We always drove to vacation spots when I was growing up, which inevitably meant lots of hours in the car. My dad loves to tell a story on me about the time we drove home from Florida (and yes, we lived in Ohio then too). When we hit Kentucky, Dad was tired enough to worry about falling asleep at the wheel and Mom, who always promises to share the driving equally had been snoring for hours. He woke me up, had me sit in the front seat, and told me to help him stay awake. As he puts it, I “barely took a breath in between words for the next four hours!”
There are a lot of things I love, but few things I savor as much as a good conversation.
Two nights ago I found myself sitting at my friends Tera and Jon‘s house until dark having one of those conversations. Their two younger kids were asleep, Cohen had snuggled in on their couch and was snoozing away, and the older girls were playing games on their computers. Tera and I and our friend Rod were sitting at the dining room table, talking about life and delving into deep issues, and yawning. That’s the darn thing about being an adult, isn’t it? We’re tired! I would’ve liked the conversation to go on until the wee hours of the morning- that is, if I didn’t have to get up in morning and work! But I did, so the conversation ended somewhat abruptly…
We were talking about religion initially…which is somewhat interesting for me on an intellectual level, but rarely engages my heart. Then the conversation shifted to personal philosophies and beliefs ( a little more interesting) and then (drumroll) to personal faith experiences. I listened to my friends sharing, thinking back on similar times of punctuated faith in my own life. The term “God” is easy enough for everyone to live with (except the strong atheist, I suppose) because it can mean as many things as people are in the room. “God” is pretty general… the term, that is. But, bring up “Jesus” and the playing field is instantly narrowed. There is a reason why Jesus said, “be careful that you are not offended because of me”, right? The reason is, you either are inexplicably drawn to Him or sickened at the mere mention of His name. Where “God” is general and safe enough for most; Jesus becomes a hill to die on.
And that’s where the conversation ended- much to all of our yawning dismay- with this question, “Does Jesus move you? Does His life grip your heart?”
Good question, right? And not just for someone on the fence, but for us all…
I woke up this morning to the sound of my phone letting me know a text message had arrived. I rolled over in the hotel bed, taken instantly from an odd dream where I was fighting a battle from a stairwell. I had the phone open and was trying desperately to make my brain take in the information. Once I saw who had texted me at 6:35a, I was anxious to read what was written. It caught me off guard and instantly my faculties stood at attention, wide awake:
How is your faith? Do you believe this is a day of overcoming, abounding, Spirit-filled radical, enormous victory??? Read Psalms 142-145. Behold, the Great King desires to give you an audience. Enter in!!!
As I typed that for you to read, I realized how strange it might sound. But somehow, given the Sender it didn’t strike me that way at all. In fact, truth be told I had set my alarm for 5a and then 6a too so I could get up an exercise. I was tired enough at the 5a ring to not even remember turning the phone off. But the 6a ring? I heard it. I even had the thought that I should get up and just have some quiet with the Lord. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak, right? I had drifted back off….
Apparently the Lord really wanted to get my attention. Somehow calling him The Great King, made me feel summoned…wanted…called upon.
I found my pocket-sized Bible among the clothes and make up and hair products in my bag, situated some pillows on the floor in between the two beds and started reading.
I could hear people walking up and down the hallway, the buzz of the TV in the next room over, my own breathing… I couldn’t focus. Music, I thought, I need to put on some music. I need to set the tone and get myself in the right frame of mind. I opened iTunes only to remember that I just had it stripped my computer and had not yet put photos and music back on it. I wanted some worship music and as I opened the iTunes store, one particular album came to mind… Psalms by Shane and Shane. I own it already, but hey, why not support family, eh? Besides, it was a staple in my college years and has a measure of familiarity and fondness that I knew would help me get where I was going. So, I searched for the album and when it popped up, the track listing brought me to tears:
Psalm 143 (Revive Me)
May The Words of My Mouth
Are you seeing what I was seeing? I had gotten a very direct text, telling me to read Psalm 142-145 and then I feel drawn to an album I’ve literally not listened to in years only to find the track listing contains two songs penned directly from those same chapters.
Coincidence? I think not.
Want to hear another not so coincidental thing? Yesterday before I headed to the Toledo area, I was sitting on the couch snuggling with Cohen and Mom handed me a newsletter from some of my favorite people on the planet: John and Sarah Markman. The Markmans became my friends before they were ‘The Markmans’ – back before they were even dating. I was in a transition phase in my life (wait- transition really isn’t a phase, is it? Anyway…) and we were in the same small group. I loved them instantly and over time my respect and admiration for them has only deepened as I have watched them navigate life with prayerfulness and faithful diligence. Currently, they are missionaries at the International House of Prayer and I have the privilege of receiving their newsletter. I was reading it yesterday and thinking about how Sarah outlined her new vision of pray-reading the Bible. She spoke of sitting in her closet and trying to pray the Scripture out loud. A couple of things about that struck me… one, it was the second time in three days I had been ‘instructed’ to speak things out loud. Secondly, her description of pray-reading was so simple that I wondered why I had never actually done it.
Those thoughts lingered on as I kissed the Co Bean goodbye on his sleepy eyelids and made my way to the car, thinking of what I had to prepare for the training ahead of me.
Those thoughts about pray-reading bounded back into my head early this morning as I sat on pillows between two hotel beds, listening to my brother in law literally sing the words of David from the Psalms… I read all four chapters once and then I went back and began to pray through each line, each thought, each sentence. Vulnerability was the name of the game as I found myself unable to speak some things out loud with conviction. Instead, I ended up reading a line and asking God to help me to believe this or live that. I asked a lot of questions. How? How God? What about this situation? How are you taking care of us in that?
Amid the questions, there was true worship from my heart… invoked by the undeniable Presence of God that felt near enough to reach out and touch. Precious to me, then and now and probably always, will be the nearly two hours I spent this morning attempting to graft the Word of God into my heart, all the while knowing that He truly was a listening ear to my pleading and my questions and even my complaints. Nothing is quite as humbling as having your heart poured out before a Great King, who we so often assume as better things to do than sit with us.
My heart is full of words to share… and I will in the days to come (the close ones – promise 😉 ) but for now, friends, I want to encourage you that the Lord is an audience for His children… that somehow He has no need of dividing Himself up to deal with everything… All of Him has time for each of us. The math doesn’t work out, but then again I never much cared for math anyway *grin*.
So to the question a few nights ago in regard to whether or not Jesus moves me, stirs me, grips me…?
Yes, Yes and Yes.
Thank you, Jesus.
YES YES AND YES.