Saturday, 21 March 2015

Seek, find, rest and be found

Autumn slips slowly into its place - casting longer shadows and shortening the days. After the initial unease that I often feel at the change of seasons, contentment settles again. The winding village lanes are flanked by tall St Joseph lilies, past their initial pure and fresh beauty, but still holding fading heads up for a while longer. Nature slows down, the frenzy of summer production and growth drawing back into itself, to prepare for a time of rest. The sun sits lower in the sky, different sounds and scents are carried up to our cabin on the breeze. Part of me wants to forage, gather, store up - like a squirrel frantically stowing away acorns for the winter months. But I am gently reminded that have no need to be a "pack rat" or a hoarder.

I was quite challenged this morning by part of the story of Ruth, which tells of the resting at Boaz' feet. I like resting, no doubt about that. I have no problem with putting my feet up. Most often I feel that I have deserved it in a way and tend to extend these times of rest past what is "necessary". But it was what had to happen before Ruth came to "rest", that presented me with a personal conviction.

Ruth was told by her mother in law to 1) Wash herself, 2) Put on perfume, and 3) dress in her best clothes. At first glance this sounds like the staging of a seduction. Looking closer at each step, I found a deeper meaning - not three simple steps toward being redeemed, but a process toward taking on a new life in Christ.

1) The washing:

In Ephesians 5:26 we read that Jesus gave himself up for the bride of Christ, "to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word" It means to examine myself by the word and letting it govern my attitude, motives and desires. In times of testing the word of God is a light on every step I take, giving me hope to persevere.

Just recently I found myself reacting to a situation in a way which could not be described as very graciously. I felt quite justified, but was brought up short when I saw these three words: "govern my attitude". Justifying my reaction by another's (apparent) motives, is a sure downward spiral, but if I let myself be led by the Word of God, my attitude, my choice of how to react becomes what matters, and I am tested by His standards instead.

2) The anointing (or putting on perfume):

Anointing always speaks of the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 tells us to be filled (or controlled) by the Holy Spirit - crucial when my natural reaction is to be anything but controlled!

3) The dressing in best clothes

This speaks of a righteous life. In Revelation 19:8 it says: "It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen - for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints". A righteous life is only possible when I am - washed with water through the Word and anointed by the Holy Spirit... Not that my righteousness depends on what I do, this Christ has attained for me and finished on the cross. But in gratitude for that gift, I want to live in a way that is pleasing to my Redeemer.

Now I am ready to lay down at His feet. Washed. Anointed. Clothed with Jesus' righteousness.

Is it uncomfortable at Jesus feet? Is it a cold hard place, like the threshing floor that Ruth came to? Am I fraught with doubt and worry of how He will react? How long He will take to react. How He will decide over my future...

It could be all of those or I could choose to rest. To wait. To be tested, refined. Which redefines the rest we find at Jesus feet.

It is not a place of passive waiting, giving up to "what will be, will be". It is a safe place of peace and surrender in trust. Knowing that whatever the Redeemer's decision over my life will be, it will be good. But letting the waiting and resting be a time when my faith can grow into something sustaining and strong. When I can be refreshed and renewed in his loving presence.

It is a place where I can become intimately familiar with who the Saviour is. What His will for me is. Where I am found in Him.

"The more I seek you, the more I find you
The more I find you, the more I love you
I want to sit at your feet,
Drink from the cup in your hand,
Lay back against you and breathe
Hear your heart beat
This love is so deep
It is more than I can stand
I melt in your peace
It's overwhelming..." (Kari Jobe)

Friday, 6 March 2015

Finding your Heart's Song

Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Psalm 96:1 (NLT)

The leaves on the trees are turning, and the summer splendour is over all too soon. Grasshoppers take wide and sudden leaps from the tall grasses before our feet. End of season wild flowers surprise us in a field where only the boys' heads are visible before me. Clusters of mushrooms send out their sponge-like heads in unexpected places. Some days and early mornings whisper of winter, while others still give way to strong sunshine, drawing all life on Inesi to its shady spots and hideaways.

A few days ago, on a typical misty-cool mountain day, the boys dug out an old CD by Don Mclean, songs from my early teens. It made me feel strangely sad and nostalgic for a time which appeared carefree, but was also fraught with self-doubt, insecurities and searching. I watched my children as they "bopped" to the catchy tune of “American Pie”. Their movements are still spontaneous and free and they have relatively little need to dissect or to understand what everything means.

I “ponder” and analyse so much.

I caught myself thinking: “are these words “edifying”, do they build up, speak truth into their young minds, bring glory to God?” Then, while I was busy making beds and tidying up the morning messes, the chorus from another song caught my attention. Just a few simple words: “I love the way you love me”. In that moment the nostalgia that was slightly dusty and stale was given a new breath. It was by no means written as a song of worship, but my heart sang to Jesus with those words.
I love the way Jesus loves me. Has always loved me. It trumps all those fragile memories. Sets me free from always needing to do everything exactly right. It lifts me out of feelings of self-doubt, away from the need to prove to people and myself what a good Christian I am. It is a love which binds, but brings total freedom. A love that is tender, but stronger than death itself. It is a love that expects nothing in return, but keeps on giving, giving, even if it is not always what I want or expect. It is always what I need. A love that can sense a need before it is even a thought or a prayer. A love that keeps on loving, even when I am not all that lovable. A love outside the boundaries.

That kind of love asks to be celebrated. With songs or silence. With instruments or voices. Music is only one way of expressing worship. I have to guard against mistaking the emotion brought on by a beautiful melody and touching lyrics with true worship from the heart. But having said that, when there is disharmony in my heart and the enemy threatens my peace, I have found that worship music has a way of "lifting" the darkness and where the name of Jesus is being lifted high, no demon will linger.

We almost always have music in the house. I cherish long deep times of silence, but my boys love to dance, and make up stories around the music. So we have come to some kind of agreement. They may play music, if mama gets a chance once in a while to choose a favourite, and most of all: if mom may have an hour or two of relative silence in the morning to ease into the day. A luxury I realise not too many people have. My husband also leans towards a preference for music or entertainment rather than silence, so I am somewhat outvoted.

Music was part of my childhood in many different ways. We grew up in an era when playing musical instruments and singing was a part of life, before the television set sadly became the "hearth" of most homes. Sunday mornings I almost always woke up with the strains of "All nations worship the Lord" a favourite radio show, lifting me from my dreams. My mother carried her little transistor radio with her through the house, depending on where she worked, and my father could sit late into the night with a book and his favourite classical records on the turntable. Later years I joined him on the couch next to his chair, enjoying concerts and opera recordings on our own new TV.

I'm learning that Jesus has a front seat to my heart's music, regardless of external noises or sounds. His ear is tuned to what is inside me. I can worship to Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor, brassy jazz vibes or a blue grass jig. 
With my children and Jesus, I am learning a new freedom, a new song. The song that has been the same from the beginning of time, written into every heart. A song that is expressed in a unique and beautiful way by each child of God.

God does not require a life of structured devotion and worship, rigorous hours of bible study and prayers. What pleases Him most is a loving and devoted heart. A heart that is tuned to His voice first. A heart that is moved to worship by the perfection of an insect and the grand finale of a glorious sunset. But also in the quiet moments of surrender and silence at His feet. So I sigh a deep sigh.

For when the Son sets you free, you are free indeed! (John 8:36).