Intimacy

Intimacy. Everyone wants it. Whether it is with our spouse or with God we all want to be able to connect with ever deepening intimacy each time we are together. But intimacy doesn’t just come by itself. You have to work for it. You have to fight for it.

Having been divorced and remarried, I am acutely aware of the struggles for intimacy. I not only have to fight for time with my new husband, but I must fight against the baggage I bring with me: the hurts, the “ghosts” and the memories that want to insert themselves between him and I. It was harder at the beginning of our marriage, but thankfully my husband is both discerning and patient. He would ask me in those early days if we were really alone or if there were a “third person” present as he could sense that something was not right. If so, he would simply hold me and pray that I could be freed from the memories that were haunting me.

Paul describes the relationship between the church and Christ like a marriage in Ephesians chapter 5 and Solomon describes the intimacy of a marriage relationship in great detail. The adoration that husband and wife have for each other is palpable in the pages of the Song. This depth of intimacy takes time. Time to bask in each other’s presence. Time to notice the little things. Time to fall in love. In this sense, intimacy and the “quickie” are mutually exclusive. The more we substitute “quickies” for love making, the cheaper the relationship gets – the more intimacy we lose. This is true both with our spouse and with God.

God is described as a jealous God in Exodus 34:14. There is no way that He will allow growth of intimacy with a “third person” present. Whether that “person” is our chore list or the phone or our children, God wants our full attention in those moments that we have with Him. If we desire intimacy with Him, we have to fight for it. Just as hard as we fight to maintain intimacy in our marriages, we must fight to achieve it with God.

There is one who will oppose us. One who very much does not want us to reach deep intimacy with our Maker. He is the same one that destroys our marriages and he will insert himself and his agenda into our relationship with God. We have the power to overcome him as “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). However, unless we actually fight, we can’t win. No matter how much power we have access to, it must be put into action. The biggest, strongest man can still be bound and tortured by the smallest if he will not fight.

God revealed this to me this week. I had been distracted by the business of the week and then days without Him started to lead to dryness of spirit. Dryness led to a parched soul. This had been evident in my attitude, my ability to deal with stress, and my lack of joy. Then the sadness took over and the lack of energy and the desire to just sleep appeared. There was no fight left in me. I wondered what was happening to me. Then He showed me that I have not been fighting for us. He deserves my fight. My soul is panting after Him and I do not want just a drop of water to keep me from dying. I want a river of life giving love flowing from Him to me. I want our relationship to not just be barely alive, but thriving. He deserves my time, my focus, and my fight. He is waiting, arms open wide, desiring to spend time with me and for me to know Him, to fall in love with Him, to be brought alive by the experience of His love. Isn’t He worth the fight?

Locusts

“I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25). I first heard this verse many years ago when someone used it to bring me encouragement. I had gone through some terrible ordeals, and I held onto this verse as a promise that someday things would be better. I often wondered though how God could restore to me what was taken… I mean, was he going to give me back my innocence? My youth? It had been a very long time since I had even thought about it. But this week, after a house church meeting, I was thinking about the fact that satan had interfered in my life at such a young age and wondered why. What might have been different if he hadn’t? I had the potential to influence many people. I was a natural leader. What might God have accomplished through me if I had followed Him all of that time? Was there something that satan was trying to keep me from doing? Then I heard that verse again, “I will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten.” Suddenly it became apparent to me that the verse is not referring to what God will restore to me (for my own benefit), as much as giving me the opportunity (again) to do for Him what He had set out for me to do. I looked up the verse in Joel to read it in its context. After the devastation of the land, God promises to restore the land so that others will know that that He is God (Joel 2: 27). Then He will pour out His Spirit (28) and “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (32). God has a plan and He has given us gifts and talents to be used to further that plan.

