Two days ago, I went to HEB with the little man.  We were in need of diapers.  After finding the best deal on a mega-pack, we headed back to the car.  The sun was shining bright and we were both looking forward to the day.  I had been invited to meet friends at Starbucks and catch up over coffee.  Judah was excited about the prospect of sweet treats while the mommies talked.  We wasted no time and loaded the diapers, returned the shopping cart to its metal corral, and began the buckling-in process.

Any parent or grandparent knows that this daily chore can indeed be a lengthy process.  Straps can get twisted, bottoms have to scoot back, and a small battle of “put your goldfish in the other hand” has to ensue just to get arms through the appropriate belts.  This day, however, an unforeseen turn of events was underway.  Our buckling-in routine was about to be altered.

Just as I clicked the second-to-last buckle in his 5-point harness, the car door behind me closed on my legs.  This left passenger door has a tendency to shut on its own, so at first, I really thought nothing of it, and simply without looking pushed against the window with my left hand.  I had intentionally parked next to a vacant spot to make the bucking-in process easier, so I wasn’t concerned about swinging the door into a nearby car.

But, despite my attempt, the door didn’t budge.  I quickly turned, confused as to what was happening.  Through the window I saw a black car slowly pulling in to the spot next to me.  Only 8 inches or so from the side of our car it crept in, pushing firmly against the car door at my back.  The pressure on my calves was increasing.  I thought, “What is this moron doing?  Don’t they see that there is someone in here?”  I twisted my upper body, lower legs pinned between the car door and the running board.  While pushing on the door window with my left forearm, I pounded the tinted window of the black car with my right fist.  I heard the bodies of the two cars crackle, and for a second, questioned if the sound was that of fracturing bone.  It soon became evident that there was no driver to hear my determined and desperate knocking.  “What in the world???….”

More confusion set in…

“Where did this back phantom car come from?”  

Then panic…

“How am I going to get out of here?”

“I’m all alone…”

Scenes flashed though my thoughts:  Aron Ralston, who cut off his own arm with a dull knife to escape his entrapment by a boulder, a long-ago tragedy of a high school friend who, while sitting on the hood of a parked car was hit head-on by another car, severing both legs, and a fearful glimpse of myself–life dramatically altered by the loss of limbs.

I sent out a few desperate one-handed texts to my husband and the friends I was to meet asking them to pray.  I see now that my texts were altogether confusing and painted a much more frightening picture.  Sorry, y’all. 🙂

I struggled to push against the child car-seat and the door that unrelentingly pressed in.  Even with my best resistance, the gap between the door and the car grew smaller.  I thought, “I don’t know how long I can keep pushing.”

I spotted a woman putting away her groceries in her trunk across the lot.  I yelled, “Help!” through the crack in the door.  She turned and looked.  I screamed again and she came running.  I quickly tried to explain what little I understood, “this car came out of nowhere and there is no one in there, and my legs are getting squashed, and I don’t know what to do, but I need out, and the door is still trying to shut…”  I could hear the trembling and panic in my voice, which only gave affirmation to my fear.  She, too, was trying to wrap her mind around what was happening.  “I don’t know what to do!”, she said.  She ran to the back of the car to read the license plate number.  She apologized profusely for having to find a paper and pen, because she wouldn’t be able to remember the number on her own.  Then she was gone to find the owner.

It felt like an eternity.  I felt alone.  I felt trapped.

Then I heard her voice return and that of a man.  Then I spotted him, a 76-year-old hispanic man.  He slid in sideways between the two vehicles and asked if I was okay.  “Yes, I think so”, I said, “but that car is still pressing in on the door and my legs are pinned.  I can’t move.”  He slid back out and I heard him call on others to push the car in reverse.  One man came, but instead of helping to move the car, opened up my SUV’s door on the opposite side and asked, “why don’t you just climb out this side?”

“I can’t…I’m stu…”

And just like that, he slammed the door shut and was gone.  (WHAT?!?!?)

