A Daily Miracle

Part II, a Lenten treatise

Deborah J. Thomas

Lent begins the first Wednesday of March this year. This season is one of God’s best gifts.

When I visited my sister recently, we sang a few worship songs at her piano. One captivated me, a beautiful melody about the Holy Spirit. I pondered His role, and I’m still pondering Him.

Practicing Christians know the basics. He’s the third being of the Triune: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, we say in that order.  God the Father sits and rules from His throne in Heaven, and Jesus as Son is seated at His right hand.  But where is the Holy Spirit?  Perhaps He is the most mysterious of the Trinity.

Of course, all of the Lord God Almighty is mystery.  But the Father and Son have been more revealed or at least visible, over time, than the Holy Spirit. God the Father directed mankind, and spoke to his prophets throughout scripture. Thus, He’s become more familiar to us.  God the Son came to earth and people living at that time got to see him—Son of Man and Son of God, Jesus was called. The account of the gospels taught and showed us all manner of truth about God the Son, Jesus.

But the Holy Spirit is lesser seen, lesser known. His name makes that obvious: He is Spirit. Not seen by human eyes. However, just like the wind, He’s there.  (And sometimes witnessed through evidence.) Ephesians 1: 27 states that God wished to “…make known the riches of his glory (knowledge of Him) among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you…” In other words, the Holy Spirit dwelling in the true believer. After Jesus returned to heaven, the Holy Spirit came to his followers, so they’d sense God with them, in Jesus’ s absence. Stunning! The Holy Spirit resides in any person who invites Jesus Christ into their heart. A miracle!

‘Rauch’ was the name of that haunting Hebrew melody. It transports the listener to a pre-Messianic period as if it were wafting through the doors of the Temple in Jerusalem. “Spirit, Spirit, Spirit divine,” it sings, followed by “Not by might or by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord God Almighty. (Zech. 4:6) The setting for this passage in Zechariah is that part of Israel’s history when the Lord instructed Zerubbabel and Joshua to lead the Jews in the rebuilding of the temple.  It would not be physical strength or societal position that would build the temple from the ground up. It would be the Spirit. In short, not by man, but by the Lord.

This principle can be applied beautifully. First, in Jesus our example, in His sacrifice and resurrection. How he endured the crucifixion is an enigma. I barely stomached watching Gibson’s movie The Passion.  I wept. Though overdramatized in parts, it showed with certainty no man could have survived the abuse, flogging, climb to Golgatha, and piecing of hands and feet in meager human strength.  It had to be the spirit of God giving him ability, which He begged God for in Gethsemane. And the resurrection? The spirit of God.  In fact, Jesus’ entire life was partnered with the Spirit—in His stories, His prayers, His miraculous healings and restoring of life to the dead.  All was unconventional, unexpected, radical, and offsetting—but done under the moving of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s the difference between climbing countless flights of stairs alone (and perhaps not making it) or taking the escalator!

I think God sent Jesus to illustrate He delights in us. That humanity is what He wants to use. Not ‘by might or by power,’—not with the strength of horses and chariots, the savvy of kings and wise men.  Not by man—man fails and comes to his end.  But by the Spirit. The Spirit is our provision, just as he was Christ’s. As He did for Zerubbabel and Joshua, he can do for us, to build us. (Be prepared for those hammer blows, at times. He doesn’t spare the anvil.) He’s our ability to cope and overcome. To forgive. To be humble and unselfish.  To serve others.  He’s the miraculous in daily life!

 

Holy Spirit, thank you for coming and being the miraculous to us. We need you.

Wake us to invite you into our days. Enter our prayer life.

Please use us purposely. Help us with life’s trials; give us strength and endurance.

This Lent, breathe into us, Breath of Life. Fill us with life anew.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Set Aside

 

Part I of a treatise on the miraculous, for Lent

Everybody wants to be loved, we latch onto it. Love helps us cope with life. In 1958, Phil Spector cut a song, To Know, Know, Know Him and I thought it was cool. Here are the first nine lines.

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
Just to see that smile
Makes my life worthwhile

To know know know him
Is to love love love him
And I do
And I do
And I do

As a young girl, I began to feel I was not quite like other people.  That I was different and not preferred.  I wore glasses from the age of two. When I was five,  I was given penicillin for a boil on my behind, and broke out with a rash that never left. I was the middle child of three. My older brother liked my sister more than me. Or at least it felt like that. And my foster brother also liked Karen more.

Happily, there were some reprieves from my poor self image. I did well in school and I learned piano well. I also had two good friends, Marilou Hage, and Marcia Dorman.  My parents and grandparents loved me dearly, and my sister adored me. These things brought me great happiness.

Still, when winter came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, my life got hard. The harsh and frequent snow, and icy weather had an immediate effect upon my skin.  It chapped, cracked and bled.  I had scabs and sometimes staff infection entered the wounds.  I’d have to stay home from school to recover. My parents gave me support and understanding.  I was taken to doctors and later, the Mayo clinic to seek solutions.

Kids asked questions about my rash and scabs and it was embarrassing.  I can remember how I flushed, as I gave them a reply. I tried to hide my skin, but the eczema broke out everywhere there was a joint or flap:  behind my knees, armpits, my neck, at the bottom of my ear lobes, every finger knuckle, my wrists, and then on my lower arms, where there were no joints at all. Though my siblings never made fun of me, my classmates’ curiosity and probing made my self-esteem plummet.  Michigan winters gave me a good understanding of what it was like to feel ‘set aside.’ But I think God used those winters to offset my life in a permanent way.

I think each of us has a life experience that leaves a lasting mark. A relative of mine was abused as a girl.  My mother lost her thirteen year old brother when he ran away from home to find his mother who left the family. Georgie jumped off a train from a bridge, into the river below, and drowned.  My grandfather’s eyesight failed in his twenties, and he lost his accounting job. My former husband was mistreated by both his parents his whole life without reprieve, and no apology was given him later on. These kind of things make us feel as if we’ve been ‘set aside’, singled out, a product of the extraordinary.

Could it be that God marks us, as if to distinguish us—in love?  Surely the One who made us couldn’t want that we should have a life of unrelenting hardship and abuse.  Yes, there are cultures where cruelty and persecution goes on for years.  In The Immortal Irishman, we read how the English Parliament suppressed and battered the Irish for years, believing them to be inferior Catholics. How sorrowful that some cultures must endure dictators, oppression or depraved poverty without relief.  These things defy understanding except we know that in this earthly life, evil sometimes gains an upper hand.  A good God raises up the good to fight against the evil, for His intention is for it to be conquered and replaced with goodnesses.  Praise God this is so.

The Lord marks all of us, one way or another.  He calls all people to come to Him in earnestness, to “know, know, know” Him. True followers are given a gift, His Presence inside them. Philippians 4:11 says, “The Lord is near.” With this gift, we are ‘set aside’ from the world.  In good ways, in servitude.  For to know His presence is to love Him.

Part II will consider this amazing presence of God within us, a most miraculous thing.

Mermaid

One of my childhood fantasies was to be a mermaid. Ha! Of course I had no idea what this would entail, (or should I say, entale)—but with life under water, you can choose whatever role you wish it to be. I was fascinated with the notion of mermaids. I put myself into the role and felt magically transformed into a romantic and attractive creature, swishing my long fantail to get me where I needed to go. Fantasy is so great, you become whoever you want to be. There I was without my eyeglasses, no ugly skin disorder, no disabilities at all. Something transitory overcame me, and I was a swimming beauty, admired by all, lovely beyond compare, a princess of the sea. If something went wrong, all I had to do was swim away and escape to wherever it is mermaids go for refuge. Ha.
Sometimes, while swimming at our summer cottage lake, or later on, our swimming pool in Tucson, I would pretend to be a mermaid, and swim with my legs together. We would play games, such as play Mermaid Tag and “It” and the players could only swim with their legs together in the game. It was pretty fun.
When the movie The Little Mermaid came out, I thought this was one of the Disney’s best except for the ugly, dark witch. Of course every story has to have a villain, but this one seemed excessively wicked. The story line however, was most clever and I still very much like this movie, one of my favorites– for Ariel (whom we named a third cat we got since she felt so out of place), and her friends, the good godmother, and of course her dashing prince who loved her for who she was.
All kinds of things happen to us in life. Evil rears its ugly head at some point or another, sometimes more often than we would like. But there is a way of escape in the real world. God gives us a Knight in shining armor, Christ Jesus. In His comforting and strong arms, we can know rescue and delight.

