“Everything I See”; or, The Central Island: A Words Sketch

The Tour. It has become a daily tradition–most often during dinner preparation. I’m not sure whether anyone knows I do it–it tends to take place when several other things are happening simultaneously. Maybe one of these days, I will bring them with me–my readers, my loved-ones, my friends, anyone who needs a bit more zest in life…

It starts over by the kitchen table. The table is home to a few placemats, a candle holder whose metal structure spirals out into the shape of a flower, and a plethora of medical supplies. We usually sit at that table to perform my every-other-day Protein C infusion, so it’s not uncommon to see boxes of gloves (useful for handling raw meat or other distasteful substances), Tegaderm (IV tape, also known as the best lint-remover ever invented), thin pads for ensuring a sterile work surface (which, when no longer sterile, become Jacks of all trades), packages of rubbing alcohol (for cleaning iPods, cell phones, and the occasional landline), and small rolls of cloth medical tape over there. That’s just the way it is, and it’s a testament to how wonderfully the Lord has worked in our lives. Many years ago, my prognosis was not thought to be so good; the Lord answered prayer. Years ago, even when I was stable, we did not have Protein C, which meant that I had to be treated with plasma during week-long in-patient hospital stays, often treating also the severe allergic reactions that went along with plasma treatments. Our table being home to a box of supplies is a silent cry of praise, thanking the Lord for so much–that my port is working, that we have the Protein C, that I have experienced no clotting or bleeding episodes since 2007, that He has a plan and a calling and a purpose for me, that I am able to serve Him. Without opening an alcohol swab, I know that it holds the fragrance of relief, of great things done in my life, and of “Come Bless the Lord”.

But the table is only the beginning of the Tour. Facing sideways, between the table and our central island, is the chair in which I sit for the infusions. Most days, a medical mask hangs from one of the posts that make up the frame of the chair back. More memories, more thanksgiving.

The Tour proper begins on the breakfast bar. It is beauty, this countertop, and it bears much careful explanation.

First, the vaporizer. I check to see that it is plugged in, lingering momentarily on the cord’s location and contemplating the implications of it being plugged into the right vs. the left outlet. Then, I just stand there–wrapping my arms all the way around the square box of a vaporizer until my fingertips meet at the farthest end, bending over slightly until the warmth melts my heart and toasts my face, inhaling deep and exhilarating quantities of steam. This is where I ground myself for the rest of the Tour, where I come when life is stressful or when I want to remember the blessings in our lives or when I simply want to be enveloped for a few minutes. Steam. Warmth. Radiance.

Without taking my left hand off the vaporizer, I reach with my right until I encounter the first of three candles. This is always the way the Tour continues. Other facets of the Tour aren’t as structured depending on what there is to see, but the beginning is always the same. Three candles, all in glass jars, one with a wooden lid and the other two with sturdy glass lids like those produced by Yankee Candle. The lids are invariably askew; no one really cares about them except me, and they really can’t be affixed more firmly because Naomi and Hannah both have pain in their hands. I remove the top of the candle with the wooden lid. I don’t know why I do this–I always regret it. That candle smells like men’s cologne when it is unlit. The others smell of a time many years ago when we were living great, expansive, exuberant lives. All three candles feature wax remnants on the insides of the containers; these are always fun to examine. The candles tell stories, don’t you know–moments when we have wanted to eliminate the pungent reminders of eggs, broccoli, and frying taco meat from our kitchen and living room. I always place the candles very carefully and deliberately exactly where I found them. Again, no one else particularly cares whether the candles go between the Nesquick and the coffee, or whether I find a clear space to ceremoniously set them down in a joyous row–but I care. This is a landscape, an exquisite work of art, and I do not want to mar it with my meddling. That would defeat the purpose of the Tour.

If I were to take my left hand off the vaporizer, I might encounter either a rice steamer or a vegetable steamer, or both. Those are even more beautiful than the vaporizer. I have made a point of observing both steamers through their entire cycles–vegetable steamer on the right, rice steamer on the left–simply because it afforded an opportunity to rest in the moment. The art of steaming asparagus or green beans is a bath for the senses. Another story, another precious series of recollections.

