The phone started singing to me—“I love you, you love me, that makes us so happy….”. It’s my own personal ring tone designated for family recorded by my youngest two sweethearts. I checked caller ID and smiled because it was my grown up sweetheart connecting across the miles. She told me about her trek to the city, first by train then by foot. Motivated by curiosity and an assignment, she and a couple of friends explored a Latin Catholic mass up close and personal. What surprised her most was the separation of “the holy” from the people. “Inaccessible God,” she called it. I hung up the phone, went to my gratitude journal and wrote #223—Accessible God. I reflected thankfully that not only can I connect with Him through nature, His word, His people and a direct line anytime, anywhere through prayer, Accessible God actually lives inside me and communicates in part through my conscience.
Lately, He’s been talking to me about integrity in the “bigs” and the” littles”.
“Big”, as in big bucks …. Our family dog had dental surgery in February. It’s amazing how much easier she is to love now that her breath doesn’t smell like the sewer. On the day of her procedure, the computers at the vet were having a bad hair day. They weren’t able to process my credit card so they took my information the old fashioned way with pen and paper. When I didn’t see the charge on my bill the following month, I wondered…. Briefly I felt a little like a lottery winner and then that Accessible God who lives inside me asked, “What is integrity?” I rationalized that I did my part in this transaction and it’s not my fault they didn’t process my payment. I explained to Him how I could put those funds to good use in other ways. Then I said, just let me think about this awhile. Accessible God reminded me what I tell my kids—that the conscience is a gift sent to protect us from harm. It speaks quietly but if we listen and respond, we will begin to hear it more distinctly with greater volume. But if we ignore it repeatedly, it becomes so quiet; we can’t really even hear it anymore. And that is a dangerous way to live. God and I had this conversation around midnight just as I was nodding off to dreamland. My final thought was “OK. I’ll go to the vet office tomorrow and resubmit my credit card.” So, I did and the receptionist thanked me for being honest and charged me $484.
And I walked out poorer but richer.
The “littles” are all those 100’s of decisions over Lent about eating and drinking. While I haven’t had even a morsel of chocolate, drinks have been my downfall more than once. I said that I would drink water only—preferably tasteless bottled over Dallas city, but that’s a topic for another time…. Plain old water is just so unsatisfying. In desperation one day I scoured the grocery store’s “gourmet” water varieties looking for something with carbonation minus sweetener. I thought I’d found it because even though there was a long list of words meaning ingredients that are harmful, none of them looked like a sugar substitute or derivative. I purchased it, took a drink and found out I was wrong so dumped it down the sink. Later I noticed my favorite water substitute, ICE, in a new flavor—watermelon-strawberry. I just chose not to resist. I bought it and drank it. Twice. I would have done it a third time save Robyn’s intervention. Our exchange went like this:
Me: “I sure would like a flavored water today.”
Robyn: “Mommy, we said no sweetened drinks.”
Me: “Would it really be so bad if I got a flavored water? After all, it’s got 0 calories and no sugar. Whatever they put in it, isn’t technically sugar.”
Robyn: “Well, I’ll leave it to your conscience to decide if you should drink that water.”
Good answer Robyn! Thankful for my accountability partner and my Accessible God that says I love you even when you blow it.
Historically when I fast from sugar, I lose weight. While that isn’t the objective during Lent, I was honest up front and said that my motives are convoluted. Eating boring lower calorie food that doesn’t even taste very good ought to result in shedding pounds. But, it’s not. Which reinforces what the mirror already tells me. I am past my prime—physically speaking. Midlife has arrived and my metabolism is getting lazy. This, friends, has no quick fix. It’s not a temporary condition. It’s every bit as real as my gray hair and equally undesirable. So, I lament to God the curse. Aging. The body wearing out and getting fat, the wrinkles, the gray hair, the reading glasses, the aching back…. Accessible God listens and reminds me that He will never leave me. (Even when I am old and gray, you will not forsake me. Psalm 71:18)
That girl on the phone who went to mass told me she walked to the beach afterwards and greeted our friend Lake Michigan. And there He was, Accessible God. She saw Him in the turquoise colored water shimmering in the spring sunlight. She heard him in the rhythmic pounding of the waves against the pier. He was saying: Nothing can separate us from (His) 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 (His) 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. (Rom. 8:38-39)
I find it everywhere I look. The significance of these 40+ days of Lent. That reminder of the way God’s love is revealed in Jesus Christ first on the cross and then in the empty tomb.
And I write #224: Nothing can separate me from the love of God.