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The Longest Eight Hours

When I first arrived in my new home halfway around the world I was 21 and naive about how naive I was. I was hooked on nicotine and caffeine to an extent that shocked me. I had lived sleep deprived for so many years that the toll of jet lag and withdrawal left me in bed unable to even get up to eat. I slept 36 of my first 48 hours in Hungary. When I first signed up to move to Budapest for six months, I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I just knew I needed to go. Looking back, I believe God gave me that desire knowing it would altar my life and my relationship with Him and set me on a course for a journey I didn’t even know to dream of. By journey I’m not talking about the great adventures across the world, of which I have had more than my fair share. I remember the moment I was sitting next to a beautiful woman wearing a hijab, in the back of a taxi in Israel, as the sun was setting through the mountains. I was living in a National Geographic moment and the most shocking thing was how normal it felt. Those times have been great, but the journey I am referring to now is the one where I have fallen more and more in love with the Savior Of My Soul and how I have gotten to know Him and His heart more. When I first arrived in Budapest in 1999, I was in love with Jesus as deeply as my wounded heart could love someone they didn’t really know. It was then that God started to bring my attention to the fact that as a result of living in this fallen world, all of us have wounded hearts. Most of the time no one teaches us how to bring these wounds to The One Who Created Us to be healed, so we just slap a bandaid on it and white knuckle our way through life. As I lived in that cute little house in Budapest, God patiently waited as I learned to slow down and learn more deeply who He is. You see, even though I loved Him to the best of my ability at the time, I didn’t really know Him. I knew of Him, but most of our time spent together was out of a warped sense of duty trying to earn His approval. That is, until the longest eight of hours of my life. The program I had signed up with is called a Discipleship Training School (DTS) thorough an organization called Youth With A Mission (YWAM). It was a six month school that consisted of a three month lecture phase and a three month outreach phase. Sometime during the lecture phase we were told we had eight hours to go spend with God...

Um, excuse me, eight hours... EIGHT hours... I thought they were crazy. Who can spend that much time with God? What do you do? Just sit in silence? Read The Bible that long? I was stumped. What was craziest is I seemed to be the only one with an issue. The other nine people in my school joyfully went out in the city to spend their day with God and all I could think to do was sit in the downstairs library with my sketchbook and sketch what I think God looked like. After coming up with a few ideas of angels and the throne room and Jesus in heaven, everyone was faceless of course because I couldn’t even begin to imagine what He looked like, I think I went out in the city. I’ll be honest it was a hard and awkward day that I am so thankful that I did. It was then my spiritual disciples began to develop. It was then the desire to pray, read The Word, and fast were born. I can’t tell you the exact time it happened, but somewhere in the last sixteen years, I have learned to love to take time with just me and Him. I can tell you early on I learned the hard fact that I didn’t really know God. As I said before I knew of Him, but I didn’t know Him. I didn’t know what broke His heart. I didn’t know what made Him laugh. I didn’t know what His plan was or what was most important to Him. I didn’t know why He loves us so much. To be honest, I still don’t grasp that last one. I can’t fathom why the Holy One loves me and is patient with me. I look back and the fact He hasn’t given up on me after all these years leaves me in awe because I sure would have quit on me by now. And that leaves me wanting to spend more time and get to know Him more because His love has become my safe place. I love how The Bible tells me what breaks His heart, makes Him laugh and what is important to Him. It tells me why He loves us so much: we are His children. But it is the time spent with Him that makes that last one a reality in our hearts. Like any relationship, time together is what strengthens it. Years ago I heard a teaching that talked about how a bunch of couples that had been happily married for thirty years or more were polled about what makes a happy marriage. The one thing they had in common was they chit chatted every day. Chit chat... it’s so simply but yet so life giving. I found myself challenged to take this into my relationship with God. I started to talk to Him while I washed the dishes and folded my laundry. I started to talk to Him when I walked to work and I don’t know when it happened, but I developed a relationship with Him that was almost constant. My thoughts became a beautiful time of deepening our relationship. Like many kids who grow up in the church, I had feared the idea that God knows all my thoughts. It was something well meaning adults tried to use to get me to act right, but once I saw the beauty and grace in it, it changed everything. I realized He was my safe place and loved me in spite of everything. So when someone pisses me off, I tell Him about it. When I fell unworthy and my shame goggles try to attach themselves once again, I talk to Him about it. I dream with Him, cry with Him, and sometimes yell at Him. He can take it. He wants to take it. He doesn’t love me despite my imperfections, He loves me because of them. He could have made a perfectly organized Danee who didn’t fly off the handle sometimes. But He knew for the path He created me for, I would have to be able to live in the messiness and chaos of life in a way that clutter (for a season) doesn’t bother me. But there is a downside to that gift that too often left me ashamed for my lack of skills, but in His presence I cherish it now. He loves the hot mess that I am. And He knew that there would be a certain scrappiness required to go down the path He planned for me, but learning how to use it only for good has been a challenge. But He has taught me how to allow Him to diffuse my anger. I don’t get it right all the time, but praise Him, I’m growing in it every day... I have now hit my babbly stage so will end this just by asking have you ever been challenged to take eight hours and spend it with The One Who Loves You Most? If that thought makes you cringe then I would suggest that maybe, just maybe you would love it. It will be awkward at first and may feel weird, but if you’re a follower of Christ, you must spend time with the one you follow in order to deepen your relationship with Him. Put away an romanticized flannel graph notions of what a relationship with Him “should” look like and just hang out with Him. You can start by asking Him to guide your day and surprise you, then see what happens. And if you have any questions or frustrations, I’d love to dialogue about it. After all, we’re all on a grand journey and journeys are more fun in the company of others.

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