Today, however, there are no steamers on the breakfast bar. Instead, there is an enormous box of what used to be minute rice. I shake the box in order to ascertain how much deliciosity we have before we will need to open a new box of equal proportions. There is about 3/8 of a serving, by my estimation. Oh, and the memories that rice pours forth! Salmon with rice and asparagus, turkey sausage with rice and broccoli, stuffed peppers without the pepper (I call this stuffified) with rice and onion rings, teriyaki chicken with rice and green beans, rice with rice and more rice… It has been transformed from a staple and now borders on a lifestyle, this unassuming food–not even Calrose or brown rice, but classic white minute rice. It has been a comfort when we were sick in body or at heart, a moment of umph when things were going well. So much in a family-sized box of rice!

Jedidiah’s candy dish… Where do I start? Well, it is a wide, shallow, glass dish whose sides slope up much like the contours of a Communion tray I own. The tray has Scriptures etched onto it and the serving dish is merely painted with a tactilely nondescript pattern, but Jedidiah’s dish reminds me of that tray—not the content or the context, but my mind enjoys carving associations where few exist, and those associations seldom deviate from connecting nonspiritual things with spiritual. Inside the dish I find one of my coconut LaraBars–How did that get there? Jedidiah? Are you now eating organically? Evidently not, for that LaraBar is nestled among a few cast-off candy bars (Snickers and Pay Days do not carry the thrill of Almond Joys and Peppermint Patty delights), some black-licorice gum drops, a packet of hot cocoa, and an inexplicable bunch of healthy but non-organic bananas. It’s like living in a diverse community and learning to appreciate and celebrate differences rather than trying to conform all people to a certain mold…

The Tour continues with an extravagant pile of general miscellany. Today, a roll of Scotch tape rests atop the whey protein that sometimes constitutes Jedidiah’s harried breakfasts. A travel coffee mug, newly scrubbed, awaits placement in the cupboard next to a stack of mail. A spiral notebook rests atop a big box of presumed knickknacks–it’s not my box, so I don’t know whether it actually contains pens, opals, or little Willow Tree carvings. We just went shopping, so several bags line part of the countertop. Drifting just outside the bags are two bottles of vanilla syrup and a jar of hot sauce. Further along is the Tabasco’s companion–a partially-full box of taco shells. I have placed a tube of arnica atop a jar of lotion in anticipation of Hannah’s hand massage, a time of worship and prayer that blesses us both. A bottle of glue does a merry dance near an unopened carbonated-beverage can. I unearth a napkin and a fork beneath a bag of egg noodles. Poor, defenseless fork–it should really have been propped up against the Nesquick for all to see, since it is one of our favorite pieces of flatware. The package that Martha recently sent tempts me to peek beneath its half-open flaps, but that box has been designated for Christmas. Gatorades for Naomi and Hannah and, for that matter, for anyone who is fasting and needs to replenish certain body systems, or for those with generalized malaise. Garlic-and-parsley salt atop a tub of butter, the better for applying both to a Bordeaux roll. I love discovering associations like these! An empty iPod case and an inexpensive iPod station should be united–they’re fraternal twins, are they not?–but my purpose is to look and listen, not to alter. Often, there’s a bag of dried cherries on the counter; when there is, I first admire the intricate fastener on the zip-lock and compare it with most of the other bags we own, then eat a handful of cherries and process every nuance of their paradoxically sweet and tart flavors. Pen cap, sugar container, bottle of vitamins, a single woolen winter glove, honey, a purse, a zip-lock bag holding the corn muffins we had with our bean soup the other night, mail, magazines, two flashlights, the cloth bag in which I keep Natasha’s dog treats. Am I overanalyzing, or did that list resemble something from 14,000 THINGS TO BE HAPPY ABOUT?

My Tour ends, at least in heart, with the Blessing Jar. This is a tallish plastic jar, empty as yet, with two grooves for easy gripping. In print, it is inscribed with the words “Blessings, 2015”; in Braille, with the title “Our Offering of Worship”. Naomi keeps encouraging us to wait until January to begin writing the things for which we’re grateful on tiny slips of paper and adding them to the jar. Now, my beloved readers, I have been known to read two months’ worth of ostensibly daily devotionals within the first thirty minutes of receiving such a book. Do you suppose the “begin-on-1-January-and-go-from-there” notion works for me? My plan: To write the blessings from this month also, cut them to size, and slip the “renegades” in as the jar begins to fill over these next few months.

