From “The Lizard Lounge” Series on Clay
Summer is back with a vengeance — so is the need to recover from the lazy non-summer months (which in Florida, are few) and tackle long-procrastinated-on home improvement projects here at the “Lizard Lounge.” (If you’re new to “Clay,” take a second and follow that link to find out where that name came from. You can also click here for the whole series.) And whether I’m having a DIY moment inside or outside, I have a lot of time to talk to or (even better) listen to the Lord. Invariably, by the time I put down the shovel, the paint brush, or the watering hose, I have an idea for a blog post.
Below is the first one for this season. Who knew my earthly home could teach me so much about the journey toward my heavenly one…?
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Time has a way of getting away from me. (Hold that thought for a moment…more to come…)
The past few weeks I’ve been making final preparations for the book I’m writing. To date, I’ve made umpteen editing passes through my manuscript. I’ve also allowed 3 times that many days to go by without writing something new for Clay. (I’m not sure what 3 x umpteen equals. A scad? An oodle? A triscuit?)
Those famous, fortunate, and affluent authors who can hand a raw book manuscript over to a publishing company and then head to the beach while waiting for a formatted proof copy to come back ready for corrections and final approval don’t know what they’re missing. Or maybe they do; maybe that’s the reason they’re at the beach: they’re celebrating all that free time under their beach umbrella, waiting for their next cold beverage to arrive. The self-publishing rest of us are forced to do our own formatting and spell-checking and reading and re-reading and re-re-reading of our fledgling books while chained to a computer wishing we’d had the foresight to buy stock in Microsoft Word back when it was affordable.
In the end, though, it’s been worth every keystroke, as I’m happy with the progress on my book manuscript. I do feel bad that I put all blog activity on hold, though. My poor Facebook followers were subjected to republished versions of former posts while waiting for something new to come out. As I hadn’t sent out one of my “A new article on Clay” emails in a “triscuit,” one of my subscribers asked me if I had dropped him from the distribution list. Another friended me on Facebook just to make sure I was still alive.
Like I said, time has a way of getting away from me.
Interestingly — and apropos of everything — that same escaping-time situation manifested itself in my floor tile project. You may recall from last year that I lost all my hardwood floors in a Noah’s ark-worthy home deluge and was in the process of replacing them with flood-proof porcelain tile. Since I don’t know diddly about laying tile, a good friend (a really good friend) had been doing that part while I came behind him and did the grouting. But as we both have full-time jobs and lives that involve much better things to do besides crawling around in my floor (or at least he does), that work was completed in fits and starts (more “fits” than “starts”).
So here’s the kicker: after getting all but a few square feet finished a couple weeks back, I took a look at the calendar and realized something: I have been walking around on totally or partially bare concrete for nigh on to eleven months.
Eleven months — entire babies are conceived, named, borne, and are doing math in less time than that.
Initially I laid down a path of contractor’s paper to walk on. That worked for a while, but was notoriously difficult to vacuum. (When the floor covering is more apt to get sucked up in the vacuum cleaner than the dirt, you got problems.) Once the paper finally got all wrinkled and torn and became a tripping hazard in the making, I pulled it up and walked on the unforgiving rock hardness formerly known as hardwood floor. After a month or so, walking on bare concrete had become a way of life at the Lizard Lounge. I no longer gave it a second thought — I had just gotten used to it.
Worse, I had not only apparently become accustomed to the fact that “all the comforts of home” included bare concrete underfoot (which, as you can imagine, does wonders for the cleanliness and condition of the soles of one’s feet) but had become adept at traveling on bi-level surfaces as well, since the tile that was installed was almost a half inch higher than the bare floor. This went on for so long that I could get up in the middle of the night, pitch darkness in the house, and navigate from the half-finished bedroom, down the half-finished hallway, through the totally bare-floored spare room and into the 20% finished kitchen without stumbling or stubbing a toe on a raised edge of the tile. I knew just when to step down, when to step up, and when to straddle the gap with grace and style. (kind of like doing the Nae Nae.)
Sadly, this isn’t a first for me. Sixteen years ago on my first day as the proud new owner of the soon-to-be-named Lizard Lounge, I hauled all my earthly possessions down the stairs of a third-floor apartment, loaded them into a U-Haul truck, drove them halfway across the state, and schlepped them into my new house — in the middle of July. In Florida. By the end of the day I seriously needed a shower. (Maybe even a pressure washing.) But after standing my clothes in the corner and climbing into the shower, all I could get was cold water. No matter how far toward the “H” I turned the temperature selection knob, the temperature remained “C.” (Which lost it’s refreshing appeal really quickly.) Great, I thought. I haven’t even gotten through the first day and I’m already having homeowner woes.
