Monthly Archives: September 2015
The teaser for a feature segment on a local TV station promised a story about a monarch butterfly, a meteorologist, and super glue. It worked–I was curious, and I watched the story.
I knew that this is the time of year monarchs are preparing for their migration south. They are enjoying the nectar of the last, ragged zinnias; braving prickly lavender thistles; and resting in the clouds of purple aster blossoms before they fly to Mexico.
Except the butterfly in the news. Her wings weren’t working, and she wasn’t going anywhere.
The meteorologist in this story is also a pilot and has repaired airplane wings, so he has a special set of skills. He carefully glued the butterfly’s wings back together–twice. He and his girlfriend had compassion for the monarch and showed mercy.
What if our wings are broken, and we can’t fly? What if life injures us so badly that we can’t do the things we were created to do? We need someone who knows how to rebuild our lives, someone who knows how to fly, someone with skill, someone with power . . . and lots of super glue.
We need a mighty Savior who is the great Healer.
When John the Baptist’s messengers came to Jesus and asked Him if He was The One (the Messiah), Jesus answered with the prophetic words of Isaiah.
Go back to John and tell him all you have seen and heard here today: how those who were blind can see. The lame are walking without a limp. The lepers are completely healed. The deaf can hear again. The dead come back to life. And the poor are hearing the Good News. Luke 7:22 TLB
Jesus was The One. The one with the skill, the knowledge, and the power to heal us, body and soul.
In Jesus we find more than just the ability to help us–He wants to help us.
He is gracious and kind and extends mercy and grace to each of us. Even if physical healing isn’t His best plan for us in this world, he offers healing for our sin-damaged souls and compassion to comfort our broken hearts.
But I will restore you to health
and heal your wounds,’ declares the Lord,
Jeremiah 30:17 NIV
God, pick up the pieces.
Put me back together again.
Jeremiah 17:14 MSG
I bless the holy name of God with all my heart. Yes, I will bless the Lord and not forget the glorious things he does for me. Psalm 103:1,2 TLB
He forgives all my sins. He heals me. He ransoms me from hell. He surrounds me with loving-kindness and tender mercies. Psalm 103:3,4 TLB
He is merciful and tender toward those who don’t deserve it; he is slow to get angry and full of kindness and love. Psalm 103:8 TLB
Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. 2 Corinthians 4:17 MSG
So even if your wings are splinted and super-glued together, the Lord is healing you.
You will fly again.
That butterfly in the news story, perched on the woman”s shoulder–do you remember her name?
It’s “Grace.” Her name means “kindness, love, mercy.” The little monarch received mercy and grace, and so can we.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV
All photos (except zinnias) by Barb Briggs
Impossible Bees or The Back Story
Just in case you weren’t familiar with the reference in this week’s post and title, “But what if you fly?” here is the entire poem by Erin Hanson.
Did you know that these photos of bumble bees in flight were “impossible?”
Barb Briggs, the photographer, described the craziness of the hours spent trying to photograph the bees in flight.
In fact, someone . . . suggested I stop trying, that bees were too small to photograph successfully with my equipment. But I didn’t take the advice, and so glad I didn’t.”
Barb searched for ways to carry out God’s plan instead of looking for excuses as to why it couldn’t be done.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 NIV
But what if you fly?
Out of the question.
Has God ever placed a task in front of you, and your response was more “fight and flight” than obedience? I have all kinds of excuses (reasons, I tell myself). I can’t. I haven’t. I don’t. I’ll fail. I’ll fall. It would take a miracle. It’s just impossible.
Then I remember the impossible bumble bees. Didn’t a scientist “prove” that their wings don’t have enough lift for the size of their body and the weight of the pollen they carry? The calculations said they shouldn’t be able to fly.
Except bumble bees do fly.
That scientist hadn’t taken into account the mechanics of the movement of the bees’ wings. They move more like helicopter than airplanes. They fly!
The impossible is possible. Sometimes we get the explanation of how this comes to be, as we do with the bumble bee, and sometimes we rest in the belief that we will understand someday.
I remember Abraham and God’s impossible promise to him, and how Abraham’s faith led him to believe that God was able to do what He’d promised: to give him a son who would become a nation.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. Romans 4:18-21 NIV
I pray for that kind of faith. When God calls, I want to say, “Here I am,” the way Samuel did. I want to look for ways to carry out God’s plan instead of looking for excuses that it can’t be done. I want to be “fully persuaded” as Abraham was, so that when he was asked to give up his son, he believed that God could do the impossible.
I found a poem I’d written many years ago, called “Abraham,” and thought it fit today’s theme.
I peer over the edge of the precipice
at grazing sheep, insect-like below,
wondering if I dare
take the first step and walk
on the breath of the warm winds that brush my face.
Or will I plummet, arms flailing, cursing my foolishness?
All the plans, the God-breathed promises
for the future of my children
and my children’s children . . .
Did I imagine Your voice?
Was it just a dream, a nighttime fog
that evaporates in the scorching sunlight of reason?
Questions plague me like gnats,
doubts like biting flies.
What kind of God do I serve,
to ask this foolish sacrifice,
to bid me to take a fateful step in faith?
But You were good yesterday.
You are good today,
and I believe You will be good in all my tomorrows.
So I will take the step
and, upheld by the very air of Your breath,
I will fly.
My prayer for us all:
that we answer “Here I am” when God calls and that we learn to “fly” in faith.
- photos by Barb Briggs
- thanks to E. Wright for the inspiration and reminder of the verses in Romans https://asonebeingtaught.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/gods-choice-and-ordinary-people/
Bleeding Hearts: My Nephew
I learned today that September 6-12, 2015 is National Suicide Prevention Week, and today, September 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day, so I am revisiting this post originally published in July, 2014.
