I want to be a good soldier in the army of my Lord.
Whether decked in full battle dress on the field or wearing the apron as I wash pots and pans in the mess hall.
Whether bending to listen to my littlest neighbor’s story or bending to help Sweet William put on shoes.
Whether with a full class of Truth seekers or alone in the morning quiet with the Father.
Whether at a filled church house or sitting at the kitchen table live-streaming a Sunday service.
I learned Onward Christian Soldiers as a child, and tears fill my eyes as I pray the prayer, “I want to be a good soldier,” because I am weak, with feeble hands and the knees that give way, struggling to go the distance some days. I don’t want to miss the purpose or what I’m meant to learn in this season. I pray for eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that is open to the still small Voice, however hushed it may be.
My morning Bible reading takes me to passages encouraging me to “be strong.” God spoke it to His children, the ones fearful yet willing to put on His armor for battle.
He commanded it to the Israeli nation about to cross the Jordon and to Joshua as he prepared to lead them.
He declared it to David as he was on the verge of becoming king, and He repeated it twice to Daniel upon receiving a future vision to much for him.
So the Father whispers it to me this morning. “Be strong, daughter.”
It isn’t my physical stamina that will sustain me nor any talents or gifts I’ve been given. Only in abiding in my Lord will I find the strength I need for this journey.
Stronger than I think possible. Stronger than my physical ability. Stronger because He is strong in me.
I noticed the envelope in the mailbox, all bright and cheery, and it made me smile.
Young enough to be my daughter, she is a long-time friend, since a teenager, her with the enthusiasm for life that has not dwindled through the years. Together we shared Bible study, birthday parties, yard-sale treasure hunting, and cups of tea at the kitchen table. When she moved away, we kept in touch by letters. Hers were always so much fun, brimming with cute drawings, punctuated with her funny sayings, and filled with colorful stickers fitting her purpose. It was like a visit on stationery.
She is a mature young woman now with a husband, a daughter, and farm animals occupying her life. Letters are fewer between us. Finding one in my mailbox from this esteemed friend was a delight.
I always take my time, examining the envelope first, slowly opening it, and sitting down to read her missive. The contents are newsy and the words conversational, almost as if she were sitting across from me.
She and her husband feel the Lord’s leading in a new direction. I read of their journey thus far, anticipating a road of endurance requiring trust in the face of obstacles, one with an uncertain future. They believe this is their calling.
I breath prayers after I lay down the pages. This path will be hard, not for the faint of heart, but the faithful of heart. There will be mountains to climb, rocky and steep. There will be days when it seems their efforts are not enough. Knowing her, I expect she is fully aware, trusting in the God who leads us through uncharted waters with only Himself as the light. When the storms come, and they will come, she will learn to hold to an unchanging hand.
I send a message to her that I am just a phone call away and will be here if she sends out an SOS. I determine to begin a letter to my friend in the coming days, and I write their names on my prayer list.
The next morning Steven Curtis Chapman sings on the CD player, music lifting the atmosphere and turning our hearts heavenward and away from the burdens of life. As I help Sweet William prepare for the day, Steven is singing our song, “I Will Be Here,” and the words ring true: “When the mirror tells us we’re older, I will hold you, and I will be here . . . I will be true to the promise I have made, to you and to the One who gave you to me. I will be here.“
I remember the vows made, me in a white dress and him in a black tuxedo, making promises before God and the company gathered, not knowing what they would require of us. We both had on rose-colored glasses standing there in the church and for many months after. But eventually the rose fades and we see clearly that life is hard. God never turned loose of either of us, determined to pour out His grace and complete the work He planned.
Almost fifty years later, Sweet William and I cherish the vows we made to one another, knowing they have tested us, tried us, and kept us committed to one another in spite of ourselves. We were called to a hard obedience, a faithfulness only made possible by a faithful God infusing His strength in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I think of my friend starting a new journey into the unknown, and I recognize obedience will be required, when things are going well and when they are not. God will be there in it all, calling forth His strength in them when the task is beyond their own.
