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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Unexpected Turbulence

 On the 20th of February, we, five of us, began our trip to attend our son/brother’s burial.  The day didn’t seem foreboding, just extremely sad, our Dan, 61 years old, had succumbed to a brain tumor three days before.

We pulled into the Peoria Airport, checked in, went through security about noon and began the act of patient waiting.  Soon we were told there would be a delay because of the heavy fog.  The fog clung to the tarmac in thick clumps and the plane circled for a time and unable to land, departed without us.

Everyone in our group was designated an official title:  Tim is the Official Driver and “Make it Happen” Officer, Paul is the Official Communications Officer, Alyssa (granddaughter) is the Official GPS Navigator, and Karen was the Official Other Options Officer.  Soon a meeting was convened, new reservations made, old reservations cancelled or delayed, and we were on our way to Chicago with new flight reservations for Atlanta at 6:25 am.

We arrived at a hotel near Chicago in the evening.  We were all intent on checking in and getting some rest as we would have to leave for the airport at 4 am to stash vehicles and board the plane by 6:25 am.

There was one problem, I fell.  I slipped onto a curb, hitting my head.  A knot swelled up. We checked in the hotel, and I laid down immediately.  Paul, Tim and Karen had an official meeting and called the EMT’s.  I answered a lot of questions occasionally opening my eyes. One EMT said he was going to ask me a crazy question.  I replied, “Then I will give you a crazy answer.”  Soon they took me to ER for a CT Scan, X-Ray on my wrist to confirm no break. Finally I was able to return to the hotel.  We slept for 45 minutes.  Five sleepy people climbed into vehicles for the short trip to the airport, dropped Karen and me at the terminal.  We found a wheel chair and waited. Stashing vehicles in Long Term Parking took too long and we missed the flight to Atlanta.

Then we looked at each other.  What was God teaching us with the delays.  I sent a prayer request to my three prayer partners.  We discussed Options.  Tim came up with the $11,000 rental of a Lear Jet.  Another idea was to drive in a van 11 hours.  That was nixed, too, we were all too tired to drive.  All we knew was we had to get to Atlanta.  We waited for a standby and thought about splitting up. 

We waited with anxious hearts and praying.  We heard the announcement for the flight to Atlanta.  After everyone had boarded, we heard the announcement for the 5 standby passengers to board.  Tim looked at all of us with wonder.  “It is God!”  We boarded with thanksgiving in our hearts and settled down for the short flight God made possible through the prayers of his saints.

Again we sat in an airport waiting as Tim and Alyssa found the rented SUV.  Alyssa GPS-ed us to the hotel in Peachtree City.  After we checked in, I slept for several hours. And thought about what was planned – the visitation.  I took measure of the blessings God had given us.  My injuries were not intense enough to warrant a hospital stay.  We arrived in time to attend the visitation and the funeral.  We were together.

The visitation was a whirling of tears and laughter, meeting the McGinn family, hugging our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  We saw pictures of Dan through a lifetime via the DVD that Caitreona made for us. (Online now)  Our friend drove from Rogers to attend, too, so our Arkansas church family was represented.

Friday dawned bright and crisp with bright sunshine. February 22, 2014, the day of our son’s burial. A good night of sleep was the preparation for the day. This is it.  The day that we hoped and prayed would not be.  After a fast lunch, we arrived at the funeral home.  Paul, Tim and I were to read and say a few words, along with Coley, Demian, Katie and Dan’s wife, Linda.  A beautiful and fitting memorial for Dan filled with remembrances, wisdom from the ages and laughter.

We travelled to the cemetery laid between groves of trees. After prayers, Dan’s body was lowered into the earth. His soul was with God and Dan had already been reunited with his twin brother, Donny.  After earth and flowers marked his place, family visited.  Much to my surprise, Aunt Irene’s three sons who live in the area came to visit briefly. 

One dear little lady, Agnes, came with her sweet smile and handed me a tiny angel topped container.  She opened the lid and showed me four small jewel-like pebbles.  Pointing to each, she said, “Faith, Hope, Charity and Happiness.”  That expression of love from Agnes was a reminder of the precious love that is given to all of us.

After we left, we drove to our granddaughter Katie’s home.  A sumptuous feast of love and food awaited us there.  It was difficult to say goodbye to Linda, Demian, Katie and BJ, and their three children.

The next morning we would be on our way home.  It was a tumultuous time.  Soon we were cocooned in the airplane seats. I listened to the roar of the powerful American Eagle engine and a parade of memories came through my mind.  The uncertainty of travel at the beginning of the flights, the fall that left its mark on my face, the waiting exercises, the faces of loved ones that we found, the words that were shared about Dan, the obvious love and affection that everyone held for our son occupied my thoughts.