Filtered, morning sun from a single window softly lit the small, rectangular room where upholstered and folding chairs lined three walls. The members of two extended families, ranging from a toddler to those in their eighties, filled the seats. All sounds were muffled: sobs and sniffling, the rip of tissues torn from their cardboard box, subdued conversations in an adjoining room, and the chime of a grandfather clock down the carpeted hallway.
An open casket was centered against the fourth wall. We had come to see him one last time, to “pay our respects,” to say good-bye. As the time for the small, family-only burial service neared, everyone left the viewing room and gathered in the main entry area, discussing directions to the cemetery. I stepped back in and looked at my nephew’s still face a final time. Oh, Nathan, Nathan, what have you done?
Our hearts are broken: every mother, father, brother, and sister heart, each grandparent, every aunt and uncle, each cousin and friend. We have all fallen with the weight of this loss, and we are scraped and bruised, bleeding
To lose a young man we loved–who was only twenty years old and had such potential and such a gentle soul–is difficult enough, but in this way . . .
We are left with nagging questions and regrets: the should haves and could haves and would anything have? I can’t imagine the pain and despair and hopelessness that led you to this choice. I can’t imagine how your mind was painted with the wide, black strokes of depression.
I answer my own question: Nathan, what have you done? You became ill.
At the cemetery family members carried the casket from the hearse to the graveside, walking across the green grass sprinkled with sweet clover. Some sat in chairs, and some stood in the shade of a small, blue awning under the vault of a bright, blue sky.
We commended Nathan to God’s care and final healing. We listened to the reminder that Nathan’s name meant “gift of God.” He was. He is. We read his favorite scripture and sang his favorite hymn. Those who wished to share spoke of his life, his character, what he was like as a child, and how we remembered him best. After a season of dark illness, Nathan now rests in the Light of Jesus.
If I could have choked out the words at the graveside service, I would have shared this verse.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13
If faith falters, and hope slips away, love remains. Nathan may not have had a life “full of years,” but his life was full of love–his love for his family and friends and their great love for him.
And over all, covering all, forgiving all, healing all is the boundless love of God.
Nathan, age 10
* * * * *
If you are depressed and feeling hopeless, please, please, talk to someone. I am not a counselor or mental health professional, but I know you need to get help. Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor. Find a doctor or a counselor. You may need to call your local mental health center and schedule an emergency appointment.
If you know someone who is despairing, reach out. You may need to direct them to professional help. Offer to go with them to an appointment. If you have serious concerns, you may call the police who can go to the person’s residence to do a welfare check.
If someone you love has taken their own life, you may experience a range of emotions: from anger to sorrow. You may benefit from support groups and counseling .
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 NIV
. . . weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 RSV
* * * * *
When suicide strikes in the body of Christ — Please continue reading to the end of this article for links to suicide hotlines, prevention and awareness sites, and grief support for survivors.
* * * * *
bleeding heart flower photo by Heather Johnson of truelifewithgod.com
The pain was real, even if the cause is now forgotten and buried in the dust of twenty-some years’ passing. But I do remember the heartache I felt that day–
pain that made me wonder if God cared,
pain that prompted me to cry out for assurance that I wasn’t alone in my sorrow.
God, listen! Listen to my prayer,
listen to the pain in my cries.
Don’t turn your back on me
just when I need you so desperately. Psalm 102:1,2 MSG
Later that morning as I passed a window on the west side of the house, I saw three birds perched in the tall shrubbery: a male cardinal, a male goldfinch, and a male indigo bunting.
Was it a coincidence that these three birds, arrayed in primary-colored feathers, should be sitting
. . . in the same bush
. . . at the same time
. . . on the side nearest the window
. . . soon after I had prayed for comfort?
What are the odds?
Call to me and I will answer you. Jeremiah 33:3
I called. God answered.
* * * * *
Sometimes He answers our prayers in a vibrant, multi-colored “yes.”
But what if God answers differently?
Sometimes, for our own good and the good of others, He must say “no.”
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest. Psalm 22:2 NIV
Sometimes the answer is “wait,” and we learn to lean close to our Savior and rest, however impatiently, in his grace and loving-kindness.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning, Psalm 130:5,6 NIV
* * * * *
The word “trifecta,” (originally from the world of betting on horse races) now also describes a situation where three components come together at the same time 1 or an accomplishment that “involves three successful outcomes.” 2
The cardinal, goldfinch, and indigo bunting’s appearance was an avian trifecta of reassurance during a painful time in my life.
God hears and answers our prayers with the trifecta of replies: “yes,” “no,” or “wait.” Each is a successful outcome of the prayer process.
My prayer for us all:
May we continue to turn to the Lord with our heartaches and thankful hearts. May we seek, recognize, and accept God’s answers to our prayers, confident in His great love for us.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Psalm17:6 NIV
What I do, God, is wait for you,
wait for my Lord, my God—you will answer!
I wait and pray. . . Psalm 38:15 MSG
Listen, God, I’m calling at the top of my lungs:
“Be good to me! Answer me!”
When my heart whispered, “Seek God,”
my whole being replied,
“I’m seeking him!”
Don’t hide from me now! Psalm27:7-9 MSG
A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! Matthew 15:22 NIV
Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Psalm 4:1 NIV
Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11 NIV
I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms—
I’m celebrating your rescue.
I’m singing at the top of my lungs,
I’m so full of answered prayers. Psalm 13:5-6 MSG
goldfinch and three sunflowers photo by Barb Briggs
indigo bunting photo by By Dawn Scranton from Cornwall, Ontario, Canada (Indigo Bunting) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons