Sure Footing

 

Mt. Precipice overlooking the Sea of Galilee

“Just put your foot on the next staple, then move your hands down and lower yourself to the staple below. Keep doing that until you are at the bottom.”

“just” –  does that word cause you to pause?

It should. One person’s “just” may be a significant challenge for someone else. As in “just tell him “no” – when you want your child to stop doing something that may be dangerous. Depending on the child, that may or may not be a simple solution.

Something that challenges me down to the very fiber of my being, may be “just climbing down a cliff” to someone else.

While in Israel, the main quality of the topography that Phil and I noticed were the rocks. (This is besides everything being very dry unless it is irrigated.) Rocks were everywhere. In the ancient sites and ruins we visited, the buildings were constructed of rocks and are therefore still visible. This makes perfect sense because rocks are in such abundance and people throughout history use what is available to construct dwellings.

After seeing rocks everywhere, it should have come as no surprise that our group would be asked to descend a rock formation.

Yet, Elaine and I WERE surprised!

We had hiked up a steep slope through brown grass that was sprinkled with flowers, startling in their beauty because everything around was so brown. The end of our climb was a spectacular panoramic view. This mountain was called Mt. Precipice.

I looked up the word precipice  – it means – a very steep rock face or cliff, typically a tall one. The name was so appropriate and should have been a clue of what was to come.

After our guide James pointed out the significance of the surrounding landscape and what Jesus would have seen during his time, we saw where we would be hiking next, even where we would be spending the night. (FAR in the distance!)

James then said, “We are just going to descend this cliff. It is a bit tricky, but we will help each other.”

The path James led us to was straight down!

You can see from the photo that I am not exaggerating. We were told that morning  before we left that there were some “rocky bits” and “one strenuous part.” We had been on rocky bits the whole trail. I should have know that when James said “strenuous” it really would be. There were large iron staples embedded in the rock face to hold on to and step on as one climbed down.

I watched as the others started descending first. I was so proud of Elaine! What a trooper! She went down from hand/foot hold to hand/foot hold, step by step.

As I watched Elaine descend, I knew I could as well. She went before me, making sure each of her steps was on sure footing.

Elaine’s example gave me courage and encouragement to make the descent myself. My biggest concern was making sure my foot was securely on a staple before I put my weight on it and went down to the next staple. I wasn’t sure I could see the next staple.

Phil went before me and when I needed it, he guided my foot to the next staple. Once I felt the staple under my foot – sure footing – I was fine.

Needless to say, we all made it down in one piece.

I have thought since then that this is a picture of our walk with God and how important the Body of Christ is. In life we come to those times where we are on a precipice, we are not sure where to go, or how to face what we see ahead. It may seem that there is NO WAY forward. Yet if we look around, God often provides someone who is going through something similar – right before us – and that person can support and guide us along the way.

Seeing Elaine descend successfully, then having Phil guide my feet, prevented me from being paralyzed by fear or being left behind on the mountain.

In Psalm 37:23-24 it says –

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
    of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
    for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

In Psalm 40, David encourages me –

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

We can encourage one another as we walk with God, encourage each other to keep out feet on the Rock, our sure footing.

Not Ashamed

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I am visiting my mother this week. I am staying with Mom in her apartment at the retirement community where she lives in Wheaton, Illinois.

This week is the year anniversary of my father’s passing on to his eternal reward. He is greatly missed.

My mother is doing well. She is active –

  • physically – exercising regularly
  • mentally – coordinating library services for her community
  • spiritually –  attending her local church and involved in Bible study in her community.

God has been so faithful.

Mother is very quick to give God the glory!

As we walk the hallways (two miles of carpeted hallways here), we see many people who I knew while growing up here in Wheaton. One lady yesterday said to me – “Oh, Gayle, I remember you in “Oklahoma” our school musical that year.

That was in 1969!

What really has struck me is the fact that I am immediately identified as Esther’s daughter. I was walking alone in the hall and a resident stopped me and asked me who I was. “You look familiar.” she said.

When I told her who I was and that I was Esther Barker’s daughter, she responded, “Of course! That is why you looked familiar. I knew Esther when she was your age.” (I now look very much like my mother did when she was 65.)

