On Wings Like Eagles

We were blessed to have a houseful of family and friends join us for Easter. It was a delightful time of celebrating and visiting.

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And by the end of the day, I was ready to put my feet up for a few minutes after being sure the food was properly stored.

 

On Easter Monday, with a quiet home, and a lovely, sunny day, I began to strip bedding, gather towels and clean the floors. What surprised me most was the negative feelings for all the “work” that was left behind.

 

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WHAT!?!

 

It surprised me to realize that resentment was welling up within my inner being.  I had enjoyed the company. There was plenty of help. I had simplified the menu, largely because of what I have learned through observing Sabbath.

 

As I continued to do the clean-up, I asked God to change my heart. In answer to that, He whispered in my ear, “Pray for those who slept on the sheets, who dried themselves with these towels, who took time and effort to come to your home and shared their time with you.”

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What a difference it made! Soon my heart was singing with thankfulness for having family and friends to celebrate Easter Sunday.

 

Practicing Sabbath gives me space each week to tune into the quiet, gentlemanly voice of God. As I listen each week, I am more sensitive to the gentle whisper and more quickly repent—turn 180 degrees—and return to walking closely with God.

 

Had anyone been watching me that day, they may not have seen any change. But my heart went from weighed down to rising on wings like eagles!

I Will Pour Out

I have always loved the miracle in 2 Kings 4. A widow, whose husband had served Elijah, was threatened by a creditor and she had no resources. She and her sons fell through the cracks of the culture.

So God stepped in with a miracle.

But she and her sons did the hard work.
They humbled themselves to ask their neighbors for any empty containers.
They did the hard work of transporting those containers to their home.

Even as a child, I wondered how crowded their little home was with containers.
Did they have a table covered with jars?
Did they collect larger pots that sat on the floor?
What did they expect would happen?
Did they wish that they had collected more containers?
Did the neighbors give their empty containers cheerfully or with questions?

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The containers, and their work in collecting them, were the limiting factor on the oil.

Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, used in consecrating priests (Exodus 29:7) and used to comfort the sheep (Psalm 23).

Honestly, I’d never made the connection between this miracle and my own life.
What do I do to leave space (empty containers) in my life for the Holy Spirit?
Am I willing to do the hard work of making this space for the Holy Spirit?
Do I ever shut the door and block out all the cares of the world, focusing on the work the Holy Spirit wants to pour into my life?

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While the widow’s oil stopped pouring out when the last container was full, God promises to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. “In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17)

One of the things on my bucket list is a spiritual retreat. While I should be able to do that in my lovely, quiet, country home, I find too many distractions. The weeds in my gardens, the ever-present laundry and dirty dishes, the stacks of returned piano music that hasn’t yet been filed, the books that are on my “read ME” stacks, even the daily delivery from the postal service.

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Part of me longs for taking 24 hours away, and part of me is a bit frightened by what the Holy Spirit will show me.

And today, as I think about the widow and her sons, I have more respect for her and fewer questions about how much more oil she might have had if they had collected more jars.

 

Elijah said “Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and your and your sons can live on what is left over.” (2 Kings 4:7)

It was enough.

And whatever the Holy Spirit reveals, He empowers us to be obedient.

Open Bible

Coping with Life Pressures

Puffed with dew and light

As I am reading through the Bible this year, I have come to the book of Proverbs, the lists of wise sayings. The one that caught my eye was Proverbs 24:10 “If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small.”

A science experiment proves that having less pressure inside a can will cause the can to collapse.

http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/…/incredible-can-crusher

Sometimes it feels like the pressures around us multiply: work complications, weather worries, family frustrations, failures of friends, health handicaps, separations like divorce or death.

On our own, these forces could lead to personal collapse. Physical illness, depression or more subtly, apathy, tempt us to shrink back, to avoid risk, to be like the can and fail to be used as God created us to be. (Eph. 2:10)

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With Christ living within us, His strength keeps us strong. I John 4:4 “My children, you have come from God and have conquered these spirits because the One who lives within you is greater than the one in this world.”

Michael Larson

Today, let His greatness keep your inner man strong.

Ephesians 3:16-19
Father, out of Your honorable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings.

(sunset photo by Michael Larson)

Jesus as Savior

Christ in the garden

In spite of a betrayal, he healed the servant’s severed ear.

In spite of an unfair arrest, he submitted to the soldiers.

In spite of lies and false accusations, he remained silent.

