Storms of Life: Learning to Trust

The disciples were fishermen and skillful at managing a boat on the Sea of Galilee, but when a sudden storm came up, they were frightened. They didn’t know what to do. When they woke Jesus, who was asleep in the boat, they had no idea how he was going to save them. The event is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27

We like to feel that we are in control—we have expectations of how our life should go. My husband and I thought this way as we began our marriage.

We thought we would have two children in our family. (That was the recommendation for our generation because of fears of over population.) But my second pregnancy was twins. We were glad to have three children.

Fast forward six years and one of the twins was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. As we prayed for his health, he underwent chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant. In 1989 he entered eternal life.

We grieved. I longed for another child, knowing we could not replace Steven. But after the twins were born, I had developed severe complications. By God’s grace I did not have a hysterectomy, but I was advised not to become pregnant again.

God answered our prayers and I did conceive. I had a healthy pregnancy. God gave us a second son.

We may have expectations, but God is in control. As we consider the possibilities in life, we need to walk in relationship with God, steadfast in our faith.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will straight your path. Proverbs 3:5-6

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The Greater Good

Have you heard the phrase, “the greater good”? It refers to choices for the good of society, the good of a nation, outweighing individual rights. A high priest once spoke about the greater good for Israel.

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up. “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” [John 11: 49-50] He was referring to Jesus.

There are two assumptions in Caiaphas’ statement. While it is true that the Romans were oppressing the people of Israel and there were outbursts of violence, the whole nation was not at risk of extinction. Or was he worried about the hierarchy? The priests and Sanhedrin?  

Next, he was assuming that the death of Jesus would solve the political unrest. He assumed the death of one man would be a simple solution for a complex situation.

Yet, Jesus chose to suffer and sacrifice his life to complete God’s plan of salvation. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross did not give the result that Caiaphas expected. It did not save the governing status quo. Jesus died and arose three days later to save individuals. Before his crucifixion he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” [John 11:25]

Jesus was always concerned about the individual. He engaged with people that were despised: lepers, tax collectors, the Samaritan woman. He told the parable of the Lost Sheep as recorded in Matthew’s gospel. He spoke about the value of every child.

See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18: 10-14 

I am reminded of what happened in Germany leading up to WWII. The Nazi government decided that individual rights stood in the way of building a great society. Louise Fein wrote a well-researched novel, Daughter of the Reich. The story begins in 1933, at the start of the Third Reich. As the government became more and more authoritarian, the liberty of the people was increasingly limited. The Jewish people were separated from society and terrorized. It is a haunting tale. 

The determination of “the greater good” can be based on a false premise. It can be a power grab. It can involve deception. We should learn from history.

Our leaders need wisdom from God. We need to pray for our country. God is greater than the “greater good”.

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The above illustration is The Good Shepherd painted by Ruth Owen Pook. Photograph by DTGrandfield83, CC BY-SA 4.0  via Wikimedia Commons

The Importance of Story

Jesus was a teacher and storyteller. The book of Matthew records numerous stories. While speaking to a crowd he told the parable of the sower who encountered different types of soil. (Matthew 13) Speaking to his disciples he told the story of the lost sheep (Matthew 18). There are many more parables throughout the gospels. Jesus would sometimes answer a question with a story.

I just finished reading Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan. The fictional characters, George and Megs, are exploring the importance of stories. George has read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and wants to know if Narnia is real. Megs is a student at Oxford and finds an opportunity to meet C.S. Lewis. She plans to ask him George’s question.

Once Upon a Wardrobe

The question is repeated different ways; where do stories come from? What do they mean? Is there a deep truth embedded in stories?

Patti has a well-researched knowledge of C.S. Lewis and includes biographical aspects of his life. At the end of the book C.S. Lewis’ stepson comments on the book. It is a good read. 

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Who Is Listening for the Promise?

One of the Christmas cards I received had a drawing of Mary and Elizabeth. According to the book of Luke, Elizabeth was the first to learn of Mary’s pregnancy after the angel had appeared to Mary. She believed God’s plan.

Art by Mike Torevell

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1: 41-42

Matthew recorded the visit of the three wise men from the east. They had learned of the birth of Jesus from their study of the stars. They came to worship and bring gifts.

