Without my asking a single question, the woman before me began sharing parts of her life. At first it seemed like shallow conversation, but as she continued, I realized I was getting a personal glimpse at something deep in her heart. She wanted her daughter to have a belief in something that mattered. She was bothered that at age 29 her daughter had greed, and still thought of Santa as a truth.
I shared with her about the birth of a King and how the Magi came to honor this child with three gifts. Gold, frankincense and myrrh. I recognized a look of incomprehension on the woman’s face. It was easy to see that she took in the fact only three gifts were offered but the significance of their importance was lost on her. Even the name Jesus didn’t register as anything she could be excited about.
Leaving her, I put my hand upon her shoulder to speak a blessing. I wondered like I often do if I’d see her again in eternity.
She came in a wheelchair pushed by someone who had patience. At first she asked with politeness for where she was meant to be, but when the answer did not meet her expectations, she became confrontational. Her question had been simple. “Where was she supposed to be?” Once she found out she wasn’t there, rather than follow the instructions for how to get there, she became obnoxious about the matter.
I sat in my chair observing, but I wasn’t the only one. All who were waiting with me observed her behavior. I could sense none approved since it did nothing to solve her current situation. I was even amused by the few who wanted to push her towards her destination. Still this woman was incensed that she thought she’d been given wrong directions. It didn’t seem to dawn upon her that she could easily solve the matter by going in the right direction. Instead she wanted to linger in the wrong place and berate all those around at how it wasn’t her fault.
After she barked an order to be pushed onward toward her final destination, I leaned back with a smile on my face. I couldn’t criticize this woman for a moment. I had often been in the same shoes throughout my life. I’d just never had such a vivid example of how badly I’d misbehaved in those moments.
The motel room smelled of stale smoke and lacked a view of more than an asphalt parking lot. Even in this dismal place I could not be swayed from the faith and hope I carried in my heart. The more I listened to a friend’s pain and hurt, the more I was sure she’d find the help she needed once she’d come to the realization no one else could save her.
Coming to the end of self isn’t easy. Watching her vent in frustration, I could offer nothing of comfort. Her pride was dying a slow death and the anger of feeling it was taking a toll on her emotions. She sat in her chair trying to understand the words of wisdom another friend shared, but it was uncertain how much was sinking in yet.
Out of money and out of time for the cheap motel room, it was time to leave. As we got in my car I turned on the windshield wipers for the rain. A dead leaf was stuck in the arm and I got out to remove it. Standing in the gentle rain I felt peaceful knowing she would be guided down the right path no matter how difficult it was for her to take the steps.
Windows allowed viewpoints in every direction and the carpet declared as much with compass navigation. In its center was a global rock piece fountain, continually flowing. Flags were posted everywhere; proclaiming the truth. This was about everything and everyone. Music was a constant for worship. Picking out one of the pillows, I desired to lay upon the floor, to soak in the joy and peace to be had.
One by one they came, and I set myself upright against a corner wall. The worshipers began to gather without any direction. Each brought their instruments and families. I watched a few chairs being arranged in a circle. Eventually a large drum was brought in to be set in the center of these chairs. A man stood up to speak, hushing all who were there with his words. “This is not a social gathering, if you want to socialize than you can go outside, this is to worship and intercede.”
A native American flute began playing and its notes reminded me of why I had come here. As the drums were struck, I knew I could hear the rhythm of heaven…..I’ve always heard it…..it’s the rhythm of the kingdom to come.
In the gray and cold, a rain was dropping softly about me. I walked with a friend to get coffee, and while listening to what was being said, I was also trying to listen to the nearby river flowing. Under my hoodie I couldn’t hear its rushing waters but I knew it to be there.
Later with my coffee in hand, I sat at a corner table engaged in conversation. The river drew me to look in its direction now and again for the moving waters. Puddles on the cement let me know waters were being added to it with each drop. Inwardly I await the flooding to come.
“Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up!” I heard these words from an old song begin playing over and over in my head. I knew what and who had been upon my heart. The topic was about praying for those we love so much. Discouragement had tried to find its way into our daily lives when we didn’t see instant results.
I remembered a conversation I’d had the previous night. I had shared of an experience from many years before. While visiting St. Louis, I was drawn to go into an old cathedral type church. I was not a woman of faith at the time, but I sat amongst old wooden pews looking at the iconic architecture. My mind began wondering about the history of this church. Eventually I began wondering about the previous lives who’d sat in the same spot I was now in. I wondered who they were, how they lived and how they died? I wondered what and who they prayed for?
After sharing this memory, I laughed at the irony of God’s revelation. I told my friend they had probably been praying for the lost and all these years later, here I was; found in salvation because someone had prayed me into the kingdom.
“Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up………..”
In and out of doors people came and went. Passing through the metal detector to get into lines and sit in various rooms where wordly justice was to be dispensed. Entering the courthouse I could feel a foreboding heaviness wanting to crush me. The mood all around was unsettling; anger, fear, anxiousness, animosity, hopelessness and so many other dark things. A couple times I could feel my stomach lurch and my mouth began to water as though I was to be sick. Closing my eyes I prayed and the nausea lifted from me.
I sat a while trying to understand how I was meant to be a light in this darkest of places. It didn’t take long to realize I was here to observe the desperation of a people unaware of hope. I was here to pray in a place where much prayer was needed. A song began to play in my spirit.
Oh you bring hope to the hopeless
And light to those in the darkness
And death to life
Now I’m alive
Oh You give peace to the restless
And joy to homes that are broken
I see You now
In You I’m found
And You opened the door for me
And you laid down
Your life to set me free
All that I am will serve You Lord
And You opened my eyes to see
All the wonder and awe of Christ in me
Jesus You’re everything I need
Oh you fill those who are empty
And rescue those in the valley
And through it all You calm my soul
Oh you find me in my weakness
And heal the wounds of my heartache
I worship You in spirit and truth
All praise to You *
Matt 5:16 (MSG) Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand–shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
* Lyrics by Hillsong United, Oh You Bring
While I lived in Japan, I learned much of their history and about the things they considered to be honorable. Even methods of death were given protocols for honor. A graphic form of suicide called “seppuku” was often spoken of and taught in their history. Samurai warriors were expected to have the courage to disembowel themselves with their own sword rather than fall into enemy hands. At the time, this offended my sense of self preservation, not to mention made me wonder at the mindset it would take to do such an act upon one’s own body?
In the word, Paul speaks often about “dying to self” and he was well aware it would take a sword. Suddenly, seppuku begins to make sense to me. The samurai were onto an understanding, but performing in the flesh was never what it was really about to truly be honorable. It was always about the heart.
Heb 4:12 What God has said isn’t only alive and active! It is sharper than any double-edged sword. His word can cut through our spirits and souls and through our joints and marrow, until it discovers the desires and thoughts of our hearts.
A multitude of small birds kept coming closer and closer to our table outside where we were having coffee. The desire for food outweighed their fear of man. I watched my friend hold out her hand to draw them near. Not seeing any food they could identify, they stayed at a distance. An acquaintance who had joined us threw out some pastry crumbs to which they flocked, gobbling them up quickly.
Watching these trusting creatures seeking a meal, I felt compassion at their longing for nourishment. In their hunger, they never hesitated to feed themselves from anything that looked like a quick and easy menu. I’d seen it often enough in people but seeing such a vivid truth in these small birds brought reality into my heart.
We ourselves and so many around us are starving for nourishment. We seek truth that will fulfill us, but we are easily distracted by fast food to sustain us in the moment. We don’t even give thought to its nutritional value, as long as it fills our empty stomachs. An hour from now we will hunger again. When the food of the world is no longer plentiful or desired, where will we seek our meal?
Pro 23:3 Do not desire his delicacies, For they are deceptive food