“Sweeter”…

I thought–no, I knew–that there could never be any more peace than the day I gave my heart to Jesus. Nothing could ever be as comforting as that day when I was four, taking Communion in that Christmas Eve service and somehow, by God’s precious Spirit, knowing deep within the significance of what He had done for me. No, nothing could be more peaceful than choosing to trust Him always and follow Him with my life, my very, my all.

I thought- that there was no greater joy than receiving the fullness of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To guide and to fill my every moment, to comfort in times of sorrow, to lead me in the Word of God, to fill me with a knowledge of His presence… To have gifts and blessings poured upon my heart–things that I had literally not known existed until He “clothed me with power from on high”. No, there could be no greater joy.

I assumed that there was no more beautiful wisdom than the day I asked Him to help me memorize His Word, and He answered. Oh, I couldn’t quote verse references–my mind reads the lines, not the numbers. But suddenly and without any great effort on my part, Philippians and John, Ezekiel and Daniel and Revelation, Jeremiah and Luke–all were stored in my memory. And through His grace, I understood what I read–not all, not perfectly, but a good portion. To study those beautiful red letters especially was my greatest delight. Certainly, no greater wisdom…

I was certain that there was no more awesome glory than 3 February 2003. That day is difficult to write or speak of, so marvelous were the things that He showed me. Things about the throne of God, about the meaning of “shekinah”, and one sheep who heard His voice–all while “I Can Only Imagine” played in the background. No greater glory!

Many years later, I thought the sorrow was insurmountable. I can’t say that there was “greater sorrow”, for the Bible does not measure human anguish by degrees: we are in turmoil, we take it to the Lord, He sets us free–but pain isn’t compared with pain. So, I shan’t say that the devastation I experienced was “greater and greatest”, but I do know that it led to a year of fear so deep that I could scarcely rise in the morning and misery so profound that I found it hard to breathe. Day after day, I cried out to the Lord… Until I stopped. Stopped, because I felt that He did not hear me after all. Stopped, because I wondered whether this distress was somehow part of His will. Stopped, because I was simply so weary. Then:

I thought there was never such exquisite hope as 23 June 2015. I was trudging through a workout and listening to anything that happened to be playing on my iPod when I came upon an old CBH Ministries podcast. CBH: The Children’s Bible Hour, which none of God’s servants are too old to enjoy, for those children have revival in their hearts. Anyway, the podcasted radio program opened with a little tune called “Brighten Up Your Pathway with a Song”. Oh, such intensity as was wrapped in those two minutes! Those anointed worshipers were singing of the One Who could right all wrongs and fill all emptiness. Powerful, powerful conviction. In the next moment, I had flung my workout and the treadmill’s safety key to the wind, danced my way upstairs, and stood near the thermostat. The temperature controls, you see, have a little slip of paper hanging over them–undecorated save for a border that I only added recently. On this sheet are written all the promises that God has given to me and my brothers and sisters in Christ. One by one, I reread what I knew in my heart but had temporarily forgotten. Knelt and prayed and asked God’s forgiveness for such unbelief. Held to His promises, clung to His provision. Most assuredly, I thought, there could be no greater hope.

Then, too, I was convinced that there was no greater rest than that evening–hearing His words from Exodus to the effect that I must remain still and see His salvation, treasuring absolute wonder as I went to sleep, and waking in the night to more of the same. No greater rest.

And when He did as He said He would, I knew that there was no greater freedom than 12 August 2015. Release from all strife–and in a way that only our loving Lord can accomplish. In one evening—a mere two hours–all of the desolation of the previous year was cleansed completely and in its place was something very near to a covenant, an agreement between myself and the Lord and one precious sister in Christ. Now, with no earthly friction swirling around me, I could focus on working for the Lord. No greater freedom!

Digressing for a moment… I thought there could be no greater holiness than 3 July. My sister and I had decided to attend an early fireworks display. As we waited for the festivities to begin, we began to sing to the Lord, so filled with praise were we. Hearing us, a little girl of perhaps seven approached and began worshiping the Lord, too. To this day, I am convinced that the Lord put each of us there for a specific purpose: the child was there to be encouraged, my sister was there to encourage, and I was there to listen–just to listen and absorb the love of God. No greater holiness, I affirm in a whisper. Standard font is too common for moments such as these, so my readers shall have to imagine small, humbled font–the kind you’d use if you were nearly too overwhelmed to even begin putting pen to paper but knew you must.

I knew there was no greater awe than 7 July. I ought to let the date stand on its own merits, so ponderable is it. Mary treasured many things in her heart, and the longer I live in the Lord, the more important it becomes to let certain things remain unspoken while emphatically thanking the Lord for them. Suffice it to say–no greater awe.

Without question, there was never any greater delight than Tozering a brother in Christ. If you don’t know what I mean, beloved reader, make your way to sermonindex.net and download all of A. W. Tozer’s sermons on the attributes of God. ATTEMPT to wrap your mind around them, though you likely won’t succeed. The sermons are that profound; even Tozer himself said that he couldn’t explain the absolute depth of God’s infinite grace, love, and holiness–and he was trying to preach about these things! On 16 July, the Lord enabled me to relate Tozer’s ideas in a less scholarly manner that this brother could understand. A mighty, mighty work was wrought that evening. No greater delight, honor, joy, or privilege.

I thought there could be no greater work for the Lord than the prayer ministry in which I became involved. Surely, this is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done outside the prayer-closet throughout this wondrous walk in the Lord. To be able to offer prayer freely to those who may need it, to discuss the things of the Lord–oh, it is beyond words! To lead devotions for the staff at the organization at which I volunteer… I will never be able to hear Keith Green’s song “Stained-Glass” or read Mrs. Cowman’s Springs in the Valley without thinking of this time of serving my Savior. No greater work than this, surely.