Right on the heels of this revelation came a stern warning though: “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam 15:22). This verse is found in the chapter where King Saul disobeys God’s direction and as a result God rejects him as king. Saul was not rejected because he made a mistake. David made plenty. Saul was rejected because in his heart he did not follow God. He was going through the motions but modifying God’s directions as he saw fit. This prompted an examination of my own heart and motives. Isn’t there things in my life that I have not been dealing with? Things that I tell myself are ok because of one excuse or another? Things that are contrary to God’s direction? Yes. I know them. Jesus tells us in Matt 7:15-20 that a good tree bears good fruit. But if I were really being honest, doesn’t my tree have a blend going on? Haven’t my tongue and my attitude left much to be desired on many occasions? How can I expect to complete the task God has given me, clearly hear His voice and obey Him if I haven’t been consistently doing it in my life now? The bad branches in my life are killing the rest of the tree. Some pruning is required. There will be no increase in number or quality of good fruit until the pruning is complete. There is no longer room to close my eyes and ears to the things that God is asking me to take care of. He reminded me of the warning to the Laodiceans in Rev 3:14-22. Verse 16 says, “because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.” He goes on to tell us that we do not even know the extent of the mess we are in and that because He loves us He disciplines us. But finally He ends with this encouragement, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I overcame and sat with My Father on His throne” (vs 20-21).

I believe we are on the cusp of a great move of God. Time is of the essence and there is no more room for half-hearted obedience. He is gathering His harvesters and handing out assignments. Will we be rejected at the start line or will we be ready to be set aflame with the fire of a new outpouring of His Spirit?

Fear

Fear. Worry. Anxiety. They have a way of enveloping you in their tentacles and squeezing the breath right out of you. Once they have grabbed hold, you are alive but do not live; time passes by, but stands still for you. I am all too familiar. When I was trying to start my family, I had two miscarriages back to back. They were devastating. Then a friend, 38 weeks pregnant with her second child, loses her baby. I went to the funeral. The little pink casket up front… so tremendously heartbreaking! I wept for her and her baby. What a tragedy! She found out afterward that she had a condition that caused the late term loss. And as it turned out, my test results showed that I had the same condition. And in marched fear. When I got pregnant the third time, I refused to let myself hope. I couldn’t be heartbroken again. I passed the first trimester and you would think that would be a relief, but no… all I could think was how awful it would be to lose the baby in the 2nd trimester. Then I made it to the third. The closer I got to 38 weeks the higher my blood pressure went. I was terrified. I finally gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and only then did I process the idea that I was going to have a baby. I was completely emotionally unprepared. Instead of having 9 months to prepare and enjoy my pregnancy, I had had 9 months of terror, refusing to believe that I would have a baby “just in case.” When they handed her to me I was not relieved but surprised. What do I do now? I struggled over the first few weeks through an absolute emotional rollercoaster. My doctor thought I was depressed, my mother thought I was nuts. But eventually, I came to accept and believe that I am a mother and she was my baby.

Recently I have found myself heading toward the same road. We had gotten some mildly concerning news about my husband and immediately my thoughts head toward the worst case scenarios. Even up to wondering what songs he will want at his funeral! I started losing sleep, having nightmares, but this time, I recognized it. This time I sought out help from the only One who can give it. I realized that fear likes to become my god. And as long as fear reigns, the fruit of the Spirit gets choked out. I lose my joy and peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. I lose love. I know the verses that tell me not to worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34) and presenting my requests to God to find peace (Phil 4:6-7), but I have always found that they were nice thoughts instead of actual helps. This time in my search of the scriptures I came across some verses in 1 Peter 5. We are all familiar with verse 7, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” But I noticed that this was the second half of a sentence. Including the first half (verse 6) it reads, “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Why is it necessary to “humble myself under the mighty hand of God” while “casting my care upon Him”? I realized that the other times that I pray over issues I talk to God like He is my buddy. And as my buddy, I reduce Him to my equivalent. And if God has no more power than I do to intervene in my situations… then I am in BIG trouble! In order to maintain peace and joy and love, I need to acknowledge that the One to whom I speak is mightier than I. In humbling myself, I can exalt Him to His proper place – the One with the power and love to help. Then and only then can I confidently cast my care upon Him, knowing with certainty that He cares for me and is able to intervene.

