Hey, it’s not uncommon to fight off a little cold right?
For a week I was snorting, sneezing, sniffling… tossing and turning through the night; downing vitamin C, guzzling water, doing the Zicam… and praying like a saint. Like a saint! For a week.
As a deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.
I want to live well; a holy, devout, abiding, intimate, conversational relationship with Christ in any and all circumstances; a life walking with God, passionately worshiping Him and courageously loving others. It’s when people or life is onerous that I’m most drawn to bury that desire and settle for a well scripted small story…
Craig always healthy; full head of hair; bronze skin and a pair of Von Zipper’s on, is with his stunningly beautiful wife on a warm beach sitting in a pair of Adirondack chairs (One a rich brilliant yellow, the other a deep fire engine red). Flanked by the best of friends and family), a menagerie of animals: giraffes, bear cats, a lion laying next to a lamb, wallabies and Labs… and maybe birds; bushels of grain, fruit and a good-hearted dinosaur… (picture Sgt. Pepper's Loney Hearts Band album cover). Next to Lori and I are our delightful daughters, I have a granddaughter on each knee enjoying ice cream cones as they repeat over and over, “You're awesome Aboo”. My two ruddy strong son-in-laws stand and ask, “Oh, grand Father-in-Law we ask for your spiritual direction that with equal perseverance, sacrifice and soul work we might, one day, live the life we see you living… what advice do you offer us?” And then, just as I’m about to answer, a herald beckons me to a phone where a circle of international financiers, politicians, beach volleyball players, pastors and Monarchs are wanting my help in interpreting the times. You get the picture? Oh my gosh… it’s really a puny story in which I’m the main character and life is about me, me, me. (Oh… add a car that works and a new beefy stereo).
But… that was a couple of months ago, this is the new Craig and I’m living large in this grisly cold-sinusitis. I’m proud of myself. Typically when I'm sick I forget God and get bitchy... but not now, not here, not me! I'm in the zone I wish I lived in… I'm so deeply aware of His presence as my Sustainer, Father, Wonderful Counselor, Provider, Life, Comforter and Strength. The truth is that most of the words you would use to describe God seemed real-time true… except for “Healer” (but even in that I sensed His sovereignty... something I didn't yet know was going on). And so I' pray… morning, noon and night a medley of worship, warfare, truth, delight, desire… I like how I’m living. For a week.
BAM...THWACK ZAPOLA…WHAP… I get an upgrade, super-sized… my cold has morphed into some dastardly flu with a gnarly fever... incessant cough, sleeplessness, aches.
I'm either on the couch, in bed or putzing about in a ripe fleece, my red plaid pajama bottoms topped off with my homeless-Mohawk and 7 day beard.
You are kidding me! What's next... boils? Now, I’m praying the full work and triumph of the work of Christ over my life, body, home, domain, family... I’m bearing down and loving God...I'm yapping up a storm with Him. I had been "suffering" well expecting that my viral/bacterial plague would naturally run its course but now that I was 12 days "into it" something began to wane. Note: I kept thinking of the hell several friends have gone through for months/years in chemo or fighting some horrendous disease/illness... wondering how they did it. I know, I know I'm a whimp.
"Suffering" over time exposes how deep our roots have bored into God, My roots appear to be on the surface as discouragement begins to set in and my prayers in some very subtle but essential way shift…. The words and tone didn’t change noticeably… but something is changing…
Sitting is uncomfortable, so is standing, lying, kneeling. One moment I’m convinced Lori opened every freaking window in the house and turned on the AC…I’m freezing and there are not enough quilts in this overpriced, quickly depreciating low light boring house. 20 minutes later I’m living proof of global warming… “Man it’s a hot one, like 7 inches from the midday sun…” * I’m in a parched land with a parched people in this miserable presumptuous neighborhood full of wackos who for some reason call this 2 bit cow town “home". Do you see the slow advance of the "bitchy" thingie?
I don’t want anything to eat!!! And there’s nothing to eat here anyway! There never is, and why is Whole Foods so expensive, and Safeway's produce is second hand produce picked over by shoppers in California and sent to Colorado for those of us stuck in this overgrown New Jerusalem where absolutely no one practices the religious values they profess.
I can’t read and TV stinks... Real Housewives of Orange County, Biggest Loser, Hannity, MSNBC, The View... they're all carnival barkers with a stale shtick. Even music doesn’t play well, not even Ashley Cleveland’s rendition of Gimme Shelter… it all sounds like bumper music to a low ratings mid-afternoon Icelandic Soap Opera… the only thing that does sound good is one loud listening to Hendrix's dark Hey Joe Live… Speaking of marriage… “Where is she?” Can you sense a shift... I'm barking at Lori now! Apocalyptic endings are becoming attractive... I'm rooting for the end of the world, for a random steel girder to fall through my bedroom ceiling and take me out... I'm ready to give the dog away, sell my silver, drink that good bottle of wine I've been saving and live in a Costa Rican jungle (small story again!).I’m lying in bed seeing animals in the shadowy shapes of the pine trees outside our windows, (bear, raccoons, a lizard with a captured fly in its mouth, buffalo… then people, crusaders, firemen, Joseph Stalin.. (I’m reliving the summer of 1969).
I'm taking water;losing heart and steam... yet still praying... a little, kinda, sorta, barely... not really!
So, last night i down my antibiotic, a 12 hour expectorant gel capsule, a one finger shot of cough suppressant, and a sleep aid and hit the sack. With about 14 minutes before I fall asleep or overdose I thought I'd read a bit. I spot my Bible, pick it up and the thought crosses my mind to fling it open and read whateverer page opened (for the record this is not my practice, I think the last time I did this Jimmy Carter was president and I was about to become a rigid dispensationalist).
My Bible falls open to Luke 18... I staring at verse 1.
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
I close my Bible without reading any further... and begin to pray like I don't recall every praying before in my life!
Now I know the rest of the story about the Widow, because of her persistence, gets what she's after... but that's not the point God's after with me! Immediately I know the point is for me to pray and "not give up". It's sooooooeasy to give up! Heck I'd given up! And in one of those nano second downloads from God so very much becomes clear.
Yes, He's been in this... and so has the Adversary. In a smiling fatherly voice, that's music to my soul, I hear God's affirming words that I have lived, fought and prayed well in all of this... "Well done" echoes through my being. He's pleased... and invites me into an intimacy that perseveres...
The life I long for has nothing to do with pleasant circumstances, loving friends, health, stereos or cars that work. Life is found in Him... in those intimate, passionate and sometimes desperate times on the bed, in the hospital, wondering how I'll ever get out of debt, or if my prodigal child will return. Life, communion with God, abiding, intimately bound to God... So much of that is what I was enjoying and was now waning.
Until those words... Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.
Ambien be damned I launch into my extended versionn of our Daily Prayer with interspersed worship, extended repentance and warfare and listening ….. I was locked and loaded, praying like a mad man... no, take that back... like a saint! Focused and free from distraction God was showing me a life-shaping wound that's haunted me since I was 21. Agreements I've made are surfacing... I'm actually lost in God.
Wonderfully lost in His presence muttering and groaning core passions, sorrows and hopes... crying, laughing and still. For hours.
This morning I woke up… still woofing, weezing... feeling horrible but living like the man I want to be…. and praying like a saint. Like a saint!
* Rob Thomas & Santana, Smooth... great summer song