In spite of Peter’s betrayal, he still loved Peter.

In spite of Pilate’s spineless verdict, Jesus’ spine was flayed open with the whipping.

In spite of the jeering soldiers, Jesus allowed their taunting, the purple robe, the thorny crown.

In spite of his weakened physical condition, he carried the crossbeam on his bleeding back, until he fell beneath it.

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In spite of the spikes tearing into his flesh, he suffered silently.

In spite of the effort of each breath, he said what needed to be said.

In spite of every reason in the world to be focused on his suffering, he still took responsibility for the care of his mother.

In spite of being one with the Father, he carried all of my sin, all of your sin, the sin of the whole world for every generation on his being.

In spite of betrayal, brokenness, denial, and death, the grave could not hold him.

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The Lamb who was slain is seated on the throne.

Spiritual Misfit – Book Review

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When Michelle first asks “Why not?” I was cheering her on. By the time she revisits that simple/complex question near the end of her book, I was asking if “Why not?” would change the tapestry of my Christian walk of faith.

Michelle has the gift of painting a moment of joy or laughter into a lesson for my spiritual journey. Her insights on growing in our faith transformation, learning to pray as the first response to anything, and giving up control of our lives are spot-on when we want to live like Jesus.

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As I read “Spiritual Misfit” I could imagine swapping everyday life over coffee or tea with Michelle, laughing at her joyous interpretation of life, refreshed, and inspired to continue making the choice for God’s transforming power in my life.

For anyone who has serious doubts about the initial leap of faith, or a believer needing encouragement out in the trenches, Michelle’s book will challenge you to ask yourself, “Why not?” and then take the next step.

First Step in Faith

During the holiday break, I’ve considered the direction of my writing here.  When a friend encouraged me to share my testimony, it seemed like the answer I’d sought. So here it is. It’s not fancy or sensational, just the way God first became real to me, and having the assurance that if I died, He would welcome me into heaven.

For as far back as my memory goes, Sunday school, Sunday morning, Sunday night and mid-week services were the fabric of our family routine.  Added to that were tent meetings, Crusade meetings, and special music services within a thirty-mile radius.

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I loved all of it, except for the long sausage curls that Mom insisted putting in my hair on Saturday night.  Only after my bath and hair washing would I be allowed to watch Lawrence Welk, My Three Sons and Petticoat Junction. That’s when Mom would sit behind me and roll up my hair on sponge rollers or put it in pin curls.  Since my hair was usually straight, I always hated how it looked when it came out of the rollers, and I’d cry and fuss about my hair for the first mile and a half to church. After Dad reminded me that people would notice my red eyes more than my curly hair, I’d quit bawling, whimpering the next 2 miles to the black top, and often making a stop in the church bathroom to splash cold water on my red face before going to singing time.

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Walking down the basement steps to the Sunday school room on the right with the little brown chairs and the kidney shaped table was always a thrill.  I LOVED to sing those familiar choruses with actions: “Climb, climb up Sun-shine Mountain”, “Only a Boy Named David”, “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands”, “Zaccheus Was a Wee Little Man”.

So it wasn’t unusual that one evening we piled in the car after Dad had rushed through milking and drove the 25 miles to my aunt’s church.  Her husband’s niece Polly Johnson was giving a Gospel concert.  She played the guitar, had a clear, pure voice and sang songs that were part of my six-year old, church-based repertoire.  However, hearing them with guitar accompaniment gave a freshness that captured my musical interest.  My parents bought a couple of her records, I think, so I continued to hear her music regularly.

Polly shared how she had gone to California looking for satisfaction and purpose in the music industry, but soon discovered that the Jesus Christ of the Bible was the only answer for the restlessness in her soul. Somehow, hearing about Jesus from a young woman who could sing and had recordings made an impression on my little-girl heart.

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Since I was so young, I’m not sure of the time frame, but the plane crashed on May 7, 1964.  Polly was killed along with all the other passengers.  Hearing of her unexpected death made me realize that I, too, could die even though I was still a little girl.  While I don’t remember where the conversation with my mom started, I do know that we knelt by my parent’s bed upstairs in the middle of the afternoon. My mom asked me why I was so upset about Polly’s death, as Polly loved Jesus and had gone to heaven.

My response was “But if I die, I won’t go to heaven, because I’ve never asked Jesus into my heart.”

