January 24, 2021 | My Jottings
Good Sunday afternoon to you, friends. I woke this morning to a freshly fallen three inches of snow, and it’s lovely. Especially since it’s above zero degrees, which is always a bonus in usually bone-chilling January.
After I got up in the dark and went down the hall, I turned on this little lamp in the hutch in the kitchen. I poured my cup of cold brew coffee with a little splash of Nutpods and a little splash of organic half and half, then I fed Old Millie the schnauzer and let her outside. She looked at the snow on the front deck like do I really have to put my warm little doggy feet in this again? After she came back in, I settled into my plaid chair in my bedroom to read, do my Community Bible Study lesson, to pray, and to cry. My husband Lloyd worries about this a little because he’s not accustomed to someone whose eyes brim with tears so many times in one day. I reassure him it’s pretty much who I am. If I sit down with my Bible and devotionals and journal, I will probably cry. Sometimes I can put my finger on what I’m weeping about, sometimes not. My soul just cries out to God in words I can’t express. If I don’t bring a handful of tissues with me during my quiet time in the morning, I’ll be getting up and down numerous times, so I try to be prepared because I refuse to blow my nose on my flannel nightgown. I also wrap my cold neck with a prayer shawl my daughter knitted for me years ago. I light a beeswax candle and turn on my bedroom fireplace. I have very soft music playing that helps elevate my thoughts and spirit.
We are spending thirty weeks in the Gospel of John this year in CBS, and I can’t remember when a study has been so needed and weighty for me. This morning, I camped on the lesson where Jesus washes His disciples’ feet before He goes to the cross. He calls these grown men “little children,” and I learned that this is the only time in the Gospels the Greek word for “little children” is used. I pictured Jesus calling me “little child” or “little daughter” and the tears came. Don’t we all hope that God will deal with us tenderly, that we will know without a doubt that we really are His precious child and that He speaks to us in a Fatherly way?
Then, one of the questions that followed was, “Has being able to call God Abba (Romans 8:15; Abba is the Aramaic term for ‘Daddy’) ever reassured you when you were frightened?”
I thought about that for a while. I don’t usually call God “Daddy.” I call Him Lord, or Heavenly Father, or I often speak the wondrous name of Jesus. This made me think about two people I’ve known who addressed God in a way that struck me.
One man was a friend of Michael’s years ago. He was a big, hulking guy with a beard, unruly shoulder-length hair, and piercing blue eyes. He had too many cats to count, lived by himself in a cabin, wore plaid flannel shirts, jeans with suspenders, and took a bath every Saturday night. He was a gentle giant who was humble, hardworking, and was always there to lend a hand, whistling cheerfully no matter how hard the labor. Michael loved and trusted him, and hired him to help with carpentry a lot. This man also loved Jesus and knew his Bible backwards and forwards. Decades ago he heard me talking to Michael (tearfully, of course) about someone who had wounded me. This person was a believer. Michael’s friend slowly shook his head from side to side after he overheard what I had shared, looked into my eyes and said, “That’s not Dad.” He called God Dad, and he was trying to help me see that God was not the author of what was being said to me. He didn’t condemn or judge the person who had hurt me, he didn’t say anything at all except those three words. And over the years I heard him repeatedly speak God’s name as “Dad,” and it touched my heart.
Michael and I used to be in a Bible study group called a cell group in a church we attended for many years. The people in the cell group were like family and we met weekly to study, pray, do fun things, and grow together spiritually. The oldest member of our group was named Arlene. She was in her eighties, a widow, was a tad bit quirky, and had the biggest smile ever. One time after church I stopped to chat with her and she told me her feet were hurting her. I remarked, “You need someone to give you a good foot massage.” Arlene’s eyes lit up and she replied, “Thank you! Can you come over this coming week!?” Uhhh, that’s not exactly what I had in mind, I thought. But I went to her house a few days later, which was jam-packed with interesting things, she made me a cup of tea, and I massaged her feet, ankles and calves with lotion for a good long time. The main thing I remember about Arlene is how she addressed God when she bowed her head to pray. She called Him “Father Dear.” And her voice would get softer and more intimate, like He was right there beside her, and she was speaking to the person she loved the most with her whole heart.
Dad. Father Dear. Abba. Daddy. I know that Jesus has invited us into that kind of loving familiarity with the Creator of the universe, but I have yet to settle upon that kind of a name when I speak to my heavenly Father.
When you pray, how do you address God?
