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Posts Tagged ‘Isaiah’

 

I try to take long walks over my lunch hour. One of my favorite spots is along the Cedar River. We have a beautiful downtown trail that hugs the river through town for over a mile, and will soon extend over the river in a beautiful bike/pedestrian bridge. We have all kinds of birds that use the river (and trail) as a food supply. As I was walking today I couldn’t help but think of the traits of some of these birds and how they mirror the traits of some people I know (no names, of course).

Year round, the Cedar River area teems with Canadian geese. They love the trail even more than I do…because they leave multiple deposits everywhere they go. They nest along the river, pecking along the grassy banks for whatever food geese eat. (This blog is not meant to be a science lesson on the habits of Midwestern birds.) And they are more than slightly territorial…especially at this time of year. When those male ganders see a pedestrian, they stick their heads pretty high in the air, make some serious hissing noises, and intimidate me to no end. Even if it’s all an act, they are very believable, and I go a different route.

We also have a crow problem. I’m mean a serious crow problem. Three years ago city workers installed dead crows in the trees to try to deter the living ones…maybe it worked to some degree, but not totally. As the snow is melting, it’s uncovering dead crows everywhere. Large, ugly birds…which I’m sure have a purpose on this earth…but while living, tend to be loud and obnoxious, pushing into others birds’ nesting areas and eating dead animals. Yuck!

Lastly, we have a large, but temporary, population of bald eagles. Last week I counted over 30 of the large, majestic birds perched on a tree along the river, sometimes swooping down to catch an unwary fish but more often, gliding beautifully up and up and up through the sky. Soaring_EagleI was mesmerized today by the three or four I saw on a different stretch of river. They were perched on a patch of ice, occasionally lifting off to glide just above the surface of the water, and other times, playing “chicken” with each other. One in particular kept my attention. At first he drifted above the river, close enough that I could see his beautiful white head. But as I watched, he soared higher, and higher, and higher, until he was just a speck in the sky. It was obviously a good day to fly.

I started thinking…what kind of bird am I? And, what kind do I want to become? Am I only interested in protecting what’s mine, taking over and leaving crap everywhere I go? Or maybe I’m loud and obnoxious, a bully that’s satisfied with taking what isn’t mine and pushing everyone around. No – I desire to soar on eagles’ wings. And that means I must place my hope in the Lord. Only He can cause me to rise above my circumstances, my fears, my disappointments. Only He can renew my strength and give me the ability to fly.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

 

 

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sorrow_longing_tears______by_Westia

(Note: A year ago I wrote the following article and it received the most views of any blog I had ever written, including any since then. Because it’s Black Saturday – that day of sorrow between Good Friday and Easter – and because recently so many friends are going through this grief journey, I’m reposting.)

I’m on my next to last “blogging through the 40-days of Lent” adventure. Today’s topic is hard. A lot of the other blog posts have had some difficulty, but this one today – giving up sorrow – is tougher than most. Because how can I presume to tell you how to grieve or when to stop. So I won’t. But I will encourage you not to allow sorrow to overwhelm you (forever). To choose to step outside your sadness for a few minutes each day…until you can look and see the deep grief is behind you.

I have a dear friend who lost the love of her life last summer. He had been ill and yet the suddenness of his passing was a shock to all of us. He was a wonderful man, loved and respected by so many…a great husband, father and grandfather as well as a supportive and generous friend to me and my family. The grief has been overwhelming for his wife, children and grandchildren. But each one has taken the baby steps necessary to continue to live their lives and honor the memory of this dear man.

My friend shared some of her grieving process with me. Losing a husband is different than losing a parent. The “oneness” feels broken. The grief includes anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, feelings of loss and even rejection. People’s attempts to comfort her often left her emptier, not encouraged; sadder, not exhorted. “You’ll always have your memories” turned into a trite phrase because it’s the remembering that hurts the most.

So, for those of you who are “walking through the shadow of death,” please know that “life sucks sometimes.” (Thank you, Ben Rector, for those poignant and truthful words.) We must keep going – we have responsibilities, we have people who count on us, we have a Father God who loves us unconditionally, even when the grief is so deep that you can’t get dressed or face another human being.