Smart Counsel

Smart Counsel

Per chance, I found a poignant book called: My Lord and I- Daily Meditations, by Harry Tippett in a thrift store some months back.  I was smitten, given it was a cross-hatched 4.5 by 6 inch thick book, and published in 1948, the year of my birth.  Its entries are nothing of regular nature.  It’s a pearl. I relish each reading, albeit not all entries are just for me.  You know what I mean.

But on my August birthday, I was hoping for a gem.  I wasn’t disappointed. Its title of Jesus Our Counselor was followed by Eccl. 9: 11 “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

To wit, this could mean that no matter how quick, strong, wise or skilled a person, it is not these that God blesses, but rather He bestows in time and through His own choosing what will happen.

And on this note, I’m at peace.  We live in crazy times, a world with crumbling order, terrorism gone wild and denial of its threat thereof, race relations under attack, corruption in highest levels by-passed, it would appear, by our justice department.  Harsh statements, falsehoods, accusations, misleadings are the deluge— how shall we be saved from this state of affairs?

I bewail a lack of integrity in but a few leaders today. Can the Lord intervene and do something miraculous?  Of course!  “Time and chance happeneth to them all.”  Yesterday in a sermon, I learned about Don Piper who was killed in a head-on collision in 1989.  A passing by pastor was directed of the Lord to stop and pray, but was told the driver of the car was dead; they tarped the gruesome car, waiting for authorities to come remove the man.  The pastor went into the car, and prayed for the deceased Mr. Piper. After an hour, he ran out of things to pray and began to sing, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’  Suddenly, a voice joined him.  Mr. Piper rose to life!

Who in this world would follow such a God directive, to pray for a dead man?  To believe it mattered?  Instead, we gauge the worth or progress of something by outward appearances, or numbers, am I right?

The author Tippett:  This emphasis upon worldly advantage has captured modern thinking…our measurements of value…often gauged by mere bulk or numbers.  Counting noses in God’s work has been frowned upon by Heaven ever since the days of the numbering of Israel against His express command.  We triumph in majorities and hold contempt for minorities.  We honor men who boast, “Is not this great Babylon that I have built…by the might of my power?”  Dan. 4:30.  This veneration of size and truckling to power…{is called} megalomania, the craze for bigness.

But Jesus was never overawed by size or majorities.  The temple of Herod was the greatest pride of the Jewish church.  The priests were dismayed when Christ predicted its destruction.  In the teachings of the Master, mountains of difficulty give way to simple prayer, and “out of the mouths of babies and sucklings” He ordains strength.  End quote.

My former pastor’s young daughter recently took issue with the gender bathroom controversy.  On her own but with her parents’ permission, she gathered signatures and sent them to the state legislature to protest the allowance of the cross gendered to enter the bathrooms at her elementary school. She petitioned for a bathroom of their own.  She sent it to her legislator and now, the legislature is voting on a law that will make all persons use the bathroom of their birth.  This child has been invited to come speak to the legislature about her concerns. Is not this phenomenal? I rejoice to see how the Lord is using this young girl to accomplish His ways on earth. If the bill is passed, this child’s name is going to be on it!