I am certain in this moment that there is no more fruitful season than the one I now have the joy of experiencing. Fruitful and beautified and harvest-like–a rich combination of green pastures and delightful gardens. And how detailed this time has been! Hitherto, I have avoided excessive detail in this account because it seemed irrelevant. However, I will say that the past several months have included many a foray into the allegorically-based teachings of Alexander White, the hymn “Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”, and extensive studies in the book of Acts. Any refrigerator with unique magnets now holds profound associations–I can’t look at such a refrigerator without seeing the magnets on the staff refrigerator at the place where I do prayer ministry. London fog tea lattes taste like peace, and the summer Under-the-Weather tent is a place of worship and study. Jana Jackson’s music and a special prayer conference go together. A favorite room, whose exact location is arbitrary, contains a shelf with a large Bible on a stand. Cheese, crackers, and cucumbers will never cease to remind me of lunches with a beautiful woman of God. Then, there have been the fun things–the Jesus Our Savior Busy Bible, for example, which is a Bible storybook intended for young toddlers but which the former reviewer in me had to investigate anyway. That book, austensibly for a young audience, had at least three people in tears of adoration when I showed it to them as a sort of light novelty, so Spirit-filled was that little book. Oh, such joyous moments in Him!–and certainly, I reason, no more fruitful season than the one I’m experiencing now…

No greater guidance than 24 September–of that I am certain. Over the years, the Lord had given me some specific guidelines as to how I must conduct my own life. One of the most important pertains to how I minister to others: neither numbers nor finances nor other earthly statistics may dictate my interactions–only the working of the Holy Spirit in my life and that of the other person/people. Not quality over quantity, but quality instead of quantity. Well, recently, I was pressured to relax this standard. Statistics were needed for the proper running of the organization, and this was proving extremely stressful–to the point that I was no longer acting out of love. Right in the midst of this fight with conformity, the Lord reminded me of what He had shown me over the past several years. Then, deep within, I knew He was asking me whether I would actually apply what He had shown me, or whether I would discard it and allow it to remain theoretical in my life? The struggle was great, but I eventually surrendered in the knowledge that all necessary statistics were in His hands. I was to remember quality only, provide the numbers that I was told to provide, but not to worry about them beyond providing accuracy. Such unspeakably glorious guidance.

I just know that there is no greater Agape than that which the family of God has shown me over the past few weeks. A casual request for prayer galvonized at least two people into true, sincere petitioning on my behalf. Then, there’s THE CHURCH. At last, I have found a place to worship! Lacking available transportation, I had searched throughout the city for a church that provided rides to those who couldn’t just jump into their cars. The one I found is a good forty-five minutes from home, but they don’t care. It’s not that they are so terribly gracious that I’m made to FEEL comfortable; the staff truly seems to find the extra time and gas inconsequential. Quality over quantity! And once through those welcoming doors, the church is filled with the Holy Spirit in all love and fellowship–with God, and also with the brethren. Time and words fail me to speak of solid, Biblical worship; of a sermon that filled to overflowing; and of the pastor’s joyous words during Communion. No greater Agape, Shalom, or Hesed.

Today, there is no greater consecration than that found at Bethesda. Bethesda–my House of Mercy, the home that the Lord has provided. After much prayer, the Lord removed several proverbial mountains that seemed to be standing in my way and began to strengthen my entire family in profound, even miraculous, ways. The result was a Bible study that left me speechless, a time of intense worship, and a series of plans to remain steadfast in His service. Just as Lazarus’ house was filled with the fragrance of costly oil after Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, so my family’s home was filled to overflowing with the presence of God–times of holiness for which I have no words. It was something to absorb, to enjoy without comment, to kneel down and thank the Lord for, to rejoice in and dance in and try to sing about but fail–the Light of the world, the Bread of Life, and that thirst-quenching living water. It was overwhelming–not a cup running over only, but also a sacuer… Our entire tabletop, so to speak, was filled! Oh, no greater consecration or purity.

I feel this way–assuming that there could never possibly be anything greater than what the Lord has already given us–and then He showers still more blessings on our way. The things of the Lord, in their various facets, are the one thing that we can never be weary of. Things of this earth–every intellectual pursuit, every new car or house or electronic gadget, every travel experience–after awhile, even the best of these begin to lose some of their sparkle. We seek for some new amusement, but with the same results… But the infinite, incomparable presence of God never loses its splendor. The same joy I’ve experienced day after day after day since beginning to walk with the Lord still seems brand-new, just as beautiful as “the hour I first believed”. In this precious time of seeing Him more clearly, I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 3:18: “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord”. And for the moment, examining this verse, I say… No greater renewal.

Addendum: The song that must needs accompany this post is from Travis Cottrell’s album ALIVE FOREVER. “Sweeter”–the title says it all, as does the oft-repeated line throughout this celebration anthem: “Every day with You, Lord / Is sweeter than the day before”. Yes and amen!

The Chocolate Muffin; or, Doctrine, Biblical Symbolism, and Worship–With Illustrations!

Note: I’m placing this in “Allegory” because it focuses on symbolism and I feel that creating a category solely devoted to symbolism would be counter-productive.

Sunday, 15 April 2012. It was the first time I had been to church in over six months. There was prayer, there was worship, there was a beautiful if slightly percussive rendition of “Amazing Grace”. There was Scripture reading, from a translation somewhere between the Living Bible and the Message paraphrase. The sermon was good, relatable to most, very sound. The church believed in the active gifts of the Spirit, in baptism by immersion, in the cleansing gift of salvation.

But I’m not here to talk about the church or that service. I’m here to talk about Naomi, the church bulletin, and a chocolate-chip muffin.

For months, we had been inundated by false doctrine. I shan’t go into detail here, but will say only that several churches in our area had been teaching in error. Now, Naomi and I were both so nervous and weary that we were on our guards against nearly everything. As she skimmed the bulletin that morning, a name jumped out at her–a guest speaker? A pastor? A missionary? I do quite a bit of apologetic reading, so she directed her inquiry to me. “Otis Spunkmeyer–is he sound?”

Well, as most of my readers are aware, Otis Spunkmeyer has never made himself any sort of public evangelist–at least, not that I’ve read… A closer reading of the bulletin revealed that “Coffee and Otis Spunkmeyer pastries will be served in the fellowship hall”. Well, I’ve heard of a fruit-check–the Word clearly states that men are known by their fruits–but a pastry-company check?

Looking back, I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or analyze–chuckle over the reading faux pas, or weep for the caution that drove us to such extremes. Frankly, it is a poignant moment if you’ve been so long in a fellowship wilderness that you must question every name that comes to you from a bulletin. However, I think a different course of action is in order. I don’t believe Naomi ever got her question answered, and what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t take her seriously? Does Otis Spunkmeyer, or does he not, have good theology? Let’s investigate.

Well, I know that I used to invite this gentleman into a place of worship. For several years, my home contained a room we all designated The Chapel–a place of Scripture reading, working on ministry projects, and general moments in Jesus. During several evenings in 2004, I took a cup of coffee and a chocolate-chip Otis Spunkmeyer muffin into that apartment and placed them on a low stool. Using the stool as a table, I sat on the floor near the bookcase, where I had easy access to the Bible and the CD case full of worship materials. And then, abandoning my dessert tradition before it had even begun, I would listen and read. 1 John 2:27. “Let Your Anointing Fall” by Don Moen. Prayers for more and more of His glory–rivers of living water. Feeble but heart-felt attempts at knitting a Bible case for Naomi. More worship. Purest adoration, basking in His presence. Although there were days when the coffee grew cold and the muffin dried out before I even thought to eat it, the fact of an Otis Spunkmeyer muffin in the Chapel remains. Now, I ask you, would I bring a man who wasn’t sound into these precious 2004 moments?