My battle then does not become one against the illness or the bills. It is against the fear, anxiety and worry that exalt themselves in the place of God. 2 Corinthians 10 versus 4-5 instructs me: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Every thought, every fear, every “what if” needs to be brought before the Lord. There He can shine His light on it and reveal it for what it is – a cancer that will eat away at my joy, my peace and my faith. There He will minister to me and give me the strength to not just get through today, but live. To live the abundant life that is mine to have – even in this!

God is Good

Written Mar 2015: God is good. He is always good. His desire is a deep love relationship with us. One where we can know His heart and His voice. Often in the good times we do not seek Him. We superficially praise but in reality bask in the wealth of blessings as if they are ours – the product of our own hands. When things start to hit hard times we feel less blessed. But how are we defining “blessing”? God’s desire is not that we live our life without an intimate relationship with Him, but that we are experiencing the richness of His presence in every moment. Sometimes it takes the difficult times to direct us to Him. It is in tears that our heart is open to seek and find. It is in the darkest moments that we can finally see His light. It is in the loneliness that we can finally feel His arms. It is in desperation that we experience His power. As the song says, perhaps trials are God’s mercy in disguise. God is pouring out His blessings on us. How we choose to receive them is up to us. He is good. He is always good.

The Power of God

Written Mar 2015: I got a job once a long time ago that I thought was “the” job. It was the first job I ever had in my field, it paid well and promised to be a career that could potentially take me all the way to retirement. I was thrilled… until I actually started working there. It was the most horrible job I have ever had. Not the work, but the co-workers. I became a target early and was bullied every day. I prayed that God would intervene. I begged for a miracle. But after six months I had had enough. I quit. I felt so defeated. After leaving the job I moved to a different city and was unemployed for a year. But I still look back on that year as one of the best years of my life. I rested, volunteered, led Bible studies and taught Sunday School. It became the foundation for everything else that followed (at least the good parts). But what I had to go through to get there!
I was reading about Jesus entering Gergesenes where He cast the demons out of the two men into the swine (Matt 8:28-34). After performing this awesome miracle the whole city showed up and asked Him to leave! Why? Change. There is no way that we can encounter the power of the Almighty God and remain the same. Our world will never be the same. And that is scary. The people of Gergesenes realized that. The two men that were demon possessed (although not something they would advertise) were actually a fixture of the city. Now Jesus eliminated it. What more would He do? They dared not find out!
What about us? How often have we petitioned God for the things that we want, but at the same time kept Him at arms’ length lest the power of His presence require a change in us? How many times have we desperately been duct taping the little box that we live in and when we seem to be running out of tape, beg God for His help? “Please find me more tape, or restore this box!” But God is saying, “Get out of the box!” He doesn’t intervene. The box is not His will for us. And while our little box falls apart, we become afraid and angry, not willing to see what it is that God is leading us into.
I have been listening to a new-to-me Casting Crowns CD this week. One of their songs is called Just Be Held. The chorus is:
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held
Perhaps things aren’t falling apart, but falling into place. Even Jesus experienced wind and waves, but because He knew the power of God, He was not afraid. He calmed them. When He went to the cross, He was not afraid. He rose. Matt 7:11 tells us that God wants to give us good things if we ask. So, if we are asking and He is not giving, perhaps it is not good? Perhaps it is time to put down the duct tape and look up. Maybe there is a sunrise that we are missing – a dawn of a new day. Will we step out in faith, or will we ask Him to leave?

