A Holy Place

Sunrise

Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false, and who has not sworn deceitfully. Psalm 24:3-4

I went down South this weekend. There was a ladies’ retreat at Oak Island, NC, and I went there fully expecting to meet God. I had my Bible, pens and notebooks at the ready. One of the notebooks I carried with me is entitled, “God Moments.” The idea for this journal was birthed about eight months ago. The plan was to review every single journal (all 15 of them) looking for those times when God made His presence known in my life. Those times were to be recorded in a special journal, so they wouldn’t get lost amongst my many words. I hoped it to be a faith building exercise. And I can say in truth, that it was. Operation journal review was complete as of this past Thursday, and my God moments notebook has entry after entry. Evidence of an almighty God’s handiwork all along the way.

And so, this weekend I was expectant. I just knew that on the heels of completing this charge (and a charge it was, for I’m certain the idea of journal review came from God), that I would enter His presence in some way over the course of the weekend. And sure enough, He showed up. Friday evening, there was a God moment. And through Saturday, He spoke in other ways. And so, by Saturday evening, my fingers were itching to etch out what I had experienced already. With a little time to spare, I made my way to the water’s edge with all my “God supplies.” Bible – check. Pen – check. Journal – check. God Moments notebook – check. And I settled down on a not so comfortable bench. I buried my head in my notebook, and had the pen ready. But then, I was assaulted. By gnats. More than I could count. They were everywhere alighting on every surface of my exposed skin. I inhaled them as huffed in annoyance! Irritated beyond measure, I thought that I would write in my journal anyway. I was not going to be dissuaded from the task at hand because I was doing a God thing – getting ready to record God moments. I did my best, till a gnat bit my hand. My writing hand. And it stung. That’s when I relented, and gathered my stuff. That’s when I said out loud, “Are you kidding me???” And so, I decided to move on down to another bench.

But then as I walked… I saw. There was the sun. And suddenly, my plan and my written words didn’t seem so important. Because the sun beckoned me. I had witnessed its glorious appearance that morning. I reveled in its warmth upon my skin. But alas, I quickly forgot it was there. Because it’s always there. So regular is the sun’s appearance that I take it for granted. And so, when it appeared to me again that evening, I was somewhat taken aback. Because I saw it anew. I was captivated by its display and a holy hush settled upon me. As the sun slowly sank towards the clouds on the horizon, I felt drawn to it. So I bypassed the benches and looked to an inviting patch of grass. I took off my sandals and sank to the ground. And there, I quietly watched.

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called out to him from the bush, “Moses, Moses!” “Here I am,” he answered. “Do not come closer,” He said. “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:4-5

I didn’t know it then, but the grass on which I was reclined was holy ground. Because not only was I in the presence of the sun, but I was also in the presence of the Lord. And He, like the sun, is always there. I go to Him in the morning, but then, I quickly forget Him. Because I take Him for granted. I get busy and set on my plans. I get engrossed in my words. But He’s there. He beckons me. He draws me. He vies for my attention. He waits for me to bypass the benches in life, and sit on a patch of earth with Him.

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Saturday evening, God’s creation gave witness to His glory. As the sun sank lower and lower, it lit up the water brighter and brighter. Subtle peach turned to brilliant orange vividly contrasted against dark, murky waters. And then, the most astounding thing happened. The calm water began to move. At first, I didn’t know what it was. There was a crash that startled me. And then, water began to roll. Waters billowed and began to heap up faster and faster crashing onto the walls surrounding it. This calm body of water on the sound side of the peninsula moved ferociously, though I couldn’t find a reason for it. Not a boat was in sight, and yet, the waters rolled.

I almost missed it all. I had been on the other side of a house, sitting on a bench with my head down in a notebook. I was completely engrossed in what my plans were, and completely oblivious to what was taking place around me. So intent was I on journaling about God moments, that I almost missed a very real God moment. And so, when I roused from my stupor, my spirit echoed the words of Jacob… “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16) For God moments abound. And God surrounds. The lesson I learned… open my eyes! Be still and look around. For creation magnifies the glory of the Lord. Had it not been for a swarming mass of gnats on Saturday evening, I would have missed the sunset. Had it not been for the gnats, I would have missed God!

As a side-note, I’d like to mention just before sunset was the only time I encountered gnats throughout the entire weekend. At first, I thought they were sent from the hounds of hell to distract me from my God stuff. But now I see. God sent them. For those pesky creatures moved me from where I sat. They prompted me to move further along and around a corner so I could see better. And when I finally lifted my eyes, I saw what He wanted me to see. I saw Him.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge. There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard. Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a groom coming from the bridal chamber; it rejoices like an athlete running a course. It rises from one end of the heavens and circles to their other end; nothing is hidden from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6

Too full to see

The below content was written on June 23, 2013. Somehow, in rereading and updating, I’ve turned it into a draft again. It’s disappeared from my published blogs and I don’t want to lose it… thus, I’m going to publish again.

Maybe this is God’s plan, though.

See, it captures exactly how I feel this day, over four years later. I look at the eyes of my little boy and ache. Because he’s not so little anymore. And I ache because the lesson didn’t take with me. Instead of stillness, I became busier. And I missed so much. And not just the wonder of God’s creation. Sadly, I missed the wonder of my sweet boy.

Sigh.

Anyway, I read this about a week ago. Not sure why, I just did. And lo and behold, the Psalm I used within this blog came up not just once but twice this week.

