Wednesday, November 20, 2013

High and Lifted Up

“Yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31, NASB95)

This morning before 4 a.m. (yes, before 4 a.m. it actually does exist) I got up to go get on an airplane. During the first leg of my flight I had the opportunity to sit next to a man named Jerry, who has a rare form of cancer for which he has stopped treatment. He was on a trip to several cities to visit his children and his grandchildren. We talked about several things, including his career that he retired from many years ago, his love for hunting and his hunting trips (including a recent one with one of his sons), and his family. During the conversation I asked him if he had given much thought to what was going to happen to him when he died. He told me in response that he was going to be cremated and his ashes were going to be scattered into the wind from a mountaintop, and then he went elsewhere in the conversation. A while later I brought the conversation back around to what happens when he dies, had he ever thought about his spirit, the part of him that was not going to be cremated? He said that he had, but that he wasn’t certain. He had some religious upbringing but didn’t really go to church, believing in God in his own way. He also told me that a minister was coming regularly to the retirement center in which he lived and they would talk. And again the conversation was led away. It was a short flight, and I could not get him back around, so I quietly prayed and I asked him if I could give him a little book that I really enjoyed that spoke about those things. I told him that it was a short read, and maybe in his hours ahead of flying he could read it. He said he would really like it. As we emptied our overhead compartment, I got out a copy of Andy Stanley’s little book, “How Good is Good Enough?” and I gave it to him. He was then ushered away in an awaiting wheelchair.

Having now caught my second leg and having a couple of hours to stare out into the blue sky above the clouds, I have time to catch up on sleep, which is not really an option as its pretty bright and this little plane can get a bit bumpy. I some time to talk with someone else, which I will have to get up to go do as the seat next to me is empty and the young couple across the aisle is very comfortable together. And I some time to read, think, and pray (including praying for Jerry as he flies to Denver and makes his next connection).

I’ve been thinking a lot about a verse in Isaiah lately. The verse quoted above is from him, and it is frequently referred to when people are going through struggles and are weakened because of them. It is a verse of refreshment, as our God is the one who not only gives us breath, but also refreshes that breath both physically and spiritually. A few days ago I took some time away from writing on the heels of some disappointing news to go out to my garage and make a couple of new whirligigs, which I call whirly birds because of my love for birds and my special attention to the uniqueness of them. I had in mind a particular friend when I started them who loves ospreys. Little did I know that as I was completing the pattern and posting a picture to her in a Facebook message that her beloved husband was would be taken from her and ushered into the presence of our Lord. It wasn’t till much later that night that I found out what had happened. The bird is now finished and the first one is hers. So today, I can and will pray for Deb and her family.

On the same day that Deb’s husband (Jerry) went to be with the Lord, so did my sister Margy, though no one knew about Margy until Sunday. It is because of Margy’s passing that I am on an airplane today, and it is because of the generous gifts of family, church, and friends that the trip is even possible. And as I have left my family for a few days, I am praying for them in my absence that God would protect them and provide for them, especially Robin who so much falls on for these days knowing also that she would have dearly loved to have come with me. So, on my flight I also can pray for my family both at home and the rest of my family spread around in the passing of Margy that they would know God’s peace. And for those who have not trusted in His Son, Jesus Christ, for their salvation that they would be given cause to question their eternity and moved to find true answers. I also can and will give praise to God for my brothers and sisters in Christ whose love has been shown in such very practical ways.

When I took off (both times today) I was impressed with the power of the plane as its thrust pushed its nose into the air and me back in my seat. It was a power that truly was able to lift up this plane and everyone on it. And the capable pilot is managing that power to bring us to our destination so that we might once again place our feet on firmly established ground. As I thought about this I thought of a couple of things. First of all, I thought of my friends and family this year who have experienced being lifted from this ground by our God and very capably and assuredly delivered safely into His presence. This was done by a power far greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine, for it was accomplished by our Savior who gave His life in payment for our sins and took it back up again bringing with Him all who would trust in Him for salvation. This is a great truth realized for those who have caught that flight already, and a great hope for those of us who are on the runway.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:6–9, NASB95)

I also thought of the power that was referred to in the opening verse. My God truly does have the power to lift up those who are beaten down by the various burdens of life, as He has promised to even take those burdens upon Himself. What He calls us to do is to surrender them to Him and to depend on the strength that He gives to go through them victoriously.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28–30, NASB95)

And lastly, as I open the window and look out to horizons that extend far beyond anything I can see when my feet are firmly planted on the ground, I am reminded of how vast and limitless my God is. All that exists both above and below was created by Him and held together by Him. He holds it all firmly in His hands, and just as surely as everything I see is His, so is everything I don’t see and can’t understand.

Isaiah brought a very powerful message both to the people of the time and for those of us who follow. He spoke of things both close at hand and that which was far off, and he did so faithfully as he was sent by the God who revealed Himself to Isaiah so gloriously. We read about his response to God’s call on his life in chapter 6 of Isaiah.

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”” (Isaiah 6:1–8, ESV)

I am praying for opportunities over the next several days to share this hope and I am also praying that I would be both sensitive to opportunities, wise in handling them, and bold like Isaiah to go where I am sent and to speak the message of good news that is so vitally important.

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:18–20, NASB95)

I’m unable to transmit right now. We’ll see what happens between now and when my feet next touch the ground. Not much conversation, but lots of thinking, writing, and praying.

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