What We Don’t Know

There’s a lot going on inside everyone’s heart and mind that we don’t know about. A lot. You can count on it.

This inner stuff living in our hearts drives our responses to each other as we go about our daily lives. It influences what we say, what we think, what choices we make.

It does this without our being aware of it.

Until we have the courage to reach deep into our heart and pull its contents up into the light. Lay it all on the table under the microscope of Truth and Love. Look closely at the conglomeration. Sift through it. Examine the content for truth and error. Feel the feelings attached to each piece.  Anger. Joy. Fear. Grief. Desire. Confusion. Longing. Pain. Happiness. Delight.

Let the feelings seep deep into our being. Make friends with it all –  the light, the dark, the in-between hues. Own every piece. Because to reject any is to reject a vital part of what has made us who we are. Which leaves us broken and walking wounded with missing parts. Never whole.

Then after we become friends with all the bits and pieces, we can lay them to rest. Gently.

And live.

Fully. Freely. Joyously.

 

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Relentless Pursuit

The other night my friend Sandy and I were talking about God. About what He’s doing in our hearts. What He’s using to do this.

Sandy and I have spent a great deal of time together in the last eleven months. We’ve watched each other walk through hard, lonely places. An autistic daughter. Cancer recurrence. Disappointments. Hard changes. Grief. Confusion. Anger. Fear. Places where there’s nothing much a friend can do except simply be there with the quiet gift of presence. We’ve been raw and honest about our struggles in those places. About the true state of our hearts. Our need for each other’s prayers.

We talked about how we live glibly along for years, believing we are depending on God. We pay verbal homage to Him; pray passionate prayers. But in truth, whenever we can, we turn first to ourselves or spouses or friends or any number of other avenues to fix our problems.

But God wants something more for us.

Life brings difficult situations to us all. Situations that result from our own choices. Or the choices of others. Or from living in a broken world. Or a combination of all three. And sometimes situations that seem to have no discernible cause at all.

As I said, our default mode is to turn to the knowable in these times – our own abilities, other people, the wisdom and knowledge of experts.

Or, sometimes, we immerse ourselves in a multitude of other things to distract our minds from the pain or anxiety of the difficult situation.

Or we wallow in the misery of it all, feeling powerless.

Or we try to block it out. We put on a happy face and “get on with our life.” We refuse to let this “thing” get us down or make us whine. We muscle out way through it.

Sometimes we spend years of our lives doing these things. We don’t understand how our busyness, our pursuit of living a good life, our multiple distractions are often attempts to quiet our anxious hearts. We don’t realize how much fear and anxiety is building up inside us all the while.

We get very skilled at fooling ourselves.

But God is for us, always. And He uses the day-to-day things in our lives to continually woo us to Him. Interactions with people, challenges at work, debilitating illnesses, circumstances we can’t control. All life’s stuff. Sometimes the complete opposite of what we’d expect God to use.

He gives us opportunities to respond to these things in a different way. To turn to Him as our default mode. To depend fully on Him.

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As we sat there in soft quiet of the long day’s end, Sandy talked about God’s kindness in allowing hard things in our lives to teach us to depend fully on Him. We talked about the changes occurring deep in our hearts as we walked through our valleys. About learning to relinquish our fears and anxieties fully to God. About what God really wants for His children. And how He brings us, finally, to a place of trust and dependence. A place of peace.

The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

 

Secondhand Goods

I seldom go to Goodwill anymore. Just once in a blue moon.

It used to be an addiction of sorts to slip down the street a few blocks. Poking around through everything is so much fun. Thrift stores are the only kind of shopping I enjoy much at all. I love the thrill of unexpected finds that you would never ever run onto in a regular store. The lure of the unusual or exquisite.

It’s way different from going to the typical store where everything is exactly what you expect and pretty much exactly the same as what’s available everywhere else. That kind of shopping is mind-numbing.

But thrift stores are a shopping adventure in a class of their own.