And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him. Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2: 9-11

Luke recorded the experience of shepherds who were tending their sheep.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over the flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For onto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2: 8-14

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. Luke 2: 15-17

Elizabeth, the wise men from the east and the shepherd received the announcement of a Savior, a King. Amidst the political turmoil, corruption of leaders and problems in daily life, they heard the message of hope. God was doing something, Let us be like them, ready to see and hear God at work. In another post I write about Mary and Elizabeth and how their hearts and minds were prepared for the coming Savior.

Our soul waits for the Lord, he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you. Psalm 33: 20-22

Note: the card pictured above is from The Printery House at Conception Abbey 

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The Best Expectation

Throughout the past year my husband and I have been reading through the Bible. Today our reading was from 1 Chronicles and Isaiah. The books we have read clearly illustrate human nature and the problem of sin in the lives of people who have gone before us.

After God chose Israel to be a nation to follow his commands—laws that would sustain them and allow them to flourish—the people wanted a king. They wanted to be like other nations.

And so they had kings. God continued to reach out to them through the prophets, promising a Savior that would redeem them from the human pattern of sin.

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be on his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forever more. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. Isaiah 9:6-7

As years went by, the people waited. When Jesus came, he was not like their expectation. They were familiar with kings and power. They were hoping for a powerful king to overthrow the heavy hand of Roman rule.

It is interesting that in Matthew 13, Jesus tells three parables to describe the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field . . .  Again, the kingdom of heaven in like a merchant in search of fine pearls . . .  Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. Matthew 13: 44, 45, 47

 It had to be so difficult to understand, that the promised Prince of Peace would also be a suffering Savior.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, as one from whom men hid their faces. He was despised , and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflected. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 52: 3-5

We live in a confusing and turbulent time. We can miss God’s plan of salvation if we are not seeking God with all our heart. What are my expectations? Can I lay them aside and wait patiently, prayerfully for God?

There is one expectation that I can claim. God will fulfill his promises.

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When the King George Asked All the People to Pray

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading How to Pray by Pete Greig and discussing the chapters with friends from our church. Chapter 6 focuses on intercession.

In this chapter Greig gives an example from WWII. He recounts the events of 1940 when allied troops were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk. The Nazi troops were advancing toward them.

It was a desperate situation.

King George addressed the nation and asked people to go to church on Sunday, to pray for deliverance. As a result three amazing things happened. Citizens who possessed any size of boat prepared to make trips across the English Channel to rescue the soldiers—hundreds of boats assembled. The weather, clouds and storms, helped conceal their rescue mission and prevented an attack from the air. And for an unknown reason Hitler halted his ground troops. The soldiers were rescued.

We face a great challenge in our country with the pandemic and political strife. In the discussion of intercession, Grieg titles one section–Get informed: Engaging with the Facts.

With so much censorship taking place it is a challenge to get to the facts.

We have fear of covid, pressure to get vaccinated and cases of vaccine injury. There are protests over the vaccine mandate. Nurses, EMTs, pilots, firefighters and police are choosing to leave their jobs when their religious exemption is denied. 

Next week, November 8 to 11, truckers will strike, protesting the mandate.

My heart goes out to the vaccine injured who have been pretty much abandoned by our health care system. Recently a conference was held in Washington D.C. with vaccine injured people, Senator Ron Johnson and Dr. Peter Doshi. A young woman who was in a vaccine trial explained how her data was removed from the trial when she developed neurologic systems. A teenage girl was in the Pfizer trials and she in now in a wheelchair and has a feeding tube. A Pilot explained his symptoms and what happened when he was piloting a plane. A surgeon told his story. 

In order to have a deeper understanding of the vaccine issue I have been tuning into theHighWire.com. Del Bigtree was once part of the team that directed the medical talk show, The Doctors. He now has a team of lawyers and a medical journalist doing a deep dive into research. He has interviewed doctors and scientists who are raising questions. You can view the conference I mentioned on the High Wire.

When we are informed, we can ask for God’s help and guidance. 

