About a month ago my heart sank because I noticed one of the little diamonds in my wedding ring fell out. I had been doing lots of outside work digging, planting, and raking and figured it had fallen out somewhere in the dirt never to be found again, so I didn't even begin to search for it. Because the metal on the ring was now scratching my hand, I decided to take the ring off and put it in my jewelry box. As I closed the lid to the box, I secretly wondered how much it would cost to replace the diamond and fix it.
On Sunday, Damon preached on Philippians 3:4b-11, when Paul was boasting about all of his accomplishments and then said, "But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord... I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him...I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death..."
After he read that passage to us, he began talking about "falling in love." "Have you ever known anyone who has fallen in love? I'm not talking about a little crush, but really falling head over heels for someone. You know what happens...the person is consumed with being together, doing things together, and all thoughts are directed towards that person if they're not together. Nothing else matters."
Then he said "If I didn't know any better, I would think that Paul has fallen in love with Jesus. He wants to know Jesus. He's even willing to suffer and die for him. His thoughts, his words, his actions are all consuming...he's all about Jesus. But what about you? Have you ever fallen in love with Jesus?"....
As he continued on with his story, I began to remember my own beautiful love relationship with Jesus. It really began when I started getting serious about spending uninterrupted time focusing on knowing him. It was hard to do with 4 small children at home because there were always things to attend to and I was having trouble concentrating. But I "happened to hear" a broadcast on Focus on the Family about a woman who had the same conundrum. She was at her wits end and told God "if you want me to spend time alone with you, then you're going to have to wake me up in the middle of the night or something!" And God did that for her. Without fail.
She also mentioned prayer journaling as a way to stay on task and to not lose your train of thought. That was one of the problems I had. Since becoming an adult, I had wanted to be a person of prayer, because it seemed that the Christians I admired and looked up to the most were devout prayer warriors. I could pray out loud with other people just fine and was very comfortable doing so, but whenever it was just me, by myself, I didn't feel right talking out loud, so I prayed silently. Although my intentions would be pure, my actions were less than desirable. The first 30 seconds or so would go great, but after the introduction...well... my mind would wander or I would get distracted or I would simply fall asleep. And it would happen that way every time I tried to pray alone. That was very discouraging! I would feel so guilty because I couldn't even spend a few moments with him really engaging in the relationship. What kind of Christian was I? I couldn't even pray alone to him!
I was desperate for change and for intimacy with God so when I heard that broadcast, I decided to try what that woman had done even though I hated writing! Not because I have something against writing, it was because I was terrible at it. English was by far my worst subject in school. Not the grammar part. I could dissect sentences with one hand tied behind my back. I could spell just fine. But for some reason, I didn't know how to get my thoughts down on paper. I must have had some sort of disability or lack of understanding when the teachers taught that subject. I felt totally lost when we had to write a paper or essay. Dad would have to help me write it when I got home. Maybe I was bad at writing because I wasn't a reader. I didn't like to read real books as a child either. I enjoyed books with pictures like Dr. Suess, but if it was just words, forget it. When I got older, Dad would pay me a penny a page to read the Nancy Drew Series in the summer to encourage me to read more. I did it. But it was hard and I didn't really enjoy it very much.
Even though writing was a challenge, to say the least, I bravely went ahead and bought a prayer journal, asked God to wake me up, and started my journey on December 21, 2006. God is so good. My first prayer journal experience was amazing. I loved it! Towards the end of my very first post I wrote:
"I wish I had started this journal sooner. I do have a lot to say to you and I have a lot to be thankful for and I have a lot to think about. Writing things down as a prayer to you is a great idea...My prayer life has never been very good and it hasn't been very meaningful or life changing...Praying was a burden, drudgery, hard to do. But this is wonderful! I can do this and I want to do this for the rest of my life."
So I asked God to wake me up again the next night and he did. Again and again. He never failed. Every night he would wake me. It might be 2am or 4:30am or 6am., but it would happen. I would get up, go in the living room, and begin my time with Him. I would stay about an hour with Him reading his word and writing prayers, and then go back to bed. It's funny, but I never had any trouble falling back asleep. I would wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and ready to begin the day.
As time went on, I began to notice something. A song would be playing in my head when I woke up. Not just any song, but a church song. And it wasn't the whole song. Usually it was just a short phrase and it would repeat over and over in my mind. The really amazing thing was... it would be a different song each time He woke me up. They did not repeat. He awakened me with a new song every morning.
