Love & Humility

“If an experience fails to engender humility, charity, mortification, holy simplicity, and silence, etc., of what value is it?…In this faith God supernaturally and secretly teaches the soul and, in a way unknown to it, raises it up in virtues and gifts…When together with the words and concepts the soul is loving God and simultaneously experiencing this love with humility and reverence, there is indication that the Holy Spirit is at work within it.” -St. John of the Cross

As I was driving today, these were my thoughts…

I have experienced deep pain, I have felt the sting of betrayal, the dagger of rejection; I have felt the offense of close friends, I have been torn by the gossip of others. I have seen the hypocrisy of leadership and not pointed my finger; I have stood in the face of being falsely accused.

I have been wrong. I am often wrong. I have hurt people close to me. I have spoken pointed words knowing exactly where they will hurt the most.

And in all of this, in every situation, in all human and spiritual relationships, I have seen that only two things are worth experiencing them all: love and humility. If I can come out of these situations, whether I am the injurer or the offender, with love and humility, it’s worth it.

I’m not trying to rewrite a letter from Paul, though skimming them last night is probably why this is on my mind. It’s sounds so simple: respond well, taking the low road and love through the hard things. Yet so many of us choose the easy way of offense, selfishness, and pride, so we stay in our immature state.

I know many people who are twice my age and still take the easy path. I want to set my face towards the low, unattractive door. I want to come out of every situation with a little more love and a little more humility.

Thankfulness

I found this high school English paper the other day and it made me laugh. Note that this is before I had the bridal paradigm. It’s dated 4/4/02.

Thankfulness. Sure, we hear the word every day, “thanks” for this and “thanks” for that, but do we ever stop to think about its true meaning? I looked it up in the dictionary and my favorite definition was, “warm friendly feelings of gratitude”. Now, if every time we said “thanks” we felt warm and friendly feelings of gratitude, don’t you think we would put a little more effort into it?

Mom told me to write an essay on what I was thankful for, but I’m going to go a bit deeper. I’m going to go into why. Why? Well, if you think about it, it all leads back to Adam and Eve, back to the beginning of time, back to the Almighty God. You know, God didn’t have to create us, he chose to. We should be thankful that God even thought of creating us! I mean, if I were him I sure wouldn’t have, we’re so selfish and prideful and yet if we saw God in his glory and majesty, we would be so ashamed of ourselves and how much time we wasted that was not spent worshiping and pleasing Him.

My Dad is sick with some unknown disease or problem of some kind, and the doctors can’t figure out what it is. He can’t do anything very well, he has slurred speech, spasms in his arms and legs, double eye site and a really bad rash (some kind of reaction to medicine). He’s been sick for 2 years now, and has been in a wheelchair for 9 months. And yet I look at him all the time and say, look at how he’s bearing it! If I was in his situation I would be wining and complaining all the time and be so depressed I would be a miserable wreck. But he’s not. And I thank God for giving me the wonderful Father that I have.

Then I look at my Mom and say, WOW!!! Look at how she’s bearing it! She’s so strong and has just stepped up to the plate and done the best she could in his place and again, if I were her I’d be a wreck, and I thank God again for my wonderful Mom. My whole family for that matter, they’re so great and talented and they all love God and are such great examples. I don’t know why God chose to put me in such a great family.

There are so many other things I have to be grateful and thankful for, I could write them down with all the paper in the world. Our house, computer, car, animals, our blessings. You may think I have a horrible life, with my Dad sick and all, but you know, I look at it and say, Thank you God for knowing I am able to have this burden and use it for Your Glory.ˇ

An Old Story

It’s really very badly written, but I ran across this short story I wrote when I was 14 and laughed remembering writing it. I always used to fantasize about something like this happening (if I said what “it” was it would destroy the cliffhanger of the story!). The part about the groceries is hilarious…Here it is for you to read if you care to.

Time froze. I looked at Alicia with disbelief. How could this be happening to me? She gave me one last piercing look and, with tears in her eyes, turned away slowly and walked off into the dusky winter night. I felt as if a knife had pierced my soul. I stood on the snow-dusted sidewalk in front of my apartment, a young man watching his lover walk away – and ran our conversation through my head. I knew then that she would never come back; she was gone forever. But how could she have concealed this from me for so long? That last look in her deep blue eyes haunted me for years.