When I’m feeling loved and happy, when I’m feeling all alone When I’m failing to remember all the love that I’ve been shown Every beat of my heart is another new place to start to know This is a moment made for worshipping
And I wonder if the hard obedience, the moving forward when God calls us to follow, the days we press on by sheer grit, tenaciously believing God is with us in this . . . can this be counted as worship?
When we keep trying though we are weary . . .
When we get up after falling down yet again . . .
When we love by our actions because the feeling is faint . . .
When the tears flow down because we don’t understand the plan . . .
When we follow not knowing where He leads . . .
When we’re tempted to give up but know that only Christ Jesus has the words of Life . . .
The hard obedience, counted as worship. May it be so.
Weeks pass and I struggle to put my thoughts down. My journal writing rambles as I try to make sense of the world and my own mind.
Concerns lay heavy. Prayer becomes like breathing. Life is hard while at the same time it is good and beautiful.
I cling to promises in Scripture, the pages of my Bible marked and familiar. I hold on for dear life, for myself and those I love. I know God is strong and He is faithful.
When the load feels especially heavy, I try to preach the truth to myself. It is a consistent effort. It’s easy to tell someone else what to do, and a major endeavor to do it myself. I plan to list daily blessings, there are so many, but sometimes I forget.
It is a season of change.
The trees in the yard are mostly bare from a rushing wind swirling leaves to the ground. Autumn is moving toward winter, the chill affecting tender plants and the landscape in the gardens. I reach for a warm scarf when I head outdoors.
Every season teaches and reminds me.
What can I learn from this present season of my life? That is the question I am asking myself. How can I be joyful? How can I serve faithfully? How can I love freely? How can I show kindness and patience? How can I be Jesus’ ambassador in the current climate?
Not by my own strength, that is for certain, for I am frail. I need a power beyond myself, a strength more that this body affords. And so my prayer becomes a request for the fullness of God to fill me, the Everlasting Father infusing the mortal and fallible, the weak being made strong.
It is an audacious request, yet I make it. I write the words of this weighty petition and place them before my hungry eyes. I want to see them with heart and mind, to remind myself to ask, to knock, to seek for the One and Only who fills my cup until it runs over.
” . . . that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” — Ephesians 3:19b NIV
“and you have been given fullness in Christ . . . “ — Colossians 2:10a NIV
All I need . . . I will find it in Jesus. Fill me, Lord.
For out of His fullness, the superabundance of His grace and truth, we have all received grace upon grace, spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift. — John 1:16 AMP
It seems like only yesterday though it has been closer to 50 years ago.
I reached to take Sweet William’s arm, and as I did his muscle flexed. I could feel the strength in it, in him, and I knew I was protected.
I felt the same way growing up with my dad, who was a carpenter by trade. The muscles in his arms were big and powerful from swinging a hammer all day long. With my dad close by, I was not afraid.
Isaiah prophesied of a coming rescuer,
“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (53:1)
When Mary went to the home of Zachariah and Elizabeth, she and her elderly relative had a moment of praise and she said,
“He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;”
The arm of God represents His strength. His power and might come to the aid of His people by the representation of His strong arm.
And in a small village called Nazareth the might of Creator God was nestled in the tender womb of a young girl. At five weeks of her pregnancy, there was evidence of arm buds. Sinew and muscle slowly formed around a tiny bone, and by mid-point of the pregnancy, baby could move his arm to suck his thumb.
The strong arm of God came to rescue us in an astounding way. Who could have expected this?
God wrapped in flesh, blood flowing through a human body. He made Himself like us so He could redeem us by an outstretched arm on a wooden cross.
The arm of the Lord was revealed to us, His love the most powerful strength of all.
There is no other like that. He is Savior Christ the Lord.
The nightly news is full of heartbreak, calamity, death, confusion. Sweet William and I feel the weight of tragedy in the world, in our communities, and among our own friends.
Digging a hole and burying our heads sometimes seems a viable option.
On the other hand, this is November, and I remind myself during this month especially to look for the light in the darkness. And so, I write out my blessings.
My piano students practicing to play difficult Christmas pieces and sounding good.
