Restoration and Holiness, Part VI-B: “Happiness Is the Lord”

Project Walking by Faith got off to a beautiful start when the Lord used Bible Student to align my thinking. There then followed a week-long interlude in which I began to discover so very much about my status as a child of the King of Kings, and to find His faithfulness ever-present in my life despite trials.

You may remember this, my beloved reader:

* I take life literally—the Scriptures, of course, but also others’ flippant comments, utterly ridiculous jokes, things I hear in passing on the radio or television… I use the word “furlong” because it is in the King James Version, but never without thinking of a cat with long, shaggy fur—”fur-long”. It drives everyone I know crazy.

* I have life policies that prove both a blessing and a challenge. For example, if asked a question, no matter how personal, I feel it my duty before the Lord to answer as thoroughly and honestly as possible. Consequently, a simple question like “what did you eat today?” might elicit the response, “Well, I had a frapuccino drink. I believe that was right before the Lord… And one Pop-Tart, whose glazed surface bespoke nostalgia and sentiment. An alfredo dish this evening, with bread symbolic of promise and broccoli that represents relief… Bow-ties, garlic… And all of these things were right before the Lord. The alfredo sauce alone might not have been such a good idea for the temple of the Holy Spirit, but I hadn’t eaten terribly much else and I did get in quite a bit of exercise. Oh, and I had a chocolate-covered coffee bean, which I’m not sure how to evaluate.” All of that for a generalized question.

* I love the books of Leviticus and Revelation. For six months in 2003, I read almost nothing save the Old Testament, much to the consternation of some Christians who wondered why I was not more entrenched in the Gospels. They had no way of knowing that I was constantly relating what I read in Deuteronomy and Chronicles to the things of Christ Jesus. And there was no way they could have known, unless I had been bold enough to tell them, that I was so absorbed in the Hebrew Scriptures because the Lord had impressed it upon my heart to do just that.

* My favorite hymn is not “Amazing Grace” or “Sweet Hour of Prayer”, but “Arise, My Soul, Arise”. I know obscure hymns like this, but had to be introduced to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” a few years ago, because I had never heard it before. My knowledge of Christian hymnody—and, I suspect, of musical worship in general, tends to run many FURLONGS deep but not terribly wide.

* I think aloud, to blatant and sometimes surprising effect. If someone uses the phrase “well enough”, I might remark, “well enough… “It Is Well…”, “well done, thou good and faithful servant”!”.

* Most people remember faces. I remember names if they carry some sort of spiritual or emotional connotation. If a name doesn’t fit a person—if I know, for example, that a person’s name is based on Greek mythology even though the person herself has nothing to do with such things, I don’t use her name. But more than names, I remember people by what they say. If my dear friend, Tova, comes into the conversation, what immediately comes to mind is the fully-detailed memory, like a picture, of her describing the process of making challah, because that description was engaging on three or four levels and was done with the kind of instructional, intellectual je ne sais quoi that characterizes her as a person. The same principle applies for everyone I know. Sincere Sister is catalogued under two precious questions. Good Samaritan had a phrase she used that was at once gratifying and bemusing. A girl I knew in my senior year of high-school comes to mind with a bitter and angry remark she made, behind which was the most abject desperation you’ve ever seen—it would make your heart break for her. Holy Hands is in my mind as one who praises God exuberantly, like what Elizabeth must have done in Luke I. Perhaps I’m seeing the faces of their hearts?

* I once tore several important documents in such a way that some of the print material in them must surely be unrecognizable, though the non-print material remained intact. My solution to this was to tape the documents. The paper is still scarred beneath the Scotch-tape smoothings-over, but I see beauty there. The tape represents mending of something that, on the surface at least, appears hopeless.

* For the record, I don’t like the word “hopeless”. In Him, there is always hope.

* I also don’t particularly like the days of the week or the months of the year, certain idioms that have their origin so far back in medieval antiquity that few people remember those word histories anymore, and referring to Resurrection Day by any other name. I do not describe happy experiences as “wonderful” or “awesome” because those adjectives belong to the things of God. I try not to say that pain, no matter how it causes one to writher about in misery, is “excruciating”, because that word originally came from the Latin “crucify”, and what Jesus Christ did for us is too beautiful… Sadly or joyfully, however you want to think about it, I know too much about English, and I believe we Christians really ought to find a new language to speak in our day-to-day lives. Would that that were possible!