The benevolent army veteran returned and squeezed in again and positioned one shoulder between the door and the frame.  He helped me fight the door for a few more centimeters.  I heard the black car door pop and crackle as we strained.  I wiggled my left leg free and stepped into the car, my right leg still pressure packed, as it was closer to the smaller angle of the hinge side of the door.  We hustled and as soon as I felt the ability, I slid my leg towards the crack.  My shoe fell to the ground and I pulled my leg into the car just as my rescuer backed away from door.  It slammed shut in my face and I watched through the window as the grimacing man held his breath as the car continued to roll.

As soon as my door was clear of the car, I opened it and recovered my flip-flop.  The ebony Mazda kept cruising until it met the cart stall across the way.  At that point, the car owner and the store manager appeared.  The police were on their way and I reassured everyone that I didn’t need an ambulance.  The tear-filled owner explained that she put her standard transmission car in neutral and forgot to put the emergency break on.  If I was talented enough to drive a standard, I am sure that I would have made the same oversight many times.

In my freedom, as people asked if I was okay or needed medical attention, the release of adrenaline and emotion came.  I teared up.  “I was just scared.” It was all I could muster to say.

In the days since, I’ve been processing how to write about this.  As I’ve retold the details of the event to others, the comment was made that this would be good material for the blog.  As I’ve pondered the experience and the feeling of being trapped, I couldn’t escape this reoccurring thought…the Holy Spirit.

He has definitely been on my radar lately, and today as I write, it’s no different.  My new relationship with the Holy Spirit has given me a better understanding of how I have lived in His presence, yet inattentive to His voice.  Like that black driverless car, I have been a vessel filled with all the wirings to drive the course, but have more often than not been aimlessly rolling down a decline on neutral.  In my pilotless walk, I’ve been trapping others, pinning them, and bruising them along the way.  Walking without an attentive ear to the Holy Spirit has cascaded me into others, without care or concern for their well-being.  Without the Spirit in the driver’s seat, my own joy has been sacrificed and I have ended up in places that I don’t belong, in steel and lifeless shopping cart corrals.  My own frame has been nicked and dented resulting in years of my own unnecessary damage.

I have a feeling I’m not alone.

I am learning to listen to His voice, to let Him comfort and guide.  I sat on the bumper of our Sequoia as the police report was being filed and I clearly heard His urging.  He told me to go and pray for the owner of the black ghost car.  As I approached her sitting in the driver’s seat, head in her hands, I asked her if she was okay.  She explained that she had already had a rough week with work and in her marriage.  She was beginning to think it couldn’t get any worse.  I said, “This may sound weird, but can I pray for you?”

“YES!”, she exclaimed.  And before I could even open my mouth, we were hand in hand, me down on my throbbing knee, her seated with head bowed, and she began…She prayed for me.  Sometimes listening to the Holy Spirit causes us to take a risk to love someone else in the name of Jesus, and sometimes He guides us for the sake of our own souls.  I was reminded in her prayer that He never left me, even when I felt alone, trapped, and helpless.  I prayed for her, her marriage, and the stressfulness of her week, that Jesus would redeem even those details.

There we found ourselves, in the HEB parking lot, having just been the aimless and wandering, the trapped and confused, receiving the love of the Father, the grace of Jesus, and the peace of the Holy Spirit.  Wow.  Speechless.

The cops (one of which had given me my speeding ticket earlier last month, see the post: What’s the Big Idea?? ) wrapped things up and headed on their way.  The manager went back into his store.  The good Samaritan got in his white pick-up and drove off.  The lady and her dark dented car rode off to work.  There I was, standing the the parking lot, as if none of it had happened.

At that moment Paul accompanied by a good friend and the two girls I stood up for our coffee date pulled in.  I felt a little odd at first.  There was no sign that anything had happened.  Because they all love me, of course, they didn’t doubt me, but only showed care and concern.

