one thousand gifts – a book review chapter 9

go lower

wild joy…And in the simplest of experiences

Little girl with balloons.  Little boys with legos, trains, bikes, swim trunks, shorts, long-sleeve shirts, popcicles, ipad games.  Dogs with a rub on the head, a ball thrown, or a hide to chew on.  A Guitar Player with a new song, a plate of food (lots of food), a basketball game, a football game, something to lift.  Me with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning, a few moments of quiet followed by a day of “life”, a hardcover book, flowers planted and growing, sharing fish kisses with Aaron, reading books with Christopher (using the different voices for different characters), making funny faces with Timothy, reading and rocking with Hannah, noticing light, listening to instrumental music, watching the sparrows.  These are smiling moments!

The secret to a child’s language of laughter, their domain of delight, is perspective.  If the heights of our joy are measured by the depths of our gratitude, and gratitude is but a way of seeing, a spiritual perspective of smallness might offer a vital way of seeing especially conducive to gratitude…”How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it!” (G.K. Chesterton)…The joy of small that makes life large.

Don’t I often desperately want to wriggle free of the confines of a small life?  Yet when I stand before immensity that heightens my smallness – I have never felt sadness.

It’s the small, seemingly insignificant things that draw me.  It’s the light that streams in through the window.  The view of lilac bushes out the back.  The songs of the birds before sunrise.  Pigtails flying on little girl’s head.  Lego creations from imaginative little boys.  Aaron’s toes.  Timothy riding his bike like a pro.  A line out of a book.  Smells and scents that take me home.  Songs that give me a happy memory from my childhood.  Cups that sit in my shelf that I saw my Granddaddy drink from for years.  Books and candles placed just so.  The leaves rustling in the wind.  These are the small things that make my eyes grow big.  These are the treasures that make me feel rich because He shared them with me.

But sometimes, I want more.

I want the new, the nice, the “left-alone”.  I want the clean, the perfect, the “picture”.  I want the dream.  I want to go higher…it’s at that place that he lowers me.  Not because He is taking something away, not to hurt, not to disappoint.  It’s just I have prayed for the dream – the blessing…and He wants me to find what I’m truly seeking.  And it’s not higher, it’s lower.  It’s not accumulating; it’s purging.

I have never been disappointed to hang up child-crafted pictures on my walls and cabinets over high dollar paintings and decorations.  I have taken great delight in the bouquets of wildflowers, and never thought about yearning for dozens of roses.  I have never regretted an evening by the fire place with a cup of coffee and my man by wishing for more evenings “out”.  It’s just sometimes, I forget I am rich.

…all wonder and worship can only grow out of smallness…How to live in a state of awe when life is mundane and ordinary?…body decreasing and the soul increasing…

It wasn’t the Canaanites in large houses that were praising God; it was Abraham, the man of promise, living in the tents.  It wasn’t the people in Jericho living behind the massive wall that were living in His shelter; it was Joshua and the Israelites marching around the wall, blowing their horns, and lifting their voices to Who really sheltered – beneath the shadow of His wings.  It wasn’t the tall, dark, and handsome King Saul who was living in the Palace who was pleasing God; it was the shepherd-boy David, standing guard, fighting off animals to protect his sheep who was really after God’s heart.  It wasn’t a privileged family that was entrusted with the Savior of the world; it was a humble, young girl and a carpenter who were willing to obey.  It wasn’t a showy, wealthy, loud-mouth who came to rescue the world in its sin; it was a humble, not-too-much-to-look-at, more quiet than loud man who lived on the offerings of others and the miracles of God.  It wasn’t priests and scholars that Jesus called to learn from Him and then lead the world in knowing Him; it was fishermen, tax-collectors, common-simple men without the proper education.  It wasn’t the sleek that He said would inherit the earth; it was the meek.  It wasn’t the “high up” who would lead us into the Kingdom of God; it was the child.

Eucharisteo makes the knees the vantage point of a life…

It was our ancestors that had worked on hands and knees to plant and build and harvest and prepareand they gathered together in Thanksgiving for what had come from living on the knees.

Without expectations, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment?

Is it only when our lives are emptied that we’re surprised by how truly full our lives were?  Instead of filling with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing – and are filled…Perhaps there is no way to discover joy but as surprise?  The way the small (child) live.  Every day.

I am so hard to surprise not because others have lacked in their efforts but because I go ahead and think of every way someone could be doing something instead of living in and taking joy in the moments.  I have this great desire to “know it all” before hand (sounds a little too similar to the Genesis of us than I care to admit).  In the midst of the wanting to “know”, I lose the experience of joy – surprise.  Delight diminishes as my “knowledge” grows.  Is that why my little boy shed tears at the end of Voyage of The Dawn Treader when he said, “I can’t go back to Narnia because Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy aren’t going back.”  For a moment he felt the “loss” of getting “big”.  I cried too.