* I write Resurrection Day and Baptism-of-the-Holy-Spirit-Anniversary-Day and Freedom-Day and Just-Because-Day and Pentecost letters. I do not write Christmas letters. I do celebrate Christmas, emphatically and with all my heart and with a cross atop the Christmas tree, but I do not send letters because I’m too busy in worship, and because newsy updates are more fun to receive at other times of the year.

* If I disagree with something someone has said, I analyze his grammar.

* Peppermint tea tastes like Keith Green songs; honeybush hazelnut tastes like sunshine, running through a meadow, and the voices of loved-ones.

* I collect things—neatly-coded rather than titled songs into categories on my iPod, books for review on Bookshare, moments and memories in a little compendiom, binders of childhood experiences, fabric swatches, instruments, CDs of nostalgic sound effects… However, I have never collected “typical” items like dolls, stamps, or coins. When I was two, I had a collection of balls that must be present and accounted for at all times; when one ball whent missing, the entire collection lost its value. Now, the collections are much more complex. I have collections of collections. Trust me—I have made it a principle not to use sarcasm in this post.

* I do not take pain medication, no matter how intense the agony, because I would rather suffer searing anguish than endure ten minutes of nausea or uncontrolled drowsiness.

* I do not use contractions most of the time because they generally take up more space in Braille and because not using them provides one or two syllables’ longer of an opportunity to think before I say something that I might regret.

* I list out the events of the day right down to how many maraschino cherries will go atop my strawberry shortcake (that’s called a strawberry split, by the way, when you add extra ingredients.) Life runs better with lists…

* And rules! If I eat dinner before I feed my dog, life just doesn’t feel the same that day. The same principle applies if I end up running errands that don’t go together, or if I try to listen to a specific song on the living-room sofa when I’m used to hearing it, say, while on the porch swing.

* I name the rooms in my house. There is the Chapel, the Sanctuary, Bethel, Sunflower… The house itself is Bethesda.

* Hot water, heating blankets, tea, and Nichole Nordeman’s slower ballad-type songs are related.

* All literature expresses some universal purpose. By that definition, a children’s book like HEIDI might just be more literary than, say, ROMEO AND JULIET. I’ll debate that point at another time, but that thought has always comprised part of my general make-up.

* I am subscribed to the Children’s Bible Hour weekly podcast, and I have gleaned much in the way of joy, peace, revival, promise, and, yes, instruction from it. God’s people are God’s people, are they not, regardless of age demographics?

* I have an absolute passion for the NATO Phonetic Alphabet. I once left a voice-mail giving my E-mail address as “B as in Bravo, E as in Echo, T as in Tango…” The next day, my call was returned. The man must have decided to have a little fun with this idiosynchracy of mine, because he said, “Our website is November-Golf-Tango, and then the word “voice”…”

* Conversely… I do remember most everything that has ever happened in my life, to include the pain of a near-surgical procedure performed without anesthesia when I was an infant. I remember resisting the pain, then giving up and having my months-old thoughts consumed by the sensory overload.

* The sound of metal grating upon metal (i.e., a spoon in a metal mixing bowl) is thoroughly nauseating and I will do everything within my power to avoid it. The same goes for vegetables being cut on a plastic cutting board, and for nutmeg being grated.

* Both beef stew and, ironically, chicken noodle soup, carry loneliness with them.

* If something is bothering me, joking about it or changing the subject is invariably like rubbing salt in the wound. I don’t care what the self-help books say about either method—the only thing that works for me is staying focused on the problem and trying to solve it through prayer.

* I do multi-task, I do. I perform varied and divers activities while breathing at the same time. Other than that, most multi-tasking is close to impossible. There is no way to carry on a conversation while unloading the dishwasher and taking occasional sips of coffee simultaneously.

* If I feel that my relationship with God has been threatened—that is, if another Christian says something that I rightly or wrongly connect with my spiritual life—I am so torn up within that I cannot even single-task. This lasts as long as the struggle does, until the Lord sets me free. Anywhere from an hour to over six months.

* I’m terribly, terribly shy and sometimes find myself either at a loss for words or saying things that make sense only to me—a stumbling, nervous sort of sense.

I can write of all of this with a matter-of-fact confidence now, but it used to bother me intensely. It used to baffle and frustrate me that I was not a square peg in a round hole, or a round peg in a square hole, but an intricately-shaped, only half-polished pebble that wasn’t designed to fit into a peg-notch at all. That really upset me, and I used to spend countless hours thumbing through psychological reference texts in a fruitless attempt to find out why I was the way I was—why I had been created with such a deep perception of joy and sorrow, and why it all culminated in such an overarching sense of being the exception to every rule. Many days, I remembered and clung to the Scripture that states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, but much of the time that knowledge was coupled with the disconcerting feeling of being a foreigner, even among my closest loved-ones.