I have been told I look like my mother my whole life. I have never been ashamed of that fact – since it was so consistently expressed, it has always been one of those givens of my life, like having brown eyes, or being taller than average.

I have always been identified as Esther’s daughter.

That is who I am.

Is my identity as a daughter of my heavenly Father as easily identified? Do individuals that do not know me see Jesus in me?

Is Jesus evident in my words and actions?

That is who I am.

Paul says in Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

I realized that I have never been ashamed of being identified as Esther’s daughter because of the unconditional love she has always demonstrated toward me.

An even greater love has been demonstrated to all of us in God’s giving His one and only son  – Jesus – as the sacrifice for our sins.

I am not ashamed of the gospel. My desire is that I live in such a way that people identify me with the gospel.

May we live in these troubled times sharing the unconditional love our Heavenly Father has so freely shared with us.

Let us live  – not ashamed to be identified with Jesus.

 

 

Don’t Let the Fire Go Out

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I heard a truck in the driveway and the first thing I did was glance at the wood stove.

Was there wood in the stove or had I let the fire go out?

As is often the case, I had been caught up in my book-making and I had forgotten to tend the fire. So, before Phil came in I quickly added wood and was sheepishly grinning when he entered the den.

After 41 years, Phil is accustomed to those sheepish grins. 🙂

Yes, I am easily distracted, yet when I am working on art, time literally slips away. I am totally immersed in the creative process and I need reminders to fulfill my other responsibilities.

We do this spiritually as well. We can get so caught up in “doing” for God that we forget to “tend the fire.”

What does it mean to “tend the fire” spiritually?

It means that we are re-stocking our lives with fuel from the Source, in other words making sure that we are receiving fresh spiritual food from God’s Word. I have been a Christian for almost 60 years, yet I can’t survive on old teaching from my past – as good as it was.

Anyone who heats with wood will tell you – old wood burns up fast!

I need to allow Holy Spirit to speak to me with fresh insight for the current issues I face today. As I read the Bible, the Living Word, it feeds the flames of the spiritual fire within me. This past weekend I attended a women’s conference at our church. Katherine Wright shared from her heart some things that the Lord had been teaching her recently through very tragic circumstances.

“We have created for ourselves an illusion of safety,” Katherine said. “My recent study of Scripture has made me realize that this was NOT Paul’s or the early Christians view of suffering.”

In I Peter 1:6-9, Peter encourages Christians that their suffering has a purpose –

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I must be faithful to feed the spiritual fire within me through reading God’s Word, hearing Biblical teaching, and listening to the Holy Spirit within me. Katherine’s words clarified for me the truth that suffering is part of life, yes, a NORMAL CHRISTIAN life.

Feeding on the Word of God will keep my fire burning!

Silent Night – Beautiful, Broken World

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Our daughter Abigail shared this post from 2013 yesterday on the anniversary of what our family refers to as “the accident”. If you already saw her re-post, just ignore this one. It is a sweet, timely reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Silent Night
By Abigail Woody Hardy
It was December 5th, 1992.  As I rushed with my parents into the emergency room entrance late that night, a gurney sped past us.  Like a snapshot, I can remember, the sight of a leg, knee up in the air covered with a white sheet and below the knee, unnaturally, something large and black was bisecting the bloody leg.  Is that really what I saw?  I was too unsure to ask my parents.  I could tell they were more scared than they were willing to admit to me.
I sat in the waiting room of the ER.  I felt lost and unsteady as my parents went back to talk with the doctors.  Words like “accident” “coma” “racing” “head-on” were punctuating the air of the waiting room as people from our small church slowly filled it. 
Things like this do not happen to us.  Not to kids coming back from a church youth group trip.  Surely not, God. 
The van, driven by our church’s youth group leader and my Dad’s closest friend, had been hit head-on by a man in a Corvette.  He had been racing 120 mph down the curving road, some pieces of his car left hanging high in the trees. 
My oldest sister Hannah had been in the back of the van with four other junior high students from our church youth group, and two adult leaders in the front.  Kirsten, the energetic college student from WCU who helped with the youth group, died instantly.  Hannah was in a coma.  Mr. Brown, the driver, was the victim we had seen as we rushed into the ER with the brake pedal stuck through his lower leg and a broken pelvis and ribs.  He had been pinned in the car and had prayed with the kids and kept them calm until the emergency services arrived and were able to cut him out.  Another student had a serious head injury and the other three had escaped with broken bones or scrapes and bruises.
My sister had been airlifted to Memorial Mission in Asheville soon after my parents and I had arrived at the local ER.  When I got to visit her in the hospital the next day, I remember the sight of my mother, holding her hand, singing hymns and Christmas carols to her unresponsive body. 
On the third day, as my mother sang Silent Night to her daughter, she heard my sister’s voice join with hers.  Hannah had woken up.
This is the meaning of Christmas, lived out by the people I lived with. 
Mr. Brown, speaking peace to panicked kids as his own pain loomed like a giant wave above him. 
Kirsten, losing her life in the middle of obedience to Christ’s call on her to minister to kids.
My mom, singing Silent Night over my sister in total faith that God is our healer and restorer.
My sister, given back life through no merit or effort of her own, and, oh, so thankful for that gift.
And, yes, the tears fall when I sing Silent Night at Christmas.  Because this is a beautiful, broken world that our Almighty God was born to save.