I distinctly remember the first morning this happened. I can see myself, in my minds eye, sitting on the edge of my bed in the dark, wearing my navy blue comfy pajamas, bending over to slip on my house shoes, getting ready to get up and prayer journal. As I am sitting there, I realize a song phrase repeating itself over and over in my mind. "Jesus, I come to Thee..." I sit there for a minute and wonder how long this has been going on but I just didn't "hear it." "Something" tells me that I should be paying attention to the words. So I do. I sit there in the stillness and the silence. And listen. And contemplate. I silently pray "Is that your Spirit helping me to remember to seek you? It is a comforting thought to think that it is! How I need the Counselor to be with me!" I can't really describe to you the feeling of closeness I experienced in that moment. A moment in time when I realized that my Father in Heaven, the King of the Universe, the Creator, the great I AM, was gently speaking to me through a song, drawing me to himself. I can hardly believe this is happening. God really does love me as an individual. He is wooing me in this moment. He truly desires to have an intimate relationship with me. I am thankful I am finally quiet and still enough to really listen to his call.
As my new prayer writing journey continued, I decided to include the song phrases in my journal along with my prayers. I would meditate on the words and what they might mean for me. I began to wake up each night smiling. I did this regularly for years. In one of my journal posts I wrote:
"This morning when I woke up I was so excited to come journal. I felt like a little kid on Christmas morning who couldn't wait to see what great gifts she would receive. How much better this is than Christmas. This gift of communing together with my LORD God Almighty and my blessed Savior and the Holy Spirit which lives inside me to teach me everything you've said and to give me depth of insight is AWESOME! It's really unbelievable that you care for me that much- that you want to have a real relationship to your creation. I am spellbound! I don't have the words to describe how amazing your grace is. It's a miracle! It's too good to be true, but it is true! Hallelujah! It is true!"
*** "Shout Hallelujah! Shout Hallelujah! Shout Hallelujah unto the Lord!" ***
At one point I experienced an incredibly deeper level of intimacy with Jesus. There was a 3 month stretch several years ago where I had had the most amazing relationship with Him. My mind was in a constant state of worshipfulness. All day and all night. It was strange because I could be talking to someone and looking them in the eye and listening to what they had to say, but in the back of my mind there was this constant worshiping of God. It was like my mind could not stop worshiping Him. I was so full of the fruit of His Spirit during that time. He was all I wanted. The I peace I felt was unbelievable. It did not matter what situation I was in. If you were mad at me and wanted to hurt me. I would have been at peace. There were several times where in the past I would have gotten mad or frustrated and lashed out in some way, but because God was overflowing in me in such a big way, those things didn't phase me in the least. He used me to minister to people in ways I didn't think possible. He gave me extra energy I didn't know I had. I was bold and courageous in words and actions. Which is not in my nature at all. Powerful prayers were said. Healing prayers occurred with my voice, but I wasn't really the one doing the talking. The Holy Spirit uttered the words I didn't know how to say. I was obedient to his call, and he delivered. It was so beautiful and amazing to be that in love with Jesus. It felt like I was experiencing what I imagine heaven is like, but I was still here. I didn't want that feeling to ever go away.
But it did. And it never has come back that strongly since. A few days here. A few days there. But never the constant peace and joy and contentment I had experienced before. So when Damon was sharing about falling in love with Jesus, all those memories flooded my mind and I wanted it back. I wanted Him back. I wanted to fall in love with Jesus all over again.
So, after Damon's sermon on falling in love with Jesus, I went forward during the invitation and prayer time and spoke to Randy, one of our elders, and told him briefly about my former love relationship with Jesus and how I wanted it back again. He said "Chelsa, having this relationship is sort of like a marriage. There are close times and distant times. I don't know what to tell you on how to fix it, but let's pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom and insight on what needs to be done." As he prayed for me, I shed a few tears then went back to my seat to sing with my brothers and sisters. The words to the songs came alive for me as I worshiped. When we all sat, I bent over and glanced down at the floor and saw Samantha's cute bare feet next to me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something glittering near her foot. I bent over and looked a little closer. "I wonder what that it? A piece of glitter?" I looked a little more closely. Surely that's not my diamond down there," I thought to myself. I touched the small glittering object. It felt hard. "Seriously?..." I picked up the tiny rock and placed it in the palm of my hand. "It is my lost diamond!!!" I couldn't believe it! How could it be? This diamond has been lost for 3-4 weeks. We clean this church building every week and Sterling has vacuumed this very spot several times since I lost it. Amazing! Absolutely amazing! As I stared at my diamond I could hear Jesus saying to me, "I want you to take this diamond and get your ring fixed. And when you put your ring back on remember that I want this relationship back just as much as you do. I love you, Chelsa."