First reading was yesterday at our breakfast table as we discussed Romans 1:20. That verse inspired me to turn to Psalm 19. Then this morning, coincidentally (not really a coincidence), both Psalm 19 and Romans 1:20 were referenced in a book I’m reading. When I saw those words, I was once more awed at the complexity of God and how He weaves together life to get His message across.

The message being stillness. A caution to slow down.

In fact, I heard the same from Him last week as I did laundry with my daughter. She’s three now. I had thrown socks and underwear into the bottom of the basket but laid out other items across the top so as to avoid wrinkles. In my daughter’s haste, she kept trying to get to the stuff underneath, threatening to mess up the smoothed out clothing on top.

I cautioned her, “Wait.” And then again, “Wait.” But she didn’t listen. That’s when I spoke sharply. “Wait! That means stop doing what you’re doing! You’re going to undo what I’ve already done!”

Perhaps a little more wording than Annabelle’s toddler mind could ingest, but most assuredly those words were not intended for her anyway. No, they were for me.

Yep, to my soul I believe God was cautioning me through my own lips.

“Wait,” He said. And again, “Wait.” But I wasn’t still enough to hear Him. That’s when He got firm with me. God issued His warning…

“Wait! That means stop doing what you’re doing!”

The fact is I’ve been busier than I should be. Always in motion and always going too fast. Because see, He’s doing a work inside me. A work that will require a little more time and a lot more stillness. And if I rush the process, I may undo all He’s already accomplished.

And so, I believe the message in the below blog – Too Full to See – will really take this time. I believe what God has been trying to tell me for so many years has finally – finally – penetrated my dull ears and hardened heart.

Yes, Lord, I hear what you’re saying. You want me to stop. To stand still and see. To observe. You want me to recapture the wonder of You. But also, You don’t want me to miss what’s right before me…

There’s wonder #1 and wonder #2. And their names are Levi and Annabelle.

Yes, Lord, I hear you now.

I really, really do.

Too Full to See – June 23, 2013

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The past two weeks have been full… so full. It was last Friday when I came home to a full sink, a full hamper and a full inbox. And today, I sent well over a hundred emails for work. In my kitchen, I have four full buckets of produce for canning. That’ll be my task for tomorrow. And right now, I am bone weary.

All I can see is what lies before me…

And tonight, honestly, all I feel is tired. But this morning, I felt differently. It was then I tasted a bit of God’s word. And it was what I read at daylight that’s been hovering on the outer edges of my brain all day. It’s what I’ve been wanting to simmer in all day. But I couldn’t stay there… in His word. No, I had to move on.

Chores to do, job commitments, and a son to raise. Life entered the holy hush of the morning, and it hasn’t been quiet since. Not till now.

I’ve come to the conclusion the way we live our lives today cannot be part of God’s plan for us. Our daily schedules are much too full. And for the life of me, I cannot seem to find the exit ramp from the fast lane. Try as I might, I cannot seem to eliminate the busyness. And thus, my days stay full. Thus, I can’t see!

Because life is too full to see, I don’t glimpse the wonder of a holy God.

No, all I can focus on are the dishes, and the paperwork, and the dirty clothes. And sadly, I lose the wonder of life. Because life is a blur. I move way too fast to behold the glory of each moment. And so, I’ve decided. I want it back.

I want the wonder back in my life.

The past few months, I’ve watched at least 150 Andy Griffith shows. And it’s awakened a hunger within me. It’s the call of simplicity I hear in the distance and it’s what I crave. Episode after episode, I watched Andy Taylor sitting on his front porch, slowly strumming his guitar. I watched his friends join him in song. I watched him take time to explain things to his son. I watched, and ached, for that life-style. And unfortunately, it’s truly a thing of the past.

Not often will you find people sitting around the front stoop singing songs and enjoying life. No more can we stop and smell the roses… or more importantly, the Rose of Sharon. Simply, we’re much too busy.

It was parade night last week and even that awakened something deep inside. Sadness, perhaps? Or nostalgia… because a parade is not what it once was. At least not in our small town.

See, I eagerly looked forward to the carnivals when I was a child. And parade night was the best. So many people, so many smells. Lights and sirens. And the best part of the parade was the thumping of the drums you could feel inside your chest. But the last few parades I’ve attended had no high school bands. And not many majorettes. This type of parade is becoming extinct.

And so, I’ve lost the wonder of it.

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But my son… he still has it. His eyes sparkled and shone with anticipation. He could hardly contain his giggles and ran around in circles when it was time for the parade. Yes, my son still holds the wonder of life. He still basks in the pure pleasure of each day. And this is what I want… what he has.

I want to bottle up how he feels and drink deeply. I want to remove myself from the fullness, and the busyness, so I can see. Oh, God, please help me to see the wonder of it all. In the midst of each day, help me to stop. Help me to gaze upon Your creation with new eyes. Help me to see – to really see – the wonders of this world. And the wonder that You are…

In Habakkuk 1:5 we read, “Look at the nations and observe – be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it.” And that’s it right there. Look. Observe. But this takes time.

See, we can hear about something all day long. But when we have firsthand knowledge of it (whatever it may be), it changes us. If we want to live fully and abundantly, as He so intends, then we must look and see and observe. We must pay close attention to this thing called life. Otherwise we may miss it all. And that would be a shame. That’s not what God has in store for His children. No, He wants us to be like our very own offspring… full of wonder.

God doesn’t want us to be so full of busyness that we miss His awe-inspiring works. He wants us to witness just how majestic and holy and wonderful He truly is. But first, we must pause our hectic lifestyles and drink in what lies before us.

His creation.

If we stay still long enough, and open our eyes wide enough, just maybe we’ll see what He wants us to see.

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The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 (NKJV)