This has been a weepy weekend for me. Yesterday and today was when teams across the country were walking in the Relay for Life. This is the second year that my sister’s team is walking in memory of her. The memorial page on facebook contains messages of those who were preparing to go and walk. They were wearing their hot pink t-shirts, with a pink ribbon and the words “in memory of fran” on the back. My mind and my heart were full of the thoughts of those in my family who would be at the track–my mom, my sister, my brother, my brother-in-law, and if she got the weekend off my niece. Those weepy moments, overflowed into my evening devotional time, when I couldn’t see to read through the tears, and I ended up in prayer, for all those who were walking this weekend, for all those who had ever lost a friend or family member to cancer, for my own family. It was good to grieve in the presence of God…. and I was reminded then of yesterday’s challenge in the joy project, to give thanks for 3 things in God’s word.
Three things in God’s word:
- First of I am grateful that God is a God of comfort. He understands our tears and our pain. He understands our grief. He seeks to walk with us, protect us, strengthen us, fill us with his peace, and show us his love and mercy in all circumstances. The words from Scripture that came to mind as I prayed last evening are these: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Cor 1:3-5. God is indeed the source of my comfort when I am in pain, when I am in doubt, when I grieve, and whenever I am anxious.
- The second word from God which I give thanks for I rediscovered as I was browsing through Henri Nouwen’s book, The only necessary thing on Thursday. I had resolved a little over two years ago, when we knew for certain that one of the congregations I worked with would close, that I would walk the walk of faith. I determined that I would trust God, because God had already proven himself to be trustworthy. I have learned this lesson many times in my life, simply because I have not walked the pathway of trust and confidence. I have faced situations with fear and anxiety. I have let them rule my life, and when I invited them in, I also made space for their companions, anger, resentment, hatred, complaining, whining, and hopelessness. Even worse I tried to control the situation by trying to make things work out according to MY WILL. I refer to those periods as the times when I was caught up in the storms of my own disobedience. This week I was feeling those stirrings of anxiety. I was growing impatient with waiting for God to reveal his will. I confess that I may have done some complaining when I prayed. So when reading Nouwen’s book I was reminded that God is always merciful. Nouwen quotes Psalm 91: It is he who will free you from the snare of the fowler who seeks to destroy you; he will conceal you with his pinions and under his wings you will find refuge. Nouwen adds his personal contemplation to those words, “Slowly those words enter into the center of my heart. They are more than ideas, images, comparisons: They become a real presence. After a day with much work or with many tensions, you feel that you can let go in safety and realize how good it is to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.” When I dwell in the shelter of the Most HIgh then I am able to live with faith, with confidence and with hope.
- The third gift from God’s word, follows a similar theme. It is found in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “for we walk by faith and not sight.” Yep, you guessed it. I was complaining that there was no visible evidence that God was working on my behalf. The evidence that God is working things out for my good and that God is preparing the pathway on which he seeks to bless me, is not what I can see with my eyes, but what I know from his unfailing faithfulness and from the many reminders in his word, that he is faithful and that therefore I can be faithful.
And that brings me to the joy challenge for today, Gifts that moved me. Those gifts are evidence that God loves me and that he surrounds me with people who love me.
- I wrote a few days ago about the painting of the church in Camlachie given to me on our last Sunday together and how it moved me to speechlessness. It truly was a gift of love and will remind me of the love that God’s people have for me and that I have for them, and that we are all wrapped in the arms of God’s love.
- My daughter is an expert when it comes to choosing gifts that are full of meaning. When I moved here from the east coast and she knew that I was missing the ocean she thought of me, and that year for Christmas I got a gift of the beach and the ocean. It was the most marvelous thing. It was glass box encased in a wooden frame and separated in the middle with a third pane of glass. In the sections that had been created was beach sand. One contained the red sand of one of our favorite beaches and another the typical grey beach sand. Each section contained little bits of flotsam and jetsam, some water rubbed pebbles, or beach glass, a crab shell, some seaweed. Her thoughtfulness and love in sending me a gift that touched my heart is revealed time and time again.
- Ah yes again, my daughter knows what gifts will touch my heart. Together, she and I and her husband had gone on whale watching trips, once on the west coast where we observed a pod of orcas, saw bald eagles and bears and a humpback. It was a magical trip. Then on the east coast we went on another whale watching trip and we saw wright whales. One came so close to the boat that it was an amazing sight. Just about close enough to touch. Those kinds of events are mystical. Seeing God’s creatures in their natural environment is a most precious gift. And some years later when she was at a craft sale she found a sun-catcher of an orca that she sent me for Christmas. What a joy to be reminded of the mystery of creation, and the joy of times spent with those whom I love.
These gifts are reminders of how much I am loved, first of all by God, then by family and friends. What have I to fear for the Lord God walks with me at all times?
I pray that your lives are as full of the love of God and the love of friends and family as my life. May you be blessed with out measure.