I climbed out of the shower and tried the hot water tap at the sink. Plenty of hot water there. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough. After all, the house had been sitting empty for a while. I turned the water in the shower back on and brushed my teeth while it ran. Nope — still cold.
I finally turned the temperature selection knob all the way to the “C” side, where the cold water is supposed to be — at least I knew what to expect. But nope — there was the hot water. Turns out, whoever hooked up the water connection got the two reversed. (Stranger things occur in my house — like the two three-way switches controlling the same light within arm’s reach of each other, exemplifying the epitome of redundancy.) Anyway, the shower would be a simple fix — I would deal with it as soon as I finished unpacking.
Sixteen years later, I still haven’t dealt with it — I’ve just gotten used to it. When I use a properly plumbed shower I invariably turn the knob the wrong way, as I’ve gotten totally used to cold being to the left and hot being to the right. My sister spent the night a while back and asked me what was wrong with the hot water in the shower. I went in and turned it on — the wrong way — got hot water and said, “It’s fine.”
“That’s where the cold water should be,” she said.
Anyway, I’m glad I have hot water (even if it’s dialed up from the wrong direction) and I’m equally glad to finally be near the end of Project “Porcelain Floor,” but the whole drawn-out affair painfully begs the question: How does that happen? How did a less-than-ideal, undesirable situation sneak up on me so that I just sort of stopped noticing it? And if it can happen in an area of life that has no eternal significance (like tile floors) can it happen in an area that does have eternal significance?
Based on the fact the Bible addresses it, you betcha. The author of Hebrews warned us about how sneaky sin can be:
But encourage one another daily…so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13 NIV (emphasis all mine)
Like cooked oatmeal left in the bowl for a while, hardening is a gradual process — it’s hard to know just how long you can let it sit before you have to resort to chiseling it off. (The voice of experience…)
In the previous chapter, the author of Hebrews describes that gradual process as “drifting away…”
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1 NIV (again, my emphasis)
…kind of like having a nice little time floating on an inflatable raft at the beach and looking up later to find yourself in Australia.
Instead of using the internet to publically confess the particulars of my own “eternally significant” examples (plural) of letting sin gradually creep in, I’m gonna just say that 1) it happens before you know it, and 2) I’m sure it’s not just me (as though incriminating others absolves me of any blame). While you may be thinking you would never let yourself get used to not having proper floors or wonky water temperatures, maybe you’ve learned to ignore other warning signs, signs like…
- No longer noticing the foul language and sexual immorality that permeate the shows you choose to watch regularly on TV or at the movies.
- An incessant, 24/7 fascination with social media.
- Monthly bills you can barely pay because you bought too much vehicle or too much house or too much data usage.
- Your favorite pair of baggy shorts that can’t really be described as baggy anymore because you bought too much Krispy Kreme.
In our defense, it happens gradually; to our disgrace, happening gradually does not absolve us from all blame.
It’s so easy to learn to ignore the warning bells, to totally trust our own judgment and just flat out procrastinate. We stop listening to the “still small voice.” We tell ourselves “It’ll be OK just this once” or “I’ll deal with that soon.” When nothing really bad happens, we think it’ll be OK to do it again or put it off a little longer. Before we know it we’ve gradually drifted away, hampering an intimate relationship with the Lord, or slipped slowly but surely — and willfully — into the depths of some serious disobedience, neither of which do wonders for the cleanliness and condition of our
I need to proclaim a disclaimer here: this all sounds like preaching, and I don’t like to preach — I don’t. I’m not called to preach, it’s not fun, and anytime I find myself writing this type of blog post I end up with a whole new respect for my never-waver-from-the-truth pastor. (It’s gotta be lonely up there behind the pulpit, longing for an “amen” but hearing nothing but crickets and vibrating cellphones from the congregation.) I want people to like me. I’d much rather talk about fun stuff like soup and dirty underwear and Disney World. So why, after several weeks of bloggerly silence, am I diving back into the fray with this Bible-thumpin’, finger-pointin’ kind of blog post?
It’s complicated. Maybe I can tie it together…
First, this is what the Lord has laid on my heart. Second (but no less important), I’m finding myself at some sort of fork in the spiritual road lately, feeling as though I’m on the brink of having to choose which path I’m going to travel from here on out — and I love you too much to not drag as many of you with me as possible while I make that choice. Not just because misery loves company, but because I think the fork-in-the-road thing isn’t pertinent to just me.
