The Fourth of July, 2020
This meditation is going to start with a lot of parenthetical statements which will serve to show how difficult is was for God to get me to publish this. So here goes…
I’m sitting on the veranda and it’s a beautiful day in the Hill Country. Tito is exploring every inch of the yard for the umpteenth time. The only thing that keeps it from being idyllic is…
After a long string of “good” days, this one’s “not so good.” So God and I were having our usual discussion about how His definition of “healing” and mine are so different. Well...okay. To be honest it was my diatribe about not understanding His ways. Now He and I have had this round-de-round about a “squillion” times, as Anna says in Mr. God, This is Anna, and the end result is always the same. There’s this benevolent silence from a loving Father who knows I trust Him to keep His promises and that I’m just letting off steam. But couldn't He just send a clap of thunder or something?”
Sidebar: In my world “Health” and “sickness” are states of mind. I’m very healthy. I just happen to have physical challenges I wish He’d take care if.
Rabbit Trail: Isn’t amazing how music impacts our lives? Part of my “pity party” this morning was harkening back to my early college days as a lonely socially inept teenager walking in the rain praying “God, give me somebody to love.” Back then when I was in this state of mind I would lie on the floor in the garage apartment where I lived, turn my speakers toward my head and pump the volume up really really really loud and play “Victory at Sea.”
So today I put on my unbelievably high quality headset, downloaded the U.S. Navy Band version, and just sat for awhile before beginning to write. My mind flooded with name after name of people whom I love (such as you) and who are such a blessing in my life now. Want to know what He said? “It may take a while, but your prayers are always heard. It may just not be on your time table.”
After all the “Much Ado About Nothing” we finally get to the meditation I wrote some weeks back. I found it in the ‘In Progress’ folder while looking for the draft of the email I’ll get sent some day letting people know my website is live and I’m posting again. The piece is pretty embarrassing (it tarnishes my “saintly soul” ego image) so I had “forgotten” it.
God won’t let me off that easily. Maybe He believes someone besides me needs the encouragement He gave me, So, if someone has waded through all of the above beside me (...am I secretly hoping I’m alone at this point??) I’ve brought it into the present tense, and—believe it or not—it might actually be connected to all the above.
Isn’t God wonderful? His love and patience are never ending. When He wants me to learn something, or grow into a deeper level in our relationship, He is incredibly creative. And relentless. Have you ever noticed how the spiritual life seems to be a spiral? You gain some new level of whatever He’s trying to teach you...and it’s profound.
Then days, weeks, months...even years later you find yourself diving even deeper into the experience. That’s the case here.
As you may or may not know, for the past several months, after experiencing what I’ve called ‘an epiphany,’ I’ve been abiding in a profound sense of contentment and peace...centered in Him...relishing the closeness of His presence...laying aside all striving.
Or so I thought…
I’d been working on a project. What it was doesn’t matter as much as how it affected me. My purported goal was to enhance the lives of people for whom I believe God has given me a passion and a ministry. So I humbly offered my proposal and “left it in God’s hands.”
Shortly thereafter I got a response. Many of the suggestions would be implemented, but...at least as I interpreted it..I wasn’t going to be part of the implementation.
My immediate response was delight. I wrote an email congratulating the person who had partnered with me on the project, and one thanking the person who had received the proposal and would be implementing the program.
A happy, peaceful and virtuous man slept soundly that night, rejoicing in the success of the project. This saint of virtue woke up the next morning with…
A Riptide of Emotions!
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning continues with fourteen lines of exquisite poetry extolling the “breadth and depth and height” her soul can reach.
I don’t know what word to use to replace “love” in her sonnet, but I was experiencing more than fourteen lines of negative emotions, and they certainly weren’t love!
So much for have grown in “peace and contentment!”
And here enters the circularity of God’s relentless quest to burn the dross from my soul.
After my usual meditations from Our Daily Bread and Voice of the Martyrs I was still in turmoil. So, in the inner chambers of my spirit, I quietly asked God where I could turn for consolation and guidance.
Following a gentle nudging, I opened Anthony DeMello’s “The Way to Love: Meditations for Life” on my Kindle app. It opened to this passage, highlighted from my reading a few days before:
“For instance, when other people don’t live up to your computer’s expectations, it torments you with frustration or anger or bitterness.”
The “computer” is that part of your mind that torments you with past conditioning from parents, friends, life...etc.etc. He then goes on to write:
“Then you expend a lot of energy coping with these negative emotions. And you generally cope by expending more energy trying to rearrange the world around you so that the demands of your computer will be met. If that happens you will be granted a measure of precarious peace; precarious because at any moment some trifle (a delayed train, a tape recorder that doesn’t work, a letter that doesn’t arrive—anything) is going to be out of conformity with your computer’s programming and the computer will insist that you become upset again.”
Of course this was dead on target! But then a little bell began to ring in the back of my mind…
On April 14, 2019 I wrote a meditation I titled “A Roaring Lion or an Angel of Light,” based on 1 Peter 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 11:14–
“...deeply ingrained training and experience are hard to overcome; especially the 25 years in the ministry where ‘the enemy’ used people to exploit even the tiniest chink the the armor to sling darts and arrows...But my real spiritual journey right now is to be so centered in God that neither criticism nor praise affect me.”
I also wrote, at 81, “it isn’t the ‘biggie sins’ that bother me. I worry now about the sand fleas and no-see-ums of temptation that can find the smallest chinks in the finest spiritual armor.” And, at 82, things are pretty much the same.
“The Roaring Lion” is still on the prowl, and occasionally he hacks my spiritual computer.
But God is ever watchful and ever faithful. When I fall He forgives me, picks me up, dusts me off and sends me back into the fray.
Thanks for yonderin’ with me.
As I wrote this meditation on the Fourth of July I could feel the peace and contentment flowing into my soul and spirit again. So, thanks be to God, He was with me one more time—and still is—encouraging me to continue “yonderin’ in sacred space.”
And It appears I may still be involved in the project but in an entirely different, and perhaps better, role than I conceived. If it happens I’ll rejoice. If it doesn’t, I’ll rejoice. He seems to be finding more than enough for me to do.
And today—July 21st—as I publish this I’m at peace with the world again.Maybe, just maybe, thanks to His patience and persistence I’m growing closer to living out 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.