Try to get one thing done….mark one thing off your “to-do” list. Put sorrow away for a couple of minutes and face your day. Do a little more each day, or week, or month…than you did before. Meet someone for coffee. Write a few “thank you” notes. Bake a cake and take it to someone. Watch an episode of your favorite comedy and give yourself permission to laugh a little. Call someone you haven’t seen for a while. Read a new novel. Take a walk. Buy a new pair of shoes. Indulge in a rich, chocolatey dessert. Take a friend to a movie. Pray for someone else who’s facing a similar situation.

Jesus was a man of many sorrows, according to the prophet Isaiah. He knew suffering and grief. He knows your pain and sorrow. Lean into His grace today. He’s more than enough.

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Nothing.

I should probably just stop right there. That would be the shortest blog ever.

Simply put, fasting is to abstain from food, usually for a certain period of time or for a certain purpose.

The discipline of fasting is not unique to Christians. In fact, many religions are required to fast, including Muslims who fast from dawn to sunset for the month of Ramadan. During Lent, Catholics are asked to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and to abstain from eating meat on Fridays (hence those awesome fish fry dinners at every American Legion hall in America).

Though the Bible is full of references to fasting, from my observation, the practice is not a consistent discipline in an average  Christian’s life. Mine included. So yesterday, because I had a friend who desperately needs healing, I fasted and prayed all day. Well – most of the day. Well – from dawn until sunset…less than 12 hours. And I actually thought I deserved a medal or something.

This is my confession. I’m proud and arrogant when it comes to Christian disciplines and I have no will power when it comes to food. If I hadn’t left my normal lunch at home (and thankfully no one brought anything good to work yesterday), I probably would have caved by 10 in the morning. Why is it I think I’m starving after only one hour without food? Pathetic.

So – that’s my newest addition. I’d like to study the discipline of fasting, maybe read a book or two, and get into what the Scriptures say about this “doing without food” thing. I don’t anticipate any 40-day fast in my future…let’s be honest. It’s like telling me when I first started running that I would do a marathon that same year. Not going to happen.

But if the practice of fasting was a normal part of the people of the Word, it should be a normal part of my life as well. Thanks for reading – now, you can go back to your snacks.

Isaiah 58:6 – “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.”

Fasting-black-and-white

 

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Recently I’ve been focusing on getting physically fit and healthy. I’m not getting any younger and if it’s within my own choosing, I want to be healthy for my children’s adulthood and potential grandchildren.

My iPhone has opened doors to be fit with apps which allow me to measure my steps and my workouts. It even gives me cardio training suggestions. I have a goal to actually run a 5K this summer so I have an app that gives me a training plan. It even talks to me through the whole thing. Genius.

But with all my energy on getting my physical body in shape, I’ve let my spiritual man become a couch potato. Relaxing in the successes of the past doesn’t keep those spiritual muscles in shape so when a crisis hits, I’ll be huffing and puffing to keep up or worse yet, fail to even try and allow the enemy to steal my joy, my relationships and my strength.

So for the next few blogs I’m going to outline a few exercises you can do to get spiritually fit and healthy. And just like all fitness motivators will tell you – it won’t be easy but you’ve got to push through the pain to get the victory. Unlike your physical body, which will eventually give out no matter how healthy you are, your spirit stays with you forever.

My focus is not on gaining additional favor with God, to somehow look better in His eyes. He will not love me less because of my perceived failures. He adores me! And you too! You are choosing to get spiritually strong for your own self…because you’ll be able to step into the destiny God has for you with confidence.

Take a few minutes right now to open God’s Word and get a spiritual lift from reading a Psalm or two. The Holy Spirit is your personal trainer in this journey you’re on – use Him to teach, train and guide you to be a strong and healthy believer! Read Isaiah 41 and be encouraged.

Isaiah 41:9-10 – “I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’: I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Today’s motivation: Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.

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