Monday, August 11, 2014

With my whole heart, the better part

It's only been a couple of days - and they haven't been perfect, but they have been good.  And I feel like the Lord has been speaking to me through them.

A few weeks ago I was really in that "good place" with the Lord.  Abiding.  It is a glorious thing to truly sense the Lord's presence as you go about your day.  I was sensing His nearness (which, by the way, is constant.) But I was hearing Him too.  I had a profound experience, a perspective eye opener type of interaction at the Lord's direction with another person that would fall short off the page if I tried to explain it, but it left me moved.

Then something went awry in our home and with in a couple of days I was knocked out of that abiding place.  Then I spent the next days and weeks trying to figure out how to get back to where I had been.  So profound an experience and it was like the pathway to it was quickly being forgotten.

Now mind you, life is life and to expect to always "experience" God in all of our emotions and senses seems unlikely.  Not because He is not near but because we in our humanness and sinful flesh have the cards stacked against us.  But that does not give us the pass from making the effort to get to that place of abiding that God calls us to.

"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me." John 15:4

I love this verse, the whole chapter is one of my favorites in the Bible, and I often hear the Lord whisper to my spirit, "Abide, abide, abide."  Always in three - perhaps for Father, Son and Spirit.  But it my hearts cry to find the way to truly abide.

But disappointed and distracted, despite a few amazing days, I was having the hardest time "getting back" to that place.  But unlike so often in the past, this time I wasn't willing to just give up.

Last week as I opened the scriptures I visited one of my favorite passages.  The lesser known neighbors of one of those verses that is very popular, recited constantly, tattooed regularly and claimed as a life verse for many, Jeremiah 29:11.  But it's the next two neighbors that speak most profoundly to my heart:

 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12-13

It is verse 13 in particular that grips my heart: And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

So "simple" yet so profound. So this weekend I decided I was going to seek God, as best I could - with ALL of my heart.  And I prayed what that looked like.  

I turned off "data" on my phone - no Facebook, no email, then I left the phone in my car, or plugged in to the charger at the back of the house a lot rather than having it in my hand or in my pocket 24/7.  When I was in the car I kept it in my purse, behind my seat. There was no Twitter, no Instagram checking, and I (gulp) turned off the TV quite a bit too.  Instead of flipping through all 400 channels until I found something I was willing to "settle" on watching, I just turned it off.  It was quite a revelation for a leading member of a family that has multiple TVs on in every waking hour at our house. 

Saturday was the one day I managed to completely unplug for an entire day.  And I focused, FOCUSED on God and on my family.  I got up early before anyone else and read the Word and had breakfast with Jesus.  I took my daughter out and spent an ENTIRE day with her without looking at my phone once.  Not a single "just a minute, honey" to her while I reached out to say something to Facebook, instead I talked to her, and in my mind I talked to God too.  What a novel concept.  We went school shopping and out to lunch together, and I was mindful all day of focusing and investing in her, and ever so aware of God's presence right there with us.  

I did what may seem simple or even stupid to others, but I surrendered my eating to the Lord that day too.  I prayed and was thoughtful about how all my actions helped or hindered my witness and usefulness to Him.  Later in the day I went out with my hubby and I left my phone in the car while we did his errand at Home Depot.  

That night we had dinner the five of us together, working to put everything on the table, praying around the table, laughing and talking through the meal.  Then we went for a walk, ALL FIVE OF US!  It was AWESOME!  And we came home and had a family movie night.  And I actually focused on the movie, and on the people I was watching it with.  

I felt so close to both my God and to my people.  I just hadn't realized how much of not only a distraction, but a detraction from life my phone, social media and even the TV had become. I mean, I knew, but I really didn't know. I never watched a movie without playing solitaire on my phone. "What did I miss?" I would always ask because I was reading someone's post on Facebook.  

At one point in the midst of my time with Victoria while we were out and about during the day, I whispered a little silent "thank You" to the Lord for directing me to seek Him with my WHOLE heart.  I thanked Him for what a gift the time with my daughter felt like.  And I heard in my heart Him whisper back, "You have chosen the better part." 

It's a reference from the tale of Mary and Martha: 
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Now, I have never considered myself a Martha type - not so much because I am not thoroughly distract-able, but because I am not likely to be found busy in the kitchen when there is company in the living room. In a heartbeat I would rather be with the crowd.  But I am also likely to be the girl with her phone on the table, or in her hand, constantly disconnected from what's happening right on front of me.  
"Diana, Diana," Jesus might say, "You are worried and troubled about many things - Who liked your Instagram photo, who commented on your funny Facebook post, how many hours you can waste watching a marathon of all the Law & Order SVU episodes you've already seen many times.  But you CAN choose the better part." 
And so that's what I did almost all of this weekend. (I will confess when I made a short visit to Facebook to post something for a friend in need, it felt like it rose up a crack level addiction inside me, wondering and worrying what I was missing, but I managed to step away.) And it's what I long to do consistently and always - Choose the better part. Step away from the things that trouble and distract me, and focus on my God and my people. 
My husband, my children, and most of all my God - they are first.  (Not in that order but God, hubby, kids.) I've spent a lot... A LOT of years longing to fit in and find a place of belonging, and honestly Facebook magnifies how much I have not found that, specifically in ministry.  And lately the Lord has just been over and over reiterating to me that my family is my first ministry, and my most important.  And God has placed good and solid friendships in my life that actually extend beyond Facebook, and I am trying to invest myself there in a greater way - in a REAL life way, face to face, with coffee or dinner or with a handwritten card or (gulp) maybe even a phone call on occasion.  
Most of all the quiet that is created when changing this priority seems to make my heart more open, and my spiritual ears as well, to hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit in my life.  So I am going to really intently try to seek the Lord, WITH MY WHOLE HEART - and I'm going to choose THE BETTER PART, of quietness and sitting in relationship with God and others "IRL", rather than busyness and striving in the distractions of life today.  It won't be easy and I will likely fail, but I'm going to try.