Father God, we have joy and we have pain in this life.  I thank you for redeeming our pain and making our joy complete.

Pray

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  I Timothy 2:1-4

First of all pray.

Adah and leaves

I don’t know the results of the elections yet. I do know that whatever the results are –            I must pray.

Paul makes it very plain in his instructions to Timothy that I must pray as follows:

  • with petitions – requests for what I may want or need
  • prayers – expressions of my feelings and thoughts
  • intercessions – requests on others behalf, my family and friends, those suffering
  • thanksgiving – gratefulness for life and all my blessings

These four elements encompass all that we may face in the days ahead.

God is faithful and He calls us to pray. God does not need our prayers. We pray to focus our thoughts and hope on faith in God. We need to pray.

What a blessing it will be to show our children and grandchildren that we trust God with the results of this election! Pray together with these children expressing faith that God is faithful.

God has purposes far beyond what we imagine and sometimes those purposes involve success, disappointment, and even suffering.

God is faithful.

Pray.

 

I Don’t Know All the Answers

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“Why?”

Because God is God and I am not.

That is why I don’t know all the answers:
* It is not because I am not smart enough (which is true, by the way)
* It is not because I have not read the right kind of books (which is also true. I read all the time but “The Belly Button Book” only answers belly button questions)
* It is not because I have not faced the situations you face. (again, true, but inconsequential)

God is God and I am not.

I have two very dear friends who are facing circumstances that are beyond my understanding. In both of these families there is great suffering. The suffering is not the result of their sin, but SIN resulting from the FALL.

These are folks who love God and seek to serve Him whole heartedly.

They have been praying, friends have been praying, whole churches have been praying, people literally around the world are praying.

The suffering continues.

Why?

I don’t know all the answers.

I remember sitting on the floor in a large room at the University of Illinois – Urbana in 1973. I was seated on the floor because the room was full of college students like me. We were waiting to hear Elizabeth Elliot speak. Mrs. Elliot had lost her husband when he was murdered, after they had been married less than two years, by tribal people they were trying to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When I heard her speak that day, her second husband had recently died of cancer.

Why? I wondered.

As Elizabeth Elliot spoke, a calm assurance emanated from her person. I have never forgotten what she said. “Many of you are facing grievous situations now in your families, your schools, even with your friends. Some of you are broken hearted and feel that God has abandoned you. I don’t know all the answers to your questions…. but I know the One who does.”

What a powerful truth! God has the answer.

1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NLT)

12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

I have found the three words listed in verse 13 to be the key to my unanswered questions.

1) faith – I have faith that God is God and He is good. Terrible things happen, but God is GOOD and He can use those very circumstances FOR my good. I still don’t understand, but I trust God.
2) hope – when it is darkest, hope is the anchor that keeps me from drifting off into darkness. My hope is based on God’s faithfulness to me as His child.
3) love – God loves me and He has promised to carry me through all that I face in life. God’s love never fails.

Verse 12 says –
“All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” Someday when I am in God’s presence, I will know why.

I don’t know all the answers…..but I know the One who does.