I first met Alicia in first grade. We both went to the same school until seventh grade where we went our separate ways to different junior highs. I didn’t see her again until after we had both graduated high school. I was 19 and had just moved into an apartment of my own and she had just moved in with a friend in a town about a half an hour from my apartment. We met up again at a mutual friend’s New Year’s party. I knew from then on that we would be more than childhood friends. We hung out a lot that year and started dating in the summer.

That was almost two years ago now, and I thought we were ready to move on. We were both 21 and independent and we could find a place and start a life together without too much difficulty. But my plans were put on hold when, as I proposed to her at our favorite little Italian restaurant, her eyes filled with tears and she said, “I’m not ready to tell you, why did you have to make it so hard?” I didn’t understand. What was wrong? I thought we had a mutual feeling that we were right for each other. She soon calmed down and told me that she would have to think about it and would let me know the next time she saw me.

It was Tuesday night, three days after my proposal, when we saw each other again. She knew that I stopped to pick up my weekly groceries on Tuesday after work and had driven there and waited for me. It was only a mile from my house and we agreed to walk back and talk on the way. It was Christmastime and as we walked through the heart of the city we could hear distant carolers singing with light hearts and joyful shoppers laughing merrily as they walked through the quaint town shops.

We did not share their joy; a foreboding had set over both of us as to what was going to happen next. We walked past rows of houses decorated in festive Christmas lights for a while and soon stopped in front of a particularly extravagant one to admire its ornate display. “I suppose we should come right out to the point,” Alicia said with a catch in her voice. I nodded, too wary of saying the wrong thing to speak. She dug her toe into the dirty snow at her feet and then looked up at the house as she spoke. “Do you know what I do?” she asked.

I was startled at the question and replied, “of course! You’re a hair stylist at that place by your house.”

“Have you ever seen me working there?”

“Well…no. It seems we always met at my work or somewhere in between.” Now that I said it, it did seem a little odd. That had never even occurred to me before.

Alicia nodded as if she knew and seemed to change the subject. “You remember how at that first New Year’s party where we met and how I all of the sudden saw something and rushed off without explaining?”

I nodded. I remembered the day clearly. We had been introduced and started up a conversation when Alicia abruptly looked over my shoulder and excused herself and never returned. We had already exchanged contact information and when I called her the next day and asked her what happened she brushed it off and I never did get an explanation. I was brought back to the present by Alicia’s melodic voice continuing to sing.

“I was on an assignment that night. I went to Rian’s New Year’s party to search for the man, knowing that he would be there; I didn’t expect to meet you.” She paused but not long enough for me to ask questions. “I caught him after a rigid car-chase. He was a marijuana dealer and was put in prison for life.” She paused again and took a deep breath, finally turning and looking me in the eye. “I was assigned to him by the CIA.

I caught my breath. My girlfriend was a secret agent? “Ok, you are totally joking with me,” I said. But looking into those deep eyes I could sense that she was telling the truth.

“Not at all,” she said, staring back at me. “I was employed right out of high school because my math and science SAT scores were in the top 10% in the country.”

I turned and started walking down the decaying sidewalk, trying to think of what to say. She caught up with me.
“I didn’t want to tell you. But-,” her voice broke as she spoke and I stopped and looked at her. She was fighting tears as she said, “I-I couldn’t live a kind of life where I had to keep so much hidden from the person I love the most.” Her flushed face turned up towards me.

“I do love you. But if I married you, my whole life would be a lie. I had to tell you that I worked somewhere to explain me having no problem paying rent- or anything else. But I’ve told you now; and-“she paused. “You know it all. I’ve only ever had this job, and I can’t leave it. You’re the only one I’ve told, and you must forget that I ever told you.” Her voice broke again as she spoke those chilling words, ”I can’t marry you. I’ve already committed a great crime in my profession by even telling you about it; I could be shot.”

The tears started streaming now. I stood with my cheeks wet with drops of mixed anger and sadness. Looking at me was the woman I loved the most in the entire world, a woman I knew I would never see again.

“Promise me this,” she said. I nodded slowly. “That you will remember that I will always love you- and I told you my secret because I love you and don’t want to hurt you. I know that you don’t like my Christian beliefs, but please do this for me. Would you look up the meaning of your name?”