But, isn’t that also like the Holy Spirit?  He does these random, out of nowhere, unbelievable things, then seems to vanish into thin air as soon as others show up.  I believe it’s because we have a personal God.  In Acts, we see the Spirit move in big and powerful ways in front of thousands for the sake of thousands.  He still does this, no doubt.  However, for me right now, my lack of faith–lack of trust–exists in the Spirit’s desire for personal relationship with me, not the big fantastical stuff that brings millions to know Jesus.  That actually makes sense to me.  It’s very economical.  But, that He would also orchestrate a phantom car and 76-year-old Super Man so that I could encounter Him and His clear voice–not for the goal of “winning one for the kingdom”, but just for shepherding my heart–is a challenging consideration.

He loves me when I don’t listen and coast without a driver.  He loves me when I am trapped in fear.  He loves me and continues to pursue me, even after I am His.  He desires friendship with me.  He gives me personal events that, while I can share them in writing, are yet experienced only by me.  I am reminded again of the old hymn that I sing for Judah each night:

I am Jesus’ little lamb.

Ever glad at heart I am.

For my shepherd gently guides me,

Knows my needs and well provides me.

Loves me everyday the same.

Even calls me by my name.

His Spirit is there ready to give unending joy, gentle guidance, ample provision, and personal relationship.  I came across a Facebook post promoting the movie Holy Ghost, which is a documentary I have referenced before.  It speaks for itself and is eerily applicable:

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We’ve been invited to have faith in Him.  We’ve been invited to trust Him.  We’ve been invited to be His friend.  Will we accept His invitation of friendship?  Will we allow Him to sit at the steering wheel?  Will we risk the possibilities of what partnering with the Spirit of God might actually do?  It could change people…whole cities…nations!  And even more risky and terrifying–it could change us in very foundational and personal ways.  Are we willing to take His hand and jump in to new territory?

Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).  I want to have life and have it to the full.  My flesh and my attempts to gain this on my own are “no help at all.”  I have got to surrender all my efforts–the controls of my car–in order to let the Spirit drive.  It’s scary, but can we do it?  We’ve been invited.

The faint chirping of birds…

If I concentrate, I can dimly dice the conversation.

The tweets cascading down from the oaks in front of me are met with distant song to my left.  What are they saying?

There is a pattern to their song.  Verse, chorus, verse again…a back and forth chant and response.  The pitch of the two are different, one distinctly higher than the other, but the quick staccato rhythm the same.  Are they talking about food, the weather, the nest?

I have been listening to birdsongs of a different flair all week.  It’s been deep meaningful discussion on matters of faith, “outreach”, and Jesus.  I sit here in the woods, on retreat, processing all the hymns and anthems I have just taken in, hoping to digest even half of the wisdom I encountered.

At the very core of my melodic meal, Jesus has been singing a song over me.  He has been feeding His goodness and mercy straight to my hungry belly.  He has been wooing me with His love.  His Spirit has been reminding me of all that He said and all that He has done.  His sweet tunes have been everything from savory, slow, and melodic to salty, fast, and turbulent.  In every lyric is a nutrient for my heart.

The rain comes.

Pat, pat, pat, pat….

piddle, piddle,

Pat….

Fading are the birds, all but one.  In the sound of the softly falling wet, I hear but one little chirp.

Chirp.

Chirp.

Chirp.

She is constant, her beat like the ticking of a grandfather clock.  The rain falls gently.

The air fills with the fragrance of peaceful showers.

Chirp.

Chirp.   Piddle.  Piddle.

In this solitude, Jesus has a message for me.  He has been pouring music of His truth and His gifts over me for months now, but here, in this peaceful place, with rain tenderly tapping 16ths on the leaves on the snare drum of His orchestration, and the bird steady on the count…

Piddle piddle piddle piddle piddle piddle piddle piddle.

Chirp.

Chirp.

It is here that I start to piece together the message of His month long score.