Now, my beloved readers, the rest of you have what you would call an advantage over me. If you were taking the Tour, you would see all of these items at a glance. Your big-picture brains would see a collection at best and a conglomeration at worst. Perhaps you would reserve labels for such an experience. Even those nearest and dearest don’t always enjoy the situation. They use “messy”, “disorganized”, and “chaotic” to describe my special Tour.

Why?

Truly, I believe I have the advantage. I do not see these objects–hence, the Braille on the Blessing Jar. Instead, I smell the candles, listen to the rattling rice, taste the cherries, and wrap my hands around everything else. And it’s all exquisitely, unequivocally splendid–not because I don’t take it in at a glance, but because I am passionate about each detail and see pieces, patterns, and associations (sometimes, I admit, to the exclusion of the big picture). The central island may not always remain pristine, but it does illustrate quintessential home life. It’s the difference between a perfectly-decorated but highly-formal house and a lived-in, comfortable, informal home filled with the sort of love that isn’t present in a perfectly-put-together mansion. That breakfast bar is a panorama of our lives; it tells the stories of so many meals, so much reading that we’ve found noteworthy or conversely wanted to discard, so many precious times with Martha, so much laughter involving Natasha, so many snowy strolls (remember the glove!?), ideas that called for an instant writing utensil, gifts that needed to be wrapped and taped… Times of joy, laughter, contentment, consternation, boredom, and even some heartache. Glory, peace, worship, blessings, miracles, and awe. It is the indoor multi-sensory equivalent of a walk by the ocean on a rocky beach with cliffs and ledges jutting out over the water. Now, how can I possibly label that using any adjective other than “treasured”?

We view our lives as stressful, chaotic, disorganized, busy, frustrating, and overwhelming. Perhaps if we applied the Tour to our hearts, examining and resting in each wonderful detail that the Lord provides, we would gain a different perspective. Perhaps then our lives would appear to us as intricate, unique, set-apart in the Lord, individualized, special, beautiful, glorious, profound, intense, elated, worthwhile, peaceful, and restful. Perhaps we all need Tours—not of the central island, but of who we are, what we do, and the words and activities that form the juncture between the two. Our own walks along the ocean, complete with majestic waves and the kind of spray that tinges the air and the moment with ambiance.

Addendum: This song connection is a bit different. “Everything I See” is from the children’s Agapeland album GOD LOVES FUN by the Bridgestone Music Group. The singer, a child with pure joy shining through her voice, sings of beholding God’s love in everything she sees—birds, butterflies, a blue sky and the sunlight… Remember my rocky beach? Well, everything I witness in life does remind me of God’s love or another aspect of Who He is. The song is full of jubilation, and I believe it should be part of a Christian library regardless to whether my readers have children. I do believe the album, which is anointed, is newly available from the iTunes Store.

“Alabaster Jar”: And an Exercise for Diminishing Lingering Anxiety or Fear

NOTE: I am categorizing this in Allegory because what I experienced was an allegory of the mind, something that could easily be written as the actual literary form. A pragmatic allegory, if you will, with a touch of imagination.

So, my beloved readers:

I am not a mental health specialist, and I do not play one on TV. I don’t even know what a “TV”, as named such, is–a transitive verb, perhaps? I do not act as a mental health specialist, though, either in theatres or on television. I do, however, know a sister in Christ who knows a bit about how our intricate, uniquely-wired, beautiful, fearfully-and-wonderfully-made, individualized, beloved, snowflake-like minds are constructed. She has read THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, knows and loves Psalm XVIII, finds Revelation a holy rather than a terrifying book, and speaks about half an inch of French–the degree she would denote with her hands if she were speaking of her linguistic capabilities. Her voice is pragmatic and no-nonsense, but her heart has a song in it. She listens to more percussion-driven Christian music than I, but holds it close the way I do the Touching the Father’s Heart collection from Vineyard Music. And, as I’ve said, she knows a bit about human perceptions of life, and how we can get ourselves out of the processing patterns that threaten our relationship with God and with others. I’m not sure how to designate her on this blog; I’m torn between Appointed-by-God and simply Treasure, for she fills both capacities. I think I’ll settle on Treasure.