Life Change

Written Feb 2015: I was answering a health questionnaire this week. One of the questions asked how long I have had issues with my weight. I answered: since birth! Now that might have been a slight exaggeration, but I have been overweight as long as I can remember. And as long as I have been overweight, I have been on a diet. Most of these diets were not my idea. My parents thought that I needed them, so they were imposed on me. And I was not thrilled about it. It meant not being allowed to eat like everyone else and constantly being judged for what I did eat. But even as an adult, I would put myself on diets and it was always the same thing. Deny myself, hate it, cheat, feel bad, become extreme with exercise or calorie counting, lose weight, feel sick all the time, and eventually, go back to the old habits. The weight would come back and would usually bring along a few more pounds for my effort. Permanent weight loss requires a permanent lifestyle change. Not one imposed by anyone (not even myself). I need to embrace a new lifestyle. I must be willing to live long term in a new frame of mind.
I was reading about the birth of Christ this week. It dawned on me that God did not choose Mary and Joseph at random. They were people of integrity, people who had been living a life that was already God-honoring and obedient. If they weren’t, he wouldn’t have chosen them. Can you imagine if Joseph didn’t flee to Egypt when God told him to? What if he had been like many of us and said, not right now, it isn’t a good time, I have a party planned for Saturday night… ? He was a man who knew God’s voice and obeyed it immediately. This was his LIFEstyle. And because God knew He could trust him, He entrusted the most precious Gift into his hands.
How often do we wish for a more intimate relationship with God? One where He calls us and we hear Him. One where we can walk on water if He asks us to get out of the boat. But how often has He called us and we didn’t listen? How often have we tuned Him out? How often have we delayed obeying? How can He ask us to walk on the water if He knows we will refuse because we just had our pedicures done? Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Don’t we want to have that deeper relationship with God? Don’t we long to hear His voice and to feel His power working in us and through us? How can we expect to achieve a deeper, more intimate relationship if we don’t do anything differently? I cannot continue to read my Bible and answer the phone and texts at the same time. I cannot continue to have my prayer time filled with thoughts of the tasks of the day that need to be done. I cannot continue to push my time with God to the bottom of the list of things I need to do. If I do continue in this manner, how can I expect a deeper, more intimate relationship with God than what I have right now? If we want more of God we need to spend more meaningful time in his Word and in prayer. If we want more intimacy we need to open more of our hearts. God needs to go from the Bible in our hand and the theology in our heads to the life source in our hearts. But in order to achieve this, we must be willing. God is not into fad “God” diets. He will not impose Himself on us. We need a LIFEstyle change. Permanent. Committed. Embracing. The Bible tells us to seek, search, hunger and thirst after Him. We cannot continue to casually encounter God. He has so much more for us than that! We must be purposeful in our searching, passionate in our devotion and satisfied only with God Himself. Where could He take us then?