But all of that is personal experience. Let’s be a bit more scientific about it, shall we? We shan’t examine such things as calories and micronutrients, for those elements are never mentioned in Scripture. Instead…

* Firstly, I believe that the package designates Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate-chip muffins as Kosher dairy. Beauty, peace, and holiness! Kosher items are always sound.

* Wheat flour… What of all those wheat-related parables in Matthew 13?

* Milk products: Hmm. The Israelites were promised “a land flowing with milk and honey”, and we are told to “desire the pure milk of the Word”. More Biblical significance.

* I have no immediate access to the ingredients on a typical chocolate-chip muffin, but it would be more than reasonable for the pastries to contain salt. Symbolism: “You are the salt of the earth”…

* These muffins contain sugar, which is not nearly as Biblical as honey. However, just as no Christian is perfect, not all ingredients in food are perfectly Biblical. This symbolizes grace.

* Again, this is hearsay since I do not have access to an ingredient list, but I assume that these muffins came into contact with water at some point. I’ll let you figure that one out on your own. Naomi knows. If she ever stumbles onto this post, I will say for her benefit, “crystal-clear”.

* Of necessity, these pastries contain leavening. What of the parable of the yeast? Oh, I cherish Matthew 13!

* While certainly not present in chocolate-chip muffins, Otis Spunkmeyer cinnamon rolls contain, well, cinnamon! And did it ever occur to you, my beloved readers, that cinnamon is mentioned in Exodus and in the Song of Solomon?

* All muffins are wrapped in plastic, which isn’t Biblical in the slightest… But they are also encased in paper. Paper—parchment. Parchment–very special words, some of these being red letters. Not a direct correlation, but a vague association.

So much Scripture attached to so many ingredients. Such an abundance of joy and celebration during those prayer-closet dessert sessions.

Now, I could conclude this post one of two ways. I could play the role of a teacher and say, “My beloved readers, this is the way we must strive to think daily. Every minute of every hour, we should contemplate the things of the Lord–when we lie down and when we rise up, when we come in and when we go out. Prayer without ceasing. Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure–think on these things. To attach Biblical significance and symbolism to mundane experiences transforms those temporal objects and brings us closer to the Lord, even in our thoughts.” I could continue in this line of lecturing for several paragraphs, but to do so would be in clear violation of the “show, don’t tell” principle. So I will take the other route and conclude that:

Yes, dear Naomi, Otis Spunkmeyer is doctrinally sound.

Addendum: This post was composed while enjoying a glass of milk and–you probably guessed it!–a chocolate-chip Otis Spunkmeyer muffin. It was written not in the Chapel, but in the Sanctuary, another one of the many prayer-closets that comprise my life.

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!

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.

“‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus”…

NOTE: I penned the greater part of this piece last night between 1:00 and 2:30 AM. I had no Internet access at the time, but intended to post this when I did. That moment has come. What you are about to read is more a letter to the Lord, an outpouring of thanks for what He has done and provided and taught, the growth and fruit that He is producing. No, I have not lost interest in my multi-part series; I still have much to say on the Lord’s restoration, and I hope to continue when I can.

Several months ago, I was taking that glorious day of rest that every Christian should have—one of those days just for refreshment in the Lord. My day of rest happens to be Sunday, and that Sunday I was meandering my way through family memories and listening to worship music. This, from Robin Mark, was among the auditory treasures I unearthed:

When the rain falls, and it some days will,
Then the pavement under my feet
Sparkles silver and gold in reflected light
That I otherwise wouldn’t have seen.
And when the storm comes and the strong wind blows,
I will bow my head to push through,
And every step that I take, I will watch and pray
And be sure my foothold is true.

Now, I could say “amen” to all of that! I had been through my share of difficult times and had even discovered treasures in some of that darkness. But it was the song’s refrain that began to trip me up:

Jesus, don’t You keep me from that storm;
I want to walk that sacred ground,
For You are Master of it all
And I am but a lost-and-found.

Now, I wasn’t questioning Robin Mark’s theology—I knew that his words were Biblically sound. But on the other hand, I didn’t feel I could ever come to a point of praying such a thing. “Don’t keep me from the storm”? “Don’t keep me from it, if You can use it in my life”? Well, God’s will be done, but how could I ever actually pray, ask for, petition God for, treasure, cherish, appreciate, or value difficult times? It wasn’t humanly possible, I concluded, to say in effect, “The sand of this place scorches my feet, the nearest oasis is miles away, and I am parched—but, oh, thank You for all the manna!”

Nearly four months hqave passed since I heard that song and admired Robin Mark’s bravery from a distance. Now, I know exactly what he meant.

It all began on 13 June. I awoke that morning, read Matthew and immersed myself in worship, and then deecided that I would update the content on my iPod. Simple enough, and not much to be learned, you say. Ah, but the device wouldn’t synchronize with my computer. Instead, it kept going into recovery mode, then wouldn’t even try to sync… Three, four, and five times we tried—first Naomi, then Hannah. We tried with different iPods; we tried uninstalling iTunes and downloading it anew; we tried manual syncing. Each time, we encountered fresh challenges. Now, don’t misunderstand—this did not leave me without a few silly songs and a movie or two. It left me without ten thousand songs’ worth of worship music and hundreds of sermons but, much worse, I was also without my eleven audio Bibles. If I wanted the Word, it was going to have to be a Braille edition—nothing wrong with that, but not as effective for quick, efficient study. Besides, I like to listen to the Scriptures as I’m drifting off to sleep, and I was now being denied this delightful pursuit. But do you know, my beloved reader, what came of it all? In the twelve-hour gap between the problem and the tenuous resolution I reached that night, the Lord put a song in my heart and a precious knowledge of His presence deep within my spirit. My refrain all that day was, “Lord, I will read Your Word in whatever format I can find. If that’s just one version, it is enough. Your presence, O Lord, Your Holy Spirit alone is more than enough.” And there was such a sense of His holiness in that day!—such a knowledge that He was with me? Would I ever relish having my iPod malfunction? No, not in the flesh—but the Lord did use this experience to teach me something about Himself and to reinforce to my heart that He is my everything.

