I’ve screamed at the enemy – the devil – many times in the past and will many times again, I’m sure. But on a recent Tuesday morning, June 13, shortly after midnight, in a hospital parking lot, I raised my voice in anger and authority against the thief who was trying to kill my husband:
I pray as I walk down the narrow road, talking to the Father about those early days, years ago, when I was so zealous in my faith, so trusting, so willing. I remember the words written on the thin pages of my King James Bible, so vivid and distinct, as though they were freshly written with the very ink on the true papyrus used by St. Paul. The words seemed to magnify, embolden, and rise up, penetrating my spirit:
The Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, are unbelievably remote. Our campsite is at the Northeast tip of this huge state park;
I drive past it nearly every day, on my way somewhere. Today, though, I pull over and park my car in the lot, now overlaid with weeds. I look at the church – an unkempt building that has been empty for many years now – and I listen. No music flows through its closed windows. No children laugh or play on the rotted teeter-totter in its side yard. No pastor preaches from its pulpit. Instead, I hear the sounds of the country – the birds, the leaves kissing the breeze, a tractor in the distance,
The day was the worst ever. It was neither “Good” nor “Holy,” as we now refer to the Friday of Holy Week. In the midst of the curious, the angry, the Jewish officials, and the Roman soldiers, this handful of Christ followers – the women – stood near the cross, numbed in their sorrow and despair. Their Messiah, their Lord, their Savior, had been brutally beaten – beyond recognition. Earlier, they had followed Him and the procession of onlookers as He carried His cross, sometimes falling to the ground, up the hill.
How can He possibly continue. Please God.
But He did continue.
I post on my Facebook Author’s page every day, most often using photos or Bible verses, or “sayings” that have spoken to me. Sometimes I select the postings days in advance, scheduling them for a later time. After the post is published, I review it, as though I haven’t seen it before.
And always – it speaks anew to me.
Are you trying to spend more time alone with God? I am. As I’ve shared before, I don’t find it easy to do so. My excuse is probably a lifetime of multitasking.
Reading and watching TV at the same time.
Talking on the phone with a Bluetooth while doing dishes or completing household tasks.
Writing while watching the children play.
Always something – rather two or three somethings going on. Not sure how or why it came about – how I got this way. I observe others quietly reading for hours at a time, napping on the back porch in the summertime, leisurely humming while fixing dinner. I covet that contentedness.
This isn’t a new problem for me. I wrote about it a few years ago, and I’m opening up about it again today.
Ron and I are blessed to have a little ranch home in Florida – I’ll write more about it in tomorrow’s post. Anyway, we most often arrive in this little house mid-late December. Was true this year, as well. It’s stressful – preparing for the drive down from Michigan – making the lists, closing up the house, and packing until the back of the Buick Enclave is ready to burst! By the time we leave, we’ve had our family Christmas, which in itself, is awesome! But it’s the other things that create stress. Our jobs, for example. Although retired, we are often still working, as was the case this year. I took an interim full-time high school English teaching position. It was delightful! (You can read about it here.) I loved every day with those kids; nonetheless, it requires MUCH time of study and prep and long days of making every moment count in each class. If only it was just the physical work, but it’s not. I invest in each student. I care. Their problems keep me awake at night. I want to make a difference in their lives. I know they see me as a caring teacher; I suspect they see me as a Nana; but I hope they see yet more. I hope they see Jesus in me. I might be the only Jesus they see that day. And oh, how they need Him. Even in our sweet little community, these kids are hurting. Many are depressed, many are hopeless, and most are already more broken in their brief 17 years than their parents are in 40. Only Jesus can reach into the depth of that brokenness. I care. I pray. And I lay awake at night. So when that semester is over and we head south to Florida, my heart is still full of love and hurt for them. This Nana carries it and it doesn’t end when I leave Michigan or even when I cross the Florida line. It goes all the way to the little house in Venice. And stays awhile.
I actually came to Florida to heal, but it was not from the normal stressors of a recent semester teaching.
I’ve shared the marvelous story of healing in When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers, but I’ve been unable, for various reasons, to share the depth of the ten-year struggle for healing for one I love, and more recently, the agonizing, lengthy struggle for healing for another. I love both more than life itself. They are my own blood. While one is now healed, I await the healing of the other with confident expectation. I thank God. I praise Him. I rejoice. Yet the memories of their past and present sufferings are embedded in my heart and soul, often triggered by the simplest life observations and sounds. And small, trivial, daily stressors are sometimes aggravated by the ongoing pain within me.
