Obedience: I’m in love, again.

I met a new friend today. His name is Danny. I’m in love.

It’s okay, you can tell my husband. I plan to.

It started when I saw him this afternoon, while I was out and about going several different places across the city in a [failed] attempt to buy some new clothes. Not because I’m running around threadbare or naked. Not even close. (You’re welcome.) I just like to buy a couple of new things each year when school starts. You know, new school clothes.

So in all my driving around I was downtown near the arena district when I spotted my new love. There he was, in the afternoon sun, wearing what appeared to be the same clothes he’d worn for days. His scraggly beard was fairly long. He was missing several teeth (which I could tell from quite far away) and he was at least 5 inches shorter than me.

PERFECT.

However, it was not exactly love at first sight. It was more like love at first nudge. I was in my car, coming up to a red light and in the middle lane. He was standing on the sidewalk to my right, slowly walking. His sign said “Homeless and very needy. Please help.” I watched him from the corner of my eye for just a couple of seconds. I could see the disappointment and a little speck of disdain on his face as every driver and passenger kept their eyes starkly facing forward as he walked by, refusing to acknowledge what they’d surely already seen.

A person. A man. A man in need of something. In need of something so badly that he resorted to begging anyone –everyone– to help.

That’s when I heard our love song. Cranking in my car at that exact moment was:

Your love, Your love/ the only thing that matters is/ Your love, Your love/it’s all I have to give

Your love/ is enough/ to light up the darkness/ It’s Your love, Your love/ All I ever needed is Your love

I knew then that I was his answer, at least for that day. God wanted to use me to deliver some love and maybe even provide him with the means to eat that day. So I started to reach for my purse, to get some money out. The light turned green. All the cars around me started to move and I needed to get over. No one was even thinking about acquiescing to my turn signal. I was starting to create a line of angry drivers who were behind me since I was inconveniencing them by making a last-minute decision to change lanes. It was annoying, I admit. So I hit the gas pedal and moved forward onto the freeway ramp I was right in line for. I had a moment, just a moment, where I thought well, it wasn’t meant to be since I wasn’t able to get to him quickly enough. I’ll pray for him. Then…

Why worry about someone’s soul but don’t bother to give them a basic need when you know you can?

FAITH WITHOUT WORKS IS DEAD. (James Ch.2, the kinda-ghetto Krysten version)

I thought about all the other songs I’d listened to that day while I was out and about doing my thing. The lyrics shot through me light lightning bolts, one right after another.

I want more of you, God…

        I’ve found a love greater than life itself….

                     No place I’d rather be/ than here in Your love…

                                         Nothing can tear us from/ the grip of His mighty love…

                                                            He lavishes His love upon us/ He calls us now his sons and daughters…

                                                                        We’ve only glimpsed/ His vast affection/ heard whispers of/His heart and passion…

So I DID pray, but not for the man. I prayed that he would still be there so I could go do what I knew God was asking of me.  (So I guess I was praying for myself?) I got off at the next exit. I turned around. I got back on the freeway. I spotted my man and found a place to park. I walked toward him and was keenly aware of all the confused and frightened scares of the people in the cars when they realized I was talking right up to him.

I tapped him on the shoulder and told him how happy I was that he was still there. (again, was this for me?)

He smiled his toothless smile and hugged me.

I told him I saw him a little earlier but couldn’t get to him, but that I’d turned my car around and came back so I could come give him some money to help him through the day.(Why did I tell him that? What did I expect, a medal!?)

And you know what he said?

He said: “Well, you didn’t have to do that! All you had to do was love me!”

ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS LOVE ME.

He told me his name was Danny. We talked for a while about how the weather was nice even though it was hot, and how his back hurt and how he just sleeps any place he can find, and how he knows the people who owned the building he was standing near but they don’t have anywhere for him to stay in there. He hugged me three times and introduced himself twice in the span of 5 minutes.  He’d been on the streets for 25 years. YEARS.

I told him I would look for him again, and I will. I told him I would be praying for him to stay safe and for his back to heal. And I will. He was so thankful to hear that, of all things.

The whole experience took less than 15 minutes, surely. But he will last forever whether I see him again or not. I’d been wondering lately if I’ve been obedient to God, I mean anytime recently. I’d seen such beautiful pictures painted in several lives around me, of just pure obedience and the lovely results that follow. I couldn’t remember the last time I was obedient to a nudge from the Spirit. I’d asked Him to bring something to mind so I could remember it, but  God was gracious enough to do me one better…. He gave me a new opportunity to be obedient to his voice. It’s almost romantic.

All I had to do was love him, he said.

Done.

