over.” There is no doubt in my mind that she did just that. Over the years, S.F.N. stayed in touch with our family. She has always had a simple, worship-centered way of communicating, so we established common ground very early. I’ll never forget the time she phoned when I was in first-grade.

“Hallelujah!” she exclaimed, as soon as she heard my greeting. No small-talk, no questions about school and friends, just praise.

“Hallelujah!” I replied without reservation. “Oh, I love Jesus…”

And so it went. That first conversation laid the groundwork for all that was to follow–every discourse from that time to this has been so filled with the love of the Lord that there remains little time for anything else. And that’s exactly the way we want it.

And so it was yesterday: As soon as I took the telephone from Naomi, Spirit-Filled Nurse filled the room with encouragement. “I just got your letter… I loved it–oh, He is worthy to be praised!”

I should note here that being able to communicate with S.F.N. often seems like a miracle in itself. She has a thick, beautiful accent, which is wonderful to hear if you’re meeting face-to-face, but sometimes impedes communication over the terrible phone connection we always seem to establish. Martha, Naomi, Hannah–even Jedidiah!–say that I’m the only one who can consistently understand every word she says. I think that’s the work of the Holy Spirit…

“Yes, He’s worthy to be praised,” she continued. And then, “And everything’s going to be all right.”

Not that I had said anything about my concerns, mind you. But I’m convinced that S.F.N. has the gift of prophecy, whether she knows it or not. Once, many years ago, I was in absolute anguish over a beloved brother and sister in Christ. I didn’t want to get into the details, though, so I said something innocuous. “Please, pray for me–PRAY FOR ME!” Her response: “Don’t worry. They’re all right now.” Now, aside from the power of God, how did she come to talk about “them” when I was asking for prayer for “myself”?

That said, “everything-will-be-all-right” coming from her almost has a tendency to sound as though it is coming from the Lord. Immediately, I was filled with peace regarding the procedure at hand. Then, too, there was a deeper peace–that all the cares and concerns with which I had hitherto been burdened would be used to glorify God, and/or taken from me in His time. Praise His name!

There then commenced the prose-psalm that S.F.N. has taught me ever since I could first communicate. It’s a song of sorts, sans music notes–a dramatic poem for two voices, without rhyme or meter or rhythm. Pure, glorious praise of God’s grace, glory and love–and of a quality that renders all other discussion superfluous. Case in point: I’m pretty sure Spirit-Filled Nurse has retired, but I don’t know that for a fact and I have no idea what else she may be doing. She has continued reading the Word–that’s what counts.

Back to the poem. Without either of us intending it, it does take on a rhythm–a musical quality that is absolutely joyful, but that I have never been able to establish with anyone else. But, if you want to talk about the Lord sometime with someone whom you feel is like-minded, this is how it usually works: Person A says something about His greatness, and Person B agrees and rephrases it, then adds a second and related point. Person A then takes the new point, clarifies it, and adds on to it–but all of this in a mere three or four phrases. Most of my conversations with S.F.N. go something like this:

“Hallelujah! He is worthy to be praised!”

“Yes, so worthy… He is wonderful, so wonderful!”

“He is wonderful, and He will never leave nor forsake you. Remember that.”

“I will remember, and focus on Him. Ever and always.”

“Yes, you MUST focus on Him! Don’t let the enemy attack you–”

“Because greater is He Who is in you than he that is in the world–”

“Yes! Great is He!”

“Great is our Lord… By His wounds we are healed…”

“We are healed! And saved and restored…”

“Restored, at peace with God. Hallelujah! He is worthy!”

“Worthy to be praised… Well, I’d better go now.”

And so we hang up. The entire conversation has taken less than five minutes, but everything that was ever worth saying has now been said.

And that was how it went on the day of the Cathflo. Mere seconds, a river of peace. What I came away with–and hold in my heart to this present hour–is that our Lord is in control of even the most unpleasant of circumstances; that He will take my burdens if I cast those cares upon Him; and that He will never, never forsake me. And, if that weren’t enough, I have learned one more joyous thing from this whole experience–that the Body of Christ has not abandoned me either–Spirit-Filled Nurse will make sure of that.

Addendum: I’m sure many of my readers are already familiar with the worship song “You Alone Are Worthy of My Praise”, commonly known as “I Will Worship”/ It’s a wonderful call-and-response anthem, reflective of what S.F.N. and I do. What’s more, it can be played in nearly every musical style–from upbeat praise to on-your-knees worship. The version I’m thinking of is by the English worship leader Martin Ball and appears on the album COME TO THE THRONE. ACTUALLY, the version I’m thinking comes from a Victory church and was sung by Ready-Writer and her family in 2003, but I never recorded that version and so the rest of you will just have to settle for Martin Ball!

“Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting”

Today’s post, my beloved readers, will be about Sabbath observance–but wait! Before you all immediately begin dividing into two camps and proclaim that either (a.), Jesus never told us to observe the Sabbath anywhere in the New Testament or (B.), that I should have been making this a part of my Christian life long ago, give this post a chance and try to internalize the principle of the thing. For, really, I’m not discussing church attendance, Sunday vs. Saturday observance, or the lack of work in the strictest sense. No, really, I want to try to express the ineffable joy of the Normal Christian Life–and with it, one more tool that I have found helpful.

Several months ago, the Lord Jesus called me to holiness and to a stronger, greater, deeper love for Himself. He called me in a marvelous way that will not soon be forgotten. Since that time, I’ve been far from perfect–those sinful ways that I’ve attempted to abandon ever since I came to know Him still remain with me to some extent–but I have been trying to love, worship, and serve our Lord more fervently. The changes are gradual and sometimes don’t seem enough–I want to be refined and transformed all at one, I do! But in His way and in His timing, I trust that the Lord is conforming me to His image: learning to speak the love language of a sister in Christ one day so I can reach her heart with His grace, increasing in boldness the next day so I can be a more effective witness for the Gospel of Christ, learning to honor Him in concrete actions such as what I eat and how I spend my time. It’s an ongoing process, and I seem to slip and stumble more often than I stand and walk, but in moments like those, I find that the Lord’s lovingkindness is new every morning. I love how Andrew Peterson expressed it in one of his songs: “I realize that falling down [isn’t] graceful, / But I thank the Lord that falling’s full of grace.” Oh, how great is His love!–greater than a multitude of our sins, of my frequent disobedience, of every slip and stumble I experience as I travel from the Palace Beautiful down into this beautified Valley of Humiliation…

But I am off the subject–and, unlike a post I penned a few weeks ago, this one does have a clear point and will hopefully make some semblance of sense once I’m done with it.

One thing the Lord has been convicting me to do: To spend more time resting in Him, reading His Word and learning His ways, and less time attempting to learn other things. Fewer memoirs and psychological textbooks (which, if you can believe it, I sometimes read for fun!) and word origins and histories of everything from ancient medicine to Laura Bridgman. Fewer of those, more of I and II Peter, Revelation, John, Hebrews, Ezekiel… Less wallowing in my own self-pity, more singing unto the Lord. Less time soliloquizing about my own problems, more time in prayer for others. “More of [Him], and less of me”. (Go find that song by Don Moen–please?)

The Lord has further convicted me personally that part of this means giving Him a day of worship each week. Because the early Christians seem to have met together on Sunday (see I Corinthians 16:2), I’ve chosen to give Him my Sundays. Now, please keep in mind that I’m speaking only of me–I’m not trying to tell you what to do in your own lives, but to discuss how one child of God has been blessed and touched, in hopes that some of it might bless and encourage others. Show, don’t tell; use personal experience rather than entreaty; pathos, not logos… [Insert your own literary, philosophical, or critical-thinking cliché/word of wisdom here.]

So, back to Sunday. For all I seem to spend most of my time on this blog and/or doing volunteer work, many of my readers are probably scratching their heads, wondering what I could possibly need to rest from–what “work” I would need to postpone. Ah, but all of life sometimes feels like work to me. Exercise constitutes work–both physical and emotional exertion–because my heart processes in such a way as to render the activity quite legalistic unless I’m constantly on-guard against that mindset. Working with my guide-dog requires a good deal of concentration and is a bit like driving. So, no “driving” on Sunday, and no treadmill, ab-lounge, or brisk winter stroll unless said stroll is designed for the express purpose of glorifying God. That, and no running errands with the obvious exception of church attendance. Loving on my guide-dog, and demonstrating love to family, will always be permitted–though doing an extensive project that requires mental effort may not. Worship-writing is more than permissible, especially since I don’t have a platform to speak of Him–which is something that was always permitted on days of rest throughout Scripture. However, the volunteer proofreading I do must be carefully evaluated to determine whether the material I’m working with will truly glorify God–“Oh, be careful little intellect what you read!” Then, too, there’s the necessity of gently admonishing myself, “Child of God, you will rest from all anxiety, fear, pain, anger, frustration, sorrow, mourning, grief, and if there be any other negative emotion…” The goal here is to delight myself in the Lord and to place myself–heart, mind, soul, and strength, in the loving hands of Jesus, ideally for the rest of my life, but especially on this newly-observed Sabbath.