Well, yesterday afternoon, I confided to Treasure that I have always had a propensity for holding some idea so tightly to me, fueled by an overly-active amygdala, that there is little room for anything else. The amygdala, for you normal types who do not remember most everything you’ve ever read, is the center in the brain that controls fear and anger. So, what I was actually saying is that, if some distressing or worrisome thought enters my heart, I cannot easily obliterate it–not by keeping quiet or ignoring it, and certainly not by distracting myself. The only things that ever help are studying the Word voraciously or so immersing myself in worship that my senses of song, prayer, dance, alabaster, and listening are all engaged at once. But those things only work WHILE I am involved; the moment I turn my attention to other things, whatever was troubling me before is right there to claw its way into me again, unless the Lord Himself has taken it from me. The thoughts can be anything–concerns over my health or that of loved-ones, ponderings about someone’s safety, distress over someone’s reaction to something I’ve done… As a young a child, I was so concerned about honesty that I found myself forcing mini-conferences upon all the adults I trusted, often several times a day, in order to assure myself that I had not told an inadvertent lie.

Perhaps you can relate. You probably don’t react as intensely as I have, and not to the same things, but you are acquainted with the general concept. You don’t talk about it, and you may be distracted from it, but you have your own concerns, sorrows, griefs, moments of frustration, worries, fears, phobias, and thorns. Since that applies to all of us to a greater or lesser extent, I thought I would share the gift that Treasure gave me–a tool for reducing or temporarily eliminating some of those burs that latch onto our thoughts. It requires effort and imagination, may not be appropriate for some very real crisis moments, and may require a level of whimsy not characteristic of some analytical personalities. It isn’t an instantaneous or even a permanent fix, but it joyed me. I am posting it here in the hopes that it might be helpful to you, for a gift this joyful was never meant to be held by one or two people.

For this exercise, I chose just one of those distressing thoughts that has been known to keep me awake at night. Working with one at a time is more helpful than trying to do away with every fear and worry at once. Then, Treasure asked me what substance the thought would take on if it were tangible. Now, my beloved readers, have you ever eaten a pita or other meal containing large quantities of store-bought hummus with a somewhat thicker consistency, then forgotten to drink any water during your meal? That hummus, though not dry in itself, tends to dry out the mouth and throat like cotton. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is. However, hummus–with or without the water!–is delicious, and these intrusive fears are not. I wanted something that would have the same dry-mouth/dry-heart effect, though, so eventually I declared that the concrete substance would be most akin to very fine-grained sand that nevertheless packs tightly, is difficult to sweep out completely, and tends to both dry out the areas that it reaches and to chaff sensitive skin, thus producing the FEELING of eating without hydrating.

We then envisioned being filled to the brim with this upsetting substance. That wasn’t difficult–I was already bursting from the weight of impure sand! Then, she said, I should imagine places in this vessel named Ready Writer where the sand could slowly trickle out. The level getting lower and lower. No more sand in my head and neck, in my arms and shoulders, in my heart, in my legs and feet… This was a little more difficult than you might imagine, but it was worth it. In my case, knowing how a substance like that one would be prone to cling, I also imagined water cascading down and assisting in the process–pure, clear living water… That was most helpful! So, no sand within, and no more intrusive agitations for the moment.

Then, Treasure suggested that, since those thoughts were still inevitably nearby and within reach, I should envision something that would allow me to at least distance myself from them. Take a broom and a dustpan and sweep that unwelcome substance up and toward the door of the room we were in. Place it in an imaginary rubber-plastic container and “drag/carry” it–twenty-five pounds or so of anxiety, by my estimation–to the corner of another room, where I am already actually storing a number of boxes in “real life”. Push it into the corner, turn away from it, and leave it for another time. The goal here, Treasure reminded me, is not to “store” the distress in a garage or bring it to a dumpster, because that won’t work. You may–and probably will– experience thoughts like this again, and distancing them that far will only hinder the interactive analogy.