Although I’m going to write this solely from my own perspective, I hope you’ll also see yourself here.
As best as I can determine, here are my choices as I stand at that crossroads:
- Down one of those forks is a well-paved, easily traveled path, filled with free samples of cocktail wienies on a toothpick like at the grocery store and air-conditioned places to sit and munch on them. But if I choose that path, I’ll continue to walk on bare concrete, continue to hit the snooze button on any alarms, and continue to carry on with life as usual. Unfortunately, that also activates the snooze button on any chance of deepening my relation with the Lord; in effect, ratcheting down my sanctification journey to a snail’s pace. Choosing that path doesn’t make me a non-Christian, just a Christian waiting in line for another cocktail wienie and missing out on all the Lord has for me.
- The other path, though… The other path isn’t easy, there are no free samples, it isn’t air-conditioned, and it may be a little — or a lot — rocky. But choosing that path means I’ll be living smack dab in the middle of God’s will for me.
I don’t know how to explain the reality of living in the middle of God’s will; I feel like I’ve done it so few times during the past few years since I’ve become a Christian. But on those rare occasions when I have, it’s turned me into the spiritual equivalent of a crack addict. I want it — need it — desperately. I want to feel a closeness with the Lord that can only be obtained when my heart, soul, mind, and strength are centered on Him and what He wants for me. And I can’t do that if I ignore the warning signs and just let myself get used to reading about the Lord rather than having a living, breathing relationship with Him.
But there’s far more than spiritual crack involved. At the end of that path lies something indescribable, something greater than anything I’ve experienced so far as a Christian. Other than John the Apostle, Paul saw about as far into our eternal existence as anyone else (and lived to tell about it), and even he talks of “what God has prepared for those who love him” in these terms:
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived…
That’s what I’m talking about; that’s where that path ultimately leads. Based on that alone it shouldn’t be that hard to choose, but, as I said, it’s complicated — at least for me.
If you’ve read many of my posts or know me, you know that I believe Jesus’ return for the Church (capital “C”) is close. But instead of preparing for His return by doubling down on my efforts to share the gospel with everyone I come in contact with — in particular, the hordes of people I personally know who are lost — I would like nothing better than to just hole up in a cabin in the woods somewhere with my Bible, my Moody commentary, and my books (and internet access, of course — and a supply of sweet tea and soup fixins’) and read and study for my own selfish enlightenment and wait it out.
As illustrated by my floors and my shower, that’s typically my preferred path — to ignore the warning signs, to put things off, to turn inward and follow my own pursuits. But now is not the time to do that. And even if the Lord’s return won’t be for another hundred years, now is still the time to choose the “smack dab in the middle of God’s will” fork in the road.
You see, I’m not someone who, speaking of Heaven, says: “Just as long as I get there.” Not me. I don’t want to just show up and sit somewhere in the back. I want to stand before Jesus and hear, “Well done.” And the only reason I want a crown or two or six to cast at His feet is because that’s what He wants for me. As for me, I want to be absolutely and totally humbled with the reality that, while I don’t deserve anything on that day — especially whatever rewards He hands me — I lived a life that pleased Him.
For now, though, the fork looms. I don’t exactly know what’s down that path or what I’ll be deciding for and against.
- Maybe it will have to do with standing up unashamedly for my faith amidst the current anti-Christian climate in our country.
- Maybe I will have to get outside my own carefully-crafted comfort zone and into a totally uncomfortable zone.
- Maybe it will require letting go of everything and everyone I’ve put my hopes in — except for the only one who’s worthy of that hope.
Whatever it is, I just know that that the Lord is preparing me for that moment right now…
…a moment that leaves no room for perfunctory service to the Lord
…a moment that may require nothing less than all I have
…a moment when I need to be ready to choose whom I’m going to serve.
And to further complicate matters, I have this overwhelming feeling that if I don’t trust the Lord with all my heart, that path-selection moment may be the last chance to choose to follow Him with — as the missionary, William Borden, put it — no reserve, no retreat, and no regrets.
I think that moment is coming for all of us. Does it scare you? It does me. I know the Lord tells us over and over and over in the Bible not to be afraid, but He does that expressly because He knows that we need to hear it.
So let’s not be afraid…
Do not fear, for I am with you… Isaiah 41:10 NIV
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men [and women] of courage; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to stop walking on bare concrete and live smack dab in the middle.
You with me…?
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