I didn’t answer her question. I only asked a bitter one, “Were all your beliefs a lie too? What else wasn’t true? How can I believe anything now?” I didn’t want to injure this sweet girl, but I felt hurt that she had kept this from me for so long.
“You know you didn’t mean that,” she retorted. “I know I should have never taken the relationship so far.” We continued to walk, each pondering our own thoughts until we had come to my apartment complex.

“Please look up your name, if that is the last thing you ever do for me. You know that we will never see each other again,” she began to cry again and looked at me for the last time. “I do love you. Never forget that. God loves you to. Goodbye, my darling.” And she was gone.

I wasn’t going to look up my name; it seemed so silly. But my nagging love for her overpowered the aching emotions and I pulled out an old baby names book from a dusty shelf of books I rarely touched. I went to the boy’s “I” section and found my name. It told me everything. I had never cared what my name meant, but now it hit me hard. The entry read, “The Lord listens.” I began to cry.

Mother,
I’m telling you all this to know that because of your and Alicia’s prayers and the profound three words that touched my heart, I came to know the true God of the universe that night, December 22, 1996 – and I will never be the same.
I’m sorry I never listened to your beliefs, but I want you to tell me more. I found the old Bible you gave me and have been reading it. Thank you so much for naming me what you did. I know now that I will see Alicia one day in heaven.

God bless,
Ishmael

I’ve been reading Poe…

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow—
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep— while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

(A Dream Within a Dream, Edgar Allan Poe)

Let me get that close

I just watched the video slideshow from my internship. When it came to the part of pictures of us all in the prayer room, I was so overcome with memories of my heart attitude back then. I really longed for only the Lord. I was so joyful…and so content. With as little faith as I had, I never doubted the Lord would take care of me, that the Lord would guide my steps, that even if He chose the hardest path, I knew He would give me the grace to walk it out.

But now I feel my spirit has grown so dull. I used to be known for my smile; I used to be warm and other-oriented. I used to yearn to be a servant like my Jesus. But what have I become? Perhaps it was pride all along that I ever thought I was more like Him, but now all I see is the wickedness of my own heart. All I see is my sin, my selfishness, my prideful heart. I smell like one of the world; I smell like one who is hardened.

Daddy, I want to be soft again. Daddy, I want to run recklessly towards You again. I’ve tried to do it right and I’ve failed. I thought I was following You and I was, but I let myself get in the way. I want to go to extremes again so that You can bring me back to the center. Would You hold me in Your arms and speak over me one more time that You love me in my weakness. Tell me that the fact that I feel the way I do is an answer to prayer. Tell me that the end of myself is right where You’ve been trying to get my heart again.

I know the answer. I know this is what I’ve prayed for. I know that this is being poor in spirit. I know now that this is right where I want to be.

Jesus, I desperately need your touch. I am nothing without You. I need to feel Your arms around me again. Speak softly into my ear the dream of Your heart. I want to hear all the secrets You have kept in Your heart about my future. I know I did hear your voice in this season, it’s just that I stumbled on the way because I don’t know You well enough. I’m not close enough to Your heart to know what You would do in every situation. That’s where I want to be. I want to get to the place where I no longer have to ask what you’d do, I just know. Jesus, let me get that close to You.

Another Groaning

I have a yearning to know Yah,
To be consumed by the Holy,
In my every action to please Him.
I desire to serve Yeshua with all that I am.

And what do I do when He is silent?
What do I do with the questions in my mind?
It’s not a lack of faith
It’s not pursuing other loves
It’s an ache that I don’t know what He’d do;
It’s a longing to understand Him better.

A good friend just knows what you’d do,
They can anticipate what you’d say.
And when there is silence.
When the silence is void of communication.
Where do I go from there?

Oh God I must know You.
You must come because I am nothing without You.
In these things I don’t know where to turn.
Speak. Please speak.

Put Your words so soft, so sweet
Deep into my heart and root them there;
Plant them deep where they cannot be lost.
Lost when I get confused
Lost when I begin to doubt;
Remind me of Your faithfulness.
Tell me our story one more time.

Cause this heart to love You.
Cause these eyes to seek You alone.
I am yearning
I am longing
For more.