“If that is what you call a desert,” you say, “then you really haven’t lived life. What you believe to be a storm was a gentle sprinkle of a rain-shower…”

Fast forward to last Monday. In the past ten days, I have been displaced from my apartment due to an exploding hot water that resulted in a destructive flood that ruined my carpet; we have temporarily lost our internet; two members of our extended family are seriously ill; anger, sorrow, and anxiety have filled my interpersonal communications with many of my brothers and sisters in Christ; I have faced challenges on both employment and guide-dog fronts; Naomi has suffered health difficulties; feelings of worthless and failure have threatened to sweep me away; and I have felt highly unforgiven by God, separated from Him and no longer permitted to come into His presence. My “church community”, y brothers and sisters in Christ, and I have been attacked in so many areas, and even now it has been difficult to wrap my heart around solutions. If you’re covered with bruises and you only have so many ice packs, which injuries do you tend to first?

First for me, and first for anyone who may be reading wthis with a similar list of heartaches stretching before them, is to address any outlying spiritual concerns. I tend to conntct every event, be it pleasant or unpleasant, with my walk with the Lord, so I was really in a bit of a bind. When the hot water heater burst, we all became stressed; when we were stressed, we got impatient with each other; when we became impatient, things were said that we might later regret; when something critical but unspiritual was said to me, I decided that it was a reflection of how I was living before God and, what’s more, a reflection of His heart toward me. My beloved readers, don’t travel down that slippery slope—it’s one I know all too well, and it invariably ends in quicksand.

What got me out of my spiritual valley was a little book by Jennifer Rees-Larcombe entitled WHERE HAVE YOU GONE, GOD? In it, the author reiterated some truths about God’s love that my heart really needed to hear. Then, too, the fact of these difficult moments in our spiritual lives was treated seriously and sensitively, which I can’t say for very many writers/pastors/theologians/books/treatises/dissertations… You get the idea. So, that book was helpful, but as we all know, things like this are only a tool in the Lord’s hands. It was really my prayers for forgiveness, an acceptance of His love and grace, a few tearful pleas to “start anew”, and, above all, the ever-present love, compassion, and mercy of the Trinity that set me free from the spiritual part of this valley. Am I still tempted to proclaim myself outside of His care, especially in these last few days and especially when some carnal concern makes me feel like a failure? Yes, I am—but now I can take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, know that He will free me from them, and move forward in His joy and peace.

So, thus much of spiritual trials. Did my human suffering fade when I repented of last week’s sins and began to move forward in the Lord? Not quite. We’re still dealing with illness and anguish, pain in our hearts and aches in our bodies. But—don’t you know?—all of this is drawing me ever nearer to God, making me rely on Him more and more for every ounce of strength I possess.

At the moment, all of my furniture is outside my apartment, with boxes stacked against the dressers and headboard and tables. I am living in a small, unfurnished room that I have made comfortable and as home-like as possible just because it is my nature to do so. True, my “bed” is an air mattress on the floor, topped with a pillow-topper that I salvaged from the flood that threatened all of my apartment’s carefully-chosen accoutrements. The Faith Box, a large chest in which I keep anointing oil, Bibles, Communion wafers, and spiritual mementos, is now serving as a table. The rest of the room is filled to capacity with bags and boxes of things I did not wish to lose track of during this transition from old carpet to new.

What is my point in all of this? That the room in which I’m now staying, and the bits and pieces I’ve put into it, are almost symbolic. I have always named living spaces—Bethesda, Bethel, The Chapel, The Sanctuary. Accordingly, these new quarters are The Oasis. The Oasis, despite the unique circumstances. The Oasis because, though not a place of safety itself, it has come to represent a place of security. The Oasis, because it is here that I come when burdens are unbearable. The Oasis, because here almost more than ever, I seek and I find the presence of the Lord. His Shekinah glory is here. His light fills this place, even when my life and thoughts and day have seemed so dark. His comfort is constant—both in this physical room and in my day-to-day life, as I navigate our current trials. Here, I have seen and experienced and known with all my heart the holiness of God. Holy ground, even when my mouth is parched. Joyous ground, with plenty of manna. Awesome ground, even when the heat of circumstance presses in. Everything He provides here is all the more precious as I learn to trust Him more.

Am I enjoying all of this, every iota and each tiny detail? No, humanly speaking, I find it hard most of the time. But now, now more than ever, I’m being taught how to rely on the Lord, and on the Lord alone, to meet all of my needs. Minute by minute and day by day, I’m being given strength, wisdom, grace, mercy, peace, love, and even profound and inexpressible joy that surpasses all the fiery darts that the enemy could possibly hurl at me or my loved-ones.

Now, I understand Robin Mark’s prayer-song, “Jesus, don’t You keep me from that storm.” Now, too, I know what is meant by a few lines in that beautiful worship ballad “Just Let Me Say”:

Let me find You in the desert
Till this sand is holy ground,
And I am found completely surrendered
To You, my Lord and friend.

I will trust Him in the deserts of life, whether they be carnal and temporal wilderneses like our saga of the ruined carpet or more serious matters such as a wounded heart and a crushed spirit. Trust, surrender, relinquishment—”peace, wonderful peace”.

“Steady My Heart”

Back in 2012, I decided that I desperately needed a guide-dog to further my independence and enrich my travel experience. In August of that year, I was introduced to Natasha—and she has been a joy and delight to me. However, the actual training experience was difficult. I faced challenges with cherished friends, persecution from instructors and students, condescension at the church I attended during that time, severe sleep deprivation, and a constant fear of failure, all of which led to a period of extended melancholy once I returned home.

But I have written about this. Both on Epinions and on this blog, I have exhausted myself and my readers by dissecting everything that ever went wrong at The Training Center. I have wept and whined and whimpered over institutional food, accommodations, and treatment for so long that I had nearly forgotten the many blessings that the T.C. era held. Now, I believe that the Lord has laid it on my heart to elaborate upon all the blessings of that time. This will be the next step in my healing from traumatic memories—from the spiritual crisis of 2006 as well as from the anxiety and depression of 2012. Following, then, is the post I should have written years ago—all that the Lord did, both in great ways and smaller, to fill my heart with love for Him and for His servants during that month at the Training Center. Quite obviously, the blessing of my guide-dog was a great one—everything from learning the fundamentals of guide-work and of situation-specific commands to the laughter she brought during play, bonding, etc. So, all of that goes without saying. I’m actually here to discuss what the Lord did in a purely spiritual sense through and in the midst of the trials—the rainbows following every storm, His peace and promises illuminating my darkest night.

