Friday, January 18, 2013

Above All Things...

Walk into a space filled with people, a restaurant, a store --- it works anywhere you happen to find yourself with others. And just imagine over every person's head a bubble caption appearing for your eyes only. On the captions, what if God allowed you to glimpse into their hidden lives. The places they work so hard to keep hidden when others come near them.
The hurts they cover.
The wounds they are nursing.
The things they most fear that are looming near, suffocating them --- but they feel they must keep hidden --- to maintain their appearance of "normalcy" in this performance driven world.
Or imagine if the bubble revealed the thing they most despised about themselves.
Or the hardship they would face in the next 12 months.
What if you could know ----- by some divine revelation ---- what had hurt them most in the past or what would grieve them most on their horizon.

Would you look at them differently?
Would you care for them more?
Would you be able to look past their aloof, pretentious, pasted on exterior ---- and love them deeply?

This has been an ongoing occurrence for me for several months now.

I sit in polished rooms filled with polished people doing polished things with polished smiles and feel overwhelming love and care for the unpolished hidden parts they carry.

It's one way God overflows His Grace.
To know there is more than your eye can see ---- and it's the "more" that matters the most.

And God's response to that "more" ---- "donna, love them --- really love them ---- don't just fake love them because i command my kids to love others --- but really love them --- because nothing matters more to Me!"

This new way of thinking began a few years back for me --- in such an odd/funny way.

I was driving down our local expressway when a car sped up behind me, rode on my bumper for half a mile, then whizzed by me narrowly missing a car in another lane. The old donna --- well she would have been critical of the dangerous maneuver and hopeful a police car was waiting around the next curve.  But on this particular day a new thought came ----- what if that guy has... ----- well, what if he needs... ---- pardon me here, what if he is having serious stomach cramps and is in desperate need of a porcelain throne (after all he is acting like he's king of the highway). What if wild diarrhea is knocking in his gut -------
Well -- while he should drive more carefully for sure ---- i could honestly understand his mad dash between cars in an effort to ---, "save the day"(or at least his clothes).

So while his unkind actions on the highway were inappropriate ---- i actually began laughing right out loud as i slowly, safely made my way home with my calm, peaceful digestive system. God is good.

Since that day --- every rear-ender that has invaded by car-space ---- i've seen in a different light.
It's true. They might simply be an unkind, selfish person acting as if their agenda mattered more than mine. But God had given me a perspective that allows peaceful grace to flow --- and i'm all for that.

Mark Gungor shares a story in his book "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" that fosters this same new perspective regarding others. The story goes...

"... one Sunday morning on a subway in New York, people were sitting quietly --- some reading newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed. It was a calm, peaceful scene.
Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car. The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed. 
The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people's papers. It was very disturbing. And yet, the man sitting next to me did nothing.
It was difficult not to feel irritated. I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all. It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated too. So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, 'Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?'
The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, 'Oh, you're right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think, and I guess they don't know how to handle it either'..."

Perspective - the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

Grace changes our perspective.
Perspective promotes Grace.

Steve and i stood in a busy restaurant recently (a date night gift from friends). The place was packed, people were up close and personal all around. Close enough that we could too easily hear several loud conversations going on around us. One was angry over the wait, another wanted to wait in the bar but was ill with her companion for not wanting to join her there, another was flirting with her date, on and on it went. A verbal menagerie of sorts.
I leaned over to my dear Steve and said ---- "just imagine if every person here had a revealing bubble over their head."  
"What would be written on the bubble?" he asked.
"You get to pick", i said. "It could be what they are thinking right now or what they are working so hard to hide or what they have just endured this year or what the coming year will painfully require of them."
Steve said, "oh goodness, if we could see those things, we'd love them like crazy no matter what was coming out of their mouths wouldn't we."

"Yes --- we would..." 

oh donna ---- be sure and do that --- even without bubbles.

It's one of the ways i'm being transformed --- changed --- remodeled. God -- and only God -- is good.

"And above all things be earnest in your love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins." 1 Peter 4:7

(photos from internet - caption bubbles added for this post --- thank you Maggie :)

©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Did you see Him? Were you looking?

How many times yesterday did you see God?
Did you expect to? Were you looking for Him?

As a little girl, i thought seeing God would surely be overwhelmingly scary or intensely holy. I imagined angels would likely be singing or lightning would be crashing (depending on His disposition towards me at the time). But being a daughter full grown now, and sitting with His Chapters to me, and feeling His sure kindnesses to me when i most do not deserve them --- i know seeing God does not involve angel choirs or angry lightening bolts.

I see Him often, in the ways He chooses to show Himself. And DAILY Abba puts Himself right in front of us kids ---- hoping we will notice, His touch, His visit, His presence right here with us.

David saw Him too. In Psalm 27:13 David wrote, "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."

David was confident he would see God's goodness ---- around him --- among the living. And while David was the extra-ordinary in his day ---- the boy who killed a bear and a lion, grew into the teen who killed a giant, became a king who killed thousands in battle --- David was still just a skin covered man. 

But perhaps one of the things that made David seem so elite, was his desire to choose to see God.
He wanted to see Him, he needed to see God, he knew he could draw strength and confidence if he could sense the certain presence of the One who would carry him through. 
David also knew ---- the enemy of our God (who by default becomes the enemy of God's children as well), was constantly on the prowl looking for something or someone to devour. We are set up to be consumed when we see the pain of this world around us ----- if we don't take time to stop and see the "goodness of the Lord".  Seeing the former without choosing to focus on the latter will lead us down a dangerous path of fear and timidity and insecurity. We will focus on all that could defeat us ----- and miss all that is actually there to strengthen us and fit us well for the battle this side of Heaven.