Then, it was time to be filled–renewed, restored, overflowing with something helpful so that there might no longer be room for the sandy anxiety to take up residence again, or to be poured into me by another person. When asked what I would like to be filled with, I said that the beautiful, fragrant combination of frankincense and myrrh would be fitting. Anointing oil–but I am not sure where Treasure stands on the topic of continuationism and did not want that charismatic-sounding term to come between myself and a precious child of God.

Well, at this point, I am convinced that the Holy Spirit began the process–began to work through Treasure’s wordsand voice. In the next few moments, we envisioned that anointing oil filling me completely, pouring into every nook and cranny of my heart, mind, and spirit. Overflowing this vessel in all the places where the “sand” had formerly resided. It was absolutely glorious. I felt as if I were actually receiving this blessing–saturations of joy and peace–directly from the Holy Spirit. Those were moments of hands half-raised, of praying in my heart as Treasure spoke, of remembering who He has made me to be and knowing that, in His strength and by His grace, I did not have to hold the things that had so threatened my relationship with Him moments before.

I will never forget Treasure’s words. Without a hint of rebuke, she reminded me, “Someone who is filled with frankincense and myrrh cannot be filled with sand”. In other words, “Stand firm! Jesus has you and He loves you”! I wonder–do any of my readers need to be reminded of the same thing? Does anyone reading this need to be reminded that in Him we have the victory? Because of Who He is, because He has conquered, because His grace is more than sufficient for us, these things do not have to become strongholds in our lives.

This was the exercise to which Treasure introduced me. Whatever you may be going through, I hope it was as much a blessing for you to read as it was for me to experience. Great is His faithfulness–and His lovingkindness.

Addendum: This post belongs with the song “Alabaster Box” by CeCe Winans—it just does. It doesn’t fit thematically, but the song is too beautiful, and so was my experience with that exercise. Besides, the account in Luke VII on which the song was based is beyond-words glorious, and it, above all else, bears reading and absorbing. If blending this post with that song are in any way effective in encouraging the reading of Luke VII, I will have done my job for the day.

Restoration and Holiness, Part VII: “Mourning Into Dancing”

By 18 May, I decided that I was strong enough to devote my every action and thought and word to the Lord for a period of three days. It was going to be wonderful, I told myself—so much time to worship. It would mean suspending some Internet activities and canceling a few engagements with family and friends, but it would be a pure delight.

It would be a joy, that is, if I could only forgive…

First, I had to forgive myself. Two days before, I had said something to Hannah that I felt was in direct violation of everything I was trying to accomplish in the Lord. I had not meant for my words to come out the way they did, but I could not seem to forgive myself for having said them. And despite the fact that I had a full grasp on the Scriptures which state that God is faithful and just to forgive confessed sin, I felt unable to accept even His mercy. So, the first evening of that time of devotion was spent unfruitfully, simply waring myself out with wonderings and tears.

But then dawned Monday, 19 May. Somehow, that morning brought with it a slight acceptance of the possibility of God’s forgiveness—one tiny crack in the thick walls I had built around my heart. And then, Good Samaritan called. Now, Good Samaritan would be the first to say that she does not agree with me on most points of theology, but she seems to enjoy hearing me talk and she has been used of the Lord on multiple occasions. Several times, I have mentioned some great and pressing concern, and she has paraphrased Scripture that fit perfectly with the situation. I once asked her about this and she told me emphatically that she had no idea that what she had said was Biblical, so I can only conclude that the Lord speaks through her, for His purposes. Case in point: One day, because I had no church or fellow brothers and sisters to turn to, I remarked to her, “Something was once said to me that has crushed me in the areas of all I have ever held dear. That faith I treasure is being threatened… And please don’t tell me to just forsake the One I love!” Beloved readers, don’t try this… God used it, but it isn’t the best of ideas. I was desperate, though, for some sort of advice, and I had run out of places to seek it. Well, Good Samaritan thought for a minute and then said, “You need to take some time to just do what you’ve always done to get back in the place you need to be. Don’t listen to the lies… Grab your shield and hold on to it.” My SHIELD!? In that moment, the Holy Spirit filled me with the joy that comes from being chastened and convicted, and with a knowledge of the armor of God—complete with the shield of faith. I took Good Samaritan’s advice, and the Lord restored me.

