Spilling and Pouring

If you read my last post, then you know how Wednesday, 2/4/15, started. Well, let me tell you how that day ended…

After work, I went to a charity social sponsored by the Atlanta United Way. “Charity social” could, of course, be called “cocktails for a cause.” I’ve got no problems reconciling interest and duty, in case you’re wondering.

This event had about 150 guests in attendance, so both space and hors d’oeuvres were at a premium. I was making my way among the crowd, shaking hands, kissing babies, and reminding people to vote early and often. (Don’t worry, I’ll be relieved of my smugness soon…)

As I tried to squeeze in between a few groups, I became “that guy” and bumped into a waiter carrying a tray of drinks – FULL of drinks – who was, at the very moment, standing over a table of people…including one very unlucky young lady.

All of the drinks…spilled…all over her. I don’t mean a glass of wine in her lap. Think of the frat house “trash can punch” version of an ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge.” It was not as bad as you’re imagining it. It was worse.

It’s entirely possible Crayola will name a crayon after me and how I looked in the aftermath – “Fred Red.” I apologized over and over, gave the poor girl my business card, asked her to let me pay for her dry cleaning bill, then made like a tree. When you are “that guy,” you don’t stick around and see how much worse it can get.

(Note: As of this post’s publication, the unfortunate recipient of my clumsiness has not contacted me.)

I slept hard that night, having been shaken this way and that by my emotions, the ups and downs that the day brought. Mostly, I just wanted to put SpillGate behind me.

God had other ideas.


The next two days (February 5th and 6th) of readings from My Utmost for His Highest are a two-part series entitled “Are you ready to be poured out as an offering?”

Pouring, huh? Nice one, God. Not going to let me forget what happened, are you?

Both entries are as spiritually sobering (see what I did there?) as you might expect. Here are some examples:

Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for the work of another believer—to pour out your life sacrificially for the ministry and faith of others? Or do you say, “I am not willing to be poured out right now, and I don’t want God to tell me how to serve Him….

http://utmost.org/are-you-ready-to-be-poured-out-as-an-offering-1/

And

Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way.

http://utmost.org/are-you-ready-to-be-poured-out-as-an-offering-2/

Immediately my mind jumps to the new small group Bible study that I’m part of, and to the Starting Point group (kind of like a faith inquiry-type thing) that I’m helping to lead at church, and to other people that I just know God has brought into my life right now.

Suddenly it all makes sense. I felt like the “inner circle” of disciples who were with Jesus during His transfiguration, as recorded in Matthew 17:

1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

Me: “Yes, God! I get it! That whole spilling thing last night, yeah that was rough, and I feel bad for that girl, but that was a sign, wasn’t it?? You’ve got something for me to do, so let’s do this! You and me, God!”

(It’s like a metaphor, but it’s really happening!)

And then: “Wait…what’s that, God? Oh, there are more verses in the story?”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

Oh. So Peter kind of missed the point. And so did I.

Actually, I think it is “points,” plural, and they are as follows:

1. In my rush to want to “serve God,” I’m ignoring God Himself, and what He wants to teach me. It’s as though He is saying: “Don’t be so concerned with ‘doing something,’ just be still. Listen. Pay attention. If you’re really doing that, then rest assured you won’t miss any opportunities to do what I want you to do for me.”

Noted. Though probably not to the extent it should be.

2. We cannot stay on the figurative spiritual mountaintops of our lives. We do – and, as Christ-followers, must – live in the Valley, among the widows and the orphans, and with the lost and downtrodden and angry and the hurt. That is life. It’s not life that I’ve experienced, and I won’t pretend otherwise. But it is life that (likely) a majority of people in this world know.

The “transfigured” moments are special, and exist for our encouragement. God uses those times to “fill our cups to overflowing,” so that He may pour them out – pour us out, pour me out – in the times and ways He chooses.

Spilling is an accident – trust me, I know. Pouring is on purpose, and must be done in a measured, even timely, way. It is an act of will. And not my will, but God’s. Not in my way, but His.

The questions I’m praying my way through are:

• Do I believe that God can and will be everything and more that I can ever need and even desire? That even those “transfigured” moments are merely peaks on a mountain with no summit?
• Will I obey God, consistently, with no expectation of “reward” and even when those peaks are far behind me and with the next one out of sight?

