I was going to title this blog "Lessons Learned", but these are lessons I'm in the process of learning, not that I have completely learned. So they are lessons learning. :)
It was so nice to spend literally hours at a time alone with God last week. I spent about 4 hours each day with my Word open and in open communion with God. Oh how I wish I could do that every day. It's amazing how much God wants to tell us when we just listen. Typically, from the time my feet hit the floor in the morning until I crawl back into bed at night, my to-do list is endless. Educate Allie (which includes Bible, Math, Science, Social Studies, Grammar, Reading. . . oh and chores and music and art and discipline); feed four children three meals (creatively and with enthusiasm- how else will they enjoy eating their vegetables?); wash cloth diapers (at least one load each day); wash, dry, sort, and fold or hang up six people's laundry, towels, and sheets; answer the billion questions a minute that preschoolers ask, while teaching her to write her letters and numbers and count and sort; keep my two year old from beating up my one year old :); wipe snotty noses; bathe muddy bodies; establish order and discipline and yet have joy and spontaneity :); you get the picture. Since all this is very tiring, when the alarm goes off at 5 a.m., my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak to spend that precious little time with Him. Sleep seems like a grander treasure than Jesus when it's still dark outside and everyone else is asleep. Oh, how Satan loves to deceive.
Anyway, one of the two books I read last week was The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. I HIGHLY recommend this book- but only if you want to be radically challenged and changed. This book helped me to see that since God's Holy Spirit resides in me, I can stay in tune with Him throughout the day, no matter what else I'm doing. He is constantly speaking, constantly engaging me and all I need to do is have my eyes and ears open to what He's saying. I can seek Him throughout the day and He promises to be found. I did a topical study of the idea of seeking God in the Bible, and was reminded how often He pleads for us to seek Him. When we do, His Word promises that we will find fullness of joy, peace that passes understanding, wisdom, and our heart's greatest longings will be met. As Augustine said, "Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee." That half hour or hour in the morning is important. I want to discipline myself to get up and have that time alone with God. But equally important is whether I pursue Him the rest of the day, if my heart seeks to see Him and hear Him and feel Him every other moment. When I find myself focusing on something other than Him, I don't have to wait until the crack of dawn the next morning. I can seek Him and find Him right in that moment. As Tozer said, "He waits to be wanted." His presence is in me, but only when I commune with Him and acknowledge His presence is that presence made manifest in my life. Tozer said, "God wills that we should push on into His presence and live our whole lives there. This is to be known to us in conscious experience. It is more than a doctrine to be held, it is a life to be enjoyed every moment of every day. He waits to show Himself in ravishing fullness to the humble of soul and the pure in heart." As I can now testify in my own life and am continuing to learn the full depths of, the treasure of His presence really is worth every effort I can make to continuously, consciously pursue. Acts 17:27-28 says that God made man "so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being." So. . . how will I apply this precious truth? Practice, practice, practice. In my life it looks like a few specific things, it may look different in yours. One thing is that we have now gone two days without turning on the TV or radio. The only thing we have turned "on" is a CD of Scripture lullabies in Penelope and Rosemary's room. Whenever I go in there to change a diaper or put away clothes, I am brought back into the presence of God and am constantly put into a worshipful, peaceful mood. This for us means much fewer distractions and more quiet. I'm seeking to create an atmosphere in which we can hear from God. Another way it manifests itself is in my conversations with my girls. Allie and I learned about photosynthesis today. We praised God for creating such an intricate process way back in the days of creation. We stood outside and watched a plant, imagining what photosynthesis was causing to happen inside the plant that we couldn't even see. We marveled at God's handiwork and thanked Him for it. I want to remember, and teach my children, that God's Spirit is constantly at work in and around them. He is not segmented to church or devotion time, but is always present. Tozer, "Wherever we are, God Himself is here waiting our response to His presence. He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us." He ends each chapter with a prayer, and here is one of my favorite: "O God and Father, I repent of my sinful preoccupation with visible things. The world has been too much with me. Thou hast been here and I knew it not. I have been blind to Thy Presence. Open my eyes that I may behold Thee in and around me. For Christ's sake, Amen."
The other book I read last week was Radical by David Platt. Oh my. Another must-read, but seriously, only if you want to be challenged and changed. A Christian who possesses the Holy Spirit cannot at least be challenged by this book. He goes back to the basics of Jesus, His invitations to the lost, His commands to His followers. How many of them we gloss over or try to rephrase to make them more palatable to our modern way of thinking. Jesus said and commanded some really radical things! As David Platt said, he had a collision course with the American church culture and the Jesus of the Bible. In reality, Jesus actually spurned a lot of the things that his church culture said were most important! As I started reading through the Gospel of Mark last week, I realized that I too had fallen into deception by following what culture or the church heralded as acceptable instead of studying God's Word to know what He truly wanted. The more you study God's Word, the more you realize how far we all are from it. We accept and even applaud things that Jesus actually condemned! In Mark 7, the Pharisees saw the disciples eating without first washing their hands. They said, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders?" Jesus said, "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men." He says it right there, that the traditions of men had become more important than the commandments of God! Jesus told His followers that they would have to die to self and take up a cross, be willing to die, and leave everything they had to follow Him. He actually said, "Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple." He promised they would have trouble and hardship and persecution, maybe even face death. We don't like to think about that today. I guess we are afraid that people won't come to Christ if we put it like that. But what happens as a result is that many Christians think they shouldn't have trouble or hard times, that life should be easy. Jesus promised that life would NOT be easy if we were truly following Him. Jesus never accepted half-hearted discipleship. He wanted their all. David Platt says, "We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves. Bonhoeffer said, "When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die." And that is the truth. But few of us really do either realize that or admit to it. Once again. . . what is that going to look like in my life? This "living radically for Jesus" stuff? In an effort not to jump on a bandwagon, and to control the urge to give away everything we own and live in a cardboard box, I am seeking God on what this looks like in my life. I do know a few things: I will take the Radical challenge (Pray daily for the 4.5 billion lost people in the world; Read through the Bible in a year; Sacrifice my money for a specific purpose; Spend time in another context; Commit my life to a multiplying community. You can read more about the challenge at www.radicalthebook.com); I will make it my aim to give what it hurts to give, not just what is easy to give; I will meditate on and memorize these radical calls of Jesus until they become real and alive to me.
I can't wait to see what God will reveal to me tomorrow. Being in relationship with Him is such an adventure. It seemed today that there were a million distractions to keep me from seeking Him, as I'm sure there will be tomorrow. What keeps me pressing on is knowing for myself what treasure there is to be found when I do find Him. There is nothing else on earth like it.