My pen stalls and it's stuck to the page, doesn't want to let any words go. That pen, so stubborn, tattle-telling on my heart.
How does one write about how to have joy in the everyday when joy is so obviously elusive?
Maybe it's been my heart that has been neglectful of what's important--resentful of that "great secret" of Christians?
It is easy to avoid the truth and resent reality and so hard to face the stark consequences of every second, every minute, every day. My sin flavors every moment that ticks on that clock, mocking me.
All I see on those hands are chains that bind, moments wasted, fretted away, moments squelched by my yelling, or my complacency, my apathy, my selfishness, my ingratitude. And there are more ways than one to quench the Holy Spirit.
I always wondered as a child, what does "quenching" mean? What am I doing to the Holy Spirit when I argue with my sister, disobey my parents, talk in church, don't raise my hands and worship? Not take Him seriously enough? Am I ringing Him out, squeezing Him, hurting Him, making him sad?
As an adult, I get more curious and less assuming that what others tell me is correct.
I look up the meaning, and I find out that "quench" means to put out the light or fire of, to cool suddenly by immersion, to bring to an end, to decrease.
I ponder on this as I wipe tables, and I tell girls to make home clean and good-smelling for Daddy and then when he walks in the door, suddenly I am this sinful wretch, and I disrespect him with my tone when I don't like his words.
In an unexpected turn, my blind eyes are opened, and I know no home that holds the heavy stench of hateful words can be made good-smelling by candles.
No amount of Better Home will change this fact, either.
And when children's hearts nurture their mother's bad habits of disrespecting their father, in tone, in words, or just in a look-- their bodies having been nourished with only healthy, organic foods holds no water.
And when a heart is tarnished with rebellion, no home can shine joy no matter how back-breakingly polished the old floors.
Really--what good does it do for me to tell my children to make home cheerful and comfortable for Daddy when they see me tear down my home?
What good is all my polishing, all my scrubbing, all my generosity for guests--if the smile is weakly and fragilely affixed, the one Anchor not holding me, because my gaze is not affixed on Him.
A smile can break so easily and a moment of laughter in this home can be fine china in the pounding wake of my destructive ingratitude.
And I want to cup it so carefully, and the tighter I try to grasp at it, hoping to save it, it crumbles there like ashes in an unquenchable fire of negativity.
And I've learned that quenching the Holy Spirit of God has less to do with whether or not I raise my hands in worship, whether that man steps outside the service for a cigarette, that woman taps on her cell during preaching, or whether I can bring myself to the altar.
It has much less to do with religious forms and much, more to do with the everyday, more with my heart moment by moment.
I am convinced that the Holy Spirit is doing his work in that man's heart who is holding the cigarette, and He is speaking to the woman's heart who is holding the cell, though I can't hear the holy conversation, and I bear more fruit when I am quiet in worship than when I am distracted by a form.
One thing I've learned through a life-time of being in church, is that it's possible the man who steps outside the service? It's possible he has more humility than the man inside, praying 'til he's the last in the building.
It's why Jesus said it's hard for the rich to enter heaven--they have no need of it. And when we rely on religious forms, and we think we have it all together, and we believe our prayers inside are better than the man's outside, well, we are like the rich man who doesn't need God.
We think we know God, but we're working with a hologram, a phantom, and don't even realize it.
And I've come to resent religious forms, "how-to" books, 10 step devotionals--I want only real, only face-plant, I can't do this without you God, I don't need 10 steps--
I just need you, a holy God to come near.
And in my resenting, hard-heart ways? God has brought me full-circle.
Quenching the Holy Spirit is about every second, every minute, every hour and every day in the small things. It's when I make this hallowed ground hell for my family. It's when I yell at them and then smile for the guests driving up in the yard. It's when I neglect the sacred moments of snuggling and reading in the dark for the computer. It's when I isolate, fetal-position curled-up, and I lock myself away, and my family is begging me to come out, chubby hands reaching up, just needing so much love.
And it's hard to let go of this fear of religious forms, and make this sacred time with God--learn how to get back to joy-- but when I learn to reach out, how to let go of all my fears of being used-up and slain, and I lie down and read that book with them instead of something I want to do and it's when I let go of my fear of religious forms and sing worship, hands in warms suds, it's when I have gratitude for this moment and I break free in laughter about the baby climbing up and chomping down half a bag of marsh-mellows, that I let the Holy Spirit blaze 'round here.
And when I don't let worship be tainted--worship I've witnessed being made profane--this freedom of me and God walking, Him whispering to me that I'm Beloved, it takes over in absolute joy.
I watch her, little feet pounding across pine floors, so much sunshine in her hair, and through this lens of gratitude, who couldn't see joy?
Linking up with The Nester, and all the other 31-Dayers....This ought to be one wild, brave ride...
Also linking with: Ann , Jennifer, & Duane
Do you struggle with fear of religious forms, friend? Does it hold you hostage--keep you from an intimate relationship with Him? What's your story? How has God redeemed it? Have you found grace? Your comments so encourage me. I draw strength from your kind words and knowing you were here. My faith walk is seasoned with the right ingredients when you hang around...
This is Day 6 of 31 days of Fear. Since I started my Day 1 a little late, my "31 Days" will not have 31 posts. I have chosen to do this one on FEAR, because it seems to be something I keep wrestling with over and over, something that keeps me in chains, pins me down, won't let me free. I hope you will come with me on this journey--to get a taste of glorious redemption as I soul-search and look for Jesus smack-dab in the middle of my fears. And Jesus sits with sinners. I won't have to look very far. Couldn't we all use some freedom from those fear-chains that bind? I pray God gives me the strength and the courage to complete 31 days--y'all, it's going to be hard on this 'ol gal to write every.single.day. Pray for me? You can find the entire 31 Day collective here
Friends, meet my friend, Jennifer. She is so lovely and down-to-earth, a farmer's wife in Iowa. I just love her, and you will too. If you would so kindly click here and go over to Jennifer's site for a giveaway--her sweet daughter, Lydia, is having a jewelry party to raise money for a school playground for children in Haiti. We know these children and families have been affected by much suffering after the earthquake. This jewelry is hand-made by our sisters in Haiti--Jennifer has been there, met them, hung out with them in their homes--and this is Jennifer's project. By buying one of these beautiful necklaces, you will be helping a Haitian woman work to feed her family, AND you will be helping raise money for children to have a place to play! She is also giving away some jewelry, so hurry on over and share on facebook, twitter, etc for your spot in the giveaway! I'm definitely buying one--I hope you do, too!