The day before I was to leave, I had dinner at an Italian restaurant. At the time, I could never have guessed that this cuisine would form a motif of sorts while I was in training, coming to represent comfort and consolation. At that evening’s meal, Naomi, Jedidiah, and Hannah busied themselves for a few minutes in taking some last-minute pictures, so I found some worship music to listen to. Actually, “worship music” is an understatement. What I found on my iPod was a seven-minute song in a foreign language—though, shamefully, I do not know exactly which one. I have music in Dutch, German, Afrikaans, Swahili… and without a good reference point, I’m really not sure what I was listening to. I do know that the song was congregational in nature and highly anointed, and that I have never been able to find it since. When you have over ten thousand songs on your iPod and ten thousand more media files besides (sermons, audio Bibles, etc.), some of your content tends to get lost in the SHUFFLE!—pun intended… The Lord will help me to find that song in His plan, His will, and His timing. Meanwhile, I will treasure it as a blessing for that season.

When I arrived at Center headquarters, I was met by a few things that filled my heart with joy. One, and perhaps the simplest, was an enormous, blue, velvet husband pillow with a small pocket for things like a voice recorder—or a remote control, if creativity has forsaken you. Immediately, I saw the potential of this pillow—to hug during homesick times, to use as an enveloper when in times of worship, and as a sound barrier against other students’ chatter and electronics. Just prop it up correctly so you have a wall and a nightstand on one side and a huge chair-back of a pillow on the other and—voila!—sweet, silent dreams. The pillow seemed to have been made for me, so much so that I tracked one down as soon as I got back home and have cherished it ever since. Then, there were the other touches of home. Dove soap in the bathroom, much like the very kind I had brought, baked zitti al forno for dinner that first night, iced tea available on demand… All of these small gestures allowed me to feel at ease and almost served as confirmation that I was at the correct training school.

My dorm room was two doors down from that of one of the instructors. Across from my room was the laundry facility, and many evenings I was treated to the tranquil hum of the dryer as students did their weekly washing. Just a few paces down the hall was the door leading outside–a quick escape during visiting and off-campus hours!, and a less tedious way for Naomi and Hannah to make their way into the building. One afternoon, the school’s director explained that she had actually assigned rooms with much careful thought–one student needed a room with amplification equipment attached to the telephone, another had had several guide-dogs and didn’t need to be so close to an instructor… What no one could have anticipated is that the school’s two wings came to take on more personal characteristics–there was the Quiet Wing and the Social Wing, which often had loud music blaring from one of its rooms. I was at the most silent end of the Quiet Wing. And, no, I do not believe that the arrangements were solely a director’s doing. The director may have known that this would be a good placement for me based on external factors, but only the Lord could have known how much I would come to cherish the silence that that particular placement afforded.
That first evening, we were all presented with our leashes. These are not ordinary leather leashes—you can’t buy them in a pet store. Later, we were given dog booties, feeding bowls and measuring cups, grooming supplies, treat pouches and, of course, our dogs’ individually-constructed harnesses. With each piece of equipment, I felt more and more like a potential graduate, a guide-dog handler, an independent woman, a non-cane traveler. It was like taking so many steps up a steep yet scenic mountain.

Although I did not have extensive opportunities to use the Center’s amenities, my month-long place of residence did feature a computer room, a library of Braille and audio books—including a teaching series on the New Testament!—a music room, a silence-filled living room that was seldom occupied and featured the most comfortable of sofas, and a coffee machine whose beverages, though not very tasty, warmed my heart on emotionally-chilly mornings. Moments spent in these places felt so much like home away from home and even afforded occasional opportunities for worship.

Neither did I get the chance to spend two, three, and four hours in Bible study and worship as I do now. Nevertheless, I clung to my heavenly Father in every way possible. Part of our daily training took place in a small town forty-five minutes away from the Center’s headquarters. What better way to use an hour and a half than to hold in my heart “In Your Presence, O God” or songs about Communion, or to read Luke and I Corinthians and Revelation? Then, too, there was a lot of waiting involved while other students worked with their dogs—more reading! Many of the students became curious, and few things during that time gave me greater delight than to explain exactly what I was reading—to demonstrate tangibly that these words of Scripture are breath and life to me. Now, most of the instructors were less than thrilled with my reading choice—they indicated to me that they thought my carrying a two-pound book bordered on a waste of that right arm of mine and implied in their conduct toward me that they would have liked it if I had spent those round-trips chatting or listening to their music. But…

Then, there was Student Intern. She was a treasure, a gem, a jewel. In Matthew 10, Jesus said, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a rightous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And if anyone gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is My disciple, assuredly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” Well, part of this intern’s service did include furnishing all of us students with water, coffee, etc., following our work sessions—it was just was just something she and some of the instructors did. But Student Intern was far more than an instructor-in-training. I’ll never forget the days she saw my distress and talked with me about church, about having a gentle heart and being a fruitful tree, about how well Natasha and I were doing—especially on the days I feared we might not graduate, much less that we were actually doing well. Difficult though it may be to imagine, we had no Christian radio stations at this institution—I know this because Student Intern spent a tireless half-hour carefully tuning the radio in my room and listening to everything she found in hopes of presenting me with some glimpse of CCM. In a season in which most of my instructors referred disdainfully to my Bible as “that BOOK!”, Student Intern sometimes retrieved it from my room if I forgot it, usually with a sort of sad compassion in her voice as she said, “Here’s your Bible—I’ll just put it over here…” On days when she saw me frantically typing on one of the Center’s computers, she must have deduced that I was doing something urgent (indeed, I was usually writing E-mails begging for prayer), and on these occasions she would be uncommonly compassionate about pulling me away. “Lunch in five minutes… Are you coming?” Since I knew that this was not really an optional meal, but a training experience and sometimes a time for a mini-lesson, I would accompany her, only to find that she deliberately placed me at a table with other Christians. Cold, refreshing water.

