They have come down like snow, one blessing piling softly upon another like the purest, most intricate flakes.
All week, I have been working on a little portfolio that will serve as a family heirloom in years to come–an annotated list of all that the Lord has ever given to us, a book of all His provision and all that we have enjoyed as far as sentiment is concerned.
For days now, I have been enthralled by Allegorists’ songs. Who is Allegorist? Oh, my precious readers, perhaps I shall blog about him someday, but his music–public though it is–is private in my heart and his name is not as relevant to you as what you may think. So, Allegorist… His music, almost heartbreaking in its beauty and simplicity, has wrapped its way around my sentimental cortex like another layer, insulating me from all the storms that have threatened. Thanks be to God!
For the past few days, I have been in and out of the crawl space that Jedidiah recently finished. In go boxes of CDs and books, bags of old mementos, folded blankets and old scrapbooks, journals, and portfolios. But it’s not just a storage space. Behind all the bags and boxes is an open space, a place I am quickly turning into a prayer closet. Close the three-foot crawl-space door, travel behind the sloping ceiling and past the stacks of boxes, and you’re in a little corner devoid of all sound and pain and negative association, empty of clutter and expectation and burdens. There you sit or kneel or bow before Him, knowing His nearness and wishing you had remembered your Bible–or are you supposed to be unpacking boxes? You forget… You raise your hands and encounter the freshly-painted ceiling just a few inches above your head, remembering the time you came down here in secret one day, dedicated this “room” to God’s service, anointed a tiny out-of-the-way corner with oil… You listen to the silence, thank the Lord for all that He is–for His power and glory–and then, reluctantly, leave that newly-formed sanctuary in search of yet one more memento box. There will be time for prayer-closet aspects soon enough.
Yesterday, Jedidiah and Naomi and I ate dinner out. The restaurant was a chain, not a four-star experience, but–oh!–it was perfect. Fresh, fresh broccoli. Penne noodles celebrating amongst cheddar and Monterey and pepper jack. Bread with the tiniest hint of garlic. Iced tea, with lemon that tasted like restoration and like coming home from a long, excruciating journey. Lemon, in fact, that tasted like sitting in a tiny rocking chair at the age of three, rocking back and forth on those little wooden slats and tracing my finger across the cotton seat cover while a recording of “Jesus Loves Me” played in the background. Afterward, I remember, we went to a restaurant and I had my first ever glass of iced-tea with lemon and the tiniest hint of sugar.
Perhaps that’s where this thought of “Jesus Loves Me” began. Perhaps it was yesterday’s beverage that planted the whole thing in my heart: “Jesus loves me… Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me! JESUS LOVES ME!” Or perhaps there is no connection whatsoever. Perhaps it is simply the glorious love of the Holy Spirit–wonderful and awesome is He!
Then, there was Christian Contractor. Ostensibly, she’s a professional who has worked at nearly every non-profit this state has to offer. Beneath that surface, she is a joyous, caring, devout sister in Christ who seems hard-pressed to keep that love for God even slightly contained. Listening to her talk is such an experience in enthusiasm and grace that I once requested that she record a document we were working on “so I could have it for later”. That, too, but I also wanted a recording of my sister in Christ! It’s now awaiting placement on my iPod…
And the evenings… “Will Your Anchor Hold You in the Flood?”. “Father, I Adore You”. “Days of Elijah”. “In Your Presence, O God”. I cannot stop singing, cannot cease mingled prayer and worship. And then, there have been the moments of Bible study. I have read of Samuel and Moses, have marveled over what Jesus said about Sabbath observance in Matthew XII, have held to Paul’s exhortations about living in grace, have praised our Lord with David as I read the book of Psalms. And then, the Lord has used that same precious copy of the Scriptures to speak to me: “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me” (Psalm 138:8). Too precious, too personal, and much too marvelous for words at this time, though I hope to expound upon it at some other date.
If all of this weren’t enough, there was yesterday’s hymn-sing. During the time of requests that the music director usually hosts in order to involve the congregation, the Lord let me know so profoundly that He will not forsake me–so profoundly that it, too, merits its own post and so deeply that I will never forget it. Hallelujah!