Not like yard sales where people are selling stuff they don’t want like used toasters and empty Crayola boxes and irregular glass jars without lids. And pink ruffled bedspreads with matching curtains. And all kinds of other nostalgia-inflicting goods they can’t bear to put on the ash heap so they price it at 25 cents. And you pay perfectly good money for it because it’s dirt cheap  and definitely worth a quarter because it’s exactly like what Aunt Martha had when you were six and spent the night there and wished you could have too. Then you get it home, and you understand completely why they were selling it for such a piffalous price. And you ask yourself “What was I THINKING?!” And the truth is, you weren’t. But it’s too late.

Or antique shops that have every nook and cranny chock full of everything you’ve never seen and even junky stuff is outrageously expensive just because it’s old and rusty. It’s all mostly things you would just set somewhere for “pretty”and have to dust. And who wants more stuff to dust? Especially if it’s overpriced and not even useful.

But thrift stores are different.

There’s often a lot of stuff there you can use. Or sometimes just so wonderfully unique it provides its own usefulness by the delight it invokes. And it’s all usually priced way under what you would pay for it new. On rare occasions, you can even nab some extra fabulous steals. It’s especially fun if it’s something you’ve been wanting or needing, but never expected to find at a thrift store. Those are the real thrills.

Like a solid oak end table for a few dollars. I recognized its quality at first sight. It was the exact size I needed – the lamp table I’d built from baskets and books was prone to tipping – but I wasn’t sure about the water rings on it. A customer walking by as I was pondering said he’d charge two or three hundred to make that piece. Another person gave me tips on how to rub the rings out. A few hours and a lot of elbow grease later, I had a gleaming stable home for my lamp.

Some months down the road I found a solid oak coffee table at the very same place. It was the same color of finish as my end table. And way underpriced also. It just barely fit into the back seat of my car. Hardly an inch to spare. I lugged it up my apartment steps and gave it a happy welcome. My beautiful oversized volume of The Chronicles of Narnia (another thrift store find) adopted it.

That’s the thrill of thrift stores. Delightful things you enjoy immensely, but would never have bought new.

But after a certain point, enough’s enough. In truth, what you really need to live is quite limited. Superfluous stuff clutters your space and your mind. Human-made cobwebs.

So I seldom go to Goodwill anymore. Mostly just when I get this hunch that there’s something there I’m supposed to get. The hunches don’t happen very often. They aren’t always accurate either. But often enough that I’ve learned to listen to them.

My hunches aren’t usually about major items. Mostly little things for a specific purpose. Like the hot air popcorn popper I’d been wanting for a friend to roast coffee. It was in pristine condition. I knew right away it was the reason for the hunch. I was delighted. She was too.

So I pay attention to my hunches, because you never know what God is up to. He’s got His eye turned toward us all the time. Even at Goodwill.

I stopped in the other week when the hunch happened again. But there was nothing that caught my eye in particular. Okay, so what was the hunch about? I wondered to myself. Apparently I’d misread it this time.

I wandered around some more. Poking here and there.

Suddenly words of the song that was playing grabbed my ear. “Always stay humble and kind.” The lyrics wound on in typical country music honky tonk manner. But that gentle powerful line kept repeating: “Always stay humble and kind.”

“Always stay humble and kind.”

The message hunkered down in my heart.

It was Jesus’ modus operandi tucked into five little words.

Words I’ve seen my mom live out quietly year after year, decade after decade. A living legacy.

Words I struggle to put actions to in hundreds of nitty gritty everyday places that crop up daily. My spirit is willing but my flesh has an incorrigible mind of its own.

A week or so later, another hunch. Not very big, but there. Within minutes of my stepping inside the store it started playing again: “Always stay humble and kind.”

“Always stay humble and kind.”

“Okay, God, I get it. I hear what You’re telling me.”

If only my mother’s humble kind spirit were coded into my DNA.