Tippett: “He ordains strength.”  Psalms 8:2.  All through the Bible, greatness in worldly evaluations is in sharp contrast to the humble heart and teachable spirit Christ lauds as Heaven’s true cloth of gold.  [It is}…not the cause with the greatest financial backing nor the leader with the best education, nor the artisan with the swiftest skill—none of these are necessarily signs of favor with Heaven.  “Not by might and not by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord” is the formula.  End quote.

I believe that when we pray, we invite Jesus’ counsel. It doesn’t get any smarter than that.  May’nt this be a way out of the current bungle of politico?  His plans are remarkable; He directed a pastor to stop and pray for a dead man, a child to gather signatures of protest. He directed me to pray for my mom’s rescue from death often.  I prayed with a friend and then on my own as I drove to my sister’s side, not knowing she was having a fibrillation attack.  I called out to Jesus by name when I was nearly hit head on with my babies in the car with me.  He so wants our prayers, prayers for others, prayers for our needy country. Time and “chance” belong to Him. Pray, pray hard.

 

When did Jesus send you a directive to pray and what was the result?

The Gift of Darkness

We live in a difficult world. There is darkness all around.

Once years ago, my parents treated my husband and I to an all expenses paid New England bus tour trip with them. It was a blessing beyond belief. We saw sites in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. I remember all of it and developed over a hundred photos.  While in New Hampshire, we were in a place peppered with trees. Every turn in the road revealed something breathtaking.
I asked Mom, “Wouldn’t you like to live here, Mom?”
“No way!” she said without hesitating.
“What? Why not?”
“Because the trees block out the sun. It would be dark all the time.”

There is so much to be said about that.
We moved to Tucson from Michigan when I was twelve.  The doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester said I needed a warm, dry climate to be healed of severe skin eczema.  It was a tremendous sacrifice to do this.  But the frequency of the bright and sunny days were of such benefit.  And in time, we came to love the area.  It is rarely dark in Tucson, rarely gloomy. Even on our rainiest days, usually the sun peeks. I completely recovered from eczema, it is gone, it left in less than two years.

There has to be light in life or darkness takes over.

Following the unforeseen death of my mother this past summer, the absence of her beauty felt like darkness. Varying degrees of depression took me over for months.  But also without warning, on a day in October, I was surprised to find that I could feel the sun again.  Surely it had been there all the time, but just not for me.  Dark Days had come for a spell, and I could not find a way out of them.

“The Lord is my light, and my salvation,” says a Psalm.  The Lord is our sun, our rescue.  Another psalm says, “In Him is no darkness at all.”

Could it be that darkness serves a purpose?

The evil think so.  They love it.  They dwell in darkness and perform their dirty deeds there, thinking they are hidden.    They have abused the darkness, using it to perpetuate and manufacture more sin.   They think they are safe there, unseen.  Are they?  With the Lord God, His vision is unlimited.  He sees without physical light being present.  He sees right into all darkness.  He waits. He will requite all evil.  God’s design for darkness is not to provide sanctuary to the evil.    

But He did create it.  There must be a divine purpose for it.  Maybe multiple ones.  I see two.

Darkness provides a resting place for humans.  In darkness, we are excused from the brightness of the day.  We can sleep, and our eyes and body organs recover their strength, heal. Darkness is a blessed reprieve, a covering, a nest.  Where grief is present, darkness’s gift of sleep nourishes the heart, nerves and emotions.  It’s no wonder those in grief sleep more than usual.

Also, darkness provides a contrast for us, that we might see our need of light.  How would we notice our need of a savior if we did not recognize Him against a backdrop of depravity?  He wants to be noticed.  He wants to “pop” out.  He wants to be distinguished.  He deserves to be distinguished.

Dark Days may occasionally come. But God has not banished us to them.  They are for a season to rest us, give us a reprieve.

Bright Days will return. Happily, the Lord is present in both darkness and light, and He is with us.

Do you see another purpose for darkness?  Please comment.