All of this has been poured down upon me, but I didn’t take any of it to heart until this evening. I could never have anticipated what the Lord was about to do. It was all so unexpected–unconventional time, place, people, circumstances… This was not a tent revival, and I was not with a pastor and his wife; we were not singing “Just as I Am” and I had not just read John 3:16, but His Holy Spirit saturated my heart, mind, soul, and spirit with peace nevertheless. I am reminded of a strong Christian leader who writes of receiving the Holy Spirit one evening at a golf course, of all places! She was not seeking Him, necessarily, but He found her.
What happened in me was not nearly so dramatic, as I already have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but in many ways it was just as elaborate. How is it possible to compare moments in the Lord and to say that Thus-and-So’s was deeper, and that 5 April 2014 was not “as wonderful” for me as was, say, 17 February 2012? Is it proper to analyze fruit trees, to compare this fig to that one, to state that this leaf is green but that that one has a tiny little flaw, to mention a gnarled branch? Is not doing so akin to questioning the Gardener? So, I shan’t say anymore that what happened was “not as dramatic”–perhaps I should rather describe what took place, because to me it was magnificent.
I had just finished eating and was reading an insightful though not terribly wholesome book when Hannah invited me to a local ice-cream parlor. Ordinarily, I don’t eat things like that (as of 9 November 2013), even if the ice-cream happens to be of the low-fat yogurt variety, because I want to honor God even in my food choices and because I want to keep my body, the temple of the Holy Spirit, strong and healthy. Tonight, though, I decided to make an exception. This was a Hannah-and-I activity, something that Naomi would likely enjoy, too, and perhaps Jedidiah would even participate. Could I flagrantly refuse sentiment and closeness just? Would not going along with it all, just this once, be more honoring to God than holding to a rigid regulation? So, ice cream it was.
Ordinarily, I love details in writing–my own or anyone else’s. Today, however, I will spare my readers a description of each and every ice cream choice, a miniature catalogue of the available toppings, and a lament over the music that was playing at this shop–such broken songs for such a happy place… But that is neither here nor there. We came, we sampled, we ordered. Dark Godiva chocolate yogurt for me, topped with cherries and almonds and, let’s face it, waffle-cone crumbles. Big, fluffy, promising lids whose patterns almost resembled fancy cakes–lids that bespoke deliciousness within those cardboard containers. Then, it was out the door again and back to the car.
And that’s when it happened. Suddenly, all the innocence and wholesomeness of that ice-cream parlor came floating down on top of my snow-drift of blessings, and the barriers to my heart caved under the weight of all that peace. All I could do was contemplate those myriad blessings, that endless grace which the Lord had been pouring out upon me for the past week. Material and spiritual blessings, all-consuming and all-enveloping. And my response–what would it be? It didn’t take me long to decide, to allow His kindness to lead me to repentance for all the doubt and complacency I had been harboring without really internalizing the damage they were doing to my life in the Lord. It was a moment of blank-slate, washed-clean restoration, a moment of being given back a pure, innocent faith, a moment of exquisite Agape.
All that knowing, that remembering, that sudden burst of love, that Hesed of our holy Lord God, welled up within me and I did the only thing I could think to do in the presence of such faithfulness–I sang. I sang the first thing that came to mind, the only tune that seemed appropriate in thanking Him for His goodness. “Jesus loves me, this I know, / For the Bible tells me so, / Little ones to Him belong, / They are weak, but He is strong…” I’m not sure if Jedidiah had any idea what I was doing–nor Hannah, for that matter, though she did sing a few phrases with me. Perhaps they understood that this was a prayer-closet moment that just happened to be taking place with them as witnesses–I don’t know. I do know that His awesome presence, all those attributes of the Trinity that A. W. Tozer was always much better at describing than I am, were suddenly in place in my heart once again. Perfect and holy, and now I know with clarity what I need to know–a fundamental truth that I had allowed a lack of spiritual rest and an over-abundance of small burdens to obscure.
Yes, Jesus loves me.