The Climb

Written Feb 2015: The family and I went camping at Sugarloaf Campground a couple of years ago. It was a beautiful place and there was a trail that you could walk around the base of the mountain. So, we decided this would be a good way to start the day. Half way around there was a trail that indicated that you could hike to the summit if you followed it. I thought this sounded like a great idea! Of course, I had never hiked a mountain before and had no clue what to expect. With me were my husband, who was fresh off his crutches after a hip replacement, my two children and our dog. We started out on a groomed trail that was fairly steep. I thought that was challenging, but was determined to have a good time. As we continued on, the trail became more rugged and the course more difficult. Thankfully, the hike unfolded in small segments. You couldn’t see past this little piece in front of you. Each section was harder than the last, but I kept telling myself, “surely the summit is just over this rise…” Each time I was wrong. The trail dissolved into wilderness and boulders. Some places had only a rope between trees to indicate where the “path” was. At times we had to carry the dog because even she couldn’t navigate through it. It was tough. I was reflecting on this experience this week. And I realized that I was very glad that I couldn’t see the whole path before me. If I had realized how difficult it would be, I never would have started out in the first place. I realized also that I often wish that God would show me the whole “path” on the road I am walking. For some reason I think this would be easier. If only God would send me a note and say, “Colleen, this is where you are headed” or, “this is the goal.” Especially when the road seems difficult. But, in retrospect, perhaps God is wise in not showing us the whole path. If He were to show me how difficult the journey will be, no matter how awesome the end, I would likely not go. There was a fight in my head on this climb: one voice telling me to give up and turn back, and the other saying, “you’ve made it this far, you can make it the rest of the way!” God also encourages us. His word indicates that He guides us one step at a time and He says that He gives us strength to do all things through Christ. As we move through the course of our lives one section at a time, we can make it – with God’s help. At each section, we need to be careful to take a deep breath, ask God for help, and step out in faith. I, too often, spend much time complaining about the proverbial “pebbles” under my feet – making them into mountains and as a result, I never get started. I need to take my eyes off of my feet and keep them on Jesus. I need to not listen to the negative voice in my head, but hear the encouragement of God to step onto the path He has for me.
I would have lost heart on that mountain, however, there were a few reasons that I carried on. One, I had this hope that we would soon be at the top. I was wrong (the climb took hours), but hope can carry you through the darkest times even when to hope is really irrational or illogical. Thankfully, with God, we always have hope. Knowing we are not alone and that, no matter what path He has for us, in the end, there will be Glory, encourages us to press on. Also, we were not alone. There were others on the journey with us. They helped to set the pace. I often slow to a crawl when I don’t want to do something. That results in very little gains, and lots of excuses why I should give up. We also met a few of those people. One young man was running the climb. He uses it as a regular part of his workout. There was another lady who used the climb as a stress reliever. All I was doing was trying to avoid a heart attack! I saw no benefit to it. But even the Refiner’s fire is used to purify. God is not letting us go through difficult times for no reason. He will use everything to shape us into the women He wants us to be. And knowing that there are others who have walked similar paths before us, who can come alongside, walk with us, encourage us and support us is invaluable. We need to be willing to share our experiences so that others can be encouraged. If we listen to the voice of God and His encouragement, hold on to hope, and support each other through the hard times, we will make it to the summit.
As far as Sugarloaf goes, we did make it to the top. (And survived the treacherous trek back down the mountain as well.) The view was fantastic, the experience one that I wouldn’t trade and the accomplishment one for the record. The next mountain I climb I will be a little wiser though: dog – no; snacks and water – yes!

Sacrifice

Written Feb 2015: I am a quilt maker. Generally, I embroider a top and then hand-quilt it. Sometimes I find a piece of something else and then get a vision (albeit fuzzy) of how I can use this useless item to make a beautiful quilt. The process takes months, sometimes years, to complete. I stitch through pain and bad lighting and work late into the night when I am in the middle of a project. Once it is complete, I am very pleased with the effort. I have had people tell me that I should sell my quilts. But honestly, there is no way I could sell it and make enough to pay for all of the time, money, and bloodshed that has gone into creating this quilt. The true value of the quilt is only attained when I give it away. It is the sacrifice, born out of a heart of love, that makes the gift priceless. The quilt then leaves its own legacy. A well made, well taken-care-of quilt can last for generations and each person who benefits from it will know the love with which it was made. Who knows how God uses this sacrifice? I don’t. I only know that I was to give it, and through my sacrifice, He can work His redemptive power.

We all do this in some way… the ones that spend hours making beautiful cards for others will see the hearts of those they give them to softened and love pour in. Those who serve in the church, like the nursery workers and the worship team, etc, their sacrifice of time and talent lay the foundation for hearts open to the voice and presence of God. The sacrifice of money to the church expansion will be redeemed in the lives of our children and community. The kindness shown to that hard-to-love co-worker, will be used to grow their hearts (perhaps even three whole sizes!). But are the recipients the only ones who benefit? Is not my life also changed in the process? Aren’t the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) blossoming in me each time I sacrificially offer a piece of myself?