The Spirit is at work around me and in me.  I feel Him moving as I sense the bugs squirming under the leaves.  A small section of dry scrap on the ground jumps as a wooded lizard runs for cover.  I see the Spirit wiggling under the surface of our lives.  Some jump at His dance.  Some respond.  Some run for cover.  He is mixing and stirring our pots.  He’s up to something.

Chirp.

Chirp.

An acorn falls in front of me from the heights above.

clack…

and bounces on the wooden deck…

click, click.

More percussion in this song.  I am learning to listen.  To learn I must practice.

Chirp.

Chirp.

That unrelenting chirp that never misses a beat, it is constant and exact.  Such is the message for my heart–a constant and exact word for only my soul, speaking personally to the depths of my spiritual being.  Yet, I see in the songs I have shared with others this week, the songs I have listened others sing, that the message is being broadcast worldwide.  The movement is wild and far-traveling.  While He speaks straight to my soul, He is speaking directly to the souls of others.  He is amazing.  He is big.

Chirp.

Chirp.

Clack.  Click, click.

What is this message?  What is this great orchestral composition leading me to?  I don’t know…yet.  But I am simply enjoying the concert.

Clack.  Click, click.

Chirp.

Pat, pat, pat, pat….

piddle, piddle,

Pat….

The message is to listen…to learn His voice.  To practice the art of listening to Him.

The rain from the roof has gathered in the gutters and soon a faint trickle of drops turns into a spout of bubbling brook.

Drip.

Drop.

Pour.

He is here, even now, and I know this because I listen.

I fear no evil, for He is with me.  His soft showers of grace turn into rivers of gratitude in my heart.  Somehow this listening transforms me.  My spirit lifts, and I believe it is because I am hearing His Spirit with all my senses.  This is the message He has for me.  This is one of the many gifts He has given me, to have at my disposal His Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Comforter, the One who reminds me of the Father’s love and of Jesus’ words. If I don’t hear, how will I know?

I am learning to be a sheep that listens, that is known, and does not wonder.  “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).  He is speaking to me in daily current parables.

“This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.  Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’
But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.  For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:13-17).

In His mercy, my dull heart is being illuminated.  My ears are being tuned.  My eyes are being opened.  His mercies are new every morning.

Chirp.

Chirp.

I hear His mercies falling anew:

Pat, pat, pat, pat….

piddle, piddle,

Pat….

Drip, drop…

pour.

He has healing and I turn to hear it and receive it.

His Spirit is here, with me, with you.  Listen.  Keep your eyes peeled.  Don’t over think it.  Simply sit and listen and start with what you hear.  My friend, I want you to know the joy that comes from knowing.

chirp.

 

Last night I sat with a cup of spiced tea in my hands next to my son reading a book.  The pages were lit by only the fading sunlight of dusk and a warm-scented candle.  The soft soundtrack of Pride and Prejudice played over the stereo as we read his library book about…StarWars droids.  Even still it was a lovely setting.  It sounds picture perfect…

Until I tell the rest of the story.

Upstairs a storm was brewing.  Emotions were high and were being unleashed all over the floor.  Literally.  The pads of the feet were not being used to travel the carpet.  An all out rolling and kicking temper-tantrum was underway.

Creating a calm setting amidst the chaos is our new approach.  Giving more credence and attention to the peaceful and quiet rather than turning over the entire state of the house to fits is our current training in Life After Rehab.   We are trying to practically retain sober-mindedness when everything around us seems out of control.  It’s not an effort to just ignore, but to speak calm truth in short increments.  I think it might be working.  The issue is a strong-willed child who will stop just short of every extreme measure imaginable to be in control.  (I don’t know who passed that gene down!)  It’s hard to remain light-hearted and tranquil when your name is repeatedly yelled across the house.  It’s difficult to stay upbeat and truth-filled when someone is telling you over and over that you are wrong and unfair.

All this practice and training in my parenting is forming something else in me as well.  I am learning more about the Holy Spirit in this process.  I am learning that while candle-lit space travel on the pages of a borrowed book takes extreme focus during a spinning child-tornado, it is still possible.  It’s exactly the kind of challenging work the Holy Spirit does.  It’s the precise task the Holy Spirit has been doing since the beginning of time…order in the midst of chaos.

