“The purest joy springs from the deepest humiliation.”(Acts of the Apostles, p. 319)
How true this is! Like the water of a waterfall which sings as it cascades down and dashes itself on the rocks below, the lower we go in loving service, the deeper the joy we experience in our Savior’s sweet presence.
When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, my older sisters and I would often return home from school after dark in the wintertime. As the school bus approached our house in a quiet residential area outside of Philadelphia, my classmates could see the cheery red lamp on the kitchen table, but my sisters and I were the only ones who cared whether the light was on or not.My mother, a single parent who chose the disgrace of accepting state welfare so that she could be a stay-at-home-Mom, never missed a day at her post, at least as far as I can remember. She was faithful to her duty – to be at home with that little red lamp on “for her girls.”
When my sisters and I saw the little light in the kitchen window, we knew Mom was home and all was well with the world. We knew she would have a pot of steaming vegetable soup and freshly-baked bread waiting for us. The light was a beacon of stability in my otherwise unpredictable world.
Several months ago, I began living and working on a small organic farm. As the relationship I have with my boss/landlord has developed, he has become like a father to me. Although his own three daughters have been out of the nest for many years already, he continues to hang the big, old fashioned Christmas lights outside the house every year. This year he made the string of lights long enough to reach to the back of the house, lighting my porch!
The other evening I was returning to the farm from a short walk and noticed through the trees that the Christmas lights were on, adding their multi-colored cheerfulness to the dark night.
“Dad’s home!” I said to myself excitedly and walked a little faster. What a blessing to have this stability in my life again – someone who attentively protects me and wisely advises me, someone who willingly spends his valuable time with me and guides and supports me in my walk with my heavenly Father.
Mom’s red lamp in the kitchen window and Dad’s colorful Christmas lights draw me to the Father of Lights:
”Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of change” James 1:17, (Lamsa NT).
I am a “private” person. In other words, I am quieter and more reserved than your average bear. Having adequate “alone time” is crucial to my wellbeing. When I live in a place where my neighbors can see what I am doing inside my living quarters, I keep the shades drawn and the front door shut to discourage any snooping. Within the four walls of my habitation, I can do what I want. After all, what I do in my private life, whether consuming a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream or staying up all night to write, is my own business, right?
Several months ago, I began renting a room in a single-story, split-plan house. The room beside mine is only used during the daytime if at all so I am basically alone on one side of the house while the owners (husband and wife) have a bedroom at the opposite end of the house. The main living room and kitchen separate the two bedroom areas.
For the first few months, I kept pretty much to myself. I was careful to keep my shades closed when I was in the room, especially when the lights were on, and kept the door between my room and the rest of the house decidedly closed.
However, I have grown more comfortable with the family now, enough to let my hair down in their presence, to be “real.” About a week ago, I surprised myself by abruptly deciding to leave the door to my room open (except when I’m sleeping), as well as to join the couple at their kitchen table for meals occasionally and to sit with them in the living room, just to enjoy their company.
After isolating myself for most of my adult years, the Berlin Walls have crumbled! Yes, the walls are down, the door is wide open, and the window blinds are up. I stand vulnerable, exposed, accessible, free – willing to take the risk that I will not be loved yet knowing that the opposite is true – I will be loved even more by inviting them into my personal space. I know that they will still love me even if they see all my imperfections.
If someone asks me now, “Hey, what have you been up to lately?” I can say joyfully, “Enjoying loving and being loved.” No doors, no walls, no barriers between our hearts. We are connected, yoked, united. “And the glory which You have given to Me I have given to them, so that they shall be one just as We are one. I in them and You in Me, so that they shall have been perfected into one, and so that the world shall be knowing that You sent Me and You loved them just as You loved Me” John 17:22-23, ALT.
This morning I rode my boss’s bike down Williston Road searching for the entrance to a trail I had read about. I had nearly reached the trailhead when I heard that telltale sound – thwap, thwap, thwap, thwap – with each rotation of the tires. Within about 10 seconds, the bike’s rear tire was completely flat.I stood beside the bike at the side of the road wondering what to do. My options were simple: I could push the bike home or I could call Paul (my landlord/boss/brother in Christ/father figure). It would take about an hour and a half to walk the bike back.
