"Show me Your strong love in wonderful ways, O Savior of all those seeking Your help against their foes. Protect me as You would the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings as You hover over me." Psalm 17:7-8

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Holding Pattern (Dedicated to Charlcie and Baby Jax)

Have you spent much time in a holding pattern?  For the past couple of weeks I’ve lived in one.  At times it has been exhilarating, at other times anxiety-producing.  The pattern began in a hospital waiting room as I paced excitedly awaiting the birth of my first grandchild.  He arrived by C-section, healthy and handsome, but required an ultrasound in his first weeks of life to rule out a dislocated hip. Yet another opportunity to study the geometric design of a waiting room floor and to follow the hands of a static clock hung between artwork selected to make waiting pleasant.  Waiting, and then more waiting, before and after the test to obtain thankfully pleasing results.  The next round in the holding pattern involved a second ultrasound, which of course included waiting on technicians to perform the procedure on my distressed grandson, and on the pediatrician to call with results.  Again, thank You, Jesus, for pleasing results.  I’ve been reminded that in many respects life slows to a crawl for a new parent (and a new grandparent, if she elects to come along for the ride of a lifetime).  I’ve also learned God enjoys meeting in waiting rooms and holding patterns!!  There He waits quietly to visit with His children about deeper matters.  Sadly, we tend to drown out His still small voice in life’s waiting rooms with the noise of our internal grinding gears.

Out of curiosity and for purposes of hearing God in my holding pattern I did a little reading up on the subject.  I learned that a holding pattern resembles an oval racetrack in protected airspace.  Holding patterns cause us to feel we’re traveling nowhere fast, when in reality a lot of spiritual ground may be gained through “waiting,” or flying in circles over the same territory.  Planes execute this maneuver at a slower speed, generally making 180 degree right turns at the end of two short legs.  This minimizes fuel consumption and distress to passengers, in terms of motion sickness.  However, most passengers would agree holding patterns are stressful events.  Thoughts of missing a connecting flight, and dread of remaining in one’s seat unable to go to the restroom at will… plague passengers caught in a holding pattern.  Holding patterns bring us face to face with our lack of control – serving as good reality checks!!  They are predetermined generally around invisible fixed points.  I’m reminded that all holding patterns in life are predetermined by God and much about them remains visible only to Him.  Holding patterns are wide open opportunities for exercising faith.   The purpose of a holding pattern is to delay an aircraft above the destination until conditions are right for safe landing.  Bottom line, God wisely governs our times, comings and goings.   Occasionally, planes are vertically stacked in holding patterns.  Similarly, I may be in several holding patterns at once, in essence waiting on God alone to move and act on my behalf.  Flying an aircraft in circles is inefficient and costly, requiring fuel reserves, and therefore only executed when necessary.  Wind is a major factor in holding patterns and pilots must know how to correct for it.  Eternal God operates outside time and yet teaches us so much through it, making all necessary corrections for our good, bringing us home safely to Himself.  Thank You, Lord!!

In The Message, Psalm 46:10 says, “Step out of the traffic!  Take a long loving look at Me, your High God, above politics, above everything.”  In the Amplified version it says, “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!”  God graciously helps us at times to step out of the stream of traffic to get a better look at Him!  I’m thankful He does.  Even though in places of waiting my first inclination is to whine, complain, and wage war with impatience.  All waiting in the end boils down to waiting on the Lord.  And we know the reward for waiting on Him is great.  Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.”  Psalm 40:27-31 in the Message says, “Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or whine, Israel, saying, "God has lost track of me.  He doesn't care what happens to me"?  Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?  God doesn't come and go. God lasts.  He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.  He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.  And he knows everything, inside and out.  He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts.  For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall.  But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.  They spread their wings and soar like eagles, they run and don't get tired, they walk and don't lag behind.”

Precious Apple Jax

For nine months I waited eagerly to meet this precious little boy, Jaxon Charles.  Everytime I sensed a threat to his or his mother’s well being, I fought hard the temptation to worry, and ultimately chose to be still and know God – to stand still and see His salvation.  A Grammy for only three weeks, I begin to understand that grandparenting will involve much waiting on the Lord, while standing still so as to see Him save!!  My education is underway.  Some of my first lessons follow.

