By Grace – Delighting In His Surroundings
Psalm 84:1 How lovely is Your tabernacle (are Your dwellings), O Lord of Hosts.
I don’t remember all the failures and frustrations I’ve faced in life. There are plenty. I remember enough to feel the twinge of defeat and enjoy the pleasure of the Holy Spirit’s release in me of healing. Forgetting those things that are behind me, I press for a new prize. I remember enough to realize I am frail and He is strong.
But we do remember them don’t we? I remember when the company for which I worked sold and was scuttled. 28,000 employees were put on the street nationwide. I was one of them. My family was threatened. It was frightening, and we overcame with great struggle and long hours.
I remember working on a ministry to the working poor once. There had been agreements and disagreements conclusions and consternations. For two years, we had worked hard to get this outreach working. Here it was running and in partnership with an urban church. 800 people came for Christmas. 10,000 meals a month were being given out. By March the minister asked all the volunteers to leave. There were 50 of them. At the moment of defeat, I was in Caracas, Venezuela teaching leadership to local ministers. The call came ten minutes before I was to take the platform. I wept. I cried out. I turned my face to the wall of the room where I was getting ready to speak and just heaved sighs of defeat. Then I got up and taught and prayed for others. Then I came home and had to face 50 faithful people and tell them we would find another place and continue to give food and faith to the poor. I remember their eyes looking back at me in disbelief and faith all at once.
I remember when the doctor looked into my eye at the clinic and told me to put my 12 year old in a car and drive as fast as I could to a hospital across town. He had just been diagnosed diabetic and needed emergency attention the clinic could not provide. There was no time for the ambulance. Move. Don’t go home. Do it. My heart raced and my mind faltered. This is my son, my boy. I cried on the inside with this mind blowing situation as I raced to the hospital. As soon as I walked into the emergency room a nurse came out and said, “Are you Phil Larson?” Before the registration desk could give me forms, my son and I were whisked to the back and they took him to another room. 20 minutes later they came and told me he was admitted to the hospital and I could now see him.
What holds us together in those moments? How do we survive and go on to be able to tell stories of victory and faith and great interventions of God.
I mean this stuff is exhausting. I know I live victorious through it all, but it is through it all. Can’t we just have a year of none of this? Can’t I just have a year of fuzzy, warm moments with no life threatening, finance threatening, health intruding, peace of mind assaulting events?
One of the ways I’ve found to make it through all this thing called life is delighting in the surroundings of God and His people. We are the tabernacles of God, the temples of His Holy Spirit. And it is the people of God, family, friends, and members of the church I go to or the businessmen’s group to which I belong that stand strong with me and my family in such moments. So I need to delight in them.
Each of us has certain accouterments that please us. One likes a flowered field, another likes soft cello music, another likes Victorian furniture, another likes cinnamon tea, another likes the smell of automobile leather interior, and another thrives on word puzzles. Each of us has preferences that please our nose, our eyes, our ears, our touch, our taste, and our mental processes. Surrounded by those preferences, we would be ecstatically stimulated and express a sheer delight in living. None of us get the privilege of living 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the pure preferences of our life.
Life imposes certain environs to which we become accustomed. Waking early in the morning to be at his place in the market is required of the businessman. Gathering the sounds of many little children on a school playground adjacent to her home teases the patience of one retired widow. Inhaling the morning stench of the stockyards becomes the daily routine of a cattleman. For each of these, the choice is to persist in what may not seem pleasant for the moment in order to achieve some joy. To rise early is to profit quickly for the businessman. That is his focus and life and purpose. To live in the neighborhood where life was lived out makes the somewhat irritating noises meaningless to the widow and her memories. The stench of cattle is a sweet aroma as the cattleman counts his gains in the trading of the day. The impositions of life can be easily assumed in stride when we move toward our life’s purpose and the joy of our heart.