But, maybe – just maybe – if you live long enough and play your hunches right – it’s possible to get your parents’ good traits secondhand. High quality goods pre-worn and broken in. Like that stuff you want but never expect to find at a thrift store. But then God surprises you.

Just maybe.

 

Where His Feet Pass

Some people see God best in nature. They love walking in parks and botanical gardens for hours. The natural world breathes life into their spirit. It’s where they prefer to be.

I’ve never been one of those people.

It used to sort of niggle at me that I wasn’t more of a nature lover. As if it were some sort of flaw that I’d rather hang out with friends and drink coffee or read a book than take a walk in the woods outside my door. If God is best seen in nature, surely a person should want to be there as much as possible, right? Or at least live in the country. Surely.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy seeing God in nature. I do. Very much. Quiet hiking trails along trickling waterfalls. The varied greens of every new springtime. The grandeur of the Continental Divide’s rocky ranges unfolding for miles. The lulling lap of endless waves breaking on white sands. Sunrises. Sunsets. Rainbows. The peace of the Valley’s blue mountains that fulfill “the promise in the Book.”  Fireflies flitting through quiet summer twilight. Flowers blooming Welcome beside the doorstep.

These marvels silently shout God’s glory. Tangible proofs “Thy Nature and Thy Name is Love.” They quieten the heart and speak “Peace, be still” to body and soul.

Grand and glorious revelations of His presence, without a doubt.

But where I most love seeing God is in His image bearers.

Beings He first molded from dust with gentle hands and breathed into their nostrils the breath of Life. Then placed in a special garden: a paradise of love and beauty for them to live and move and have their being. To bear His image and share in His work. “And, behold, it was very good.”

Perhaps that’s why I enjoy living in an apartment complex so much. The people. It thrills my heart in a deep place to live amidst a constant flux of humanity. I just love seeing them and connecting and interacting. All of us doing life in our little neighborhood.

I’m not sure why this brings me such joy. It just does.

People of all colors, ages, and walks of life. Coming, going, working, visiting. Each one breathing Life born from that First Breath and bearing God’s image in their special, unique way. A constant livestream visual of God’s love for diversity. Divine creativity clad in human cloth.

All busy going about the business of living. Doing life’s daily mundanities. The bits and pieces of living that hold the elixir of life. For it’s in the little day-to-day duties where we spend most of our lives. And it’s in those little bits and pieces of living and loving and being that life’s deepest beauty and meaning are found. In the fleeting dust of Everyday Ordinary.

In truth, when I’m with people, I seldom actively think about their bearing God’s image. But there are some things the heart just knows. These truths influence our minds and we respond intuitively. The sacredness of life embodied in humans is one of those truths. We instinctively value it above all other things.

But we humans are so – well – so human, that we often overlook God’s beauty in this life force in people. The God-glimpses in ordinary humans going about everyday living.

This morning I opened my curtains and looked out on the world. The sun was up. Birds were singing at the top of their lungs. “Morning has broken like the first morning….Born of the one light Eden saw play.”  Fresh cool air held a hint of coming heat. Filled parking spots told which day of the week it was. Or, rather, wasn’t.

It was a glorious day in the neighborhood.

Across the complex a dad was coming down the sidewalk flanked by two young children. The box in his hands looked like those from the family-run donut shop up the street. As the little group turned into the walkway leading to their apartment, the early sun cast their short shadows bobbing along beside them.

My eyes feasted on the beauty of it: a loving dad and his eager kids bringing donuts home for a Saturday morning treat. Perhaps to a waiting mom, savoring a few sweet moments of alone time.

The dad unlocked the door and stood back to let the little people enter ahead of him. Then he followed them in, carrying the box of goodness to be enjoyed in sweet relaxed togetherness. A little Sabbath.

What a beautiful image of our heavenly Father.

A Dad Who walks before us, beside us, behind us. Who sometimes steps back and lets us go ahead while He brings up the rearguard. Providing guidance, protection, comfort, goodness. Sweetness in life’s little places. True Sabbath. Daily.