Postponement and reordering of tasks is routine with a new baby.  His needs come first and only then can remaining time and energy be directed elsewhere.  My daughter and baby Jax came over Monday of this week for a visit and to help me prepare a reception sampler of food for a friend who is getting married.  I expected little help and wanted her to feel free to care for Jax and to rest herself as she gets little sleep at night these days.  Like Mary, she chose the better part and yielded to her own need for rest and to baby Jax’s desire to be near her and nurse.  She stretched out across my bed with him and soon fell asleep.   Meanwhile I baked pie pops, cake balls, and rolled up pinwheel sandwiches.  My mind flitted between lists of completed tasks and those yet uncompleted.  Martha, troubled about many things, I bustled about the kitchen, wanting to hurry and THEN when through, to settle down to rest beside the two of them, if only figuratively!!  My desire to bless spun out of control, motives began to twist and warp as I worked, and I grew anxious, competing with an unforgiving clock.

How I Measure My Worth Influences How I Value Others!
When my daughter woke, I invited her to run errands with me in the name of spending time together (efficiently killing two birds with one stone).  She spent most of the remaining afternoon sitting in the back seat of a hot car with Jax, the air conditioner sucking down fuel (in her tank!) while I ran into various establishments to make purchases and conduct my business.  At one point, Jax tired of being in his car seat wanted to be fed.  I came out of Hobby Lobby after waiting in line for seemingly an eternity to find her feeding him.  Making best use of time while parked, I ran in to the business next door to do some pricing for the reception aforementioned.  To top it off, while driving back to my house, one of my out-of-state sisters called and due to our both being admittedly “too busy” to find another time soon to talk, we took the opportunity to catch up.  Lord, and Charlcie, please forgive me for losing sight of priorities, for not focusing on the person(s) before me!!!

I woke the next morning -- waiting – for you see I’ve been in another holding pattern not yet explained, one I’ll detail perhaps in a future article.  Safe to say, I opened my eyes to day twenty-one of waiting and to associated uncertainty.  It dawned on me I had been running or busying myself much of my vacation to avoid getting still on God’s lap long enough to face head on this monster of uncertainty.  A lot was mingled in with this compulsion to run into activity, including guilt, and the desire to be all things to all people to keep from facing fear and failure and the real me in the mirror.  Thankfully, I broke at the feet of Jesus and He picked me up gently and rocked me upon His lap, comforting me while I cried and confessed all my insecurity to Him.  He helped me to see for the umpteenth time how necessary letting go is to joy-filled survival!!  And how blessed it is to be cleansed and forgiven!!!

This morning, I reread a quote scribbled on a receipt during a recent sermon, “Never clench your fists.”  I seem to remember that the person in the story consciously kept his hands open at all times having heard from the Lord the admonition to never clench his fists.  God has with the tenderness of a doting mother warned me to avoid the same.  Not long ago a friend of mine related the story of her granddaughter’s birth.  On hearing it, God immediately gripped my heart unforgettably applying the message to my life.  On the heels of a healthy pregnancy, this young mother labored to deliver her precious little girl.  As labor progressed, the baby who had the umbilical cord in her tiny hand clenched her fist tightly with each contraction, cutting off her supply of oxygen rich blood.  Engaged and ready to be delivered into a new realm of life, this little girl responded to the pressure needed to expel her by exerting a force of her own, unknowingly endangering her life.  Thankfully, she was speedily delivered and tragedy averted.  God powerfully warned me through this story to let go (cease all attempts to control), for in doing so I would be brought through the dark and constricting birth canal (my dark night of the soul) into a new life of freedom unbound, unimaginable.  I consider it no coincidence that at the same time I heard this story the main entrance to the hospital where I work was systematically being dismantled to prepare for the construction of an all new labor and delivery wing.  Week after week I entered the building, observing the promise of a labor and delivery wing, and atop the building I glanced up to see “Providence,” emphasizing this all important key to Kingdom life.

You might think, as often I have, that having heard this from God I would from then on cease striving to control any and all circumstances.  You would expect that I would rest in future pressure packed canals leading to new realms of life in God, knowing full well His power and promise to deliver.  You would anticipate that having once been engaged in a dark canal of uncertainty awaiting birth and then emerging free, that I might resist the temptation now to clench my fists, instead relax and give way to the process of deliverance and provision for my life.  Alas, I am still an infant learning through repeated rebirth, and will be until I die.  This, too, takes patience!!

Wonderful Mommy, Charlcie, and Sweet Baby Jax

I’m thankful God has chosen to teach me so much through waiting, and through my precious daughter, Charlcie, and her sweet baby Apple Jax!!!