I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the easier we should reach them.  I find now that God’s gifts are on shelves beneath the other…we have to go down, always down, to get His best gift. (F.B. Meyer)…Receiving God’s gifts is a gentle, simple movement of stooping lower…”He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30)

…eucharisteo, lures humility out of the shadows because to receive a gift the knees must bend humble and the hand must lie vulnerable open and the will must bow to accept whatever the Giver chooses to give.

He must increase and I must decrease – not because that is burden but so that my joy might increase with more of Him!

It is the lower I go, when digging to plant, that I find the good, rich soil.  It is the deeper someone digs down that leads to the well-springs.  It is the smaller boxes that usually hold the greater value.  It is the smaller portions that are savored longer – fully en-joyed. 

God fills the common moments.

Wind blowing, bugs buzzing, birds flitting, flowers blooming, light streaming, skillets sizzling, pans baking, forks scraping plates clean, cups drunk dry, crayola creations, plastic sword fighting, laughter, “I’m sorry’s” and “I forgive you’s”, reading books…again and again, doing math and liking it, memorizing scripture, writing letters, receiving letters, reading letters, the scent of candles, Christmas music in May, sitting in the sun, listening to the rain, snuggling under quilts, making beds, folding clean clothes, washing hands in clean water with smelly-good soaps, dirt in bathroom sinks from a fun day of mud-castle making, snacks, walks, runs, swings, libraries, movies, cards…”…where your Treasure is, there your heart is also.”

…peace can shatter faster than glass…God holds us in the untamed moments too.

The beautiful, serene moments of “cool of the morning” have many times shattered due to “snake” in the moment.  An argument, a harsh tone, a feeling of irritation, another spill, another mess, another dead-line, a car broken down, a bill that’s late, a blown over fence, another wall chewed through by the dog.  The epiphany is that He never left when the baby began crying; instead He got to work and we just didn’t notice.

Lament is a cry of belief in a good God…who has His ear to our hearts…Complaint is the bitter howl of unbelief in any benevolent God in this moment, a distrust…implies doubt in His love…lament, complaint that trusts His heart…

Four years ago I complained to God about my house, my furniture, my vehicles, my check book balance.  I was mad, depressed, discouraged, hopeless.  I couldn’t see God and His gifts for all the materials I craved.  Coveting.  Jealousy.

Three years ago I lamented on my bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, whole-house floor over my little boy who I was told probably had autism.  I lamented over how unqualified I felt – how helpless.  I lamented over all that I thought he would miss.  I lamented over lack of resources to do anything about this.  I lamented…I sowed in tears…and three years later I’m still sowing, yes, but I’ve also harvested!  Timothy is His; I trust Him with His creation – His son.  He never made a mistake with Timothy.  He lacks nothing and hold nothing back from this little boys future in Him!

the feeling of joy begins in the action of thanksgiving…joy comes from the place of the very presence of God…I will fight for this: “I will take joy” (Habakkuk 3:18)

“No man can live without joy” is what Thomas Aquinas wrote.  And I confess, it is true, I have known many dead waiting to die.

I have been that.  Dead though moving.  Hollow.  Without not because He didn’t give or offer but because I refused to see – to accept.  To fight for joy is this new thing for me.  I’ve heard of fighting for the one you love or fighting for your freedom or even fighting to reach your goal.  I guess I never realized Joy was all those things…the One I love, my Freedom, my Goal…my God.  I’ve never described myself as a fighter…a struggler maybe.  I want to do this, though…learn to fight. 

Dare I ask what I think I deserve?

The world tells us if we do this or that or don’t do this or that, that we should receive something in return…we deserve it.  I’ve lived like that before.  Trying to be so good, so kind, so obedient…hoping for the “yes’s” in life.  I tried not to think I was going to get anything good so as not to jinx it.  Good came and so did the bad.  I seemed to make little difference where that was concerned.  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Who is good, though?  Jesus gave only One that recognition.

I had thought joy’s flame needed protecting…Flames need oxygen to light.

Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control…let go of my own way, let go of my own fears.  Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy’s fire.  Leave the hand open and be.  Be at peace.  Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only give love and whisper surprised thanks…Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of will…

It’s not about making sure my day goes according to plan or that the house stays neat.  It’s not about kids’ toys staying in their rooms or crumbs staying off the counters.  It’s not about easy-going days or big trips or complete health.  It’s about God…His love for me…my love for Him.

I hadn’t known that joy meant dying.

Joy – it’s always obedience…This is the way a body and a mouth say thank you: Thy will be done.

Dying to self.  Living to Him.  Letting go of living in want, and recognizing the gifts.  A life not about seeking my will but “Thy will”.  To refuse to move out of His presence, even if that means He means to stay in the hard and do the hard.  I will do the hard or the easy but I will not do without Him!  without JOY!