The more powerful the walk of a child of God ---- the more focused that child will be on "seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living". Period.
The weaker the walk --- the more focused they are on sensing all the dead men walking around them.  Not literally dead (no zombie reference here), but figuratively dead. Dead men walking are those who have no life in them --- they're just functioning, reactionary, frightened, angry skin covered bones. 

David stood in front of a giant ---- a 9 foot tall warrior ----- but David saw the strength of the Lord in 5 smooth stones.
David ran from Saul ---- the king who wanted to kill him ---- and while his heart grieved within him, David still chose to see God's goodness in the faithfulness of his men around him the kindness of those who helped him. 

So ----- i ask myself daily ---- donna, how are you seeing God today? Are you pausing to notice His goodness around you? Are you leaning into your Abba for strength to meet what is required of you today? 
It's true, i likely will not have a 9 foot warrior giant looking to cut me down today. But giants come in all different shapes and sizes. There are "giants" among us, looking to cut us down. We NEED to focus on Abba, we need to see Him daily.

I'll name a couple of giants that quite regularly pull their sword in my direction ----- 
Fear, fear that i won't be enough, that i'll come to the end of my days and then realize what the right answers should have been, that those i love the most would be better off with someone else holding their hand...
That's an UGLY cruel giant there --- but God takes Him down with one smooth stone --- when i cry out to my Abba and ask Him to save me from the lies and condemnations that giant flings my way.
Next -- there's the giant rejection. Rejection sneers with its ugly sword when we're excluded, left out, ignored, and seemingly forgotten about by those we love and longed to include in our lives. But Abba -- He has much to say against rejection --- He chose to pack His Bible full of verses that sharpen the edge of the sword HE uses to cut down the giant of rejection. "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" Psalm 34:18, "But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made Him my refuge..." Psalm 73:28 

David had his giant(s) ----- we do too.
But David chose to see "the goodness of the Lord" in the land of the living". The next verse in Psalms 27 reads, "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." v.14
If we rush through life, never waiting, never watching for all the ways God is showing Himself to us, we can be certain of this ---- we will feel weak and defeated day after day, moment after moment. 

We NEED to pause and watch --- and "see the goodness of the Lord". 
Yesterday, in one day ---- here's some of the ways i "saw" Abba, felt Him draw near, and strengthen this weak daughter's clay vessel:
- a warm cup of perfect coffee in my hand as a dear lady prayed over me (i ask her to meet with me every Monday morning, because i know, the goodness of God draws near when she ministers to me).
- Steve's hand reaching for mine
- a text from my daughter saying "i'm here safe mom, i love you"
- laughing 
- having groceries to put away in cabinets (too many have neither groceries nor cabinets...)
- sunshine coming through the car window -- warming me
- the way Steve's eyes rest on me and he smiles
- Peter handing me the gazillionth dandelion chased with a hug
- taking 1 hour of time to put on old clothes, sit in the grass, and feel fur covered unconditional love in my lap (if people loved as well as my cats and dog --- well, we'd already be in Heaven)
- a van full of warm hearts and kind words pulling into our drive, introducing us to those they love, sharing them with us - streams in this desert world
- a dinner table with plenty of food and dear souls surrounding it, family and friends
- Michael's gentle sincere words "thank you momma" dinner was so good
- warm water to wash away the grime of the day
- a husband that wants to lay down beside me -- again and again -- 
- receiving words of more support for the work ahead of us
- laying down in peace -- in a troubled world --- He gives us green pastures beside still waters
and truthfully, i could go on and on (but you get the idea)

Some might say --- well those are just the happenings of a good day.
I know that statement to be untrue.
Nothing good comes to us --- except by the hand of God. So when something good passes our way, we are wise sons and daughters if we pause and take note ----
that was "the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living"...

If we spent one day, 24 hours, and felt not one good thing around us ------ nothing kind or soft or gentle or peaceful ----- we would better know then what it feels like to not have the goodness of the Lord pass our way.

Linger in the goodness ---- tarry with it a while.

And don't waste time focusing on how we would prefer to see or feel His goodness! God will not be controlled in that way.
We either take the goodness He gives, or we hold hands with one of those ugly giants.

As for me ---- when the sun comes up ever morning --- that's my clue to open my eyes and begin seeing "the goodness of the Lord"

(as i write this post, i wipe tears -- for 9 years i've been so blessed to feel the goodness of God flow through my son Peter's redbone hound dog named Ridge. Ridge is/has been a fur covered messenger, a reminder --- of God's goodness. He's a dog --- but he understands and gives unconditional love better than any human i've ever met. I have learned much from him. When he has run to greet me everyday for these past 9 years --- i have felt loved and cared for --- even when the world and people might have kicked me around a bit --- Ridge has loved, daily. But today, because of uncontrollable medical problems, Ridge will breathe his last. if love could fix him --- well, he would be well already. But today, i will choose to thank God for the goodness He has shown me in the wonderful fur covered presence of Ridge. ---- oh how i hope i'll hear his sweet hound-dog bark when i finally get home...
Thank you Ridge --- for your sweet, sweet love.
Thank you God for sharing him with us.) 

©2013 Donna Taylor/Reaching for the Robe