The one person that you would expect not to have to give sacrificially is God. He has access to infinite resources in every area. Yet, He sacrificed. In order for His gift of love to have redemptive power, it had to cost Him something. To redeem is defined as: to gain possession of something in exchange for payment. Payment must be enough to cover the value of the possession. To redeem us, He sacrificed His Son. And for Him to work His plan of redemption through us, it will cost us something too. Recall Ephesians chapter 2: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins (1)…But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (4-5)…For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (8-10). We are God’s handiwork and He has things that He wants us to do. Occasionally He allows us glimpses of His vision. He provides the giftings required and asks us to sacrifice something to see His work completed. Can you hear Him calling you? Will we be like Abraham (Genesis 22:11), Jacob (Genesis 46:2), Moses (Exodus 3:4) and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:10) and answer “Here I am” to His call? Listen quietly for His voice. What is He asking you to do? Each of the above mentioned men responded to His call and as a result changed the world for God. Are we willing to be used by Him to change the world for this generation?

The Love of God

Written Feb 2015:

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made;
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

This verse of the hymn The Love of God is one of my favorites. I have been singing it much of this week… then it got me thinking. If I were to sit down and write about the love of God, would I even fill a page? Two at best? I wouldn’t even drain the ink in a single pen let alone an ocean. What am I missing?
I had read a book not too long ago called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. In it she documents trying to write a list of 1000 things that she is grateful for. Each a gift from God. Evidence of His love. In order to do this she had to look at everything differently. Down to the most minute and mundane… each was a gift from a loving Father. It made her more grateful and changed her as a person. I thought, this could be a great exercise! So I tried it. I made it to about 200 before life overwhelmed and the list went away. I believe this exercise, if I actually completed it would be very helpful to see all the ways that God loves me. Maybe I could fill a notebook…. The first item on my list of course was Jesus. Followed by family, etc. Then into the mundane but still enjoyable things like puppies that snuggle and juicy, sweet clementines.
This week I was reading over Romans 8. My favorite chapter in all of the Bible. And my favorite verses, 38-39: “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It struck me. Those last few words, “the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Isn’t it only Jesus that can transcend time and death and powers and creation? While God blesses us every day with wonderful gifts, isn’t the magnitude of His love wrapped up in the person of Jesus? On my list I wrote Jesus at the top without any real passing thought. I continued on with all of the other blessings. But is Jesus really on the same plane as puppies and fruit? Haven’t I minimized His value? If I only wrote everyday about Jesus and how God manifests his love to me through Him, wouldn’t my fingers fall off before I could even begin to touch the surface? The verses immediately before these in Romans 8 start the list in generalities for me… it is Jesus who is mediator for me. It is God who justifies, gives all things, frees me from condemnation, forgives me and makes me a conqueror in the worst of circumstances. Without Jesus there is no future, no life, no hope. Doesn’t just focussing on Him automatically inspire worship? Isn’t the giver of far greater value than the gifts? Like the line from the worship song on Sunday, “we don’t want blessings, we want You!” Haven’t I been devaluing Jesus each time I live as if I am not a conqueror? Each time I live as though sin still rules over me? Each time I neglect to seek Him in my issues and ask for those things that I need?
Perhaps it is time to start that list again, this time focussing on the giver and not the gifts – how then would I be changed?
1. Jesus
2. Jesus
3. Jesus…..

Purity

Written Feb 2015: Have you ever wondered why there are not enough words to describe God? I have. I find myself repeating the same phrases in praise and worship. Sometimes I think that I am not doing Him justice. But God is simple in His desire. He simply loves us and simply wants our love in return. But just as an untuned instrument will be distracting and disturb worship, an untuned heart will disturb our connection with God. God is a jealous God. He wants all of our heart. Focussed and tuned to Him. He tells us that we will find Him when we seek Him with our whole heart. Jesus also told us that the pure in heart will see God. I used to think this meant that I had to be perfect. But since that is impossible, perhaps that is not what He is referring to… what if He meant that when we clear out all of the other distraction from our heart and tune ourselves completely to Him that then He will make His presence clear and powerful. Then we will see Him. He wants our heart. He wants to connect. He wants to our His love out on us. Can we leave all the other distractions behind and enter the throne room with hearts pure and ready to be filled?