On a final note, I drove to my daughter’s home to lay out the presentation of reception food after pouring out my heart to God.  He not only renewed my strength, but He sent me a token of His love while I unloaded the car.  Into my steamy car flew an iridescent lime green dragonfly.  I heard him buzzing before I spied what type of insect he was.  Smiling, I cupped him in my hands and released him to the open air.  Then I gave thanks to God who times His, “I love you’s” so perfectly!!!  If you’ve read much on my blog, you know that dragonflies are God’s personal reminder to me of His love for me and presence with me!!

Waiting Expectantly In His Shadow,

For more inspirational reading please visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Receiving the Kingdom Like An Infant

I am currently awkwardly bent over my precious new grandson, Jaxon Charles, pecking away with one hand my thoughts.  Beside me on a little polka dot velour blanket he lies, one tiny hand coiled about my index finger, his forearm cradled in my hand.  His breathing has turned peaceful, deep, quiet, with only an occasional sweet baby sigh signifying, “I feel comfortable and safe and now will rest.”  A breastfed baby, his little pink cheeks and lips with a million and one expressions are most at home when in contact with Mom’s warm chest.  For now, he single-mindedly desires to live united to his life-source and sustenance.

Supportive caregivers endeavor to teach him to receive from them love and nurture in varied forms, gaining sensitivity to his preferences.  Mutual education underway, an all new relationship begun, we set out on the adventure of getting to know one another.  He teaches even in his sleep, lips puckered in an involuntary kiss as he dreams of a warm flow of milk – filling, satisfying and comforting him.  Should he experience even a twinge of pain, only the breast provides needed reassurance he’s not alone but living in partnership, secure/loved.

I try my best to convey the same message.  Grammy speaks softly, cups velvet head and traces contours gentle and slow, exploring with time worn fingers and cheeks this wonder of a boy.  “Gentle and slow,” he seems to whisper repeatedly.  “Calm yourself, Grammy, slow down and savor the seconds, you know like Father, that I might perceive Him in you.  The peace of God – that is what I search for in your arms.”  “When I’m fretful, I need to sense you are un-phased, consistent, FAITHFUL, moved only by and in sync with Abba who comforts all.” 

I study his fretful moments closely and learn more about him and myself all at once.  Life easily disrupts our peace – the temperature of the room, sudden unforeseen movements, feeling there’s nothing to hold on to, hunger, need for cleansing…  Baby Jax rests best when holding my hand.  A manmade pacifier holds no candle to a finger to grasp!  He wants to wake to my being near him -- connected, to knowing Grammy watches over him while he sleeps.  With full tummy, he gives in to sleep when rocked to his favorite CD, Sing Over Me.  And when he sleeps in worship upon my chest, I worship with him, and God holds the two of us filling our hearts anew with His love.  A gratitude river swells and overflows the banks in my inmost being.  Meanwhile, the room glows with God’s presence.  Here, in this rocking chair, I know as a new Grammy the love of Father for generations!  I am so blessed!!!

I’ve noted in these first few days that Jax prefers to sleep in the valley between breasts, ear pressed to skin, listening to the rhythmic beat of home.  Surely he recalls the womb, where abiding he experienced unparalleled freedom in a constant embrace.  Flailing limbs terrify him now.  He wonders where the walls on life and the hands of Maker God are.  I place my hands often on his little back and pat rhythmically while God ministers to His little boy in this new realm.  Soon Jax will begin to understand God’s everlasting arms ever widen in an embrace to accommodate growing children.  He is there with us, Emmanuel, there in the valley resting us, soothing us with the affection of a Tender and Good Shepherd.  And He is suckling us at His own sweet breast – El Shaddai – God Almighty.

When Jax first wakes, hungry, he tends to cry out sensing momentary separation.  When put to the breast he gulps for fear there might be an end to the supply; voraciously he sometimes drinks to neglect of breath, until finally he relaxes, trusts, rests again to receive the flow of life that reminds him he belongs.  We’ve tossed around a phrase the past two weeks, “Eat, sleep, repeat!” and laughed.  In truth, the life of an infant depends on this routine.  Were we only as passionate as Jax in our pursuit of true satisfaction at God’s breast!!

Recently I learned Jesus spoke of an infant when He said, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17).  This has fascinated me ever since, and I’ve determined to learn from baby Jax what it means to receive like an infant – helpless in every respect.  On the flip side I’ve also meditated on the delight of God in caring for infants while cradling my grandson!!  Pure joy!!

Thanking God in the Shadow,

For more inspirational reading visit Spiritual Sundays at www.bloggerspirit.blogspot.com