Uncertain as to what to do, I felt the phone grow heavy in my hand. The minutes ticked by…
The night before, Paul had said to me out of the blue, “If you should ever get a flat while you’re out riding, call me and I’ll come and get you. I would do it for a stranger and I would do it even more willingly for someone who is so special to me.”
There was authority in his tone of voice, and I heard a loving and gentle reprimand against my “I can do it myself” attitude.
“I hear you,” I laughed in response, “but…” That meant I had no intention of ever relinquishing my independence and asking him (or anyone else) for roadside assistance!
Knowing that he meant what he said, I now ignored the voice in my head saying, “Just walk home. They are probably on their way to church anyway.” Instead, I called Paul on my cellphone.
There was no answer.
Now what? It would have been easy to say, “I tried to reach you, but there was no answer”, but I recommitted myself to my decision to ask for help.
I called his wife’s phone. Donna answered and went in search of Paul. I heard her say, “Brenna has a flat tire and needs help.”
Now that Paul knew I had a flat, it was a great temptation to just leave the conversation where it was, but I knew that for my own healing, I needed to humble myself and verbally confess my need for assistance.When Paul got on the phone, I repeated what had happened and then blurted out,”I need help.”
Apparently oblivious to my internal struggle, Paul simply said, “I’ll be right there.”
I paced the ground beside the bike, wondering what he would say when he saw me stranded there.
He was smiling when he drove up.
“You called, my daughter?” he said, obviously pleased that I had requested his help. It was his joy to support me in this way.
I was almost in tears, mortified by the situation I was in yet relieved that he had actually shown up as promised.
“Last night when you offered to bail me out if I ever got a flat tire, I had no idea I would need your help so soon,” I said. “I’ve been duly humbled.”
Gracious as usual, he didn’t rub it in.
“Thanks for coming, Dad,” I told him, meaning every word of it.
Finally, a man who is trustworthy, a man whose “yes” means yes and whose “no” means no, a man I can rely on, a true son of God.
It is difficult to admit that I cannot live in the heavenly realms while remaining independent and disconnected from others; to admit that I can’t do it alone, that sometimes we all need help.Healing tears – grieving the loss of my biological father who abandoned me but basking in the joy of being precious to Paul, the father I have embraced, and the miracle of love!
Fullness of Joy: Living Where the Roses Bloom Forever was written in February 2014 and printed soon thereafter, but it is linked here for the first time. May you be blessed as you read and experience this joy in our Savior.
“…By their fruits ye shall know them.”
The Face of God
I see the face of God in…
A perfect pink rosebud
Warm starlit nights
A furry feline
Stately evergreen trees
Majestic ocean waves
Colorful shades of autumn
Fields of blue flax blossoms…
I see the face of God in…
I see the face of God in…
God loves me.
Because I am loved, I can love myself; I can honor myself; I can have compassion on myself – freely, without guilt.
This love for myself can be represented as a balloon with my name on it tied to my wrist. It has always been there.
Because I am loved and because I love myself, I can love others; I can honor others; I can have compassion on others – freely, without guilt.
This love for others can be represented by other balloons tied to my wrist. Some of them say “Hope,” others say “Joy,” and others say “Healing” or “Love.” I can give a colorful “love balloon” to each person I meet. I am free to love and free not to love.
This big bunch of colorful “love balloons” lifts me up out of the deep waters of pain and woundedness to clearness, to a bright blue sky.* I am flying high!
*This deep water can be a safe place too. I simply face the pain that is there, settling into it without fearing it. I acknowledge it, feel it, own it, and wrap myself in God’s safe arms while it surrounds me.
Recently I left my part-time job as copy editor for a small Christian ministry and found myself homeless on the streets of Orlando.
It was time to close myself to the outside world, to cut myself off from all outside ties and support for a period of time, and to enter God’s heart through my pain and helplessness. I knew that as long as I ran from this duty, He could not fully heal me.
God was calling me to live out of a new place, a safe place. He was calling me to live away from mainstream society, away from friends and work. He was calling me toward a place of hiddenness, a place of solitude, a place of prayer and great simplicity.
I invite you to share my journey as you read – My Father My King