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Photo courtesy of pixabay.com

Morning Brings Hope

As a nurse I have worked through the night and welcomed the morning. Before my marriage I worked in the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Michigan (Holden Unit). I worked the night shift, 7 pm to 7 am. 

Around 5am we took turns walking along a corridor with windows overlooking the sunrise to get coffee and a roll from the cafeteria. The light streaming in the corridor gave us renewed energy to finish the shift.

In another season of life, I was a birth nurse. Over a four-year time period I attended 62 homebirths, and also five women in labor who were transferred to the hospital to give birth. My role was to assess the progress of labor, listen to the baby’s heart tones, keep the doctor informed and provide supportive care to the laboring mother.

Sometimes labor lasted through the night, but with the morning came a refreshed outlook, the time of birth approaching. The sunrise brought hope. 

In the gospel of Luke, Zechariah’s prophecy about John and the coming Savior mentions the hope of sunrise.

And, you, child will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace.” Luke 1:76-79 ESV

Katholisches Gesanbuch wrote the words for When Morning Gilds the Skies. The hymn was translated into English in 1828 by Edward Caswall.

When morning gilds the skies, my heart awakening cries

May Jesus Christ be praised!

Alike at work and prayer to Jesus I repair

May Jesus Christ be praised!

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on unsplash.com

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Still Believing in Difficult Times

During a difficult season of life our faith in God can be shaken. What has helped people in the past? We have examples in the Bible that point to communication/relationship with God and the experience of love and acceptance. We are blessed to have God’s word—the Bible.

Moses and Elijah led the people of Israel through very difficult situations. They spoke with God and listened for his guidance.

Moses received direction again and again from God as he led Israel out of slavery. Sometimes his nerves were frayed but he continued to seek God and obey.

Moses said to the Lord, “See, you say to me, ‘Bring up this people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight’. Now therefore if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Exodus 33: 12-13, 17

Elijah was called to be a prophet but endured times of great hardship. 

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives , before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word. And the word of the Lord came to him: “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. 1 Kings 17: 1-5a

Ruth, the Moabite, chose to leave her country and travel with Naomi to Israel after her husband died. Neither Ruth nor Naomi had a living son or daughter. I believe that Ruth experienced loving acceptance from her mother-in-law. 

Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Ruth 1: 16

The Bible was a sustaining resource for my son, Steven. He learned many Bible verses, encouraged by the Awana program at church. During the final weeks of his life he was comforted by these verses.

And I heard a loud verse from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:3-4

Relationship with Jesus and access to God in prayer. Experience of love–giving and receiving. The Bible. These are the tools we have for a difficult season.

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An Old Irish Hymn

The garden is a place where my mind is at rest. Sometimes when I am troubled the words of a hymn come to mind. A hymn that I sang as a child–the words imprinted in my memory.

It is good for the church to sing hymns. It is good for individuals and families. Children are able to learn deep truths that will stay with them. Truths that may come to mind in a season of difficulty. 

This morning we sang Be Thou My Vision, an old Irish hymn translated into English by Mary E. Byrne.

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art.

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,

Thou my inheritance, now and always.

Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,

High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art.

What a marvelous gift we have been given by God through Jesus, when we accept it.

Every Friday Kate posts a writing prompt for the Five Minute Friday writing community. This time it took a couple days (and a hymn) for inspiration to come. The current prompt is: TREASURE

Invitation to the Family of God

Today’s prompt for Five Minute Friday is complete. My thoughts went to the first epistle of John. My Wednesday morning Bible study just reviewed the first chapter.  And we are writing these things that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:4

John, the beloved disciple, gave us the gospel of John and three epistles. He spent three years with Jesus, following him, listening to him teach and sharing meals. He was at the cross when Jesus was crucified. 

John gave the reason for his gospel. These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31

In 1 John 1 the disciple refers again to the time he spent with Jesus. 

That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:3-4 

Across the years John is reaching out to us, extending an invitation to community. He gives us guidelines. We need to believe in Jesus, confess our sins and walk in the light. We must live in truth. This is the way to fellowship with God the Father, Jesus and other believers, even those who have gone before us. In this way our joy is made complete.

Eventually John was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4

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