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Be Still

Late winter is the season to prune fruit trees, before the sap rises and buds swell green and blossoms unfurl. A warm, sunny day makes the work pleasant. A calm day makes the work safe. My husband was pruning in the top of standard-size apple trees with a tall ladder and a sharp saw, so I was happy for the unusual lack of wind.

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I took advantage of the spring-like weather, too, and walked to the windbreak with my camera strapped around my neck and my down coat unzipped. What I heard that day was more remarkable than what I saw–a train.

Because of the nearly constant noise of traffic on the road and the ever-present wind, I have only heard a train a handful of times in the twenty-some years we have lived on this farm. The closest railroad line is ten miles away, but the faint rumbling on the metal tracks and occasional sounding of the horn came from a train rattling through a small town nearly fifteen miles to the north.

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What whispers from God will we hear in the calm places and quiet times? Will we be like Elijah who heard the “still, small voice” after the wind, earthquake, and fire passed by?

“Be still, and know that I am God;”   Psalm 46:10   NIV

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As I reread this week the Gospel stories of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, I noticed that the day before the Sabbath was called the Day of Preparation. In the Old Testament there was a great deal of planning and preparation that had to be made ahead of time in order to properly observe the Sabbath. That Saturday while Jesus lay in the tomb must have been a sombre time for the disciples, a time of reflection. Perhaps it helped them prepare to hear the Good News of the resurrection on Sunday morning.

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Do we prepare ourselves for the Easter shouts of “He is risen!” by listening and waiting the days prior to Resurrection Sunday?

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Do we need to prune away some of the busyness and noise in our lives to reap a better harvest later?

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;  Psalm 37:7   NIV

He is risen! He is risen indeed!

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Flowers, crown of thorns, cross/window photos by Barb Briggs

Illness, the Internet, and the Interstate

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Four hundred miles from home it began:  the rib-rattling coughing, the sinus-exploding sneezing, the bone-aching fever, and blanket-clutching chills.  A virus had set up camp in my respiratory system, and so our visit to relatives would need to be cut short.  I would miss seeing my niece and nephew elegantly dressed for their school dance.

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The photos of a town known for its spring flowers wouldn’t happen.  I’d only managed a few shots in the yard before the rain began (the first day of many).

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When I called my husband to tell him of the change of plans,  he shared the unwelcome news from home:  the internet was down (he wasn’t sure when it would be fixed), and the raccoons had been back on the front porch at 3 am, leaving behind “calling cards” that only raccoons can.

 Sigh.  Worse than the relentless march of the virus was the invasion of self pity.  It had crawled across my defenses when I wasn’t paying attention.  Did I really think I deserved a trouble-free life?

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 I tried to amuse myself on the long drive home by reading license plates of cars that passed us on the Interstate.  Who was the farthest from home?  What could their personalized license plates mean?

From the passenger seat I scanned semi-trailers, too, and tried to guess what the huge letters meant–were they acronyms or abbreviations?  One truck’s trailer had four large letters across the rear doors (C,R,S,and T), and I attempted to make words out of them.  The first badly-spelled word I created was “CuRST” (cursed).  Is that how I felt this week, despite my intellectual efforts to remain “thankful in all things?”  Then I realized I could have/should have made the word “ChRiST.”

Sigh.

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Three days after I returned home the internet was restored with a simple reset of the modem, which is exactly what I needed–a reset of my attitude.  I am grateful that changing the focus from my small “t” troubles to Jesus’ love and care helped transform my thinking.  A few days of attending to my body’s physical needs (sleep in my own bed, good food, hot tea, and plenty of water) helped a great deal, too.

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Do you remember the story of Elijah, when he ran for his life from Jezebel?  He was physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted.  He wished his life was over and fell asleep under the broom bush, but God did not condemn him or leave him in that state.

All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.  

1 Kings 19:5,6   NIV

God let Elijah sleep again and provided more food and water to prepare him for the forty day journey to Horeb (the mountain of God).  There the great Counselor gently asks in verse nine,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

Elijah answers that he has tried to be faithful to God’s call on him, but now he is the last remaining prophet and fears for his life.  God then answers him by revealing Himself.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.

After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

1 Kings 19:11-13   NIV

Elijah recognizes the “still, small voice” (KJV) is God’s.

Reset.  God starts over and asks a second time,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

and Elijah answers with the exact same words, but this time the Lord reveals His plans for Elijah’s (and Elisha’s) future and the encouraging truth that thousands remained faithful to God.  Elijah was not alone.

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I am grateful for the healing process that God has created in my body.

I am grateful that my troubles are small, developed-world inconveniences.

I am grateful that Jesus understands our frailties and is gentle with us, caring for us body, mind, and soul.

I am grateful for the “still, small voice” of the Lord.

I am grateful for the ability to “reset” my attitude and my relationship with Jesus.

Oh, and one more thing I am grateful for–the book I was reading when I became sick was Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven (by James Bryan Smith), and the chapter was “Bound to Come Some Trouble.”

I know there’s bound to come some trouble to your life

But reach out to Jesus and hold on tight

He’s been there before and He knows what it’s like

You’ll find He’s there

–Rich Mullins

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.   John 16:33   NIV

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Background sunflower photos by Barb Briggs

  linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

  linking with Holley Gerth at holleygerth.com

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linking with Lyli Dunbar

 

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