So long as I am writing about servants of God, I cannot exempt the housekeeping staff from my pen-and-paper portrait of life at the Center. I met the woman who cleaned most of our rooms once and she was beyond kind. Later, I found that it was she who had placed the husband pillows in our rooms. Every evening, I tend to spread spiritual things out all around me, topping the whole bed with reminders and symbols of His glory. On any typical evening, I might cover myself with some great piece of cloth representing His covering, hold a print Bible in a worn case, keep a Braille Bible lying next to me, and have two or three prayer cloths pinned to various pillows. I carried on that tradition at the Center—the pillows, of course, being housed in my own cases, cases that were more than able to withstand my safety-pinning efforts. No, I never once damaged Center property for the sake of my spiritual reminders. In the early days of training, I used to make an effort to keep everything as tidy as possible—both so the housekeeping staff wouldn’t have to, and so that I could keep personal things in the Lord between myself and Him. One day, though, I ran out of time to perfect my surroundings and just left everything as it was. When I returned that afternoon, I not only found everything put in order, but my Bible and the other things I treasured had been handled with such careful deliberation, yet with such evident joy and artistry, that I almost wondered whether the woman who had been in to clean had known what everything was and felt spiritually about it the way I did. I can’t explain what she did—it was just tiny, almost-imperceptible nuances. For example, I believe in placing Bibles on top of other objects rather than covering them up—no journals on top of a stack of Bibles! This kind woman had stacked everything together, with my Bible on top, just the way I would have done it. Her folding mirrored mine, as did some of her other arrangements. Pillows with prayer cloths affixed to them were placed up-front and center, propped against pillows without handkerchiefs and safety-pins decorating their surfaces—things like that. “She saw this kind of thing,” you will insist. “She saw what you did and she replicated it.” How do you explain, then, the fact that I had never arranged anything like that while I was at the Center, but had kept everything hidden away where she wouldn’t have found it unless she was very, very unethical? And, even if she had found it, how do you explain those specific arrangements, folds, placements? From that point on, I stopped being quite so maniacal about keeping everything in perfect order, taking the housekeeping staff’s services as a blessing from God and something that, really, I had no time to do myself unless I was willing to get up even earlier than I already did—and for what? To prove myself? And every day that I left things in slight disarray, I returned to my room to see the same beautiful arrangements of everything that was precious to me. That child of God knew—she knew.

There was a little Italian restaurant nearby. Its name is irrelevant, but its asparagus-stuffed raviolis, complete with smoked mozarella, are not. Again, we harken back to the Italian food of the evening before I departed. These raviolis came to symbolize everything being right in the world of Ready-Writer. You see, part and parcel of my experience at the Center were the profound feelings of displacement and disorientation. I do not exaggerate when I write that I felt like a person who had been rendered suddenly unconscious, only to wake up in a foreign country—though which one would not become apparent for days. All I knew was that, all around me, a foreign language was being spoken, unusual cuisine—emotional, spiritual, and, if I’m being honest about the institution’s cooking, tangible—had been set before me, alien customs surrounded me, and I had no idea what to do in such an unfamiliar culture. Actually, if I had found myself deported to Germany or Thailand or Kuwait, I might have felt more at home more quickly. Everything at the Center, from the concrete floors to the isolation to the new ways of governing my life with Natasha to the mistreatment of other students that I saw daily was entirely estranged from the way of life I had always known. And so, I did things to center myself and to remind myself of who I still was in Christ Jesus—again, if I’m being honest with myself, I was afraid I would lose that passion for the Gospel. And so, I journaled. I described the bracelet that held spiritual value, talked about the other students and how God could use them, discussed my love for our Lord, filled entire ten-minute recorded journaling sessions with my interpretations of Scripture… And then, there were the minor earthly blessings. I kept hummus in my room, used frankincense-and-myrrh soap, and wore a waist pack with a little cross-shaped keychain dangling from it. I listened, day by day, to the recordings of family members—both those that they sent while I was at the Center and those from much earlier times. When Naomi and Hannah came to do infusions—the Center’s nurse wasn’t licensed to infuse that specific medication!—they always brought along a chai, which I held in my heart and sipped with all possible deliberation just before bed on those precious nights. When I took my meals with the other students, I usually made sure to bring at least one thing from my own supply—I would eat the rubbery spaghetti, but I brought a frapuccino to go with it, or occasionally I simply brought my own full meal. All of this somehow became encompassed in asparagus-and-smoked-mozarella-stuffed raviolis. That dish came to represent all possible gentleness, peace, tranquility, and calm, for I only ordered it when I knew that, somehow, I would survive my travels “abroad”—even if I never really assimilated into the culture.

Earthly blessings, those, but provided by God nevertheless. Another string of joys lay in that ubiquitous recorder of mine. I remember wandering the halls one day and hearing the dryer in the laundry room. Immediately, I ran to my own dorm room, retrieved the digital voice recorder from the pocket of that exquisite husband pillow, and made my way as quickly as possible back to the laundry facility, only to find an instructor there. Of course, I then had to explain that to record the dryer was to record themes of purity and wholesomeness… In so doing, a profound connection was established—if only for a time. Then, there were those chimes. They hung near the door of one of the Center’s other training facilities, reminding me of the dancing, singing chimes at home which I had always referred to as the Northern Lights for their beauty. Oh, I saw to it that Student Intern recorded the campus chimes! And when Hannah and Naomi came, as medical necessity dictated, they always had a digital voice recorder with them—Bible passages, songs, prayers, old books… But the recorder wasn’t always merely for recordings. Once, my recorder’s alarm went off while I was in the van and, while I fiddled with the machine in an attempt to silence it, the entire backseat was treated to a minute and a half of Paul Wilbur’s nine-minute rendering of “In Your Presence, O God”. Yes, that recorder was a blessing.

So was the instructor’s radio. Not always—certainly not! I never did develop a passion for the popular and hard-rock music that seemed to run rampant during that time. But there was one day when, while browsing through stations, the instructor accidentally stopped on Christian music. She didn’t keep it there long, but I had heard thirty seconds of Kari Jobe’s “Steady My Heart”, and that was enough. I had not heard Christian music on any radio in weeks; that briefest of intervals helped me to see that I was not alone, not forsaken in a place in which even my church attendance was an anomaly. Then, on 17 August, the day I had received the Holy Spirit ten years earlier, Instructor of Mine decided to listen to country music. When a Christian-oriented song, entitled “I Saw God Today”, played, she made no move to change it. I think it must have been the Holy Spirit keeping her hands on the steering wheel, because her silence and failure to change the station were out-of-character for her. And so, I sat back and let references to the things of the Lord wash over me, filling some of the emptiness I felt and lighting up the darkness around me.

But do you know what might just have been greater than the radio and the recorder? The rain! I was the only student who relished walking in it, who cherished every raindrop and every clap of thunder. One day, when the others decided to seek refuge from the rain, I requested special permission to go out and work with Natasha in the downpour. Instructor of Mine brought an umbrella, under whose shelter I was a very reluctant participant. Personally, I think that getting soaked—not sprinkled upon, but so drenched that you need to change your clothes and wring out your wet outfit—is one of life’s greatest pleasures and never worth missing out on for the sake of convention. As it was, I did need a towel when I arrived back at the Center. You know why this was so special? Because I experience in the rain and snow what most of you experience when you see a rainbow, or a fabulous sunset, or a towering tree, or the moon and stars—I witness God’s majestic creation. So, that rain-walk was a heart-saturating moment for me. As was the time I tripped and fell, believe it or not. I was not paying attention during one of Natasha’s supervised work sessions, and sleep-deprivation caused me to stumble over my own feet. I wasn’t hurt—a tad bit scraped up, perhaps, but not seriously injured. And do you know what I thought even as my shoes-on-asphault contact gave way to knees-on-graveled-dirt? “Oh, yes, kneeling before Him—always the place to be. And this soil, now running through my fingers and down my shins, is yet one more moment of His creation. What a wholesome fall this is!”

