Stories… I love to sit and listen to the stories of others! Shared stories are the stuff from which whence wisdom springs. They are treasures, a testimony of times past and present, of growing up years, and of challenges and celebrations.
I remember many family gatherings and the sharing of memories and information, and am glad I collected some of my mother’s remembrances like, “Your grandfather had large hands. I remember how big they were when he held my hand in his.” She and my dad told me of hobbies and skills that our ancestors possessed, where they lived or grew up, struggles and hard times they went through, accomplishments and much more.
Do you remember stories shared through family or friends? As we smile and laugh about past antics and quirky natures, connections are formed. As we learn about struggles and pains, tragedy or overcoming, and doubts and faith, we gain deeper insights. Yes, stories are the essence of humanity.
It’s no wonder that Jesus shared stories, usually in the form of parables. Through them he taught the importance of discernment and truth, teaching in a form in which others could relate. He said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” * I like the way the book of Proverbs opens, expressing the importance of learning, wisdom, and instruction. *
Stories… from the head shaking, foot stomping, belly laughs of epic escapades to the deeply thoughtful, wonder-filled, or heart sighing moments, are of value and worth. They help guide us in our search and desire to gain perspective and understanding, which in turn can nurture compassion for others. May we value and treasure them and approach them with discernment and thought, gaining encouragement, and discovering a deeper connection and love for all peoples.
When my daughter was very young, she would sometimes awaken at night, afraid and crying. I would go to her and hold her, pray with her, and just be with her until she had relaxed and was able to go back to sleep.
There is something about the physical presence of a loved one that brings comfort and joy. Whether a parent with a child, friends, or family, their nearness fills a deep craving and brings satisfaction through that companionship.
How many of us after long separation have spent hours talking and “catching up” or enjoyed activities together? In the case of illness or injury, the presence of someone sitting quietly close by can bring a sense of security or well-being. Words are not always necessary. What a gift one’s positive presence can be!
In the same way, God’s presence with us is a great gift. In all of life’s challenges, sorrows, and celebrations God is with us. His presence is strong, steady, and eternal even when our pain or busy thoughts and activities are unable to perceive Him.
The psalmist praised God and thanked Him for being with him.
You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. *
As David fled enemies and faced impossible odds, he was fearful, angry, and sometimes depressed. Where was God during all of this?! Later, there was guilt too, as he faced his own failures and wrong doings. When the prophet Nathan came to David after David wrongly took Bathsheba, David expressed his great need and desire for God’s presence. He pled with God, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” *
While I so greatly need my personal time alone to process and rest, the presence of others is greatly appreciated too. Throughout my life, I have welcomed the comfort, companionship, and support of my family and friends. What a gift it is to know that there are others praying for me and to have good positive relationships with people who accept me for who I am and with whom we can join in our journey to grow closer to God.
How humbling and awesome that God’s presence came to be with us, giving us the ultimate example and filling that need. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). *
I pray that we may take comfort and strength from Him and faithfully reach out to others, even as they offer their own presence in times of need and times of celebration.
“I hope they get here soon. I can hardly wait to see everyone!” There’s something about time together with friends and loved ones that satisfies us deep down. We wait in anticipation for visits or celebrations, yearning to see them. We’re thankful for opportunities to be with family and friends and for the support and encouragement of others.
Time alone is important too. I value and look forward to my alone times because those moments turn me and stretch me toward our Creator. Struggles and challenges in life make me aware of my own neediness. Quiet times allow me to listen from the depths of my being.
One of my favorite pieces of music is “The Yearning” by Craig Courtney. He expresses so well our struggles and our desire for a better future, for Emmanuel… God with us. “There is a yearning in hearts weighed down by ancient grief… hearts that in the darkness hide… a yearning for tomorrow.” We find joy in a “Lord who visited His own.”
Job longed to see God. He said, “I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes, I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job had a lot to face and yet he still looked to God!
Don’t we all want things to go well and to make it through any difficulties? We want full and meaningful lives. We yearn for God with us. May our yearning be satisfied as we approach God, thanking Him for His sacrifice and provision, and may we live in anticipation and fullness of life, guarded by His presence.
• Select the best ingredients for life • A little salt improves taste • Tasting is discovery • Careful blending produces goodness • Adding character brings positive variety • Each variety has something to offer • Variety and unity are possible and desirable • Joining seasonings produces great things • Fellowship is important for growth and encouragement • Positive accomplishment is satisfying
I see it! There it is! As we approach the broad river and long bridge, our excitement mounts. Hours of watching for landmarks and anticipating our visit with relatives were soon to be rewarded. There’s the road, we proclaim as we turn up the hill on a winding country lane.
Whether traveling to visit family or friends, a special concert or conference, sports event, or other occasion… it is satisfying to finally arrive and to be a part of the activity. Focusing on landmarks, road signs, and other directions (maybe that voice from our smartphone), we are guided to our destination.
In my work, I do a lot of traveling over back roads to provide services in homes and day cares. I like to know how to get from destination to destination before I head out, although I am up to an occasional “adventure” as I connect less familiar roads when needed. Landmarks are welcome aides.
The prophet Jeremiah encouraged the Hebrew people to return not only to the land of their people, but also to God. Set up road signs; put up guideposts. Take note of the highway, the road that you take. Return, Virgin Israel, return to your towns, he said.*
But how do we get there? How do we travel through this life and how do we recognize the “road signs” to God? It can be a difficult and long journey. The landmarks may be new or forgotten along the way. The psalmist said, But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.*
I love that God gifted us all with an awesome road sign, his Word to us… a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.* Announcements! Encouragement! Cautions! Wake-up calls as well! As we look forward, God shows us. This way! There it is! I welcome suggestions, wise counsel, and support from others, especially those who have traveled similar paths. Think of all the people in life who have in some way impacted your movement from one destination to another. Decisions, small and large, are guided by our relationships with others and by our life experiences. Our faith is central to that.
The angels announced, “This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” The road signs were true and “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
With all the “stuff” crowding my vision and thoughts, I don’t always see the road signs. May God grant us quiet moments to refocus, to see and praise Him, our hope and our guiding light for each day. There it is!
When the Hebrew people were in the land of exile, home of the Babylonians, God first spoke to the Jewish priest named Ezekiel. He was only thirty years old! … God had allowed the people to be taken into exile because they had turned from Him, worshiping idols, offering their children as sacrifices, living immorally, violently, and selfishly.
God gave words to his new prophet Ezekiel to call them back to Himself, hard words and difficult messages. There were some really weird visions!
In one vision, there was a valley full of dry bones! “Ezekiel, can these bones live?!” “Only You know sovereign God!” “Prophesy, speak to these bones. I will restore them and put breath back into them.”
And so, Ezekiel obeyed and God did as He said He would.
Wow! Dry bones. Dead. Without life. Unable to stand. To walk. To serve God and care for others. God speaks, breaths on those dry bones (on us), and restores life. Sinews. Flesh. Bones knitting together. We begin to take on God’s character. The breath of God’s Spirit fills us and He raises His children to stand in that dark valley of dry bones.
Shepherd us, oh LORD I pray! Bring our dry bones to life! Breathe in us Your very being, That we may walk in You anew!