Date With a Lion: coming home

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord… For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” Ps. 84

I’m here in Redding this morning because I have a date. A date with a Lion. My soul has longed for today. For this home I found long ago.

Have you ever had a day that was so beyond comparison that you wouldn’t trade it for years upon years of days? I have. It’s the one day by which I measure all others. It’s a day when all doubt, fear, and trust issues were gone.

Even though it’s now been almost twenty years since that day, I would yet choose it over any before or since. The memory of it sustains me even as I struggle to be faithful, to be connected to my faith and God. It’s not been an easy walk since moving to Idaho, but this one thing I know, nothing has changed. Not for Him and not for me.

I was in Redding in 2003 to attend a California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) conference, my first as a new watershed coordinator. For some reason I awakened and was restless so I left the hotel before dawn and went for a drive.

I had heard about a church nearby and it occurred to me to want to watch the sun rise in the east over the mountains. I didn’t know where the church was, but it was as if my Jeep did. I turned a corner and saw flags from every nation flanking the drive up to the church. My heart soared.

I wasn’t the only one who watched the sun come up that morning. It was majestic and glorious – well worth getting up early for. As I turned away from the sun, I saw a little wooden building. The sign outside said “Alabaster House”. I knew what I should find inside.

I had admired Mary’s singular focus on worship, anointing Jesus for burial with rare perfume from an alabastar jar while those around her called her foolish. I knew that this must be a place devoted to worship and prayer. I went in.

As I listened to the gurgling fountain and began to pray, in repose there I found peace that passed all understanding. I experienced an intimacy I’ve not known before or since. A joy and trust not common in my life for all the reasons about which I’ve written.

And there looking out the expansive windows toward Mt. Shasta was a huge lion, symbolizing Jesus, seated on his haunches, waiting quietly. For the first time in my life, it wasn’t man trying to wrestle me to quiet pastures, it was Him, the Lion of Judah. He had led me gently, by desires planted within me that weren’t whipped up through music, intimidation, or peer pressure. God was moving outside the constraints of church and leadership, drawing me close for a Divine hug.

It reduced me to tears.

In a Baptist Church in Merced in the 80s I went forward for prayer. I was already saved (the only reason you went forward in that church in those days), and I asked just one thing.

“I want to know You, God,” I prayed and returned to my seat.

That is still my greatest desire. The Bible says we have anything we ask for that’s in His will. I have never doubted He heard and is answering. In fact, these things that I’m writing about that no man is showing me – attachment issues and all they have contributed to lifelong misery – speak to me of a God who is healing me very personally in a way that convinces me that He absolutely can be trusted.

As I entered the Alabastar House again today and looked north over the reflecting pond this morning, I saw that the stone lion has been removed. To where or why, I don’t know. I don’t care. I wasn’t here to meet him after all.

And for the second time on this trip it occurs to me that perhaps home isn’t a place, it’s love and nurture, neither of which are tethered to a place. Home can be found wherever and whenever I look for it. Revisiting this place reminds me.

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