Monday, March 11, 2019

Dwell in the Shelter of the Most High, Rest in the Shadow of the Almighty

Dwelling in Your shelter, resting in Your shadow.

Is it real? Is it possible? Or are those just words printed on ancient pages spoken long ago by a clever king?

“He who dwells in the shelter of the most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Psalm 91:1

When the hard days roll 'round, we've got to have something we hold on to.

So i say to myself, ---- “donna, where are you dwelling?”
It's a simple, hugely important question. Where are you dwelling ? Mentally?

I've learned that where i'm dwelling physically doesn't matter nearly as much as where i'm dwelling mentally......... spiritually.........emotionally.
Took me years to get that piece settled in my bones.

Truth is, where i'm dwelling physically can even end up being a distraction from where I need to be dwelling mentally.
Remove all the wonderfulness of being in a comfortable place. Go through the personal “fire” of letting go of all that you thought mattered so much. Lay down the house, the stuff, the familiar wonderfulness of all you've nested up around you -------- lay it all down and go to an uncomfortable, unfamiliar place and if we let Him ----- He will show us Himself in ways we might never have seen Him in that nest of comfortable.
That laying down can happen in about a million different ways. No one way is more powerful or important than the other. What's important is that we allow it to come to us.

Look around you and you'll find so many souls who have refused to lay down their life.
They will not consider it ----- because maybe it makes absolutely no sense to them. That's only because they haven't yet let themselves feel the touch of His hand or heard His still small voice saying, “Come away with me.”
It's ok. It's not that they are bad or even selfish. It's mostly that they don't know how to get from where they are to the place He can take them. It's that they don't know how and they haven't been brought to the place where they “let go” and “let Him” do what only He can do.
And maybe they're wildly afraid of even considering it.

I wasted so many years pointing my fingers at others. If you're one of those dear souls I pointed at ---- you likely never knew it ---- I was a closet pointer. Pointing at others with a criticalness that only reflected my own ugly heart of frustration towards myself. I knew I couldn't get from where I was “dwelling” to where I wanted to be -------- so I pointed at others who weren't there yet either.
What an exhausting, ugly way of half-living.

Then the good One began reworking me from the inside out. He began pulling my “nest” apart long before He moved me out of the home where I perched. Abba began shifting my thoughts. I asked Him to. I profoundly remember sitting on my front porch with a blanket wrapped around me on a cold winter morning and saying, “Fix me Lord. I'm not who you call me to be, i'm not who I want to be. I'm not who my family needs me to be, i'm wasting time on lesser things, when surely You had more in mind.” Nothing actually happened in that moment, but something began to move. I kept knocking and asking for help from Him.

I had to come to the end of myself. My ways.
I was “dwelling” in places that were consuming me.
Imagine that. We people can live in a type of symbiotic existence with our mental/emotional nests of comfort. It supplies us with a place to lay our thoughts ------ while we provide it (un-alive as it is) with our devoted presence.
My mental, emotional, and physical energies were focused on levels of living that spoke more of “this world” than they did of “the shelter of the Most High”.

There are three types of souls reading this.
Those who get it, because the same Daddy-God has opened their eyes to it.
Those who have no idea what i'm talking about and probably haven't even read this far.
And those who are aching over the realization that they no longer want to remain in the mental/emotional/physical nest they've worked so hard to create around them.

The first group ---- i'm hugging you on your good (albeit hard) journey.
The second group ---- i'm literally praying for you as I pen these words ---- you've got a storm coming that will scoot you towards the next group. I pray you make it all the way to the the first group.
The third group ----- oh don't feel alone in the Holy shift. If you'll hang in there for the climb, you're about to get to step into places you never imagined possible. Places of freedom (and loss), where you can breathe deeply and lay many things down. A place where you understand more, have less confusion, where you'll see and you'll care, you'll no longer judge and compare. But it's not an easy climb. Moving is always hard. Always.

“The one who dwells in the shelter of the most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”--- eat every morsel of those words.

We simply can not dwell in God's shelter and remain in our own place. We've got to be willing to let Him move us w-h-e-r-e-v-e-r He wants to.
Over and over again I hear people say things like, “Oh I love God with all my heart ---- but I could never go.............. and do...............” and I get it. Who chooses to free-fall into the unknown? I'd guess a very small percentage of people would choose it. But, many of us just knew we couldn't live without it.

----- we are living a half-faith-life if we can say with one breath, “I love the Lord with all my heart” ----- and then insist on having it our (human-self) way. The two pieces can never fit side-by-side. The two pieces can exist in the same life ------- but they are not connected. It produces a divided way of living.

That's the painful reality.

It's what so many people who have stepped away from the church say they have seen. Seeing the church say one thing ----- but living another thing. And oh God help us all ----- haven't we Christians done it so poorly. I have. But may it not be so now.

