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When we wait for the glory

I’ve had some prayer requests that turned out differently than I planned. And I have prayers for which I am still waiting to see the answers come to pass. Perhaps you have too.

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Zachariah and Elizabeth, characters in the Nativity story, would have understood. Luke’s gospel introduces us to them.

” . . . there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.”

These were people who followed God, exemplary in keeping the regulations given by Moses to the people. They had intrigty. It would seem they would have been rewarded for such dedication.

Instead, they were childless. And children were the reward, the heritage of a family who was blessed to have “their quiver full.”

Elizabeth’s fertility problem had affected them both. There were the years of hoping this month there would be a delay in her cycle. Disappointment met them again and again.

Heartbreak and grief were Elizabeth’s companions. Not only were her own desires unfulfilled, she was unable to give her husband an heir. And then there were the implications, the remarks whispered among the family, the community, their Levitical tribe. Comments perhaps like, “They appear to follow the law, but why is she barren?” While Elizabeth probably tried to carry herself with dignity, walking with her head held high, her heart must have been broken by the weight of not having the one thing she desired: a child. It was the one prayer she kept repeating.

She had given up long ago. She was old now, her childbearing years well past, and this was her life. The sadness still lingered. Her hopes were dashed. She would go to her grave with her prayer unanswered.

Sometimes we have to wait for the glory.

Zachariah was appointed to his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter the Holy Place to offer incense at the time of prayer. How many times had Zachariah prayed for a child, a son to carry on his name and the priestly duties. When did he give up on that hope?

As he offered the incense on the Golden Altar, Zachariah was greeted by the angel Gabriel and told his prayer had been heard. I wonder if Zachariah thought “Which prayer?” The prayer for a son, the one he had presented to God over and over, remained unanswered and it was now years too late.

It is never too late with God.

There is no evidence that Zachariah told anyone of his vision. The people waiting for him outside the Holy Place simply recognized something significant had happened because he was unable to speak. But surely he managed to share some of the angel’s message with his wife, that they were to have a child in their old age. What in the world went through their minds?

It was impossible. But with God nothing is impossible.

I wonder how Elizabeth knew she was pregnant. There were no quick drugstore pregnancy tests or doctor visits. The monthly period had ended years ago so no early physical sign would give a clue. What would be her first indication that there was indeed a new life growing inside of her?

Did she believe immediately with her heart that the angel’s words were true? Or did her struggle with her faith like Zachariah? Did she fast and pray one more time for the child she longed to hold? Did she read Scripture and renew her hope in a God who hears prayers and answers?

Luke tells us Elizabeth hid herself away for five months. As she experienced morning sickness and a growing baby bump, the extreme tiredness that accompanies pregnancy in the first trimester, did she recognize the symptoms she had seen in other women? Did her faith grow as her body changed and rounded and began to show evidence of God’s word being fulfilled?

Those who have experienced the heartbreak of infertility can feel Elizabeth’s pain and longing all those years. Imagine the joy she experienced in the reality of God’s promise coming true before her very eyes.

I love the part of the story when Mary, pregnant yet unwed, came to Zachariah and Eliazabeth’s home. At Mary’s greeting Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb. The aged form of God’s faithful servant experienced the power of the Holy Spirit as had her young companion. These two women had a lot to talk about.

Zachariah and Elizabeth’s baby was always in God’s plan. They just didn’t understand the plan or the timing. This baby had a special purpose, to prepare the way for a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He would be neither early or late but right on time.

Sometimes we have to wait for the greater glory. Our prayers seem to go unanswered, even unheard. And we wonder where God is. We wonder what is keeping our petitions from coming to pass. We wonder.

And yet there is wonderful glory ahead. The purpose God has for each of us will be fulfilled in His time, not ours. But His word is true; His promises are sure. And He can be trusted with our prayers and our lives.

In the waiting we will see the greater glory.

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A little help from my friends

Yesterday did not go as I planned. 

My Sweet William and I went to Audubon Hospital for a scheduled heart catheterization on Bill’s heart.  I was hoping, expecting for something routine like a stint in a mildly blocked artery.  After the test, the doctor’s report did not meet my expectations.  One artery was completely blocked and two others were 80 percent blocked.  Open heart surgery was the only recommended option.

I’m glad there was a door frame on my immediate left for me to fall against.