Thomas Edison was always one for changing his world. At his summer home, he delighted in showing guests labor saving devices throughout the property. Following the path back to the gathering, each guest was required to push through a tough turnstile. With such propensity for saving labor, one guest was perplexed and asked why such a hard turning device was necessary. “Everyone who pushes the turnstile around pumps eight gallons of water into the tank on my roof,” was Edison’s smiling reply. He then used the tank to water his garden.
Whatever the surroundings have become, they are the product of the accumulation of our daily choices. While we take pleasure in trying to lay the blame at the feet of destiny or life, any of us with the smallest abilities can change our environment a moment and a facet at a time into something entirely different. Some choose to deny the realities of choice and responsibility and create worlds of their imaginations. Even at that, they have mentally created a new environ of choice. Others choose to carve out worlds that did not exist before them like Thomas Edison bent on pursing a land of light and electricity. For him it existed at first only in his mind and now for us exists as a given condition.
Environs of God
Have you ever thought what the environs of God’s choices are like? You would love to live there, wouldn’t you? Or would you?
Choosing the surroundings of God means leaving the surroundings of our accumulated choices. It is no neverland of Captain Hook and Peter Pan in which He lives, but a real dwelling place to which He invites us. The choice is to overcome the impositions of life and carve out a world that for some exists as joy unspeakable and full of glory and for others is only a haunting dream. Dreams come true when lived out with choices actively expressed.
We can choose to live in the lovely dwellings of God. We can choose and act to inhabit with Him, His environs. The trappings of His gathering can be ours. But we must love them. We must desire them. We must overcome the pleasured choices we have made and take on new ones. Our minds must be renewed into His mind, and our inner man must take on His image.
The funny part about this whole journey of delighting in the dwelling of God is that when we enter His dwelling, we become a part of the environ. We become a choice of God for His pleasure. We become a part of His persistent will to create a new heaven and a new earth. He chooses us as part of His lovely tabernacle, the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit.
His environs are the family and friends to which He groups us. Many times they were not our choice, but they are the right choice. When the company was sold, it was the small group meeting in my home that held us together. They were God’s hands and mouths of grace to us. They prayed with us and stood with us and watched God conquer the situation. They were young and old and male and female and black and white and they were the family that surrounded. Building relationships with them, the tabernacles of God, proved out value in my hard moments.
When the outreach to the poor hit the wall, it was the very people looking back at me that carried me through. We had driven to grocery stores early in the morning together and sorted through stale food to find good together and prayed for the sick together and watched new bicycles given to a child be stolen before they could get to the end of the block. Together, we had melded and become a joint tabernacle and together, we pressed through. We carried each other through. I delight in His tabernacles, His surroundings.
When that awful day attacked my son, it was my mother-in-law, who happened to be visiting that day, that stood strong with us. It was friends, I had walked with for years that said, “You can do it, Phil.” It was my 12 year old son, who gave himself a shot in less than 24 hours from the event, that gave me courage and hope. It was my kids and wife, tabernacles of His love that rallied together and continue to rally everyday to support this situation 12 years of daily moments together. I delight in His tabernacles, His surroundings.
Are you resisting His surroundings and the people of grace that today might seem hard to connect, but tomorrow might be your life blood?
What part of your surroundings would you have to give up to spend more time in His?
Is there a part of your life’s environs conflicting with the environs of God? Is there no time in your life for others to which He has attached you?
While the physical house of God, a church building, is only a part of God’s environs, it is an important part. Take time this week to break your schedule for His. Go up to the physical house of God and actively take on a short project. Clean a room, cut some grass, wash a row of windows, fix a broken hinge, dig a sewer, and put your hands on His gathering. While you are there, remember you are in His environs at His invitation. He chose you.
Now, find something you can do for one of His other living tabernacles. Call a friend and invite them to come to Dad’s University with you. Grow together. Find a single mom and take her kids for a day so she can get a breath. Give back to those that give to you.
Delight in His tabernacles. They are the life blood of Jesus flowing in your life and you need them.