“God’s re-creation of the New Day.”

In His image-bearers. In your neighborhood.

 

What You Know First

Patricia MacLachlan wrote a poignant book about a young child who doesn’t want to leave her home when her family has to move during the Depression era. The child plots ways to stay, talking herself through the process of leaving behind the things she loves best at her prairie home. Her mama, allowing her to process, says her little brother will need someone to remind him of where he came from.

“What you know first stays with you,” her papa told her.

Eventually she decides she will move with her family, but take with her a cottonwood twig and a small bag of dirt (like the author herself did) to remind her of the prairie in case she ever forgets.

I read this story some years ago and have thought often of the words: “What you know first stays with you.” Of how true they are. How this truth is lived out around us all the time. Not just in the physical things that MacLachlan mentions in her book, but broader ways too. Patterns, values, and attitudes learned in childhood perpetuated across varied lifestyles.

What you know first lives deep in your soul. What lives in your soul leaks into real time often in ways you don’t even recognize.

Hard work, love for the Lord, kindness, hospitality, thriftiness, a green thumb, ingenuity, benevolence, caring heart, music/singing, intellectualism, business savvy, concern for the poor, open-handedness, laughter, generosity, love of peace, dedication, etc., etc. So many varied ways to be in the world.

And negative aspects as well, which don’t need to be listed, but are perpetuated just as readily unless deliberate effort is made to change.

Somehow getting older mellows your heart and circles you back. Life’s changes and challenges make you face and accept your weaknesses and your complete dependency on God. At the end of the day you realize that what really matters in life is very, very simple. Connections with friends and family. Love. God. Forgiveness. Joy. Peace. Jesus.

You see how the things you knew first set the stage for your life. How God uses both the good and the bad of those things to mold and shape you and draw you to Him. You understand why what you know first always stays with you. How it reminds you of where you came from and the importance of remembering that. And how Jesus was there in it all. Always.

 

They Just Showed Up – G & K

Kara Tippetts started Mundane Faithfulness to chronicle her journey of being faithful to God in the mundane things of life using “love is kind” as her guiding bar. When cancer struck, Kara’s blog became a chronicle of her emotional tango with that relentless taskmaster. And the grace that accompanied her and those she loved around and around an uneven dance floor as they mastered steps to a dance none had ever wanted to learn.

Kara wrote more about her journey in a book, The Hardest Peace. She had a rare gift of expressing raw emotions with endearing transparent honesty, while always pointing to Jesus and the grace to be found in the midst of the hard.

During some of her last months, Kara and her friend Jill wrote Just Show Up to give practical insights on how to walk well with people going through hard places. That difficult dance for those on both sides of the showing up scene.

Kara’s gift for connecting led to many friends, both real life and online, walking alongside her on the journey and finding inspiration and hope for their own lives in her honesty and faithfulness. Following Kara’s death this past spring, her friends developed a plan to continue Kara’s legacy of love and nurturing community via her blog and Facebook.

Today Mundane Faithfulness is linking readers’ stories about how people have “just showed up” for others during life’s hard places.

There are many, many people who’ve showed up in my life when I needed help, guidance, or simply a caring human presence. Sometimes they showed up in real life, sometimes online, sometimes both. I could write story after story of the how, when, and where of those varied showing-up times and places. I know God orchestrated every one of them in His great goodness and love.

But my story today is about Kara. How she showed up in my life without her ever knowing she had. That’s likely the same for hundreds of others – Kara showing up and drooling love across computer screens she never knew about.

I had no idea who Kara Tippetts was when I saw her name in an Ann Voskamp blog that a friend forwarded to me. I don’t read many blogs, but for some reason Kara’s name caught my attention. I don’t remember the sequence of internet gymnastics involved, but somehow I ended up on her blog.

