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Faithful Living: Answering a Godly invitation

I am here, Lord. Come meet me.

Some years ago my mother and I traveled together to Europe. While planning our trip and talking about what sites were of particular interest to us both, we quickly realized that it was easy to feel overwhelmed. After all, to visit all the locations we longed to see we’d be required to use various transportation systems, exchange money, and communicate with non-English speakers. We eventually decided that we’d make use of an established travel company to guide us along our maiden voyage. We’d collect the necessary information and experiences for a return trip in the future we would most likely make on our own.

I saw places I never imagined seeing in person and today, over a decade later, my memories of the trip include visual snapshots, surrounded by feelings of utter amazement and gratitude. Staring up at Michaelangelo’s statue of David is one event that immediately comes to mind. Sculpted between 1501 and 1504, this masterpiece of Renaissance art is one of the most recognized of all statues, yet I did not realize the grandeur of Michaelangelo’s work until I approached the 17-foot marble statue. It depicts a beautiful and youthful King David as he contemplates his battle with Goliath and it stands for all to see in the Galleria dell’Academmia in Florence, Italy. I remember thinking that if I embraced the moment with all my senses, I would be able to carry the experience with me for a lifetime.

I have.

Other sites quickly come to mind as well. The wineries that tile the banks of the Rhine River. Listening to a choir of children rehearse in Westminster Abbey in London. Jumping over puddles in Venice. Sleeping on an overnight ferry that traveled the North Sea. But it is the Sistine Chapel, one of several chapels in the Apostolic Place, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City, that floods my memories of that amazing trip most intensely.

It was there, as I stood for nearly 15 minutes to stare up at the famous fresco ceiling, again created by Michaelangelo, that I felt the presence of God. He came to me in a shiver, as the hair on the back of head stood up and tears filled my eyes. So humbled was I that the push of the crowd did not matter. I worked my way to a bench and sat, dutifully clutching the fanny pack I wore inside my jacket containing my identification and spending money. Newly restored at the time, the brilliant colors of the frescoes astounded me and I was amazed at the great fortune that I would be there to witness the beauty and feel God surround me in that moment.

And it was there that God brought Sarah Victoria Bay to mind, my paternal grandmother. In her late 80s at the time, I understood she would not be able to see this same site or feel God vibrate with energy as I did sitting there. But it was crystal clear to me what God was telling me, for out of the blue came a vivid picture of her wearing a simple house dress and Keds tennis shoes, a cap from a local farmer’s supply store propped upon her head and a garden hoe in hand. She was making her way to the garden beside her tiny home in Ripley, Okla. It was in the red Oklahoma dirt, under the blazing sun, that she would meet God as she had her entire life.

“Why do you like to hoe so much?” I once asked her as a young child.

“Well, now...” she responded, “It’s where I work out the details of my life. I cut out the weeds and make room for the plants to grow. I think of conversations I’ve had. I think about my kids and grandkids and what they’re going through.”

With considerable time spent out in that garden, she’d recount the time she’d spent that week with the ladies in her Bible study, what the preacher had to say on Sunday, what verses she’d read in her Bible during her devotional time that day. I’d see her out there talking to herself, but I also understood that she was talking with her life’s companion, the Lord God. They’d meet out there in the dirt and under the blazing sun, and she’d experience his comfort and wisdom, hope and strength that would be required for the next few days of life.

When we open our hearts and ask God to draw near to us, he will. No matter where we stand. Or the circumstances we find ourselves facing. Or the mistakes we’ve made. He is there all the while, but comes in full force when we ask. He’s comes for a heart to heart encounter. Read John 15 and see for yourself. There is no great divide.

Let’s invite him into our lives this week.

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