As the plane lifted into the air, I heard the pilot say, “Please keep your seatbelts buckled for unexpected turbulence.”  The flight glided through the air smoothly with only a dip or two as I realized that life is a flight with ‘unexpected turbulence’.  The only thing we can do is to tighten the safety belt to have a safe flight to our destination. 

Our safety belt is made of God’s Gifts to us for the ‘flight’ – Faith, Hope and Charity, plus Trust and the Fruit of the Spirit.  We cinch those tight in our hearts and our flight is successful.  Yes, I will miss Dan’s presence here on earth. As Paul said, “I realize I can’t pick up the phone and call my brother now.”  Just as I entrusted God to ‘tuck in’ my family years ago when we moved to Arkansas, I know that God loves Dan even more than I ever could. 

Galatians 5:22-23 – But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Psalm 121
I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps.
The Lord himself watches over you!  The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night.
The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.

John 14:1-4

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  And you know the way to where I am going.”

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How Big Is God?

 I met my Grandmother Suderman in the first year of my life.  I was her first grandchild.  There were small moments during my life that imprinted themselves on my heart.  Seeing her bent over working in the garden, carrying eggs in her apron to the house,  bringing pumpkin pie to the table on a bright sunny Sunday morning on the farm and hearing her pray for each of her grandchildren in the dark of the night in her bedroom and her happy smile.

I love the stories my Mom told about Grandmother’s faith and love.  Grandmother had ten children.  Four children died and were buried in the Ebenfeld Cemetery.  Daniel (1901-1907), Gerhard (1904-1904),  Hilda (1911-1912),  Paul Gerhard (1914-1916). When Daniel was 6 years old, he asked his Papa to put the halter on the horse by himself and he gave permission.  Somehow the tame horse was spooked and Grandpa and Grandma heard hoofs pounding on the driveway.  They saw little Daniel battered and beaten.  After Daniel was buried, Grandma walked out to the orchard to stand beside the blooming cherry trees.  Here she literally shook her fist at God as she cried out, “You took my son…so take the cherries, too.”  Grandma wept and fell asleep.

“The next morning the house was cold.  When Anna looked out toward the orchard, she saw the cherry trees blackened with frost in the morning sun.  The sight gave her a strange peace.  God had answered her prayers.”  (From The Lines are Fallen by Anna Daisy Siemens) (http://emilys-snippets.com/family-suderman/vi-tragedies/) 

Grandmother Suderman accepted the deaths of Gerhard, Hilda and Paul.  Once each year she took out the box of a few of the clothing her babies wore.  She held each piece, remembered and prayed for each precious child.  The sampler mentioned on this page hangs in our Dan’s home.

Did my Grandmother learn to accept life—and death and misfortune?  I think she must have memorized the wisdom of Solomon from Ecclesiastes 3:1-3.  For her life was filled with faith and prayer through all adversity during her 50 years of marriage to Gerhard Suderman. 
“For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.”

There are no answers for our ‘why’s’ – except to accept and trust God as a child.  No wonder we are to be as little children, abandoning ourselves to God.  Trusting, crying out to God for direction and comfort.   Who is this God, this Creator of the Universe?  Why do we often want to circumvent his leading?  Why do we desire our wilful way instead of listening to God?  Why is it so easy to try to de-God and elevate ourselves, in our lives? 

How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! Romans 11:33b
How do we measure God’s love?  His love is bigger than earth itself, our galaxy or universe.  Before time, God’s love IS.  His love is infinite – without beginning or end. We can never understand his love or his ways.

Every time I see an intricate snowflake falling from the sky, every time I learn more about this universe that God put into motion, the more I understand just how small I am.  And I leap with joy and praise of the blessings He gives us all.  First of all, He created me and was with me as He knit my bones together in my Mom’s womb.  I am blessed to see His light around me to keep me from stumbling in the dark.  I saw His light in the countenance of both of my parents as they drew their last breath. This gave me comfort.