We learned that the heart surgeon had an opening at 2:30 (sounds like making a hair appointment!).  Bill made the decision to go for it since he had not eaten or drank anything since the day before.  The next few hours were a flurry of medical tests and preparations for surgery.  I began making calls to family, friends, and coworkers.  My mind started mentally adjusting to this new information, changing all my plans for the next few days, even weeks.

Time and again as I talked with someone on the phone, he or she said, “Let me pray with you right now.”  And how I needed it.  I was trying to be calm and composed on the outside, to be strong for Bill; on the inside, however, I was crumbling into pieces.

My friend, Margie, had come at 8 am to be with me through the heart cath.  At the news of impending surgery, she set her mind to stay with me throughout the long day.

Two men from our Sunday School class, Paul and Ronnie, and a couple of my family members, Danny and Linda, had also been with us during the test.  They left and went home around 11 am.  When they heard surgery was imminent, all four of them returned in the afternoon, holding vigil with me.

Staff in the heart wing were divinely appointed to be there for us.  A man named Darrell helped to prepare Bill for surgery while they talked about the goodness of the Lord.  One of the surgical nurses told Bill she would say a prayer with him before he went under the anesthetic.

Thankfully, I did not have to walk this day alone.  People kept arriving, pastors, Little Flock staff, our Sunday School teacher and his wife, and more family.  Our son, Travis, his sweet Renee and the three grandchildren came bringing hugs and smiles.  My 89-year-old dad came rolling up in a wheelchair, pushed by my stepmother, Esther.  Calls came to me and to Travis, assuring us that prayers were being lifted up toward the throne of grace for a successful surgery for Bill and strength for us.

About 8 pm when surgery was over and the recovery room gave way to an intensive care room, we were allowed to see Bill, tubes and wires connected in so many places.  My dad said a short prayer.  Bill would spend the night being carefully monitor and attended.

As was recommended and urged by caring people, I went home to try to rest my weary body and mind in preparation for the long days that follow heart surgery.  I decided to briefly look at Facebook.  I was astonished to see so many comments from friends of mine, Travis’ and Renee’s saying they were praying for all  of us.  The messages kept me scrolling down the screen as I read each one.

It sometimes takes an event such as an emergency surgery to remind me what a vast circle of love encompasses us.  The promised prayers were lifting us up, giving us strength to endure, filling us with God’s love. 

A very profound thought comes from John 13:35.  It reads,

“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other,” (The Message).

I stand as a witness to this truth.  God’s amazing plan was that we would need each other.  As His children, we love others because He first loved us.

Friends rally around when you are hurting.  They come, they care, they offer, they pray, they stay.  Tonight I feel so blessed to be the recipient of this kind of friendship, this kind of love.  It is God’s hand extended and one of the ways He makes Himself known in the world. 

Left to wait

 I learned something not long ago. Actually it was revealing. Let me tell you about it.

I waited for someone the other day. I made an appointment, called and confirmed the time and place. Normally, when I know I may have to wait for any length of time, I bring a magazine or book so I am not “wasting time.”

But this day, I didn’t think to bring anything with me.   So there I sat at McDonald’s on Blue Lick Road, drinking coffee while watching and waiting for her. But she didn’t show up, nor did she call to tell me why.  I was disappointed, hurt, frustrated.

Here is the revealing part. I thought of how many times I had left my Lord waiting for me – the One who redeemed me from my debt of sin, paid the ultimate price for my soul, and offered me His friendship. Many times, I made plans to meet Him, then I let something else get in the way, or simply forgot.  I have canceled too many appointments or put other things first.

Other things. How many times have I let other things get between God and me?

I have just started a Bible study by Kelly Minter (remember her from the Ruth study?). The title is No Other Gods.  Today’s study got me to thinking about any functional gods I have let become too important in my life.

What other things could be more important than my relationship with Jesus? The way that relationship deepens and grows is by spending time with him.

David said, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsts for thee, my flesh longs for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is . . .” (Psalm 63:1)

The priority of keeping my early morning appointments with my Savior and Lord cannot be stressed enough. Especially as I  consider the incredible thought that He looks forward to meeting with me.  I do not want to disappoint Him again.

 

Please leave a comment.  I enjoy getting to know you when you put your thoughts into words.