Now, all of that had been in July of 2011. But when Good Samaritan phoned on 19 May, I thought she could help me with general forgiveness. We had gotten to that point, and I assumed that she might have some helpful thoughts. Before I knew it, though, I had not only discussed my own wrongs but brought 2006 into the discussion. You know—Two Thousand Six, that year in which I underwent spiritual distress and trauma so all-encompassing that it changed my entire outlook on the things of God. Why I brought this up with her when I had told myself I would never speak of it to anybody, I cannot now fathom. I know only that her sympathetic silence served as a sounding board of sorts—a means of helping me come to my own conclusions about God’s power to heal and my need to forgive all the anguish I had experienced in the past eight years. In that moment, the Lord confirmed again that He would help me to forgive if I was willing—and that with forgiveness would come restoration.

And that is what I held onto that day long, long after I had hung up with Good Samaritan. All that afternoon, I considered my role in failing to release the pain that had been caused those many years before. Then, too, I began reading a book entitled TOTAL FORGIVENESS by one R. T. Kendle. The author brought up some interesting points. For example, I had always believed that to forgive meant to attempt to forget as literally and completely as possible—to mask the memory, deny it, crush it, bury it, and generally suppress it with all of my frail human strength. Rather difficult for someone who remembers lying on the water bed at her grandmother’s house at the age of six months… Forgetting is not in my vocabulary, and so I must be living in unforgiveness—must I not?

Not so, claimed this joyous book. When Joseph’s brothers came to him and begged forgiveness for their mistreatment of him, Joseph did not say that he deserved to have been brought to Egypt, or that his brothers had done no wrong. Instead, he acknowledged the deed and then chose to forgive it ANYWAY which, if you think about it, is really a greater measure of merciful living than simply denying that something upsetting was ever done. “What you did was evil, but God…” Acknowledgement, filled with love and a sense of the Lord’s plan—what a wonderful new perspective! From that point on, I determined to truly forgive—that is, not to hold what others had done against me. To sincerely desire the Lord’s blessing in their lives, and to ask the Lord for strength to think of both those who had hurt me and the incident itself without anger, bitterness, or even pain—as a fact rather than a tale of woe and anguish.

As the days of dedication to God passed, I became more and more saturated in His mercy, His grace and forgiveness—and I resolved to shower all that I had received upon others. Then, too, there was an increased sense of His joy. And finally, there was Wednesday afternoon—Wednesday, 21 May, that is.

I had been in worship. Looking back, I cannot now recall what I sang unto the Lord, but I do know what the Holy Spirit ministered to me. I had read the Sermon on the Mount—had, in fact, so immersed myself in the teachings, the very words, of our wonderful Lord Jesus, that I felt closer to Him than I had since I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Now, I was singing unto Him with all of my heart, placing every need before Him in awe and reverence, reiterating deep within that He was all that I would ever need.

And then, to my heart, there came an incredible knowledge that the Lord would heal me, had healed me, would continue to heal me. I said in Part IV of this series that the Lord began showing me this earlier in the month, but the moments of 21 May were different. It was much like the man whom Jesus healed at the pool of Bethesda. First, He asked the man if he wanted to get well. There’s a minor parallel to what He did in my life at first, when I was given the hopeful possibility of being made whole in heart, mind, soul, and spirit again. But 21 May was like the healing itself—it was leaping and dancing, throwing my hands into the air and singing for joy, crying out in thankfulness and weeping for sheer gratitude—not quite like the man in John 5, who did not seem to comprehend the wonder of what had been done for him, but that is a theological discussion for another time.

In that instant, I knew that all my mourning, all the effects of 2006, all the painful associations I had ever accumulated as a result of the spiritual crises I had experienced, were being washed away. I was free. Whatever the Lord had given me when I first received His Holy Spirit, He had suddenly restored to me again. It was beyond words. What singing there was then, what pure and unalloyed wonder! The very fragrance of His presence permeated that moment (see II Cor. 2:14-15). I felt baptized, renewed, and filled anew, and coming away from that time in Him was like immerging from the Jordan River or some other symbolic place without bothering to dry off, just allowing that holiness to cling about me like the garment of praise that it was.