Attending Joy Group for the mature in body/young at heart and being welcomed by many.
Sitting at lunch with Karen and us chatting up a storm.
A meet-up with Amy at Panera Bread for coffee and a cranberry-orange muffin.
Lunch with Shirley, her flavorful potato soup, and the encouraging conversation.
Recital where my students were awesome!
Laughing and having fun with Helen as we visited a local craft fair.
Sweet William being sassy and fun, causing me to chuckle.
Time change and falling forward, enjoying that extra hour I’ve been waiting for since spring.
My granddaughter’s 17th birthday, pictures on Facebook of her opening the birthday box we sent, and her saying it was just what she wanted.
Grace to endure the distance and the miles between us.
K and M coming on their day off from school, talking, playing piano, making crafts, listening to music, them shedding their light all around.
Early prayer time with Julie who knows the highs and the lows of me like none other and loves me still.
Sweet Anna here to help me, her bringing her own brand of joy to us.
Life is hard, no doubt. There will always be trouble and problems. I could focus on that while despondency begins to wrap its bone-chilling arms around me.
Or I could pray for those in need, giving them to the God who is strong enough to carry the weight of the world on His shoulders, who knows what each person needs before I try to tell Him, who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all I can ask for or imagine.
Then I am free to count blessings and look for His gifts. Then I can rejoice and be very glad.
“Indeed, these are but the outer fringes of his ways! How faint is the whisper we hear of him! But who can understand the thunder of his power?” Job 26:14 NET
The news reports of winds and waves and power that unnerves us all, a power that is uncontrollable. Predictions are updated as the power directs its own course, and no one really knows where the wind will blow.
I understand that the God of creation made this world in beauty and perfection with all things in proper order for life and health and prosperity. But something went wrong, sin entered the heart of man, and all creation groans under the weight of it.
Yet, God provides grace upon grace, mercies unlimited, and a love that is everlasting. Even when the winds blow and the sea rages, He is God and His dominion has no end.
He is all-powerful and deserves our reverence, our awe of Him who holds all things in the energy of His hand.
Man was given a limited creative power that is wonder-filled when it is used for goodness. Beauty and ingenuity result. But his power unleashed with selfish intent leaves devastation in its path.
One day the Father of creation will make all things new again.
We must bow to the only wise God whose power is perfect, whose goodness is inherent, and who works all things according to His good plan.
Give Him the glory due His name. Trust His heart. Lean into His love. Believe in His salvation.
It is the only safe haven in the power of the storm.
The house is dark, one small lamp burning by the chair where I sit and read, write, think.
I watch the light begin to appear through the front window facing east, and I see the moon setting slowly in the west horizon. God causes the universe to continue in it’s swirling. He hung each planet and star and set them in their order. He planned this place called earth for mankind.
I read the Psalms and pray them in a whisper, feeling faith rise in my heart because these are His words. He gave them. He is the One who will be faithful to complete them.
We walked down the gently sloping hill into the flat plain below, a group of us, and I was among the oldest in the group. Making careful progress, someone said to me that the climb back up would be harder.
After we completed our exercise, the group turned toward the hill that now didn’t look quite so gentle to me. It appeared more daunting. I anticipated the struggle as we began to climb upward.
Just then a man walked up beside me and offered me his arm. He is young, young enough to be my son. He is strong from working out in the gym. And he is surefooted.
Holding to his muscled arm, I suddenly felt able, assured that I would make it up this hill, even if it was a challenge and my breathing would be heavy by the end. Because now I didn’t walk alone. I walked with a companion who was bigger than me. He was capable. He was tenacious. And suddenly I was secure.
How often we are faced with a hill, a mountain, something that looks unattainable or even unimaginable. We start the climb and wonder if we will make it to the top.
And then we feel the strong arm of the Lord offered to us.
We never walk alone, though honestly, sometimes it has seemed as if I were deserted and abandoned. But the truth is I am not alone. And in my weakness, the strong arm of the Lord is ever present to give me strength, to make me sure-footed, to catch me when I slip.