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Still Listening…

If you’ve never read The Color Purple by Alice Walker, please go get it ASAP. It’s one of those read-before-you-die kind of books. Here is an excerpt from the book… it’s a conversation about God between two women, Shug and Celie:

Listen, God love everything you love – and a mess of stuff you don’t.  But more than anything else, God love admiration.

 You saying God vain?  I ast.

Naw, she say.  Not vain, just wanting to share a good thing.  I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

 What it do when it pissed off?  I ast.

Oh, it make something else.  People think pleasing God is all God care about.  But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

 Yeah?  I say.

Yeah, she say.  It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.

You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.

 Yes, Celie, she say.  Everything want to be loved.  Us sing and dance, make faces and give flower bouquets trying to be loved.  You ever notice that trees do everything to git attention we do, except walk?

 Well, us talk and talk about God, but I’m still adrift.  Trying to chase that old white man out of my head.  I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make.  Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) not the color purple (where it come from?).  Not the little wild flowers.  Nothing.

Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool.

This is one of my first memories of myself thinking about God. I mean really thinking about Him. I had to read this book for a class. I was only a teenager.  I wasn’t even close to being a believer of any flavor, let alone a born-again Christian. I just remember the moment I read this, then read it again, and then over and over, I realized for the first time that God might be something (or someone) I had never dreamed of before. He might be more than “White Jesus” (this is the name I unaffectionately use to refer to the fake presentation we see mostly in those awful paintings with a glowing fishbowl around the head of a stark-white, blue-eyed, cojone-less sort of saintly figure who doesn’t really possess any power other than to make others feel guilty for not being as saintly or as white. Capisce?)

I briefly allowed myself to wonder, could there be more to this God thing?

Right after that I probably went about my everyday business of partying or whatever mess I used to get into back in those days. I didn’t have some big, light-shining-down moment that changed me forever. My journey was and continues to be much, much more subtle, but I’m convinced that it started way back then. It started when I first thought of God as more than a “He” and more than a keeper of cosmic scorecards, of which mine was dramatically marked up with a lot of red X-es. I began to see the idea of what might just be God as more than just something you experience when or if you go to church.

I’ve always been a lover of nature…not one of those going camping every weekend types…but almost childlike in my love, awe, and appreciation for all things around me that happen and exist naturally; a buzzing honeybee, the foam created from the ocean kissing the sand, the delicate veins in a perfectly symmetrical maple leaf, and…clouds! Oh how I loved (and still love) looking at clouds! I just figured I was a person who enjoyed things like that, I never thought anything else about it. But over many years I have come to realize that these things…these moments when I notice the small things around me that have been created by God, I know they are the artwork of the One who loves me and wants to delight me with His creation.

Could it really be…God is mad about me, not mad at me? It almost seems scandalous. The Creator of all the universe, the One who breathed and spoke everything into existence, loves me and is trying to get my full attention on a daily basis?! It’s true, my friends…and it’s certainly not just true for me, but for every one of the 6+billion people on this planet, all created in His image.

“…God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” -Romans 5:8

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”                    -Romans 8:1

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39

Like I said, I never had this big, monumental sign that God was real and He loved me. It happened in a thousand small moments that accumulated into me finally admitting that I couldn’t ignore the clues anymore…I couldn’t push away the fact that I was starting to see all the loosely bound connections firming up into definite pathways. I was no longer interested in chasing after all the various things I had been, none of which ever resulted in giving me peace. I came to a place where I was pretty sure I was ready to surrender myself to something that was way more vast, way more good than I’d ever dreamed. Then I heard this song by a band that called themselves a Christian rock band, which I’d never even heard of before. “Christian” music that I actually enjoy listening to? Whaaaaatttt??

I looked for you in
The fire and the wind
But you weren’t there as far as I could see

I thought I’d hear you shout
But then I figured it out
That all along you’re whispering to me

And I’m still listening…

That was me. I knew it was. I knew that while I had been busy looking for “it” all over the place, searching for some huge moment in my life that would define me and validate me and encourage me and strengthen me and show me what life was really about, all along I had missed the hints and whispers of what was right in front of me. I knew that this band, these singers who were followers of Jesus, were talking about looking for and finding God. I felt a little like Celie in The Color Purple.

“Now that my eyes opening, I feels like a fool.”

But that foolish feeling quickly turned into a peaceful rest that I’ve really known ever since. Not perfectly, not without wrinkles and tears in the pages of my life since it all began for me. But a peacefulness that keeps my eyes willingly wide-open to these things, so I can share them with others and point out the whispers that are around them so they don’t miss the good stuff that God is trying to catch their attention with. But just in case they do miss it, and in the not-totally-unlikely event that I also miss it, I take comfort in knowing that God (as Alice Walker so simply put it) will just make something else to catch our attention.