If we truly believe that God is triune–three persons in One–then the Holy Spirit was there at the beginning of creation with God, the Father and Jesus, the Word.  He was the Holy Spirit that traveled across the expanse of the waters, stirring motion into the wind, creating a pattern of currents in otherwise haphazard air.  He was the very breath of God that was blown into the lifeless clay lungs of Adam, triggering inhalation and exhalation, contraction and constriction–a whole organized system of life.  The Spirit is a powerful force.  His movement has not once ceased since that first day of the world’s birth.  If I say I have relationship with Jesus, and acknowledge God as my Father, then what of this Holy Spirit?  If He is an equal part of the Triune, then should not my relationship be equally yoked with Him?  Should I not be conversing with the Spirit just as I commune with Jesus or the Father?

In my weary and parched land of parenting, the Holy Spirit hovers the dusty sand, ready to spill itself over my desert.  He has power to turn my weak, my tired, my poor into churning oceans of bounty and blessing.  There is an oasis to be had, even in the midst of the hot dry sand storm.

I am learning…slowly…but nevertheless, learning how practically to live in the presence of the Spirit even when circumstances seem far from Him.  When I find myself overcome with Him, I am content.  I am peaceful.  I am tranquil.  I am trusting.  And I am entirely without control.  It’s not by my own power or will that I find myself with my cup of tea smiling.  It’s not a vision board or positive thinking ritual that seduces me to happiness.  It truly is the joy of the Lord.  It is His kindness, mercy, and goodness that compels me.  It can seem so trivial…”okay, yeah, yeah, the ‘Holy Spirit’ makes you happy even when kids are throwing fits.”  But until you experience the true satisfaction that comes with calling on the Holy Spirit to overwhelm you with peace, and then you actually sense it, it won’t ever sound legit.

How do I learn this?  What’s my homework?  I take risks.  I am learning to take risks on the Holy Spirit.  I ask and wait…then just hope that He shows up.  I listen and wait…and do whatever I think I might be hearing.  It could merely be a voice in my head…it could.  And I am sure that sometimes it is my own consciousness self-talking myself to do little good deeds.  But there are times I hear a faint urging to do something that would normally be uncomfortable and outside my comfort zone.  So instead of ignoring it, my spiritual science experiment is to take the risk of actually doing it, without hypothesizing.  I do it, then wait and watch for any sign of change.  Little by little the Spirit is revealing to me genuine fruit.  There is a field of little outcroppings springing up as I take these risks.  I am looking into this land and seeing a future harvest rising.  My risks are fruitful, even if I don’t see everyone of them flowering into something.  The more I venture into trusting, the more I am learning to discern His voice from my own.   I am learning what seeds to plant and where.  And I am learning how to sit and quietly watch the grass grow.

His voice tells me, “have some spiced-tea”, even though it’s still a hot and humid September in Houston.  His voice tells me, “light the fall scented candle…in fact, light two of them so that you can’t escape their fragrance, and mine.”  He urges me to sit and breathe deep and marvel at the face of the sweet child by my side, to fluff his hair and tell him he’s dashingly handsome.  His voice tells me to pray for my upstairs child who has gone wild.  He whispers in the quiet of my heart reminders of His truth and His love and His sovereignty.  He hums a sweet melody in my ear that paints a picture of a future adult with a strong-willed passion for Him.  He breathes power into my being…restrained power to be calm, peaceful, and orderly.

He gives me just the right thing to say as I walk up the stairs into the danger zone.

His might overwhelms me.  Emotions dissipate.  I envision Jesus on the rocky sea boat telling the waves and the thunder to stop, and all stood still.  That same other-worldly presence stands on the bow of my stairs, hushing the fury.  The air softens, the dust settles, and I pray over my troubled child.  And then, my sweet confused one asks for forgiveness.