If I want to “dwell in the shelter of the most High”, I must not insist on living in another shelter (one that i've created and one i can manage). My emotional, mental, spiritual dwelling must be in the place He is found.
And oh the goodness that when ---- I move to that shelter ------ I can breathe “in the shadow of the Almighty”.

Is this making sense?
I'm not talking about the physical place we lay our heads down and call our home.
I'm talking about the mental place we let our thoughts lay down in.
We can live in a palace and our mental/emotional thoughts dwell in the gutter. Likewise, we can live in a dirt-floor-room and our mental/emotional thoughts dwell in a sanctuary.
We people too often think that if a person is living in a fine mansion, then they are “doing well”. But that's only the physical appearance of things. They might actually be the “poor” that are in need of the most. The other side of that coin tries to tell us the person living in a hut with no modern luxuries is “in need”. But again, that's only the physical appearance of things. They might actually be “dwelling in the shelter of the most High”. It all depends on where their heart and mind are centered.
Jesus never owned a home on this earth ------ and yet He was and is the King. His mind was centered solely on the Father. Jesus dwelled in the shelter of the Most High.

God speaks this soundly to my soul.
I've had to learn it over and over again.
I was willing to care for the one without food or water or shelter ---- because I could easily “see” their “need”.
But I was brutally blind to the one living in opulent wealth who was grievously poor in heart. So wrong donna.

Last Sunday we went up on the side of a mountain in Kenya to speak at a remote church. The old me would have been troubled over their obvious “needs”. It's hard work to resist that old-self. But God let me see something precious --- it was a reminder again.
There was a beautiful little girl running around with an old, worn baby-doll held tightly to her back. It was ragged and dirty. She held it to her back as if she was a Kenyan-momma. I watched her for so long. She was happy. Bouncing about with a worn doll on her back, wearing a torn dress, and I thought to myself of the challenges I knew she would have to face in the years ahead living on this mountainside.
My thoughts wanted to “dwell” in the wrong places ----- places that were not “in the shelter of the most High”. My mind began its old way of thinking. “donna, the least you can do is buy this precious little girl a new doll. You need to send one back up this mountain to her. She needs a new dress too........ and then............”

But i've learned .....
So I grabbed those thoughts and held them up to the One who adores her most.

And He whispered so sweetly to my heart, “She is thrilled with her tattered baby-doll. Someone loved her enough to give her a doll they were able to provide for her. Look at her eyes. They sparkle. She has no idea you are watching her. I'm letting you SEE her. Stop looking with wrong eyes. If you try and make 'things' better, according to your standards ------- then you will silently convey that how she is living is not good enough and how her hard-working parents have provided for her is not sufficient. And you'll teach her to define poverty wrongly. Truth is, she sparkles. She is not actually poor in My eyes. Remember how many other children you've seen surrounded by too many dolls and things of that sort who were not sparkling at all. They were pouting over wanting even more. See with My eyes donna, those who have so much are so often the poor. This little darling will have needs all her life, and you have your part in helping her, but it has nothing to do with the ragged, torn doll she happily carries on her back. Do the part I, God, call you to do. Stop letting your thoughts 'dwell' in the wrong places ---- 'Dwell in the shelter where I am, rest in My shadow there.' Follow MY lead. I will guide you. You can not do My work ---- your way. It won't work. But dwell close to Me and I will give you rest as you do My work My way.”

The only way to live from the place of His shelter, and rest in the place of peace found in His shadow ------------ is to turn my eyes always to what He says matters most to Him.

The world will not understand it. The world will even be critical of it. But the One who is our Shelter will let us rest in His shadow ----------- even as we put our hands to the work needed in this broken world again and again and again.

But this world Lord........ in this world.......

When babies are being slaughtered inside the womb --------- we must stay focused on the One who always reaches for them.

When babies are rejected out of the womb (abortion) and lay crying in their struggle to live (surviving abortion)-------- I must stay focused on the One who hears their cry and gathers them up in His good arms.

When 'little'-power-hungry-people pass laws that feed a fallen world ----- I must not focus on them (the people or the laws), I must focus on the One who sees it all and will deal with those who are corrupt.

When a “preacher” says things that are NOT in God's Word ----- I must stay steady in saying what is in line with God's heart (and His Word).

When eyes are diverted and focused on lesser things ---- (I must remember my own tendency to do the same) ------ and choose carefully to see with His eyes what my distracted-eyes will miss.

When criticisms and/or accusations come------ I must remember ----- I have a Defender who says, “Get in My shadow daughter, i'll handle this MY WAY.”