Now I also need the healing.
So it is not hidden in the darkness of the enemy, I bring this situation into the light; I present it to Jesus, the Light of the World. I share these things because I know some of you have the same ongoing pain. You, like I, need to heal. We will! God promises it in His Word! Isn’t He wonderful!
I seek – actually “need” solitude with Him. I must make an effort to be alone with my Father, to read His Word, and to listen as He speaks to me. In His Word, He whispers to me threefold:
a bit about family love,
a lot about compassion,
and a reminder about the importance of occasional solitude.
Here’s what The Holy Spirit teaches me today:
I call him John the Baptist. I’m sure Jesus just called him John – His cousin, John. A cousin like no other, I assume, for while both babies were yet in their mother’s wombs, cousin John leaped noticeably when he heard the voice of Mary, his mother’s cousin, whom John’s mother Elizabeth referred to as “the mother of my Lord.” Mary responded to this honor by singing and glorifying the Lord God. Both baby boys heard their mothers’ voices magnifying God. Both baby boys were sent from God for specific purposes. John’s father was Zechariah. But Jesus’ father was Almighty God. A beautiful familial bond was set. The baby boys were born just months apart.
John the Baptist “prepared the way for the Lord,” baptizing people in the name of the Lord, whose “sandals I am not worthy to untie,” he said. Unlike those people John called to baptism, Jesus went to John for baptism.
Shortly after Jesus was baptized, John was imprisoned for his message. Scholars believe it was about 15 months later that John was then beheaded. When the Lord Jesus heard this news, He was undoubtedly grief-stricken: “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.”
Have you ever done this? In grief or in sorrow or in exhaustion, you’ve withdrawn to a place of solitude. Jesus did. But the Bible tells us that when he had arrived at the place of solitude, he discovered that He wasn’t really alone at all. A large crowd of people had followed him, along the shore. They were desperate for Him. I understand. Do you? I’ve been desperate for Him in the past. And I am desperate for Him now, as I write. It’s really a desperation I’ve had for years now. I do understand. And so does Jesus. I know this because of His response to the people who interrupted His desired solitude.
The Bible tells us that when Jesus saw this large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Then he fed them by multiplying five loaves of bread and two fish. That’s my Jesus! That’s your Jesus, beloved! Compassionate. Loving. Healer. Bread of Life.
After He met the needs of the people, He again sought solitude, this time succeeding. He went up on a mountainside. To pray, the Bible says.
To pray. I must let that “sink in” to my desperate, multitasking mind today.
I don’t know how long He was alone in prayer, but I assume it was through the evening and most of the night. We read that along toward morning, He went out, on the lake, walking on the water during a storm, to meet, comfort, rescue, and teach His disciples who were in a water-drenched boat, tossing to and fro, thinking they were going to die. That’s my Jesus! That’s your Jesus. Teacher. Comforter. Savior. Deliverer. The Great I Am! The Son of God!
And it didn’t end. His ministry didn’t end when He was crucified – because of the Resurrection! He’s still compassionate. He still comforts me. He’s still loving and healing. My teacher. My Savior. The Great I Am! The Son of God. The Bread of Life. The Light of the World. That’s my Jesus. And if He is your Savior, that’s your Jesus too.
He’s the one who becomes family.
He’s the one who is compassionate.
And He’s the one who teaches me that occasionally I need to get to a place of solitude ~ to pray.
I’ve been pondering God’s purpose, of which I wrote in the last post. (Click here to read, “It Is Not Coincidental.”) Actually, I’ve been pondering this concept of God’s purpose for quite a few years.
It seems that for much of my life, I may have feared my Abba Father with a fear that was not scriptural, believing that His purpose for me was to suffer the consequences of every sin – every wrong decision – every foolish move I made.
Jesus hung on the cross, two others beside him.
It was nearing sunset, which marked the beginning of the Sabbath. No bodies were to be left on a cross during the Sabbath. Their deaths must be quickened. So on that Friday, the day of crucifixion, the legs of those crucified men were to be broken. This was typical. A means to hasten death.
My soul yearns, even faints . . . my heart cries out for the living God. (Psalm 84:1,2)
The Word says that we are happy (blessed) when we dwell in that place – His dwelling place – that of The Lord Almighty.