Had I tried to control the situation, the Spirit would have been snuffed out or, at the least, pushed over to the corner.  I am learning.   I am learning Life After Rehab lessons that I thought I knew, but that are gaining depth and circumference.  And these new understandings involve risk and patience.

How do you take risks on the Holy Spirit?  Teach me.  I am eager to learn and am all ears.  I believe the Spirit is at work in all of us.  I believe that in community we gain a richer and more realistic view of the trust seeds the Spirit is sowing.  In taking the risk to share, I believe we encourage each other to invest future risks on the Holy Spirit.  Let’s learn from each other these spiritual fundamentals.

And it truly is risky business.   There is spiritual opposition to the Holy Spirit.  None can overcome the Spirit, but darkness sure tries.  It’s scary to think that stepping out in faith might make us spiritual targets, but isn’t it worth it?  Shouldn’t it be worth it?  I’m in…at least right at this moment I’m in.  I’m learning the value of this risk also.  The fear is not as great when walking with a powerful Spirit.  And He’s there for the taking.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13

I will ask for more of Him, the “Him” who is the neglected person of the Trinity…the Him who dares me to trust…I will dare Him to come…and take a risk on what happens.

 

Well, today it’s back to the grind.  We just wrapped up a week and a half of vacation…glorious, glorious vacation.

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There were numerous moments during this furlough that renewed my spirit and challenged my heart.  This was more than a break on the beach with a margarita in hand…although I’m not denying that happened.  This trip will forever stand out in my mind as very transformative.  And, so, in true “life after rehab” fashion, I feel as though I need to intentionally ponder and reflect on the meaningful moments, so that I can treasure them in my heart and share them with you.

However, as I open up the computer today after the long hiatus, I struggle to find my words and my rhythm.  I sat on the beach last week and actually read a book from cover to cover.  It was amazing.  Not only was having the freedom, time, and ability to read a whole book without interruption amazing, but the content of the book I chose has also left me somewhat speechless.  Ann Voskamp’s one thousand gifts has been so enlightening and transforming.  If you haven’t read it, please do.  It is worth every minute of your time.  The combination of her poetic prose and down-to-earth writing is a humbling joy to read.  There is no way I could ever write in such a masterful way.  It is truly amazing.  In her book, she writes of her own revelations on thankfulness and recognizing God’s gifts in the every day.  It has made me realize how much I neglect the sacrament of thanksgiving and how often the Bible speaks of its’ importance.  I feel as though there is a whole undiscovered path to joy whose trail head I have been aimlessly walking past.  I am anxious to unearth more of “eucharisteo”, as I have been inspired by Voskamp’s own hunt.

The “sleuthing” that she refers to–this treasure hunt for the things to be thankful for–urged me to seek God and His blessings during our vacation.  I found myself swooning over tiny sand-dwelling creatures and huge panoramic views of slate blue sky meeting shimmering crystal waves.  I stumbled upon restfulness, with my eyes closed and ears focused on the hush of the waves, the rhythm of their meter, rocking my soul to peacefulness.  I can’t really explain it, but as I sat still and took in some of the amazing sights and sounds around me, I felt as though I was being wooed my the Creator, reminded of His serenading love.  

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Voskamp is on to something here…and it’s more than “positive thinking.”  In counting my blessings, I am forced to not merely count, but to consider them, and the Giver who gives them to me.  I am forced to be still and know that He is God.  I see how big He is and how infinitely small I am.  That doesn’t really fit the criteria of American dream setting and the “do what makes you happy” kind of joy in which we are encouraged to partake. Being small–knowing my mortality–these are not “positive” thoughts.  All things will come to an end…including me.  Reminding myself that I don’t have control over anything in my life sounds like depressing pessimistic water-cooler talk.   But in actually seeing the God I believe in, feeling His endless pursuit of me in the form of beauty, and knowing that He is bigger and grander than me, I am fueled by a humble peace, a sure contentment, and a deeper, more satisfying joy than simply seeing the glass half-full.

