How I Met a Best Friend

The Christmas lights were twinkling over bright packages, and I knew we had a problem.  Two boxes Matt had just placed under artificial evergreen with my name on them were the exact size and shape of the ones I had wrapped for him.   A surreptitious shake confirmed it.  We had bought each other the same game and expansion pack.  However much we enjoyed Settlers of Catan, there was no need for duplicates.  I can leave cards and gifts unopened for days on the mantle to savor the anticipation, but am barely able to keep from bleating every gift idea that comes to mind for my husband.  The “spill it” pow-wow convened immediately.  A few minutes later Matt headed out into an ice storm to take back the more expensive set because the return window was closing in.  We were suddenly short on gifts for each other, but the humor of our like-thinking made for even better memories.

Full of holiday treats and contented thoughts, we gathered for worship a few days after the last of the balled-up wrapping paper shot hoops into trash bags.  Our church family was entering a season of focus on God’s word, and Pastor gave us a tour of the One Year Bible.   I saw it across a crowded sanctuary and knew we were kindred spirits.

Oh, I had followed a one year reading plan years before, with ribbons in four different places and a sticky note travelling dutifully down the printed schedule.  It was cumbersome.  I found myself taking liberties and reading ahead in different sections on an alternating basis because keeping track of assigned verses somehow crimped the flow.  I had read it that year, though.  Without a plan, my time in the word often dwindled into the land of “should be’s.”

But opening to the single ribbon mark for each day’s portion of old and new testaments, psalms and proverbs, pre-measured and printed out for me in order, would make the whole process a joy rather than an effort.  I thrive on structure and confess to being a reluctant “looker upper.”  Those bible studies where you need to look up nine different verses to answer one question, we don’t get along very well.  But get me in the word and I can breathe in the presence of my savior like nobody’s business.  And isn’t that what it’s all about anyway?  Besides, how could I not be drawn in by it’s good looks?  Soft green and dark brown with an imprint of flowers and leaves, it was a beautiful invitation to come spend time with my Lord.

So after service, Matt and I bought each other bibles for Christmas–he chose a more manly edition.  We read along with our church family, got behind and caught up as needed, finishing the year closer to the Lord than we had started it.  As he moved on to a new translation and a new plan for the coming year, I lingered over my new friend, debating.  It would be fun to do something different, but there was so much I enjoyed about our time together.  I wanted another pass through all those underlined verses that had come alive to me the year before, and the notes I’d written in the margins–yes, I’m that kind of person.  I loved being in the Psalms each day, hearing the heart of others who struggled with circumstances (and sometimes the Lord’s response), choosing to praise His name again, proclaiming His faithfulness.  I needed the permission that this structure gave me to take time away from busyness and spend it in the word–not to mention the forced march through Leviticus and Job.  So my green bible spent another year at the top of my reading pile.

And each New Year since then, it’s been the same.  Sometimes I feel like it would be more intellectually noble to do a different plan or one of the other great translations, but each year the journey through is richer, and more blue ink decorates the pages (some of it bestowed by our youngest).  We have history together.  It’s been glued where repeated falls from the arm of my chair finally broke the cover away from the binding.  And let’s not count crumbs in the cracks between pages.  We have a rhythm.  When I fall behind (I think two months is my record), I just double up on readings until we are back on track.  This bible isn’t just a commitment, it’s a best friend who calls to share secrets with me over coffee, to comfort me over the day’s frustrations, to hold me accountable, and speak the Lord’s love over me.  In my book, intellectual nobility always pales in comparison to the warmth of intimacy.

A Good Morning

Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.
Give me an eagerness for your laws
rather than a love for money!
Turn my eyes from worthless things,
and give me life through your word.  Psalm 119:33-37

Remembering to Breathe

I’ve been flopping around like a fish on the sand the last few weeks.  Motivationally bipolar, I’ve alternated between feverish bouts of productivity and crawling into a mental hidey-hole with a good book and better chocolate.  There’s been a lot to celebrate.  About two-thirds of our house interior was treated to a hip new shade of paint thanks to a slew of hard work and helpers.  Two trunk loads were surrendered to Goodwill along with my best intentions to hold a garage sale.  An entire van load (seats removed) of treasure was packaged and priced for a kids’ consignment sale.  Ezekiel’s 4th birthday was ushered in with much rejoicing, brownie sundaes, and the humorously needful instructions, “Swallow your spit before you blow out the candles, sweetheart.”  But my spirit has been stifled for want of water and fresh air.

There’s no excuse for it, really.  Bibles outnumber the people in our household by at least 3 to 1, a different translation available for every day of the week.  My iPod is loaded with anointed worship waiting for me to push play.  I have a full stable of my favorite blue Papermates and open country in my journal.

Why do I make time to sort out the laundry but neglect my heart?  Then why am I surprised when my attitude becomes brittle and my downtime fails to refresh?  I know better.  So why do I suffocate myself, thinking that my to-do list enables me to defy spiritual gravity until I find myself gasping and coated with sand again?

My mother-in-law showed me her name engraved in silver the other day, eyes lit up with new-bible excitement.  I caught a whiff of something sweet in the air:  my first love.  I remembered the joy of opening the word and diving into His promises, His love for me in histories, His presence hovering over phrases.

I knew it was time to put the schedule back in God’s capable hands and gaze upon His beauty.  Time to take Jesus up on His offer to be rest for my soul when I’m weary and burdened.  Time to soak off the sand in living water and inhale the fragrance of His grace, to quit pushing out leaves and let Him grow some blossoms within me.

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Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
 He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5,6

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8