“Here to Worship”, From L.Willows (See Jesus, Prayer, Praise Music)

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It is Holy Saturday. I woke to pray and give thanks, to praise the Lord God. Then I kept hearing the words, “Holy, Holy, Holy”.  I was moved to search for music. I stumbled upon this intimately familiar praise song that I loved singing with all at church- before when we had the freedom of gathering in person. As I listened, I just dissolved into a heap of joyful tears. I gazed at all of the worshippers in the video clustered tightly together with their arms raised. I saw us just a short time ago. I pray for our future gatherings and give thanks for the Spirit of Love that permeates and encourages us now.

The Love of Jesus Christ binds us together closer than ever. I believe that though we are physically separated, our hearts are more united than ever before.

We are United in Prayer that Sees Jesus. We are here to Worship God.

It equips us now to look to the power of our Risen Lord to guide us each individually and as His Unified Family in this Journey set before us. He sees the way and is leading faithfully and lovingly. Our hearts are set to worship. We are devoted to worship from wherever we are. This and any trial can only increase a heart’s fortitude as we remember to see Jesus and follow His command to love the Father with all of our hearts, mind, and strength.

Matthew 22:37 –And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

“That You Love One Another”, from L.Willows (John 13:14, Puritan Prayer)

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John 13:34 “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Puritan prayer from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions.

My Father,
Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,
Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres [shines] at Calvary.’
There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on thy Son,
Made a transgressor, a curse and sin for me;
There the sword of thy justice smote the man, thy fellow;
There the infinite attributes were magnified,
and infinite atonement was made;
There infinite punishment was due,
and infinite punishment was endured.
Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,
cast off that I might be brought in,
trodden down as an enemy that I might be welcomed as a friend,
surrendered to hell’s worst that I might attain heaven’s best,
stripped that I might be clothed,
wounded that I might be healed,
athirst that I might drink,
tormented that I might be comforted,
made a shame that I might inherit glory,
entered darkness that I might have eternal light.

My Savior wept that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,
groaned that I might have endless song,
endured all pain that I might have unfading health,
bore a thorny crown that I might have a glory-diadem,
bowed his head that I might lift up mine,
experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,
closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,
expired that I might live forever.

O Father, who spared not thine only Son that thou mightest spare me,
all this transfer thy love designed and accomplished;
help me to adore thee by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,
my every step buoyant with delight,
Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,
sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,
hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portals open.

Go forth, O conquering God, and show me
the cross, mighty to subdue, comfort and save.


 

“Small Miracles, Tangible Good”, from L.Willows (see Jesus, Spiritual Resources, Tangible Goodness of God)

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Yesterday I had a few hours when my sense of being able to cope with all that is going on suddenly felt like it was collapsing like a finely built fence that was falling down.  I thought that my heart and mind had settled into peace with home isolation. We are all in this together. (For me, it had only been one week so far)

I have seen clips on the news of neighbors singing to one another from their balconies to encourage in Europe. I remember living in Italy and my heart breaks for the people there and in other places where cultures are so naturally outgoing and warm.

We need to connect to one another and in a way, society seems to lose that with technology. Now, we are faced with challenges of isolation and distance. Our hearts and prayers will need to grow.  We are in new territory. It is one that we can’t see. Maybe it is miraculous.

As I said before, I love “Live-Life”. I am sure that you do too. We are all making a sacrifice. But as I said earlier my mini fortress started to melt even though I have many advantages to be grateful for.

What I did not expect is that in this “new normal”, we will each come to face issues and problems that will surprise us, even those of us that believe that we are equipped spiritually.

There are new tests that we will face in the coming months. For me, this experience taught me to be prepared and not to be too confident or feel too prepared.  Let me share how I responded and maybe it will help.

  1. First, I was surprised to find that I was overwhelmed by a set of unexpected circumstances that were new. I was not prepared for them. I tried to scramble to fix the problem quickly; time was of the essence. (using my own resources, my own strength, my own cleverness- that sound like my pride at work…) This did not work. This skill-set does not work in these extraordinary circumstances (they never have, but most especially- Now)
  2. Yes, I did pray right away for help. But I went in two directions at once, which is like nullifying prayer. I called out to God for help but I was still “working the problem myself at the same time”. Can a car drive forwards and in reverse at the same time? It will end up in the same place. Who is driving? I put out a lot of personal effort. It was exhausting and stressful. Our mortal skill-sets can also cause health problems because they stress our immune systems. Stay peaceful.
  3. Then, finally, my attention shifted off of myself. Someone needed my help for their own emergency need and I had to put aside my own “desperate emergency need”.  (This may have been God’s merciful intervention longing to distract me from my slow meltdown. Because of that, I needed to find the use of my full Spiritual facilities on behalf of a loved one. Years of spiritual disciplines kicked in and I finally did what I needed to do- for someone other than myself.

So, I put on so plastic gloves and a mask to exit my building safely and got into my car. I realize that this is a fortunate move; that parks and outdoor spaces may, in time not be available to some or all- not even to me in the future.

I drove to a nearby park which was empty and found a bench and sat under a tree facing the same sky that I see from my window. I could hear birds chirping. I could smell spring in the air. I remember last year when I walked in the same park filled with hopes of spring blossoms and many dreams. But this was now. I spotted two women in the distance sitting cross-legged 10 feet apart on the ground by the pond having a quiet conversation. This was now.

The birds did not know that anything was different this year, I thought. The blossoms on the trees were opening with the same consistency. I watched newborns in strollers be swept by with masked caretakers. The resting infants behind bedding nets were innocent. Their peace was undisturbed.

I closed my eyes and prayed with all of my heart and mind. My body and stress finally became limp. I surrendered to the Caretaker of us all who never fails us. The all-of-me left everything here and went before the Altar of Our Lord. In that indescribable sweetness, I asked if I could unburden before His Cross. I confessed all that I was holding, all that I could not possibly carry myself. As I turned it all over, I wept with gentle relief and gratitude.

Matthew 11:28-30 —Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

The Comfort of basking in God’s Mercy was renewing and healing. I felt my heart grow light. Prayer continued in a Now that existed in The Lord’s eternity. It was joyful and reassuring. 

When I opened my eyes again to this world, I knew that any kind of isolation only exists when our eyes are focused upon this world. But we have more. We have the eyes of the heart, eyes that are able to See Jesus and connect to the Heart of God. Through these eyes, we can pray, we can be given strength and courage that has never been known to us before- more, we can be shown new paths in challenging times, not because we are clever but because God is there beside each of us.

Later that afternoon, miracles started happening in multiples. I did nothing. I rested. But each unsurmountable problem got solved.  It was like watching blessings arrive at my door.

By evening, I sat with a blurry smile, gazing out of my window, “Lord, your goodness is unmeasurable. I praise you for this day, for yesterday and for tomorrow. Thank you for your mercy and kindness. Thank you that your Love is so near and palpable, so reachable. I love you with all of my heart, mind, and soul. Thank you for the Tangible Good of Your Mercies that never cease to unfold, uphold and amaze our hearts.”

© 2020 Linda Willows

Isaiah 41: 10 —Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Phillippians 4:6-7 —Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Deuteronomy 31:6 —Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”