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This kind of detective work requires sitting at the private investigator desk searching through files of evidence.  It takes time and intentionality, which eerily sounds like the slow process of Family Rehab.  My journey to restore family and home isn’t done.  Jesus is restoring my heart–my joy.  Life After Rehab looks less like returning to normalcy with all the appropriate sobriety tools gained from being secluded in a rehab facility and more like continued study and rehabilitation with the distractions of everyday life now being added into the mix.  I still have so much to learn.  And as Voskamp also mentions, learning takes practice, practice, practice.

In addition to reading books, Paul and I had the opportunity to watch a documentary entitled,  Holy Ghost.  (You can watch the trailer here: http://www.holyghost.wpfilm.com).  The whole movie was guided by the Holy Spirit.  “What the what!?!?!,” you say?  No plans were made, except ones that were the result of ‘inner voice’ urgings or visions.  As a “conservative” Lutheran, some of the conversations recorded in the street scenes, in which the Holy Spirit was called upon to send a physical sensation through a person’s body, were a little wild.  But, honestly, it was no more untamed than what we read about in the book of Acts.  The movie features such celebrities as Lennie Kravitz, Brian Welch, and Fieldy from Korn.  As I watched people step out in faith, taking risks, and even entering into places that are dangerous for Christians, I again was struck by how intentionality and stillness were key in seeing all that God had in store for them.  How can one discern the voice of the Holy Spirit if they are not still enough to focus their hearts and minds to intentionally hear Him?

I think about all the practicing I do.  I consider all the rehearsing that goes on in my mind.  I add up all the time spent mulling over the lies of the world that tell me I’m not enough or of any value without the perfect body, successful children, or tons of money.  I compute all the energy and time I’ve spent repeating the same failures or hurtful behaviors.  What am I learning?  What am I teaching myself?  How much of the life-giving lawn of truth am I repeatedly treading worn down paths of lies over its’ surface?  What opportunities have I lost in the meantime?  What holy risks have I avoided or squashed because I was busy in the practice of listening to another’s voice?  What routines, patterns, and new trails have disabled my senses from hearing God’s audible voice?  What amount of blind ignorance has limited my vision for His kingdom, His glory, and my ultimate joy?

Jesus says in John 14:26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

“Life After Rehab” might as well be called “practice”.  I haven’t yet learned.  I need training.  I need the Holy Spirit to teach me.  Sometimes it will be hard.  Sometimes it will bear fruit that I could never have imagined.  My prayer is that I am teachable, moldable, and pliable.  My prayer is that my senses are so overwhelmed with the Spirit that I can’t help but walk in unabashed gratitude and risk.  Life is about to get busy and hectic with school and work.  I pray that I find the words of the Spirit in the midst of the mayhem (that they fill me with truth and with holy pomptings) and the rythym of His grace, blessing, and spontaneity in the mundane (that it moves me into new depths of sobering joy).

I attended a retreat this weekend and saw lots of friends that I just haven’t seen in either a year or more.  These sweet ladies of all ages are such a refreshment to my soul.  Their love of Jesus and the sacrifices that they have all made for the sake of the Gospel is inspiring.  Every year I look forward to spending a weekend with this “sisterhood” of women.

I sat with a very good friend who has four children of her own and is walking through the struggles that most moms of four children have–with the added component of homeschool.  She was tired, frustrated, and overwhelmed.  She commented on these blog posts of late and gently confessed that it was really hard to read most of my posts.  She found herself comparing her experiences with mine and leaving the computer screen discouraged because what I wrote about that day seemed to be on the other end of the homeschool experience spectrum from hers.  I love her so much for being honest and vulnerable with me.  I know she is reading this now, so thank you, my sweet friend.  I love you.  I told her the next post would provide a correct view of our family rehab experience so far.  Let’s be real… It has been hard.  It has been tiring.  It has been frustrating.  It has been very overwhelming.