Mom asked me if I wanted to, and I most certainly did want to not go another day without knowing that Jesus knew I loved Him. So I prayed, telling Jesus that I knew I wasn’t good enough to live in heaven without His blessing and forgiveness. I asked Him to take over my life.

Even as a little girl, I remember the lightness of spirit that came over me. I felt clean, washed, ready for heaven if I would die.

As I’ve grown in faith, stumbled, questioned the reality of my salvation, fallen, back-slidden, bogged down in the miry clay of sin, begged for mercy and grace, I have always been able to point back to this time, this altar of repentance, and KNOW that it was authentic. It was simple faith, child-like love and trust, but it marked the day I knew that I belonged to Jesus.

“ If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

His grace reached down to me, a little girl without any crimes or super-bad behavior, but a sinner none the less.  His grace has held me through demanding my own way, searching for the woman He designed me to be, trying to earn my way into His favor, running away from His Word, and finally, coming to the end of myself, learning to rest in Him, at least for moments here and there. All that I am now depends on Him, unless I get too busy or allow too many distractions into my day.  By His grace I continue to learn to walk by faith.

And His grace is there for you!  Just reach out to Him!

The Body of Christ

We fell into line to receive the body and blood of Christ.

Instituted over two thousand years ago, it is repeated with simplicity and order in every faith community of Christ followers. And though we are cautioned to share this meal with careful reflection, we are human.

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Sometimes my heart is heavy with concern for a struggling friend, with prayers uplifting them. The declining health of aging parents shifts the focus from spiritual refreshment to a few moments of physical retreat.  Other times my Savior reminds me how I insist on my own desires and yet He welcomes me to His table.  Perhaps the hardest times are those that seem ordinary, with mental assent but little heart involvement.

But there are times I’ve come to the table and known that encounter with the body and blood of Christ changed me, right then and there.

The first time I was allowed to participate in the Lord’s supper was on my twelfth birthday, following my immersion baptism. For so long, I’d been told that until I made a public commitment to follow Him, I could not come to the table. Just as one longs for a cool drink of water after a hot, outdoor task, I had longed for this meal. As much as I could understand as a pre-teenager, I came with my life laid open to whatever my Lord had in mind for me.

Another life-changing remembrance meal was part of the new college student retreat. The Christian college took us off-campus for two un-distracted days with staff and each other, learning not only about the guidelines, but helping us learn to depend on one another. What we didn’t know was that our final gathering was a service about the Lord’s supper, but the elements were pretzels and Coke.

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At first it seemed radical, bordering on sacrilegious. But I internalized that Jesus used the common, the everyday,  the mundane, to remind me of Him.

But tonight, I only expected the ordinary.  With all my senses on high alert, I approached the Table of the Lord with apprehension. Just as my infant granddaughter quietly observes a new space with little interaction, so had I absorbed my surroundings.

The handmade benches, the stain-glass windows, the copied song sheets, the concrete walls, the instruments of the praise team, the rough-hewn altar, the varied appearance of the weekly congregation.

My first-ever visit to the state penitentiary, worshipping with men convicted of some crime our society has labeled as dangerous.

And though I hated this about myself, some looked like I expected: rough, scarred skin, long, shaggy hair, eyes that saw but reflected little life.

But there were surprises. The young man who reminded me of my friend’s son ready to begin his senior year of high school. The middle aged man who wore a wedding ring, clean-shaven and well groomed, who would have looked more at-home in a three-piece suit than the prison stripes.  The blond twenty-something who had brought Max Lucado’s book “Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine” along with his Bible.

As the time came for me to receive the bread and the cup, my prayer was that my shaky legs would hold me up all the way down and back to my seat. Part of me asked forgiveness from Christ for not entering fully into what His sacrifice had cost Him. Part of me just wanted to go quickly and return to my place.

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But God meets us in unexpected places, in the mystery and holiness of His spirit.

As I received the bread, the wine and the blessing from two of the prison congregation, God revealed the unity of His body. These were my BROTHERS in CHRIST, loved dearly, just as I am. Though separated from freedom by thick walls, barred windows, and double-locked entrances, God’s love could not be kept out.

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As I completed the circuit, crimson, sapphire, jade, and golden sunbeams filtered across the altar. Like God illuminating my heart to see His Church as more than I had before. To see myself as a sister and a sinner alongside these men who struggled in society, all in need of a Savior, all praising Him for making a way to come, to eat, to drink, to remember.