Today was my first day of pursuing this new facet of holiness in absolute earnest. I approached it with caution–no, if I’m being honest with myself, I approached it with trepidation. What if I got caught up in something else? What if I simply didn’t, for some reason? What if I displeased Him? What if, despite all my flexible guidelines, I did something blatantly outside them? Was I even really interpreting God’s will on this matter correctly?

Oh, how the Lord takes our tiny mustard-seed of faith or obedience and causes it to grow! Today has been nothing but joyful, rewarding, glorious time in Jesus–like a fast, but without giving up food for the moment. God willing, that will come soon, for I’m longing for such a day. Like a fast, but also like a jubilee feast. Like Resurrection Day in my heart. Like pure, perfect revival. Like crystal-clear water and finest linen.

Did I really think it would be a sacrifice? Did I really believe that foregoing my work proofing a book by Nancy Rue would be all that difficult? Did I really, truly believe I would displease the Lord, or that I couldn’t give Him this day at all? I see now that I had these same feelings the first day I ever decided to seek the Lord with prayer and fasting, back in 2004. I didn’t know quite how to go about it, and I didn’t really have as much faith as I ought to have had that the Lord would use my moments of seeking Him. Then, He flooded that day with pure and perfect peace, and my prayers during that day were even answered–restoration and reconciliation where I thought none could ever exist again.

So, too, with today. I can’t say that anything in this day was extraordinary–but my heart was so filled with joy as to render everything glorious. A cherry-flavored Lara-Bar whose tartness reflected the conviction and urgency of the book I did proofread, THE CALLING by Brother Andrew. The sense of joy in serving others that pervaded my spirit as I wrote brothers and sisters in Christ–not to ask for prayer, but to attempt to pour encouragement into their lives. Worshiping Him with proverbial pen and paper as I described His manifest presence, or focused on His love and mercy. And all the while, the same thoughts kept flowing in and out of my every moment like a gentle worship ballad–healing and restoration, restoration and healing, the comforting power of the Holy Spirit. (He’s been laying Scriptures about healing on my heart lately–I don’t know why, but I praise Him for it.. Meanwhile, sipping the mocha drink that has always been associated with the awesome mercy of Jesus ever since I consumed the same beverage on the day when He gave me an allegory about His love–a tangible connection to that wondrous hour of three months ago. Songs and hymns and spiritual songs, intertwining to form what my sense of poetry insists on calling a musical prayer-cloth. “My Song Is Love Unknown”. “Will Your Anchor Hold You in the Flood”, “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting”, a song about the Carpenter’s strong and loving hands, “In the Beauty of Holiness”… Oh, hallelujah! The love of Jesus, cleansing all the sorrow that had hitherto coated my being, replacing tears of pain with tears of joy. The joy that has come from this one day is absolute, unalloyed by external reservations or intimidation, and as precious as the joy I knew when I first received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Little things, like a sister in Christ promising to send me spiritually-encouraging material, filled me with more joy and hope than the same events would have had they taken place yesterday evening. Already, I’m planning my blog posts for Good Friday and Resurrection Day–a miracle of the heart, since my since of initiative and project-planning had long been crushed by circumstance. But now, now on this special Sabbath, I know what do do in celebrating the day of “HE IS RISEN!”. Knowing that the General Epistles and the book of Revelation await me is so marvelous that words cannot express it.

And all of this, on just one day. “In Your Presence, O God!”

I don’t know if I can express, either, what the Lord has done in this day. Somehow, a transformation has taken place–some broken fragment of my spiritual life has been restored entirely. I can’t explain how or what, but I do know that He has done a beautiful work, and that things are likely to be different now in the way I cling to Jesus Christ. Perhaps less fear and more trust. Less legalism. More freedom to be like Mary of Bethany–sitting at His feet like I’ve always loved to do, but without worrying about what the rest of society, whom I shall collectively refer to as Martha, will think of it all. And this, all in one little step of obedience. Our God is an awesome God!

Addendum: “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting” is a full, rich hymn with ten thousand layers of meaning. The version on which this post is based, and the rendering you’re looking for, is by Grace Community Church. Their tune is reminiscent of still waters, while Keswick’s is more indicative of high mountaintops and the Father’s majesty–both beautiful themes, but not what I would use in an audible object lesson for this piece.