“The one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Living Held

I've always loved the image of an older person walking with a young toddler. Neither of them are rushing. The former has learned the value of slowing down. The latter has not yet learned how to go quickly.
Let yourself picture it. They're both looking down, they each have a feebleness to their gait. When one looks at the other, they each smile. They neither really focus on where they are going, but they both are just enjoying not being alone. Melts me as I picture it.
Their pace is perfectly matched yet from two different perspectives. And in their slow walk together the young one has a chance to learn. The elder one feels the gift of being needed.They bring much to each other. They laugh and look and bend down low to see something that would have been missed if either had been in a hurry.

It's been just such a walk that i've experienced. Left alone, I would have only seen a troublesome pebble. But walking beside the One who was willing to keep a slower pace, Holy moments have shown up and i've learned.... I can better see the diamond in the rough.... i've learned.

It's not that i've been trying to become holy. Just as the toddler walking with the elder-one is not trying to become an old sage. Nor is the elder trying to become young again like the toddler. It's simply that by spending time together on an unhurried path, they will see and learn things they would have missed if they'd been walking alone.

Most all my life, regardless of my age, i've felt like a “toddler”. It's not that I feel perpetually 2 years old, it's only that I embrace the sense of “there's so much I don't know, there's so much still to learn”. Somehow my heart and mind have a propensity to look for the wiser, older, kinder, stronger, slower paced, sparkling “teachers”. Some might be bored senseless over it, but there's nothing more entertaining or intriguing than wise words and timeless stories told by someone who has lived well and out lasted life's storms. To say it's fascinating is an understatement.

In retrospect, there are also few conversations sadder than those with an old person who has not lived well, not learned much, and left a trail of void in their wake. So to be clear, not all older people can be counted as wise. The overflow of their life will determine how much they should be heard. Another way to say it is, look at the result of their choices in life before listening to their stories and trying to learn from their example. Perhaps that seems obvious, but, it's worth clarifying. Because there are too many people who think they earn a badge simply because they've lived several decades. And we're surrounded by a world of young people who have been wounded by older people who were not good to them. Sadly, there are those images in their minds of being the toddler walking beside the older person being drug along in rushed, harsh ways ------ there were no gentle moments of kind-paced-living. Those are some of the most wounded adults around us. When an older person is harsh with a child, it breaks much.

That being said ------- when we find a wonderful old soul who has lived well, we are wise to scoot up our chairs and listen close. Wisdom compels us to walk at their pace for as long as they will let us.

I'm thinking it's part of the Maker's plan. After all, He is the One who decided we would be born as babies and grow towards being old. He could have chosen the opposite. We could have been born wrinkly and old only to progress towards youth. Certainly if that had been the course of life, we would appreciate the health and energy of youth much more. But why is it that all too often we don't embrace the pace and wisdom of the wise elderly souls among us? Do we? Perhaps you do. I hope so. Still, it's fair to say, that all too often they seem to be swept to the side, and viewed through rushed lenses and can't-you-go-faster sort of ways.

Did you catch that last sentence? Too often we view the elderly through “rushed lenses”. The very mannerisms that wound a toddler will also wound the older souls.

Sitting in the airport is one of the best places to “see” things a bit more clearly. Perhaps it can happen because we don't actually know the people we're watching. If we'll try, we have a chance to see much about them without knowing any of the details of their life. The way they interact, the look on their faces, the way they sit. And i've learned something in my non-judgmental observations. It's the toddlers and the elderly that are the-most-beautiful-people. Certainly, there are many kind-souls found among the people in between the young and the old. But casual observations have repeatedly conveyed to me ----- the one's who know they have no control over their setting, are the one's who are the gentlest and kindest. The toddler being held in her daddy's arms is not rushing or worried, she's holding her stuffed animal and looking at the passing faces. She's literally looking to see if anyone sees her. When she notices my smiling eyes are on her, she smiles the-most-peace-filled-response. Her good daddy didn't know his girl was scattering gifts as they rushed to their gate. I needed her precious smile. She gave it with perfection.
Just after them came two old people in wheelchairs being pushed along by airport attendants. It was a him and her duo with flowing robes and a red dot painted on their foreheads. I instantly knew they believed differently than me in their souls, but still I was watching for something. They were quiet in their wheelchair procession. Again, just like the little girl being carried by here daddy, these two were also being cared for by others. They didn't have to rush or worry ----- someone else was doing the work for them. That's a major factor not to be overlooked. Still, as their loaded down wheelchairs passed in front of my gate, the lady turned her kind face in my direction and gave me a smile that was a faint whisper of my sweet grandmother's sparkle. My responding smile brought a broad smile across her aged skin and right there ---- in the wild rush of people ---- she and I felt the touch of “goodness”.

And nothing that happened the rest of that day was as beautiful as those two “touches”.