Through death, I understand what the important things of life are!  It is love for God is love. And then we remember who we are in this universe and why we are here.  Simply to love.  The very first memory verse I learned was, “God is Love.”  I didn’t know then how many facets there are in love.  As one man said, Love IS.  There is no beginning and no end to love.  Just as The Word declares in Revelation 21:5-7 - He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

 Once again, death has come. This time death came to close the eyes of our son, Dan, last night.  Memories of Dan flood my heart and soul.  Once again I can affirm with tears how precious our son is.  The emptiness of my heart is filled with prayers and love.  How often I think that those two things that fill me with thanksgiving and the promise we have through Christ Jesus of eternal life.
I found this on line… When we're filled with God's love, where can selfishness, pride and hate live?
Love is the first of the fruit of the Spirit.  My grandmother learned the true measure of love as she opened the box of memories of her four babies every year. When Dan’s twin did not live at birth, we tasted a small measure of the sting of death. This time death has taken a piece of those who knew and loved Dan.  There are no cherry blossoms in bloom, yet Grandma Suderman left an unmeasurable legacy of faith, joy and love that strengthens me.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Ephesian 3:17b - 19



Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Surrounded by Words

Have you ever wondered, from all the words you have ever heard, which one is your favorite?  Or which phrase is pleasing?  And why do you chose those words?  Which word stirs imagination and sees beyond what we most often see and leads us to think?  Which words cut deep into our hearts and which words raise us from the depths of despair to glorious heights of encouragement?

It is delightful to listen and watch children as they explore their world.  Such as the young mother who explains the purpose of ‘deer crossing signs’ to one little girl.  She promptly asks where the Chicken Crossing signs are because “Chickens have to cross the road, too!”  (One too many Why does the Chicken cross the road stories?) The same little girl explained to her mother why her eyelashes are so long – “I’m letting them grow out!”  One 6th grader wrote the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner for a music assignment.  The teacher was astonished to find out that “The Robin’s red breast”, replaced “The rocket’s red glare”. One young child had an amazing change to the chorus of Trust and Obey. “Jump and Obey….for there is no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to jump and obey”.

Although I learned the “Sticks and Stones” quote.  Through the years I have learned that words cut and the wounds may never heal no matter how hard we try to forget.  It becomes a wound that is spirit-deep.  When a teacher declared my question ‘stupid’, I learned three lessons, patience – for another student would ask my question soon, silence is golden and how not to teach.

Unthinking, unfeeling words like stupid, fat, ignorant, dumb or ugly create a world of forever-hurts and the heart closes, eyes grow dull. Meanwhile the words forgiveness, wonder, amazing, creative and lovely give freedom and the willingness to flourish.

I learned that someone besides me had an intense desire not to participate in the Red Bird Reading Group in the first grade.  When once learning to read, and the story begins to lure the reader to another world, it is extremely difficult to will the mind to trudge back ten pages to read out loud with the group.  Freedom to learn and to think – now how can we find this?

In 2013, I followed through with Thanksgiving Bible verse posts on Facebook.  This year this small exercise grabbed my heart and made a difference in my life. In the morning I let someone else choose the verse through an app.  In the evening I choose a word and find a Bible Verse that speaks to me.

One evening I had a Facebook Chat with a friend I haven’t spoken to except briefly once since 1997, after I posted this verse: "Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes." Psalm 37:7 

Reading His Word matters in so many ways.  It helps us find answers to who and why we are in this world.  It gives us purpose, strength and most of all faith in the who God is.  God’s Word is to reprove, rebuke and a love letter to those who love God.  If we were able to take God out of our world, we would find it devoid of law and emptiness.  Consider these words - sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties – from Galatians 5:19-21a.

These are ugly words to me.  They are filled with unrest and of the world.  The words that are beautiful to me come in the next few verses of the same chapter.  These are the words that provide reasons for living - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These are the words that paint a sunrise of hope.  These are the words that create trust.  These are the words that build a life that serves God.   A life that ripples across the horizon through many generations and is remembered with a heart love-legacy.

Though we live on this earth a short while, we leave a legacy of words and impressions with those around us.  The tongue tells others who we are and what we are about. The social media flings our words across the world in sound bites.  Do these words encourage or show a critical spirit? 

Are words important to God?  Yes. Consider these four scriptures:
Genesis 1:3-5 - Then God SAID, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God CALLED the light “day” and the darkness “night.”  (God used words to create the universe)
John 1:1-5 - In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Matthew 3:6-7 - After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him.  And a voice from heaven SAID, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”
Hebrews 1:1-4 - Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.

How magnificent is our God.  His Word is Mighty.  His Word is Jesus Christ, the One and Only.
  May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.  Psalm19:14

  Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.  II Corinthians 13:11

Comments? eacombs@att.net

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Waiting...

What is the secret to waiting patiently?  Have you ever been stuck in an endless line, tapping your foot?  Suddenly I have a picture in my mind of a long line, each person tapping, and a ‘Waiting Line Choreographer’ appears and suddenly waiting is the thing to do! It becomes a Flash Line Dance.  Others smile and catch the rhythm, whipping out their phones to snap pictures. 