I was intrigued with the blog title Kara pulled from Martin Luther’s quote: “What will you do in the days of mundane faithfulness?” A question that digs deep into your heart. Because in the midst of mundanity is where we spend many days. Many many days. So the question is huge. It addresses a huge chunk of everyone’s life.

I don’t remember for sure, but I think Kara had already died when her blog showed up in my life. But her words were very much alive. They spoke life to me as I wrestled with my own hard stuff amidst life’s mundanity. Not hard stuff like she and her family and friends walked through, for sure. Not by any means.

But living through life’s mundaneness can be a very hard thing. In truth, part of the hardness of mundanity is its ordinariness. People aren’t showering you with love and prayers and offers of help as they do when you’re facing “real” hardness. So you’re pretty much on your own. Which is very lonely. And hard. Many, many people slog through the noise and clatter surrounding silent lonely hardness day after mundane day. It takes fortitude and courage to keep your chin up. To open your heart to God’s grace turning mundanity into a place of life and joy. To keep on keeping on.

Kara modeled the keeping on thing beautifully. She showed up regularly, wearing raw realness with a style anyone can copy regardless of whether their own hard is a “real” hard or an ordinary hard. Her style fits both.

And she brought God along with her. And pointed to His Grace. Every time.

Or maybe it was actually God that showed up and He brought Kara with Him. Maybe Kara herself is part of His gift of grace.

Either way, they both showed up. Together. Arm in arm.

The duet of Grace and Truth they sang in voices intimate with both suffering and joy speaks Life and Hope into countless lives time and time again. Heavenly harmony in crescendo. Their harmonious duet is more alive now than ever.

“And, Behold, it was very good.”

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There are many and varied ways of showing up. It doesn’t require doing anything marvelous or great. Sometimes it’s merely a whisper of presence. A touch of kindness. A tendered word. Very small, very quiet, but big enough and loud enough to spill love into some heart’s deep need.

Years ago my dear friend Jane wrote this poem in my birthday card. It was her own quiet way of showing up for me, of telling me she was there if I needed her. I loved the poem then. I still do and have thought of it many times through the years.

They might not need me; but they might.
I’ll let my head be just in sight;
A smile as small as mine might be
Precisely their necessity.
~ Emily Dickinson

Desert Rendezvous (part 1)

In Psalm 139 David says that before we were born, God knew everything about us, even the words we would say. That His Presence is with us no matter what life brings or where we go. David tended to wax eloquently and take poetic license at times. His words aren’t prefaced with “Thus saith the LORD” and are in a book that contains a lot of metaphor, so they need to be interpreted from that perspective. But God says elsewhere that David was a man after His own heart. It is certainly clear that, despite his flawed humanness, David had a deep intimate relationship with God. David’s words, rising from that place of intimate knowing, have much to teach us about God and His involvement in our lives.

As my own life unfolds, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that a Divine Hand does indeed sew the bits and pieces of our lives together with a cosmic thread. That everything is connected from start to finish and has purpose despite the seeming randomness of life’s various elements. There have been far too many precisely timed happenings in my life for them to be coincidence or chance. How all that fits into the theological picture, I don’t understand. I just know that what I’ve experienced in my life and heard from many others points clearly to a sovereign Being whose nature and name is Love.

When I was “running around” (Old Order Mennonite term for going to youth activities), at Sunday night singings I frequently chose the song “Come Ye Apart.” The poignant words, married with the beautiful tenor ending notes, thrilled my heart and ear and called to something deep within me.

“Come ye apart!” it is the Lord Who calls us,
And oh, what tenderness is in His tone!
He bids us leave the busy world behind us
And draw apart awhile with Him alone.

‘Mid restless crowds with all their noise and tumult,
No rest, no leisure, find our spirits there;
Our vision fails, our sense of life’s proportion,
Unless we seek the quiet place of prayer.

And so He calls us into desert places
Where human voices may not drown His own,
There to receive the fuller revelation
He makes to those who wait with Him alone.