If I had looked for a smile from the 40 something year old lady sitting across from me, I would possibly still be waiting. Oh i'm not slamming her. It's just that, somehow too many of us get off the good course in the years between learning-to-walk and no-longer-able-to. We lose something so valuable.

Maybe it's only me...... maybe i'm the only one who notices all that I seem to inherently overlook. If so, then this writing is only of value in that now you all know ---- i'm finally seeing what you've known all along.

But the sharing of it can still be of value I hope. Because as I walk down the street in most any place, it's always the little and the old that seem to know the most. There are no words exchanged usually, only a nod, a smile, and a kindness given. The world misses it so often. I've missed it for too long.

When lonely is stalking about, it'll be the little carefree toddler (who is being cared for by loving parents) who, without a word, reaches clear through the wall of lonely and shifts things.
When worry is breathing down a tired backbone, it'll be the elderly soul (who has lived well and passed through much) who, without even an ounce of power, can give a short string of solid-rock words that strengthen marrow and broaden shoulders. Sometimes they can do it with just a nod and a knowing look. It's an amazing gift from “the One who rides across the heavens to help us, across the skies in majestic splendor”. (Deut. 33:26) And catch this --- whether they know He is using them or not --- HE still will. (If God could make a donkey talk.......... He can flow through anyone.)

Then I sit in the quiet and ponder --- studying it --- as if i'm preparing for a final exam not on my calendar. And i see something tucked inside of value to my soul.

It's a whispering from the Good One. He will speak to His children who are still enough to remember who HE is and all that they are not.

It comes like a blanket on a cold windy day. As He lays it on my shivering shoulders, He whispers to my heart ------
The ones who are carried well, respond well.
It's the ones willing to be carried well that are willing to respond well.
It's the ones who let Me, God, carry them, that will always be able to respond well.
It's the ones who know they can not do 'it', the one's who know they need My help, the one's who rely on me to carry them ----- they are the one's who are able to respond well.
They show up, they hold on, they sit where I tell them to and trust Me to get them to the right places --- they rest in My shadow, tucked under My wing ----- they have eyes to see and a smile to give because they know they are carried by the One who knows the way.” (Psalm 91:1&4)

Oh good Lord.
It's so very true.
You are ever willing to carry me as if i'm a toddler in your good-Daddy arms. You will carry me the full distance, I need only to stop squirming and worrying and fretting. Too often i've forced you to sit me down in my unruly lack of trust or refusal to let you h-o-l-d m-e. Oh God i'm seeing. I'm learning, The picture of the smiling toddler in her good-daddy's arms IS the picture You desire for You and me. Always.
I'm held.
You know the way.
And I can look around at all that we pass ---- giving to others a spark of the goodness that comes from being held by You.

And the elderly ones being pushed along in the wheelchairs, glowing over the knowing that others have the work of getting them to their gates ----- that's suppose to be “us” too isn't it Lord?
You are willing to let me rest while your walk with me through the hills and valleys of this life. You will do the work, I only need to remain in the seat you give me. I'm not doing “nothing”, but i'm not doing it all. You are. I can rest in Your presence. I can not rest apart from it. It's the lovely picture of “Be still and know that I AM GOD.” (Psalm 46:10)
Whether I like the chair where you've placed me or not is where so often the s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e begins.
As if I know something more than you do.
The toddler doesn't question --- she's not asking her daddy if he's sure he knows what he's doing. She actually won't even notice if he messes up. She just rides along in his arms.
Forgive me for being a squirming one.
To trust that You will carry me is either a truth in my life or not ----- and I need to quit faking it if it is not. Likewise, I need to rest in it if it is the Truth. I cause so many problems with my squirming thoughts.

We grown-up kids seem to think we are able to do something of value.
But if we're not being carried by the Good-Daddy-God ----- we're destined to mess up whatever we think we can do. Mess up in the sense of ---- it'll only be base-line acceptable at best. But it won't be touched by the Holy One who will bring the excellence – the goodness – the i-never-imagined-that-was-possible essence to whatever we're putting hand to.
It'll be sufficient, maybe, but it won't be what it could have been.

The toddler's smile went to a secret place in my soul, as did the elderly ladies.
They trusted that they were being c-a-r-r-i-e-d, they were not worried over the details, they were able to see and do much from their cared-for-perch.

Oh Father ---- whether i'm cooking dinner, teaching a class, praying on my knees or scrubbing something clean ----- no matter what i'm putting my hands to ------ please Lord ----- help me to remember this lesson from you ------- You are willing to carry me, You are willing to carry us all ---- and You know the way, You know the best way, we need only to be still in your arms and let the world around us see in our eyes ------- and receive in our smile ------ we are held and YOU ARE GOOD....... always.......