From tangibles to God’s creation… what comes next? Do you know, my beloved readers? The things of the Lord!—they are what spring from this journal of joy. You see, He was so close to me during that time. Since I didn’t have hours to read and study His Word, the moments I did have became more precious, and I found myself studying each verse in more minute detail. In a month in which church attendance and especially Communion were rare and elusive, I came to delight in both in a new way. Actually, I take private Communion every evening—then, now, and as long as the Lord convicts me to do so—but grape juice was scarce. Having real Communion elements—grape juice rather than water or sugary grape drink—took on new meaning and significance, as did songs about remaining strong in Jesus, staying true to who He had made me, and even a few worship anthems about Communion itself. John 1:43-50 wrapped itself around my heart then and I have never lost sight of it, even to this day. Like opportunities to take Communion, fellowship with other believers was rare, so I delighted in it all the more when it did happen—all someone had to do was mention that his church had a special outreach ministry, and my heart filled with joy at having found a brother in Christ.

Oh, the joy! When I couldn’t read the Word due to time constraints, I read memoirs like DANCING WITH MAX, an excellent book about grace in which the author describes the joys and blessings of raising a son on the autism spectrum—more a Christian devotional about patience and love, though, than a typical disability/parenting memoir. Or that book called CELEBRATE JESUS, relating the stories behind many common praise and worship choruses. Not for one moment, not for one millisecond, did the Lord ever forsake me—I always knew His presence, His nearness. And in it all, even during the worst of trials, there was joy, joy, joy! Joy so great and extensive that people always asked me why I was in such an unrestrainedly enthusiastic mood. Joy that elevated simple pleasures to lofty heights. Joy that caused me to cry out, “Hosanna! Hosanna!” at every turn. “Hosanna” in both senses of the word—”hallelujah, praise Him”, yes, but also, “O, save!” Keep me safe, for You are able…

Then, there were His gifts. You know, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are always given according to God’s will, and often distributed according to need. There may be more need for the gift of healing in a place of illness, for example, than for a person to only pray in the Spirit—but there may be more need for the gift of tongues than healing in, say, a country that has never heard the Gospel, if some of the inhabitants are to hear God’s Word proclaimed in a language that they can understand (see Acts II). The same thing applies to the gift of discernment—or, as I Corinthians XII calls it, “the discerning of spirits”. All I know is that, halfway through most meals, I often sensed that there was something spiritually amiss in my surroundings, and particularly as it pertained to a specific faculty member. There was a profound sense of oppression, and it was often at these times that I felt I needed to pray more fervently or to leave the premises. Later, I learned a bit more about some of the circumstances surrounding this faculty member and, sure enough, it included condescention and emotional mistreatment of another student, as well as some spiritual confusion. God had been protecting me and showing me how to pray. Discernment in action!—and I was so very grateful for it. But, you know, that gift isn’t given only to protect us from spiritually-compromising situations—it can sometimes be used to help us see our brothers and sisters in Christ, or to simply see things a little more clearly through His eyes. During the third week of training, all of us traveled to the state’s largest and most populated city. While strolling sidewalks and making my way under the overhangs of various shops, I inhaled the fragrance of spices and leather goods, exotic foods and beautifully unique knickknacks and suddenly began to imagine the people behind all those doors. I prayed for many of them, rejoiced at the thought of those who knew of our wonderful Lord, and really prayed for the Lord to sustain and fill those whom I thought might be feeling empty or despondent. Time and again, I found myself thinking, “Oh, you behind that metal-and-glass frame, whoever you are, Jesus loves you so much!” It was a glorious experience, and one I am actually hard-pressed to describe adequately. More of His grace.

And His holiness! I remember one day being given exquisite, glorious news from Hannah and Naomi. Then, due to a very minor injury that nevertheless precluded Natasha and I working together, I was given the day off. Off, to rest and sleep more deeply than I had in weeks. Off, to allow worship music to float through my heart. Off, to take a meal in semi-solitude. And especially, as all of this was going on, to find that Isaiah ch. Vi, was penetrating all those barriers I had established and melting my heart—every word about the seraphim and their cries of “Holy!” That time of having Isaiah’s awesome vision impressed upon my heart stayed with me, even until I arrived home, and during those first few days of re-orienting myself to home life, I found worship music that bespoke His holiness. Without it, you know, I could never have survived…

What am I saying? I’m saying that God has the power, and the love, mercy, compassion, and faithfulness, to truly work all things together for good for those who love Him. I’m saying that, despite the anguish that prevailed during and after my time at the Center, God never did abandon me—and He will never abandon you either, no matter what you may be going through. “Even when it hurts,/ Even when it’s hard, / Even when it all just falls apart…” Then we all must run to Him, the Binder of our wounds and “healer of [our] scars”, trusting in His protection and provision even when we neither see His face nor hear His voice nor feel His presence. His love endures forever—after many long years of wondering why my time at the Center had to culminate in so prolonged a period of heartache, I know that He was, is, and always will be my Rock, my Deliverer, my place of refuge, my strength, my song, and my salvation. “And that my soul knows very well…”

Addendum: Although I have been creating a whirlwind of worship music that must resemble a mixed metaphor to some of you, the title for this piece is taken from that thirty-second clip of a song with which the Lord so richly blessed me. Find Kari Jobe’s “Steady My Heart” on the album THE ACOUSTIC SESSIONS.

Restoration and Holiness, Part V: “Take My Life and Let It Be”…

Back in 2004, I was researching Christian music when I came upon a little review on epinions.com. The reviewer, a delightfully humble woman, was describing music that her children had found enjoyable–an album that I had had when I was very young, but which had been destroyed through repeated run-ins with uncooperative FisherPrice tape players. Well, I enjoyed the review so much that I decided to buy the music–for old time’s sake, don’t you know?–and, I must say, I found the reviewer herself so beautiful in the Lord that I began checking Epinions daily for anything new she might have posted. I was going through some difficult external circumstances and seeing other Christians loving Jesus was a rare thing at that time, so I thought that reading this wonan’s writings was one of the most enriching experiences I could possibly hope to have. CindyJean, if you ever stumble upon this blog through some inexplicable series of circumstances, know that although I never got to know you personally, the Holy Spirit used you for two-and-a-half years to salve the lonely, aching heart of at least one person.