Proof of all that the Lord had told me came later that evening. In the past, I used to see a counselor in order to cope with a great deal of emotional anguish—caused, I am now sure, by the spiritual turmoil I was wearing like Christian’s loathsome burden in THE PILGRIM’S PROGRESS. That evening, his name came up in the conversation. Suddenly, and without giving it any thought, I found myself crying out, “Naomi, Naomi, very soon the day will come when I do not need him anymore!”

Now, those who know me understand that I am very, very quiet about certain things in the Lord—or, at least, I had been since 2006. If the Lord showed me something special either in His Word or most especially by His Holy Spirit, I might remark softly to one believer at a time, “I believe… now, we can’t know the mind of God… perhaps I’m misinterpreting here, but it seems that God may have told me… I think…” Saying something so definite—nay, proclaiming it from the rooftops as I did that evening—was so uncharacteristic that it stunned me even as I spoke the last syllable of that declaration. Certainly, if I had said something like this in the past, I would have been temporarily silenced by what Naomi said—”I pray it will be so for you soon–I really do.” But not on that precious day. There was no silence. Instead, in words that leapt over one another like gazellse in my hurry to speak them, I tried to explain: “But you don’t understand… God promised… He told me that all the mourning and sorrow were over, and He has healed me, and I won’t need to see this man anymore because He is my Wonderful Counselor!”

And what more can I say of that evening, that night? It was like being in the throneroom of God, like living in His manifest glory and presence, yet having just an iota of enough presence of mind to be able to communicate with others and go about my daily routine. It was ineffable.

That week, I asked the Lord to show me what to do with this counselor of mine. I try to serve the Lord in wisdom; I was not going to step out before Him. So, I asked that the Lord would use this man to propose our next steps—from one week to two, from two to even less than that. This is exactly what happened, and I rejoice to this day that He is strengthening me to walk with Him alone. Now, please don’t misunderstand—what I was doing was helpful, and it was used by God for a season; I am in no way opposed to it. I just know now that what the Lord is doing, He can accomplish with OR WITHOUT the help of those from whom I had formerly sought help. Rejoicing!

If I had ever harbored any doubts about my freedom in Jesus, they were all laid to rest on 31 May. I was reading Revelation that evening when I cam upon this from chapter III, verses 7-8: “The words of the holy one, the true one, [Who] has the key of David, [Who] opens and no one shall shut, [Who] shuts and no one opens. … Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (RSV, capitalization mine). I know that I am not a member of the church of Philadelphia, but in that moment, the Lord used this passage to speak to my heart. Those words were for me—a seal of sorts, a promise that what He had begun and was completing in me would not be taken away. So often, other Christians try to caution us against losing some spiritual blessing. Has that ever happened to you? You’re at a weekend youth conference and on Friday evening, not ten minutes into the service, the pastor or worship leader says something about keeping hold of God’s blessings when you return home on Sunday afternoon and going into Monday… have you ever experienced this? Well, another believer had warned me against growing faint-hearted when I was still atop my mountain, and I began to wonder. Was I going to slip, to slide, to revert to my former fleshly and faithless ways? Into the midst of all of this came that promise, and I no longer doubt that He Who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6). He is faithful, and I have no need to fear, for if I should begin to fall, He is able to make me stand—His gifts and His calling are without repentance. Open doors.

Addendum: “Mourning Into Dancing” by Tommy Walker has been a heart-cry since December of 2004. I forgot the message, though not the song, in the intervening years. Now, the message of that praise chorus has woven itself into my very framework. “Where there once was only hurt, / He gave His healing hand; / Where there once was only pain, / He brought comfort like a friend…” The song is too beautiful to miss. It may be found on the album SONGS FOR WORSHIP: GREAT IS THE LORD. The word “for” in that album title should be represented by the number that is its homonym, but that seemed irreverent and insincere—the only thing that Integrity Music ever did wrong as far as album construction went—and I could not bring myself to write it. Now, go track down that song and rejoice with me, my beloved readers!