...there is life!
I came home after a long, roller-coaster emotional day, and this ^^^ was all I could hear in my head. This is my most favorite time of the year. And I especially love when God hands me Wisdom nuggets on a platter, like today.
At my 7am AA meeting, I was able to read the Thought For the Day What stood out to me was the phrase, "There is nothing lacking in my life because, really, all I need is mine, only I lack the faith to know it." And I shared for the second time in 24 hours the following quote from
The Wizard of Oz,
"You had the power all along, my dear." - Glinda, the Good Witch.
Before I got into recovery, I didn't know that I had the choice to choose how I respond and react to situations. And as Maya Angelou said, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” I know now that God is not only for me, and with me, but God exists inside me, and I have the Power to do better because of it.
At church this morning, I sat in a different spot and then moved to accommodate a family. Unbeknownst to me, God was already moving, and moving me! Pastor Rick definitely brought the #lenthard to reality, asking us to give God our hearts of stone and replace them with a heart of flesh. To be a non-anxious presence and be filled with compassion like Jesus. To be gentle, open, and willing. To practice a healthy interior life. Then he asked us to talk with each other and answer some questions:
Do you have any part of your heart hardened? What has led to it? How can we pray for you today?
Who needs compassion in our life today? How could you prayerfully consider extending it to them?
What new spiritual practice might you need to begin to open up your heart again and have a heart of flesh? Meal with a friend, good laugh, sabbath rest, or committed fast and prayer time?
I turned behind me to a fellow introvert, and we chatted for a bit. I noted what to pray for them and made plans to have a game night when I get back from Arizona. Then it was time for communion. And the woman who prayed literally had me choking up and I began to pour out myself to God. She spoke of how on his last night, Jesus was eating with all his friends, knowing full well that one of them was going to destroy him. Jesus had so much compassion for this man that he even washed his feet, knowing what he knew. And I thought to myself... "Who am I? Who am I to hold a grudge or resentment or think that standing in "rightness" is helpful in any way?" And as the tears poured out, I sat and prayed for forgiveness over not wanting to let go of the anger I felt, over not thinking some people are worthy of God's love, over not forgiving myself and others as freely as God so often and so willingly continues to forgive me.
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. Kyrie Elieson.
It reminded me of my favorite scene from Midnight Mass :::possible spoiler alert:::
Annie: God doesn't love you more than anyone else. You are not a hero. And you certainly, certainly aren't a victim.
Bev: I wouldn't lecture, Annie, not until you pull the plank from your own eye. I hate to speak ill of the dead, but if... a drunk, and a murderer, was evidence of the quality of his parenting...
Annie: He was. Every part of him. And God loves him. Just as much as He loves you, Bev. Why does that upset you so much? Just the idea that God loves everyone just as much as you.
God loves everyone... just as much as you.
So here I am, sitting in my chair, praying, weeping, thinking of references from horror shows, and asking for forgiveness, and this beautiful, angelic voice starts singing one of my most favorite songs:
Here's the part that gets me every time:
"From the need to be understood And from a need to be accepted From the fear of being lonely Deliver me O God Deliver me O God
And I shall not want, no, I shall not want When I taste Your goodness, I shall not want."
Lord, it doesn't matter what is separating me from You... I need to pour that out to You and remember Your goodness, for I have tasted it, and I need Your deliverance.
And as I'm wiping the tears from my eyes and sniffing my sniffles away, the lovely person in front of me turns around and grabs me, and holds me tight as the last song begins. As I'm being held I then hear a whisper in my ear... a prayer. And I wept. And then praised.
"Can't go back to the beginning
Can't control what tomorrow will bring
But I know here in the middle
Is the place where You promise to be...
Not for a minute
Was I forsaken
The Lord is in this place
The Lord is in this place
Come Holy Spirit
Dry bones awaken
The Lord is in this place
The Lord is in this place."
"Aint that the truth?" I thought. And after service was over, I got to speak to my new friend and get to know them a little bit more. And then I had to run off to the DOC...
Let's just say, when the Spirit is moving, I definitely go on a ride!
So I'm getting myself prepared as the ladies start coming into the chapel, and I'm chatting with some of them who were at Bible Study on Friday night and watching everyone roll in and welcoming them... and I look up and realize, there's a lot of new faces I'm looking at. So I give the whole "let's respect everyone" speech including the "we're here to worship" points, in a firm, loving, and somewhat light-hearted manner. As we get going, the disruptions begin almost immediately. At our services, I welcome people to respectfully ask questions and share how they process what we are talking about. Those are healthy interruptions. But disruptions are unwelcome and disrespectful. It was to the point that I stopped shushing them, stopped the service altogether, and said, "I swear... I really don't want to kick anyone out, but I really don't want to have to keep shushing you like I do my dogs, and I really do apologize for that." It was at that point that some of the ladies chimed in and started agreeing vocally about the disruptions. So I pressed pause for myself and prayed aloud for the Lord to continue to direct my words and actions. And I pushed through... and I mean, I literally pushed through... I started speaking faster, and cutting out points because I wanted to get to communion without running out of time.
And then I said, "OK, let's sing, and then we're going to celebrate communion."
So we sang:
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found, in You."
When the song finished, we began our celebration of Jesus' sacrifice for us. I spoke of how before we partake of these elements, we are to pour ourselves out to God and be filled up by Them. I prayed over the elements and started playing the song below as I passed out the communion cups to everyone. By the time I got back to the front, there were two ladies on their knees. praying. I spoke the words of communion as we partook in the elements together. I let the song continue on, and asked for us to hear the words, and truly let God refine us.
"I wanna be tried by fire
You take whatever you desire
Lord here's my life."
As we prayed and praised, I looked around and saw another lady, weeping. She came up to me after the service and said, "Cristina, remember how I told you that I've been praying and praying and I just haven't felt the Spirit in my life?... Well, the Spirit was in that room, and I finally felt it again! I was moved to tears." I told her that I saw her, and I said a little prayer for her and was so grateful that she was with us today. And I said to myself, "God was already moving, and moving me..." and I could see it all unfolding slowly right before my eyes.
From the water to the wilderness. From the wilderness to temptation. From temptation to God. From God to movement of the Spirit. From movement of the Spirit to touched lives and full hearts. Amen.
Robert Madu said it best:
"I'm trying to figure out how in the world one moment [Jesus is] being baptized, the next moment he's in a battle. One moment he's in total comfort, the next moment he's in total conflict. One moment he is in cohesive community, the next moment he is in complete isolation. One moment he's hearing a voice from heaven, the next moment he's hearing a voice from hell. One moment he's in the water getting a word from heaven, the next moment he's in the wilderness facing real warfare."
My day sure felt like a water-to-wilderness moment. And through it all, I kept pouring myself out to God, knowing that Their goodness is real. That without Them, I fall. My strength is only as good as the time I put into creating space to be with God. My compassion relies on my ability to continuously let go and let God. My patience is only as thin or thick as I choose it to be. My words and my actions and my life need to be a living sacrifice so that I may be the Light that God has gifted me with... gifted us all with. To draw the Light out of others. And to point them to the Light.
I am wholly exhausted. And...
where the Spirit of the Lord is... there is life!
May God grant us the restorative, peaceful, much-needed rest we desire.