Well, following that exposure to Epinions, I began to wonder whether that community had other like-minded individuals, or brilliant writers on other subjects, or both. I did some digging and found countless reviews, essays, poems, recipes, and other snatches of joyful life. That community was home in 2004, when I first began investigating it–it was filled with heart and warmth and sincerity, all characteristics that I felt were lacking in my own life. I wanted to be a part of that community–I did!–but I tend to take life rather seriously, so I didn’t join until 2007. By then, I knew the site’s policies, culture, prominent members, and most popular or discussed reviews inside out. I had come up with a user ID months before even considering joining, and when it actually came time to set down my personal information, I was practically considering myself a member of the community.

One of the first things I had to do, of course, was to befriend all of those whose lovely writing I had come to know. In order to do this, I had to write some smashing pieces of my own. I loved books–the printed ones that fill a house with frgrance, but also the Books category–and I admired many of the more prolific reviewers in that category. The best way to hobnob with the elite was to read much of what they were reading. And so, I began to devour books I might never have read before. I developed a high awareness of invisible disabilities through various memoirs, devoured autobiographical sketches of adventurers who had experienced everything from deliberate homelessness to a horrible avalanch, and even tried my hand at reviewing a few best-sellers (at least at that time) like Lisa Genova’s STILL ALICE. I read about Laura Bridgman and Charles Dickens, studied the lives of great philosophers and thinkers, and contemplated the merits of nearly anything I could find on Project Gutenberg from THE ADVENTURES OF MAYA THE BEE to an obscure and much-outdated book of housekeeping hints. Then, too, because many of the reviewers whose acquaintance I wished to make were either teachers or well-read parents, there wasthe whole realm of children’s books to delve into. And did I ever! Schneider Family Book Awards, Newberry Awards, Young Readers’ Choice Awards–I read them all, as well as anything I could find that was entirely unrecognized but showed promise. Some of it I reviewed, the rest I just stored somewhere in my memory banks. Enrichment reading, I called it–not Christ-centered, per se, but certainly capable of expanding the mind.

Then, gradually, Epinions began to fade from my life. First, I ceased reviewingfor a bit; then, when I saw that circumstances would be more condusive to my blogging than to continued activity on Epinions, I wrote a message to my precious community explaining that I would be taking my writing elsewhere. And shortly after that, Epinions.com itself disabled all community activities. Yet, even after my review site had vanished, and with it the need to compose reviews, I continued in reading enrichment works. Oh, some of them disturbed me very much. Was it really necessary for the author of a memoir about exceptional memory strengths to use such invective? Could not the woman who wrote about children’s school lunches have been a bit more… reverent? or was it relevant to her work to insert entire paragraphs that mocked and denegrated the Christian faith? I didn’t see the correlation… And the books for young people, these days! Perhaps that makes me sound old-fashioned, but I could never quite conceive of how children were being taught from third grade on up some of the ideals that authors everywhere seemed to be instilling. It’s all right to lie if you don’t get caught? Keep your problems from parents and teachers? Tolerance may be embraced but true kindness is for whimps? The whole thing made me feel grieved, but I kept on–out of habbit, I suppose, and because lingering brokenness in my own heart kept me from seeing what I was doing. Day-by-day “enrichment” was something to do when I felt too terrified to face the Lord in prayer, or to sit in silence and contemplate His beauty–or when I simply felt too depressed and traumatizzed to do anything save retreat into myself.

Why this long, drawn-out introduction? Because a destination is always sweeter if you have to drive quite awhile to reach it. In other words, there is a point to this ramble, but we’re taking the scenic route today. As we travel along, may I take this opportunity to state most emphatically that the experiences I relate here are not intended to instruct or advise any of my readers, and that whatever you do is probably very rewarding in your own life–don’t stop. However, I have always been very sensitive to life and I have a specific calling, so what applies to me may not necessarily apply to you. Some are called to expand their minds in certain areas in order to relate to a specific group of people; if that is you, then please take everything I sy with a grain of salt.

Now then, back to the multi-part series I began several weeks ago and which I had temporarily abandoned. I left off with 8 May. The Lord had just promised to fill my heart with joy and restore to me all the joy, peace, and servant-hearted obedience I had lost during my eight-year struggle with a small but painful shard of spiritual anguish. I had accepted thse promises joyfully, but had stumbled almost immediately and had nearly decided to give up, feeling that NOW the Lord might never restore me. He had different plans…

The next day, Friday, 9 May, I put my plans to hide and return to a life of unhappiness into action–untentionally, ’tis true, but that is in essence what I did. A trip to the online library, some audiobook downloads, and my plan was well underway. I tore through recording after recording, and in-between those moments, I occupied myself with electronic literature. Many children’s books, a few memoirs, innumerable of bitter and angry words cascading down upon my cracked and weary heart, then swirling about me in a tumultuous whirlwind. It was like deliberately breaking a fast by eating a whole box of those little goldfish crackers.

Much later in the day, when scrap of half-read books lay around my mind in crumpled heaps, the Lord so very gently showed me what I had been doing. Book by book, I realized what I had been filling my mind with all day. And then, there was the most joyful conviction, the most necessary and tender and loving chastening from the Holy Spirit. Why, I had been wasting my time, when I could have been spending it in the Lord. I was running and hiding from Him, and that was not right. Then, too, He had created my memory to be extremely strong–did I not realize that this kind of reading had the potential to stay in my heart and affect me, not for a day or two, but for years to come? In those moments, I remembered a book I had read when I was eight–not evil, exactly, but very morbid–and how, eighteen years later, I had dreamed that I was one of the protagonists and had, in those few hours of sleep, remembered the full text of the 250-page book nearly from start to finish. What if I gave up enrichment reading for a prescribed amount of time–say, one month and ten days–and devoted that time to Him?

My heart fell to its knees in that moment, and I resolved to begin such a time the very net morning. Really, I wasnot expecting much–I knew only that I was to begin a time without enrichment reading and, by extension, without selfishness, anger, bitterness, or despair, inasmuch was humanly possible for me at that time, on 10 May. I would end said timeframe on the evening of 18 June. Such a wonderful groundwork laid, and then those glorious blessings began pouring in–as early as 11 May, to be exact. But that is a story for Part VI… Really, I don’t mean to be dragging this out, but there is so much to say, and it must be told with all the detail it deserves. Parts VI and VII are particularly special, though, so if you’ve been reading this entire series through, be on the lookout for them.

Addendum: From the hymn “Take My Life and Let It Be”. I’ve always been blessed by the version on Christ for the Nation’s album OVERTAKEN.