Often life is hard, but God is always good

Archive for August, 2014

What is Your Crisis? Carried on Eagles’ Wings

Photo Credit: Toni Blay

Photo Credit: Toni Blay

 

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4 (NIV)

As I sang the beautiful song in church this week, I saw myself standing on a mountaintop as all below burned and crumbled away, with smoke, and waves of steam rising up, as if it were the end of the world. I lifted my arms in praise to God. I lifted my face. I trusted that He is good, no matter the bad news I had received of a friend’s cancer diagnosis. As I stood there, in my minds eye, an eagle soared up to me, swept me onto its back and flew with me above the disaster.

In real life, we are not removed from the world and its troubles, yet somehow God carries us through, without us being destroyed. Jesus himself prayed this: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15)

When our own family crisis hit back in December, I felt as if I were free falling.

I used to have a recurring dream as a girl about a huge tiger chasing me. In my dream world, I ran desperately away from the danger across an open plain until, suddenly, I arrived at a cliff and helpless to stop my momentum, I tumbled off. Cold, wind whistled past my face as I fell endlessly down into empty space. Each time, I woke up before hitting the ground – but I never was saved.

During this recent trouble in my family, I felt a physical presence holding me up during the worst moments, like an eagle with wings.

Numerous times in J.R.R. Tolkien’s stories of Middle Earth, eagles come to the rescue of the human characters. The final time is perhaps the most dramatic – Frodo and Sam resign themselves to death as they stand alone upon crumbling Mount Doom:

“And so it was that Gwaihir saw them with his keen far-seeing eyes, as down the wild wind he came, and daring the great peril of the skies he circled in the air: two small dark figures, forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill, while the world shook under them, and gasped, and rivers of fire drew near. And even as he espied them and came swooping down, he saw them fall, worn out, or choked with fumes and heat, or stricken down by despair at last, hiding their eyes from death. Side by side they lay; and down swept Gwaihir and down came Landroval and Meneldor the swift; and in a dream, not knowing what fate had befallen them, the wanderers were lifted up and borne far away out of the darkness and the fire.” (The Return of the King)

Each person was given an eagle to ride. Gandalf swooped down on Gwaihir and the two other eagles came to carry Frodo and Sam.

Illustration: Alan Lee

Illustration: Alan Lee

No matter what we face – or how our situations develop, God sees us with his “keen far-seeing eyes” and rescues us individually. Not only does His presence become tangible, others are with us, too. Support systems get activated when we look around to see who is there for us.

What is your experience of God’s eagle wings?

 

All Lit Up With Eternal Rays

Photo Credit: Tim Hamilton

Photo Credit: Tim Hamilton

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Psalm 46: 1, 2 NIV

I recently read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis because I assigned it as English homework to my tenth grade home schooled daughter, Rachel. Radiant beams of sunshine shot out of the pages of letter fifteen and lit up my heart from C.S. Lewis’ meaningful words in the chapter on the temptation of worrying about the future.

Uncle Screwtape, the senior demon, warns about God’s view of time in his letter of advice to his nephew Wormwood about how to tempt his human “patient “: “He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.” (The Screwtape Letters copyright 1942 by C.S. Lewis. p. 75)

I have heard “live in the present” as a theme for years, but never really understood so profoundly “why?” The answer lies right in C.S Lewis’ pithy statement – “because the Present touches eternity”, and we desperately need eternity in our Present.

In this letter, C.S. Lewis goes on to describe what happens when we live in the Present: “He would therefore have them continually concerned with eternity…or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.” (p. 75-76)

Doesn’t this cover all of our circumstances? Eternity meets our Present and gives us the following: obedience to do what we must, strength to bear up under hardship, grace to make everything better, and gratitude for enjoying a pleasure.

No matter what is happening in my present, I go to God for His grace and help. Like Paul tells the Ephesians…. I “approach God with freedom and confidence” (Chapter 3, verse 12) and I feel His warm strong hand on my bowed head.

I saved the best quote from Screwtape’s letter fifteen for last: “In a word, the Future, is of all things, the thing least like eternity – for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays.”

As Uncle Screwtape knows, living in the Future will rob us of the presence of God. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t ask us to go there – where He is not able to touch us. Planning in the present for upcoming work would be an exception, but the fear and worry associated with looking ahead are not our portion. In The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a little Dutch girl, asks her father how she can cope with the future, especially regarding the death of those she loves so dearly:

“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently,
‘when you and I go to Amsterdam when do I give you your ticket?’
‘Why, just before we get on the train.’
‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.’” (p. 44)

Those essential “eternal rays” make it possible for us to live in our Present in full receipt of whatever we need. God is our ever-present help! I will trust God with my future and put my face in the sunshine of his Presence today.

All Experience Required

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

Photo Credit: Kelvin Trautman

“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 4-6 (NIV)

I find myself looking back in my life a lot more since hitting fifty. I am over that hill they talk about and the view from the other side ain’t so bad. An urgency to get things done, to pursue dreams, and to not waste time has set in and I am more brave than ever.

But the experiences of my life (and yours) are profoundly important, not because I succeeded in every endeavor or test, but more because God uses them to mold me and help others.

My adventure this summer (besides welcoming my first grandchild) was to accompany the youth group to Mexico as an adult helper – an interpreter and “mom” figure. The youth pastor told us all that we were to say “yes” to whatever ministry work we were asked to do, and so, when I was approached to preach a thirty-minute sermon in Spanish the next day (no preparation time allotted), I answered, “Sure!”

I rode back to the hotel in the van full of chatting and laughing students, scared silent and staring out of the window with a mind full of “Oh Lord, Help!” thoughts. We were driving through narrow streets with brightly painted adobe walls on either side that were used as the Mexican version of billboards. One advertisement I passed said (translated from Spanish) “More than 35 years of experience!”

My conversion to Christianity, accepting Jesus as Lord in my heart and life, happened 35 and a half years ago! Needless to say, I was greatly encouraged to hear from the Lord that my experience of knowing Him was the requirement, not experience in preaching. I rocked that sermon, by the way!

Some of my past I would like to excise from my history, but long ago the Lord reminded me that He could (and would) transform each part and work it into the whole of my life experience. Healing from wounds has come in the form of time, counseling, encounters with the Holy Spirit, and the love of friends. I didn’t transform all my life events into something good by my own efforts, though I was a willing partner in the process.

All of our experience is required, not just for our personal growth into God’s design for our life, but for the sake of others. Amazingly, as a middle-aged (or “over the hill”) youth helper in Mexico, I was very relatable. One girl said, “It’s like you’re a teenager!” and I replied, “My 18-year-old is still inside me!”

So is the stuttering elementary school girl, the nervous college freshmen, the new bride, and the first time mom. All the pain, the failure, the victory, and the surrender to God mix together into a life that God uses. When we are in the midst of the pain of a life experience let’s hold onto this hope.

 

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