I confess, I think that there is a discrepancy between the desperation I feel at different points of the day and the “positive spin” at the end of most of these blog entries.  It might appear that I’m not a realist.  That I’m not being honest about the overwhelming feelings of failure that can cripple me.  There is only one way to explain this–Jesus.  This blog has been the equivalent to an empty church pew for me.  Surrounded by quiet, I enter my time in front of the keyboard, with my bible in hand, the same way every time, much like I would kneel at the altar.  I enter not having any answers, not having any ideas, and only carrying the burden of the day, or the funny moment that stuck in my mind.

This blog has become the designated space and time of the day that I rest in thought at the feet of Jesus.  Often, I just start retelling my day, the high points and the low, and sometimes the mundane.  Somewhere along the way, as I process the day in letters, words, and sentences, the promises and themes of Jesus’ love and faithfulness rise to the surface of my mind.  They sit on my forehead between my wrinkled brows as I ponder and think about the day at a deeper level than if I hadn’t taken my seat in front of the sanctified computer screen.  For me, there is something about having to reflect on my day with such intentionality and persistence, in order to produce a 2 minute read, that seems very appropriate for “family rehab.”

I can’t describe it, but taking the intentional time to think through even the simplest of things or the most frustrating of circumstances, helps me shape my otherwise bland or disappointing day.  My day doesn’t differ from my friends’ day all that much.  The details might be different, but the struggles are still the same.  I am attacked with folly and failure every day.  I am attacked with frustration and fatigue every hour.  I am attacked with fear and fickleness towards this crazy “family rehab” every minute.   It’s the time that I spend in front of a blank, white and intimidating computer screen at the end of the day that helps me gain perspective.

The process of reflecting at the end of the day and intentionally writing down what comes to mind, forces out those truths that creep up from deep within my gut and get stuck in the middle of my brow.  They just sit there until the Spirit draws connections and distributes meaning.  Then things start to make sense… other scripture comes to mind… and the bible gets opened and the healing words of Jesus start to wash over all that angst and frustration that I wore on my shoulders when I sat in my empty-church-pew-repurposed-computer-chair.

Jesus says in John 16:13-14, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”  When those truths of scripture come to mind–the truths about my value resting in Jesus, the truths about my purpose resting in Jesus, the truths about my trust resting in Jesus–it is the Spirit of God, “the Helper”, Jesus calls him, that is doing exactly what Jesus promised he would do.  He guides me to the truth about my day.  He declares to me the things that are to come.  He gives me whispers that something special is happening in this intentional time of “family rehab.”  He reveals to me the glory of Jesus, reminding me of all that Jesus has done for my sake, His death in my place.  He takes what Jesus says His purpose is for me, His love is for me, His endless, love-filled, pursuit is for me, and declares it to me.

I cannot type the final period without coming to a place of rest in those truths each and every time I sit down at the computer.  I cannot press publish without coming to the end of my means for the day.  It might seem that I have a positive spin on even the most hair-pulling, tear-filled, unproductive day, but what is happening in these blog posts is the work of the Holy Spirit on my heart.  He comes and transforms my mind, heart, and soul.  He pulls me out of my emotions and reminds me of the reality of His love and my identity found in Him.  That’s why I type, I write, I meditate on His word.  That’s why I have a relationship with a God who is living, because He’s the only God that has power that is moving and touching the depths of my gut, heart, and wrinkled brow.

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you write a blog every night to process your thoughts and feelings.  But, it does mean you engage with a living, loving, and limitless God who seeks to bring joy and peace to every facet, every minute of your life.  Loving Him and seeking Him, whether in a church pew, in front of a computer screen, or in the depths of your still and quiet heart, changes things.  It changes everything.  It renews.  It refreshes.  It reveals that there is more to life than what the world offers. Having that kind of God, who sends a Helper into the depths of even the most frustrating or overwhelming of days, and turns it into a deeper, more meaningful exploration of who He is, makes faith a REAL, meaningful part of life.  It makes even me a realist.