Is there a college course in The Art of Waiting?  The outline of the course in Waiting includes Patience, Peace, Love, Joy, and Kindness. We are not born with the ability to wait patiently.  There are thousands of moments when waiting is required in our lives.  Those moments teach us to wait for a purpose and realize that there are others who have purposes.  Playing Hide and Go Seek is a beginning of learning.  I remember that tingly-all-over feeling while I waited, wondering if I chose a successful hiding place or not.  Then there is waiting for supper, waiting for Christmas, waiting for a birthday, waiting to show Dad my report card.  Waiting includes the tingly-all-over feeling labelled Anticipation – either negative or positive.

A bride-to-be waits for the appointed day to be happily married to her handsome groom.  A mother-to-be waits for the birth of her child. The last several weeks seem endless. 

Waiting during life and death moments seems endless.  The dread of change, separation from what is that cause a feet-in-molasses trudge through time. Moments come into our lives, when a disease, a sickness or the end to a surgery, then waiting seems endless.  Being alone compounds the helplessness of waiting.  Change in our lives heightens our senses and we long for peace and the freedom to laugh again.

Waiting is easier when there is peace and sweet anticipation, not darkness and dread.

Recently I received this link in my email and I read the numbers in astonishment.  http://www.flixxy.com/hubble-ultra-deep-field-3d.htm.  “We pointed the most powerful telescope ever built by human beings at absolutely nothing, just because we were curious, and discovered that we occupy a very tiny place in the heavens,” the narrator says.  When the Hubble Telescope is pointed at an “empty” area of the sky, the images of over 10,000 galaxies appear in the telescope’s long-range view:  Photons of these galaxies have traveled for 13 billion years to record their images for us to see.  (The graphic above is made by capturing a photo from the video.)

I can imagine an impatient galaxy wondering why it takes so long to travel just to be seen.  This is another example of waiting that God has ordained.

He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28b

The portion – ‘but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him’ – gives us a purpose for waiting and the way to wait – eagerly.  Over and over the words we find the way to wait. Patiently – Psalm 27:14; Quietly – Psalm 62:1,5; Weeping - Psalm 69:3; Hopefully – Isaiah 8:17; Eagerly – Romans 8:19; Confidently – Romans 8:25, I Corinthians 1:17, Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 9:28.

Then what is it the purpose for which we are to wait patiently, quietly, weeping, hopefully and confidently?  The Great Day of Judgement – Jude 1:6; Lord’s Return – James 5:7, Philippians 3:20, I Corinthians 1:7; Salvation – Hebrews 9:28; Receive What God Promises – Hebrews 6:15, Romans 15:4, Romans 8:23; Righteousness – Galatians 5:5; Simeon waiting for Messiah to come – Luke 2:25, Mark 15:43; Salvation/Save - Micah 7:7, Lamentations 3:26, Isaiah 51:5, Isaiah 33:2;  Hope – Psalm 62:5.

Suddenly, I know.  All of the ways that we wait are focused on one ultimate event, larger and more wonderful than we will ever experience.  Learning to Wait in a lifetime is a picture of eagerly awaiting the second coming of Jesus Christ.  I love the verse in Acts 1:11,  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “Why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

Our one purpose here on earth is to live and wait for that moment.  We do not know the hour or time, but we are awaiting His coming.  We are prepared through a steady growing faith and trust in the One and Only Jesus.  Our thoughts and actions are motivated by his sacrifice on the cross because of His continuous love for us.  No one can take His Place in our hearts.  We will be faithful to the end to the one who loves us unconditionally when we choose Him.  None other, just Jesus.
Our waiting brings that tingly, expectant watching, when we read Mark 14:62…Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

His grace, freely given contains forgiveness, covering of our sins and the promise of eternal life.  No one but Jesus lives on the right hand side of God.  No wonder we sing – praises to our King.  In the anticipation of the end of waiting, no world enticement can take His place or give us so much to live...eternally with him.

Every time I am forced to wait, and wonder why, I remember that waiting strengthens Peace and Patience in anticipation of Joy in that great day of the Lord!

• And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. II Peter 3:14
• Dear brothers and sisters, be patient as you wait for the Lord’s return. Consider the farmers who patiently wait for the rains in the fall and in the spring. They eagerly look for the valuable harvest to ripen. James 5:7
• So also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.  Hebrews 9:28

• But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.  Philippians 3:20

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