Said another way: Can I reconcile God’s promise of perfect love with the knowledge that I must live in complete uncertainty of what He has planned for me?

I am, and always will be, afraid of the unknown and what seems to be out of my control. I will be weak from being poured out. I will be shamed by my failures – my “spills.”

But Jesus will be standing right there in front of me. Will I see Him? He will tell me to get up, and not to be afraid. Will I listen?

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God of 2/4/15

This morning I left my house later than I should have to go to work, and the line of traffic was long. Neither of those things is unusual, in case you are wondering.

Almost as soon as I got into my office, the phone rang. It was Janet.

Janet is our company’s CFO, and she is an Accountant’s accountant. The numbers have to match down to seven decimal places. Details are her currency, life blood, and lover. She has a constant fear of auditors, regulations, and other such bureaucratic notions and concerns.

milton-office-space

Now, I have a hard time with anything above basic math, and I may as well have a tattoo of the phrase “Eh, close enough!” on my arm. It’s my motto.

Basically, Janet and I are caricatures of people that will not get along in a professional setting. And lately I have felt as though my fast and loose ways are under special scrutiny from her magnifying glass and log books.

Back to the story…

So my phone rang, I saw that it was Janet, gave an exasperated “harrumph” and answered.

“Oh hi. Can you come down to my office? I need to see you about something,” she says. She never says that. That’s way too vague for her. She actually lacks the ability to be passive aggressive because such “confrontation” lacks the requisite detail.

“Of course, I’ll stop by in a few minutes,” I say, then wipe the Unctuous from the phone before setting it down.

I take my sweet time, shuffle a few papers, grab a cup of coffee, greet my other colleagues, and then head to Janet’s office. I’m already loaded for bear, a bandolier of “how dare you question that purchase!” bullets strapped across my chest.

Rambo

It’s. About. To. Go. Down.

I walk in, at which she immediately smiles, hops up from her chair, and hands me a brown paper bag. It was a lunch sack. She had gone to a favorite deli of hers last night, and made me a special ham and turkey sandwich. The bag included chips, and an apple, and a cookie.

What could I say? Well I managed to say “thank you,” a bunch of times, in between her describing in CPA-like detail, in just the way she can, this deli, how she discovered it, the quality of the smoked turkey, etc.

Suddenly it was a beautiful moment, made even more so by the fact that, in my haste this morning, I forgot to grab something for lunch and would have otherwise spent $10 on food from our building’s cafeteria.


I’m reminded of my favorite selection from my favorite daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald Chambers.

The selection is from January 9th, called “Intercessory Introspection.” It’s worth reproducing here at some length.

The great mystical work of the Holy Spirit is in the dim regions of our personality which we cannot get at. Read the 139th Psalm; the Psalmist implies – “Thou art the God of the early mornings, the God of the late at nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea; but, my God, my soul has further horizons than the early mornings, deeper darkness than the nights of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks, greater depths than any sea in nature – Thou Who art the God of all these, be my God. I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot trace, dreams I cannot get at – my God, search me out.”

Do we believe that God can garrison the imagination far beyond where we can go?

Read the rest here: http://utmost.org/classic/intercessory-introspection-classic/

Personally, I love Chambers’ paraphrase of the 139th Psalm. But the original – at least the NIV translation of it – is good, too. I’ve cherry-picked a few verses from the chapter, and encourage you to read it in its entirety.

1 You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Read the rest here: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+139&version=NIV


I’m quick to put people in “boxes,” people like Janet. It’s easier than trying to understand them, and appreciating the subtleties of their character, and loving them in ways that you can only do when you truly know them – the very ways that God demands we love each other.

Similarly, I try to put God, and his love for me, in a box. “Oh, well God doesn’t do that. He does this, and acts this way, and not that way. Ho-hum, I’m so wise, I know all about God.”

Then God washes my feet. Or has Janet bring me a sandwich. Sometimes, and some days – like on 2/4/15, that’s the same thing.

IMG_1020

What’s the box look like, the box you’re trying to place God in? Who is your “Janet”? And what will God really do when I – when we – let him be the God he so desires to be for us?