You Are Invited
January 6, 2021 | My Jottings
Have any of you ever received a really special invitation? Some normal folks have been invited to the White House. I was invited once to be on the Oprah Winfrey show. I believe we receive other invitations by special delivery every single day — invitations to despair, to lose hope, to rely on ourselves, to fear. These invitations come to my house by the dozen, unbidden. They arrive by television, radio, or the newspaper, magazines, and sometimes the enemy even uses an unknowing friend’s words on the telephone to invite me to go to the dark places of fear and despair about what is going on in our world, or about the concerns I have in my own life, and in the lives of those I love. Often these unwelcome invitations come to me in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep. Do you sometimes feel your mind being lured to dark, fearful, doubting thoughts? Do you occasionally receive those nasty invitations too? I have a bit of advice — throw them out. Don’t even open them up to see where the party is being held — just toss those invites in the trash and instead watch for the ones that come from a Heavenly sender. We are told by the Lord not to despair, not to lose hope, not to fear, and He doesn’t say “unless your country is on the brink of civil war,” then you can fear. No.
We are to open up and RSVP to the prestigious invitations we receive from the Holy Spirit each day. There are many of them. Are we noticing them? I am blind to them way too often. I’m asking the Lord to animate this in our imaginations — to help us open up our envelopes in our minds right now.
Picture this: the envelope that is being delivered to you right now is of the finest, ancient parchment. The name and address on the front of the envelope are written in a fiery, blazing gold script. The golden letters seem to be pulsating. They spell out Julie, Susan, Diane, Nancy, Steve, Christy, Mark, Pat… your name is there. The letter is warm to the touch and has no stamp because it did not have to go through the United States postal system to reach us. If we turn it over we will see that it has a seal on the back of the envelope. A seal with an imprint of three overlapping images: a crown, a dove and a cross. And it isn’t sealed with wax, but with what appears to be dried blood. Inside is a living, powerful, life-giving, invitation that cannot be discarded — it requires a reply. You can try to drop it in the garbage but it will just reappear in your mailbox at another time, its presence insisting on a reply. You may answer yes or no to this invitation, but you cannot ignore it. Then after we receive and respond favorably to that one, fateful invitation that requests the honor of our presence in the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, we may be surprised to find that more invites keep coming. They have that same, golden, blazing calligraphy, that same seal on the back, only these invitations might say something like “The Almighty God of Heaven and Earth requests the pleasure of your company this morning at 6:00 a.m.” Or “The King of Kings and Lord of Lords requests your quiet trust in the matter of your husband today.” Or perhaps the invitation will be to obey Him in a certain area that we’ve avoided dealing with.
I can tell you some of the heavenly invitations I receive daily. “Julie, the Lord God Almighty invites you today to totally entrust your daughters to Him. Please reply. Yes or no.” If my reply to Him is no, I have walked away from the path of peace — my peace will not be flowing like a river. It will be more like a stagnant little pond. Another invitation He regularly sends to me reads something like this — “Your heavenly Father invites you to taste and see that He is good — that doing His will is better than food — that He is your portion.” I see that blazing invitation out of the corner of my eye about ten times a day, and it calls for a reply each time. They all do. Yes, or no. Confidence, or fear. Rest, or torment. Obedience, or rebellion. Freedom, or captivity. Peace, or chaos.
The goal of life is not the absence of pain and hardship, it’s the presence of glory. His glory in our lives, and our lives bringing glory to Him. Somewhere along the line the church has gotten the idea that the Lord wants more than anything else to relieve us from our pain and steer us clear of adversity, but that is not the Biblical model. He does relieve our pain, He does steer us away from adversity, but God is intent on purifying His people unto Himself, and He often uses adversity, and yes, pain, to accomplish His purposes in us. He did this with His own Son, who learned to be obedient unto the point of death. I want to desire to obey the Lord above all things. I want to be one of His children that brings Him pleasure and not grief. I know many of you feel the same way.
Oswald Chambers said “sin dulls our senses.” A more modern Bible teacher wrote, “Pain and hardship intensify our spiritual senses.” Two different authors, two different centuries, but I thought these phrases went beautifully together. Sin dulls our senses. Pain and hardship intensify our spiritual senses. We can see these two principles perfectly illustrated in the Bible time after time. Generations of sin had dulled the senses of the people of God — they failed to hear Him and obey Him anymore. They said no to His precious invitations. So in the Lord’s great, mysterious mercy, pain and hardship in the form of exilic captivity was one of the prescriptions He used to begin to turn them toward their Father again.
Jesus was the responsive Servant who was without sin. His senses were not dulled in the slightest — He heard from His Father and obeyed Him perfectly, all the way to the cross. What pleasure Jesus brought to His Father.
What is the Lord using in our lives right now to intensify our spiritual sensitivity to Him? Depending on what our response is, whatever it is we’re going through could be the very thing the Lord wants to use to teach us to obey Him more fully.
I believe even today we will be given an opportunity to RSVP to an invitation from the Lord. For those who have never said yes to His offer for salvation, He may ask for a reply again today. He’s relentless in His pursuit of our hearts. What a miracle that is.
For those who have already responded to that invite, we’ll still find Him beckoning in other areas of our lives. Those golden invitations with our names emblazoned on them will most certainly arrive.
I ask Him for the grace to help me respond to His leadings today.