Beyond the Ten Commandments

My evening was open and free last night, as my husband would be occupied and I had no appointments. I asked the Lord, as I often do, “What would you like to do this evening? What would be a good thing?” The reply came, “Read my Word together.”

A predictable answer, tho certainly not a stock answer. I honestly don’t always pray about what to do with my free time, and when I do I’ve heard many answers, ranging from “go take a bubble bath and pamper” to “let’s go play in the garden” to “let’s go shopping.” So it’s not like God is strict with me about such things. I do always enjoy reading the Scriptures, they nourish me so, and I’ve done too little of that lately.

So what did I do? I got my Bible and sat it on the table beside me, then got out a movie I’d been wanting to watch. And for two hours I watched it with my Bible laying by my side, as if that little conversation never happened. When the movie was over, it was too late and my eyes too tired for anything but sleep.

I went to bed feeling guilty, and awoke knowing I had disappointed my Lord. He did not speak to me harshly, but when I confessed my sin to him, he said, “It was your choice to make. The devil didn’t make you do it. You chose what you really valued last night.” I feel awful, about my choice, my weakness, the fact that I blithely ignored my Lord’s response just to entertain myself, without a backward glance. I walked right past him to that shelf of movies, as if he wasn’t there and hadn’t answered my question. In a way, it horrified me how very easy it was. It is easy because he is, after all, invisible, and because he is always so gentle and gracious to me.

As I ask forgiveness of my Lord, I do so against a backdrop of awareness that some would consider this legalistic behavior on my part. “For goodness’ sake, Toni, it’s not like you broke one of the Ten Commandments!” I hear in my imagination. But here is the truth. What I did was to sin against the intimate love I share with the Lord, against the expectations, hopes and faith we put in one another. I ignored him, and I trampled on his gracious nature and favor, his gentle love for me.

Entertainment isn’t a sin; but acting as if the Lord’s desires matter to me and then ignoring him, is. He is my friend, and I am His. My choice was a sin against the closeness we share and the goodness that is meant to pass between us every day. James 4:17 says it perfectly: “He who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

I have been on the receiving end of a moment like this, often enough to know exactly how it feels. In every intimate relationship I have, with husband, son, daughter, friend, I have experienced this kind of treatment. They are all wonderful people, but at times what I needed, expected or hoped for from them didn’t come. I have been ignored, neglected, had promises broken. Have not we all? I never doubt any of these people love me, but in the course of our relationships they have chosen other things over paying attention to me at times that registered enough to hurt, left feeling as if I didn’t matter very much.

And I am guilty of doing this to the ones I love as well. We all do it. We all make choices in moments that feel perfectly innocent; when we are tired or need to tend to self rather than someone else, or somethinGone Astrayg else just captivates – a book, movie, hobby, special event, a work project – that temporarily shoves everything and everyone else to the back of the line. And it is easiest to do this to the ones we know will be most gracious, is it not?
There are sins beyond the Ten Commandments, and they are sins of love. They are sins against love. You won’t find them written on stone, but they should be written in the heart. In my heart, they go something like this:

Thou shalt pay attention to the covenant loves in your life.

Thou shall not break the faith you have invited others to place in you.

Thou shalt be steady in how you treat an intimate; respect, love, and goodness are always due.

Thou shalt live your values, not being a pretender, even in private.

Thou shalt own up to your sins against love, and ask forgiveness for them.

Yes. The fact is that “for goodness’ sake” we must needs love well at all times.

Psalm 84 (2) – Longing and enJoying

Okay, on to Verse 2 of Psalm 84!

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalms 84:2 NAS)

At first glance a simple little verse, but ponder it a little, and it opens up a feast of truth for my soul and spirit! I hope it will do the same for you.

First, it really gets my attention when David says something in two ways, because he WANTS that emphasis to not be lost on his audience: He starts out with “My soul longed… for the courts of the Lord.” But no, that’s not enough! Because he then adds, “….even YEARNED for, the courts of the Lord.” Okay, it worked on me; I see that second phrase, and involuntarily tilt my head in the same way my dog does when I say something he doesn’t understand: What? What? What are you saying?

So I dig down into the Hebrew words in my nifty NASB Strongs Bible app, and discover these are NOT mere synonyms, these words “longed for” and “yearned.” Not even close! In fact, they cover the range of desire that goes from 30 mph to 120 mph in 6 seconds! Because the first word just means “Yeah, I want that.” But the second word actually means “to be consumed by, swallowed up in, done in by…!!” Wow.

So David essentially says, “I want you, God….. no wait, I want you more than anything! I can’t think of anything else. Wanting to be near you has eclipsed every other desire in me. I’ve got to get to where I can be near you!” And David doesn’t stop there, he tells us what happens as a result of that yearning, when he gets to the courts of the Lord, to the place where he can know God more: both his mouth and his heart are singing for joy!

So, now we get to the good news and the bad news. The good news is that this is a wonderful place to be: to have a heart singing for joy — not because Daddy made you go to church and singing is what you do there, or because the choir is doing a cantata and you have to practice your part — but because you are so full of joy you’ve gotta sing about!

The bad news? It’s the sinking realization, “Gee, I don’t know how to get there.” I know exactly what that is like. I’ve witnessed the unbridled joy in people like David in the Bible, and heard numerous other witnesses in the Bible speak of loving God, yearning for God, wanting him more than anything — and realizing, I don’t know how to make my heart do that…. I don’t know how to fill myself with passion for this invisible God. I believe IN Him, I want to be that full of passion for him, but I honestly don’t know how to get there! How do you make yourself feel passion?

But I have the answer for you: I discovered it in my prayer place years ago. It is simply confessing the truth. It goes like this: on the knees, before the Lord, saying, “God I want to love you like this, but I don’t know how. I don’t want you like David did… but I WANT TO WANT YOU LIKE THIS. PLEASE HELP ME. Holy Spirit, fill me with this kind of love and yearning for God.” Because it occurred to me in a moment of enlightenment, the Holy Spirit is our helper, and what is He here to help us do, if not to love this God we cannot see, with all our might?

And the Spirit WILL answer you. I think I can safely say on His behalf, He LOVES to answer prayers like this. He did for me. He filled my heart with longing for God in the coming days and weeks. And over the years, if my love wanes, I go right back to the Spirit, and offer my wandering heart back to Him to be filled with longing for God. Longing comes, fills up my soul and spirit, and leads to more intimate times with the Lord. And that always brings the joy. I sing for joy because God is greater than my wandering heart, and my life with him flows out of His power, not my weakness — if I knock, ask and seek for it.

Yep, singing for joy, not because it’s time for choir practice.

What’s It Like?

HuggingFor a season in my life with God, he kept before me this question: “What’s it like to be loved by you?”

That question generated a whole new outlook on me and people, and God too. What is it like to be connected to me, to be in my life, to live with ME?

Because we all put a “self” out there for public consumption — but what of our more intimate self? What IS it like to be married to me? To be my daughter, or mother or father…. or friend? And the only honest way to get that question answered — is to ask others. In that season, I also asked the Spirit to open my eyes and reveal the answer to that question, and He did.

That exercise was humbling and life-changing. And while I won’t pretend that I came out of that season perfect by any means, it changed my perspective forever, and that question is never off the table. It’s not on my plate, but it is over there where the salt & pepper sit, always there. Because among all the things I learned in that season, chief among them is that the question and its answer lie at the top of God’s list of what matters most in this life, and the next.

Eventually, the Lord asked this teacher to teach what she learned, and for several seasons of our ministry travels, I shared the message, “What’s It Like To Be Loved By You?” I may write more of these things in the coming days, but for now,

I leave it with you to ponder.