It’s been a year now since I moved into this town apartment after two months of homelessness – staying with friends, housesitting, traveling. I kept my possessions limited when I moved. Clothes, the essentials, a few special items. Plants to purify the air and provide life and solace.

I wanted my life to be as simple and clutter free as possible, but aesthetically pleasing. Beauty feeds the soul. And light. Lots and lots of natural light.

I settled in to live. And write the book that I had come to Ohio to write. I thought.

Alone in a 75 unit apartment complex in an unfamiliar town, I was surrounded with strangers, all living in their own little world. Occasionally, if we happened to meet at our doors, I’d exchange polite Hi’s with the two nice college-going brothers who live next to me. Once in a while I’d chat with the talkative ex-police officer, sporting an artificial leg, who keeps watch on the complex from his blue bench. Sometimes I’d chat with some of the tenants in the laundry room or parking lot. Generally, though, everyone kept to themselves. I pretty much did too.

Life in a world of detached strangers was a huge shift from living in a close-knit community surrounded by friends and family every day. For weeks, I lived in sort of a daze, mostly just doing the next thing.

Fall led into silent white-walled winter. Frigid weeks and months circled into spring; then days and days of summer rain that puddled finally into hot dryness. A desert place of seasons.

In “Grace Disguised,” I wrote about the deep loneliness that broadsided me and my sense that God wanted to teach me something in it. How I determined to learn His lessons. The clarity of mind He gave me for the journey.

Very soon into the journey, without consciously realizing what was happening I began to withdraw from almost all human contact, both real life and online. Once in a while I talked with family and friends back home, mostly just if they called me. A few longtime close friends stayed connected via email, texting, or occasional phone calls. Sometimes I’d do stuff with local friends. But mostly I was alone, wading through the maze of learning to do a new life on my own.

It was as if God Himself drew me into a desert place where no human voices could drown His own. He knew me so well – my lifelong penchant for turning to humans instead of Him for fulfillment. To have my needs met; my ego stroked. Gently and tenderly He had me remove that crutch of my own volition without even realizing what I was doing.

At first I spent hours reading books and researching random things on the internet. Listening and learning. Always learning. Soaking my mind with information. God continually kept leading me to the very things I needed to know. It was like He had me on a specific learning trajectory. All I had to do was keep moving forward and open my mind and heart to His next lesson.

Along the way, I began to spend more and more time with God. Pouring out my heart – verbally, on paper, in tears. Sometimes simply sitting in silent wordless agony. Wrestling with deep-seated pain and grief and fears, etc. – the stuff that lives in humans’ souls everywhere. Listening in quiet surprise to the anxiety that simmered as I lay in bed. Casting my cares and fears upon Him in the dark silent watches of night.

Or sometimes noisy watches if my neighbors on the other side chose to party, as they were wont to do on random nights. I didn’t mind their noise, even in the middle of the night. It felt like a comforting blanket of sorts. Human voices meant I was not totally alone in my sea of aloneness.

Continued wakings in the middle of the night with a sense He wanted me to read a specific chapter in the Bible became precious as I listened intently for His new message for me. The messages were manna to my soul literally – they became more valuable and sustaining than sleep.

This went on for weeks. I kept opening my heart and mind to whatever He wanted me to learn.

Repeatedly He would break into this desert time with some tangible message of His love via a human. Just enough to keep me connected to people and conscious of His working in my life, yet not distract me from focusing on Him and His lessons.

Often these contacts came from totally unexpected places – eclectic Bible study groups, a note one of the college boys next door stuck in my mail slot with his phone number in case I ever needed anything, a personal prophetic message from a pastor I trusted, an impromptu prayer and counseling session with a coffeehouse pastor team, the family who gave me a standing invitation to drop by whenever and where I spent many Sunday afternoons and shared holiday meals, a job that led to a rich friendship with a mother figure, a church with great sermons week after week, a Sunday School teacher with an humble life-giving view of Scripture, friends who loved having me come hang out and drink coffee, a free plot in a community garden, out-of-the-blue sweet words of blessing from one of the elderly gardeners whom I saw once briefly, rich fun connections with other apartmentees here. Etc., etc., etc.

