Saturday, December 28, 2013

Barefoot and Proclaiming: A 2014 Resolution

Shortbread crumbs huddle in small clusters like chilled people around a fire, pictures are posted, comments are made, the laughter quiets, the garbage cans burst with the refuse of a holiday well had.  Christmas slowly dissolves into clean-up, diet plans, thank you notes and work schedules resumed.  The holiday fades and flits her way into photo albums and fond memories.

And Christ?
The birthday boy?
The reason weary, wisemen wandered?
The reason we all gathered?
The reason we all laughed?
The reason we all baked and ate and wrapped and gave?
He remains.
Ever present.

While the groan of the engine of our homes resume—washing machines grunt and gurgle, dishwashers slosh and whine—His presence is still this miraculous thing that doesn’t end with a baby, some hay, some sheep, a maiden clothed in blue, and a bearded man gazing lovingly into the face of God in human flesh.  His presence fills the flush of our lives.

It does.
And I am blind.
Dear God, I am so blind.
Blind to miracles that extend beyond December. 
Blind to miracles that dance in front of me.

And I beg God for sight—sight to see the sway of Sassafras limbs in winter wind.  He made them. 

Sight to catch the cardinal’s crimson red wings splash like paint across a whale-grey sky.  When He dyed the cardinal’s wings did He think of the blood His Son would spill on another grey day?

Sight to goodness-gracious-catch-any-tiny-miracle  in the hectic craze that will consume me when I flip the calendar's page and 2013 becomes a history recorded in Christmas letters while 2014 becomes the urgent tyrant that demands my presence, my cooking, my cleaning, my helping, my studying, my mind, my hands, my energy, my life. 

Because I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and I want to slow and record and catch and praise and revel in the miracles of a God that drips and oozes sacred and holy and good . . .

But I can’t find my camera,
My phone battery’s dead,
And the gratitude journal my family started is buried under fifteen unread copies of Time magazine.
And Ann’s amazing, but I am ordinary.
Ordinary and extraordinarily busy.
Still, His words wiggle and worm their way into my spirit.

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, Lord. (Psalm 89:15, NIV)

And can I learn it?
Learn to acclaim Him? 
Even amidst the chaos?  Just learn that one thing this year?
Just one thing?  (Because at resolutions for New Year's, I tend to fail, but maybe this year?)

Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. (Psalm 89:15, NKJV)

I do know it, don’t I—the joyful sound of a people who have lived to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?
And haven’t I seen it?
His goodness?
When He provided not only what we needed, but a few of our wants too?
When He gave us the theme for a camp we were overwhelmed to consider leading?
When He healed the infection that threatened to claim my life after a botched surgery?
When He healed the marriage that was statistically doomed?
But then, what are statistics to a good, great, giant of a God?

I’ve uttered acclamation to a God who deserves constant praise, but learning to do it all the time?  Isn’t this what sweet Ann was attempting to do with those lists of gifts?

How blessed are the people who worship you! 
O Lord, they experience Your favor. (Psalm 89:15, NET)

The lists are worship.
They are acclamation.
They are shouts of joy.
They are a writer’s way or waving a flag each moment they catch a glimpse of His continual presence in a world that insists on distracting us from every holy moment.

And isn’t it ironic that the people who have learned to acclaim Him are the blessed ones?
This is the thing I keep missing, but it holds the secret of joy in its grip. 
The blessed ones aren’t the perfect ones.  They aren’t the talented ones.  They aren’t the ones who have it all together.  They aren’t the ones who write the books or go to college or marry the perfect person or win the lottery. 
They are the ones who have learned to acclaim Him, have learned to sing the joyful sound of a soul that stops, a soul that seeks to see, to see the sacred in ordinary life.
And they are these souls—the seekers of the Sacred—that experience HIS favor. 
His favor isn’t just bestowed on a few fortunate ones.

Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14) 

And I’ve been duped and fooled into believing the lie that his favor is measured in material things, in people, in ease of life, in comfort, in tangible things I can take into the palm of my hand and count when all along His favor has been as near as my skin.  Nearer, even. 

His favor IS His presence.

His favor IS His countenance.
And somehow, isn’t this a game changer?
Isn’t this the thing that whispers hope into desperate heartache?
Isn’t this the thing that promises possibility amidst poverty?
Isn’t this the thing that changes the trajectory of tragedy?

Because sometimes someone is brave enough to be honest with you, and when they are, they’ll admit they’re disappointed with life.  Disappointed with God.  Feel like he doesn’t have their back.

When I think about stories like Elizabeth Smart’s—nine months of torture and rape and devestation indescribable—I can’t even fathom how she could have felt God’s favor was measureable.  Measureable by what?  Starvation and dehydration?  Measureable by the number of days out of nine months that she wasn’t raped?  Are you kidding me?

And yet she tells this story of a night when thirst had parched her throat for days, her body was ravaged by malnutrition, and she fell to sleep a broken, desperate soul.  Yet in the night, she awoke—her captors remained asleep beside her—to find a yellow cup of cold water.  There was no water in their camp.  They’d been out for some time.  There was no human being who would have brought her water.  No one knew of their camp.  No one unzipped the tent that was her prison cell by night to help her.  And yet this cup.

This golden cup of cold water.
She says she drank deeply.  The water, far more than hydrogen and oxygen molecules, gave her hope not because it alleviated her thirst, but because it proved to her the very near presence of her Savior.  And in her book, she will tell you, she acclaimed the Lord.  She knew Her God was present amidst her suffering.

Favor is not measured in the removal of tragedy, it is measured in the presence of God. 

And the people who are blessed?
The people who experience His favor?
They are the ones who worship Him.  Who SEE Him.  Who acclaim Him.  Who say—I see the pain, but I see the God who remains beyond December too. They are the ones who see the God who stays beside the thirsty child in Africa and the sex trafficked woman in Atlanta.  They are the ones who see the God who will go with the foster child removed from a safe place and sent back into a home where his prospects are poor.

Because somehow, though I don’t understand it and can’t explain it, in this life there is horrible suffering, and God is not to blame for that.  He does allow it, though.  And no theological, churchy, Christianese answer will ever satisfy the heart who hurts and hungers.  Because blessed people still weep.  But this I know.  Immanuel? 

That name?
It means God with us.
His presence remains beside us all.
And that IS the miracle of Christmas.
That is the thing to which we must hold until we can understand fully.
That is the only thing worth holding.
That is the thing which I must spend 2014 learning to acclaim—His presence.  Everywhere.
Every.Single.Place in my life and in yours.

In one fell swoop thousands of years ago He saved us from sin, but that isn’t the end.  Every day His presence saves us from a fallen world and ushers us into a holy moment.  A thousand holy moments.  Infinite holy moments.  Because when He died the curtain that separated us from His presence was torn, and we live in the Holy of Holies—In HIS presence every sacred second.  When Moses stood on Holy ground in front of a burning bush, he instinctively removed his shoes. 
And shouldn’t we, the ones on whom His favor rests, be a barefoot people?

Our lives are lived out on Holy ground because

This song says it too . . . maybe better than I can write it.

1 comment:

Kelli Mathews said...

It seems as if you put everything that is scrambling around in my head neatly and beautifully on paper for me. Thank you! I love you! You're writing challenges, encourages and moves me. Heart you