But during the first days of Project Walking by Faith, all of that changed. Suddenly, I found that praying for friends and family consumed much more of my time than self-improvement did. I found that subscribing to podcasts of old-time classic Christian books brought more joy than skimming through the DSM-IV. That putting what I termed “revival treasures” on my iPod was more beautiful than focusing on self, self, self. That listening to said treasures, spending my mornings in the Gospel of Matthew, listening to worship music of all varieties, and allowing my heart to kneel and bow before our Lord Jesus, was so much superior to this dwelling on the various facets of my flesh. That all my analytical energies were better spent serving others.

In short, I found—no, I remembered—who I am in Christ Jesus. All else faded in the light of His glory. Suddenly, it was irrelevant whether I was like most people or living on some island faraway from the ideals of American civilization. It just didn’t matter. In those days, the Lord showed me anew that I was His servant, His child, one of His sheep—plain and simple. And when we find ourselves, our whole being, in Jesus, then there is no room for anything else—either for analyzing/taking pride in/trying to figure out our good points, or for criticizing and condemning ourselves for our sins and flaws. (I am not saying that we should not repent, but that we perfectionists, after we have asked the Lord’s forgiveness, need not dwell on our faults to the exclusion of God and His grace.) In picking myself apart all these years, I was in effect asking the Potter why He had made me the way He did—why I was the kind of vessel I was, and why I couldn’t be something else. According to Romans, I have no business questioning Him in this way!

And all of this—this laying down of self and of needless analysis, this relinquishment of self-improvement research—made room for so much in Him. Slowly, He began reminding me of things I had forgotten. I had not remembered for years the Scripture which exhorts us to “resist the devil, and he will flee”. The Lord instilled it in me again. I had stopped praying for others, feeling that my feeble prayers lacked faith and were not effectual. The Lord realigned my thinking. As He did, He filled me with a deep and abiding need to cling to His Word, to devour the Gospels as the nourishing bread of life that they are.

Then, too, I began remembering little things—not great and lofty pillars of our precious faith, necessarily, but things that used to be a blessing in the Lord. One day, I needed to know how much Coumadin I had and when I would need to get my prescription refill. Without thinking, I flung myself down on the nearest sittable surface, poured my remaining Coumadin out of the bottle, and began counting it precisely. By the end of the exercise, I had something like 58.75 mg., which translated to so many days of medication before I would need that refill. Only after I had made sure that each and every quarter-tablet was safely back in the Coumadin bottle, after I had lept up and gone about my business as though nothing had happened, did I realize why I counted out the Coumadin the way I did. In the very early days, just after I received the Holy Spirit, I counted medication this way some evenings because I thought I might be completely healed soon and wanted to know how much Coumadin would be left if that took place within a certain amount of time. I understand that my actions were imposing my timing on God’s, but as a very young Christian this was an act of worship, of trusting that God was able. Now, I know that He is still able; I still believe that He can and will heal me in His timing, whether or not I demonstrate it by measuring out medication. That day was just a reminder of how I love and loved Him, where my heart should be, and how fervently I should trust and worship Him.

Then, there was the day when earthly cares were threatening to overwhelm me like quicksand. One situation in particular was close to devastating and had my heart twisted into knots. But do you know what I remember about that moment? Being utterly miserable, crying out to God… And then trusting Him. Allowing Him to set me free from that fear in a matter of mere moments, and knowing in the Holy Spirit that everything was going to be all right, that He was in control and that I should trust Him. This is unlike me, in the flesh. On any other occasion, I might have been consumed by a situation like the one I was experiencing for days. Now, though, I simply focused on praying for the people involved—praying day and night, without ceasing, but giving all fear and pain to the One Who alone is able to heal both.

All of this, the rediscovered prayer and Scripture reading, as well as the smaller acts of worship, laid the groundwork for what the Lord was about to do. In the next post–FINALLY!—I will relate the events I have been longing to describe for five months. 21 May is coming up!

Addendum: Everyone should have the opportunity to hear “Happiness Is the Lord” at least once. The song is just that—the concept that all of our fulfillment comes not from who or what we are—or aren’t!—in the flesh, but through a relationship with our Lord and Savior. Try to find the version sung by the Heritage Singers—it is absolutely beautiful.

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