Repeated unexpected God-arranged human encounters to nourish and sustain me as I went about everyday life in the desert.

Slowly and quietly through the long lonely weeks and months, His love started to seep into my heart and soul. Into the very core of my being. From the safety of this love, my heart began to trust Him at a deep wordless place. I became attune to His Voice in ways I never had before. I saw His Fingerprints everywhere.

Though little was happening with the book project, God kept bringing people and situations into my life, showing His hand was over every aspect of my life. Hinting that something much bigger than just book plans was going on. Making it clear that He would never forsake me. That I could trust Him completely.

Trust was not my default mode. Often I had to intentionally allow these truths to sink into my mind and heart. I had to deliberately choose to trust in the midst of anxiety and fear. To walk into unfamiliar and difficult situations. Sometimes ones that were way outside my comfort zone. Gradually I learned to hear His Voice above my own and follow it even when pride or my own desires clamored loudly for me to do otherwise.

As I did this time and again, God continued to bless me with gifts of love and tangible proofs that I could trust His care. Bit by bit my anxious heart quietened and trust in God became the ruling force in my life. Something alive, not just a platitude. A deep peace began to pervade my body, soul, and spirit even in the midst of continued stress and uncertainty. A peace that passes all understanding and opens the soul and spirit to life.

Years ago, Jesus’ definition of eternal life in John 17:3 captured my attention: eternal life is to know the only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

I remember still how startlingly clear it was to me that we can experience this eternal life here and now, not just after death. A brand new thought. And exciting. I knew I didn’t know God and His Son that way, but it was clear God desired this for His children. I wanted it.

Some years back, a white-haired gentleman whom I never saw before or since leaned onto my bookstore counter and with joyful confidence declared: “I know Jesus and He knows me.” Quiet peace radiated from him. His simple profound words lived in my mind. I wanted to own them.

Now after long weeks of desert time, He is granting those desires of my heart. Knowing God the Father and His Son in Spirit and in Truth. Eternal life here and now: a living vibrant thing.

It’s not a process you can rush. It takes time to learn to know the Father as a tender Daddy who cares about every aspect of your life and whom you can trust completely. It takes time to know Jesus Christ intimately enough to let Him heal deep vulnerable wounds in the heart that are too private to share. The process has to be lived through. Prayed through. Wept through.

And sometimes it requires just waiting quietly and receiving whatever He chooses to send by whichever people He chooses to send it. Sometimes people and ways that are very uncomfortable. Sometimes people and ways delightful beyond anything I could ask or imagine. But always, always good. Without fail.

Ownership of this desert-borne reality bears a stiff price tag. Desert time and its homework are not what the human heart desires ever. We are hard wired to shrink from it. It would be strange if we didn’t.

But the revelations to be learned in desert places are unspeakably precious. Revelations of Him that are real. Meat-and-potato truths that satisfy and sustain when life is white-knuckled hard and we have no human to fully understand or even care about the hard. Revelations in life and in death. In sleepless hours. In joy and delight. Despair and grief. Heights of pleasure. Pain’s lonely depths. Long spaces of nothingness. Tender moments of love and happiness. Horrific angst. Sickness. Health. In all of these He will reveal Himself to those who seek Him. Revelations of Love and Truth that no words can express.

And in those desert places, He tenderly reveals hard truths about our own hearts too, as we are able to face them. Revelations we could not endure were the Hand that reveals them not Love itself. Gently, kindly, firmly He shows us what is and what can be, and invites us to deeper richer truths about ourselves. If we dare learn them.

They, too, are infinitely precious and life-giving.

But that is another post for another day.

“His loving kindness, oh, how good!”