Have you ever considered how the world would be without the movement of air?! I remember that on hot summer days when I was growing up, we kids would giggle as we spoke into a blowing fan and listened to our strange voices. When I am working with children to improve their speech, they learn about the parts that are used to form words. After we go through the basic tongue, lips, and “motor” (voice box), we try saying a sound without using air. Of course, we can’t!
Some of my favorite camping memories as a girl are of lying in our tent camper at night, listening to the wind sighing in the treetops and feeling its cool touch on my face. I still love to have a window fan blowing in my room on a summer night. My spirit settles as I breath in that fresh stream of air.
The book of Genesis says that when God formed man, He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. Isaiah referred to “God the Lord… the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it.” Life is a precious gift, and how often do we misuse it or take it for granted?! Just as no words can be produced without the element of air, so life cannot be fully expressed without God’s breath within us. When I catch myself feeling rushed when going about my busy plans and responsibilities, I remind myself to pause and breath in God’s presence. He is like a cool touch to my hurried soul and fresh strength and peace to my heart.
*Genesis 2:7, Isaiah 42:5
Ah! The joy of releasing tired, hot feet from the confines of shoes and socks! My mom and I used to kid about our “hillbilly blood” because our shoes inevitably fell off when we came home. Warm summer rain showers were the perfect opportunity for my brothers and me to splash barefoot up and down our gravel drive in town. On summer trips with the family, I remember digging my toes into the soft warm dirt of my grandparents’ country drive. Have you ever walked through a wet vegetable garden and ended up doubling the thickness of the soles of your shoes with mud?! Just walking becomes an effort.
Sometimes our lives get like that, mired down with stuff that drags us down and overwhelms. We splash barefoot before God in our pain and doubt and it is difficult to see joy. When His wonderful grace and love showers down upon us, we in our weariness do not always see it. We may be unable to receive until it has had time to soak in. I love the words of the psalmist who wrote, (God) lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. * Like on those warm summer days, we can dig our toes into the strength of His being. God lifts us up and sets us on solid ground. What joy and release when we stand with Him in faith, free of the confines of life which weigh us down!
* Psalm 40:2
• Twist-Ties can be straight or bent.
• Standing straight declares a purpose.
• Sometimes we just need to bend.
• When we bend, our shape is changed.
• Different shapes fill different needs.
• Bending down allows full service.
• Twist-Ties help secure the contents.
• The colors declare the day of offering.
• Daily offerings of nourishment are beneficial.
• The one who provides, helps to shape us all.
• The Shaper welcomes who we are.
Apples! I love apples! …I remember the taste of crunchy, sweet apples fresh off the tree in the backyard of our small-town home when I was growing up. The smell of apples cooking as Mom busied herself about the kitchen making apple butter and jelly, pies, and applesauce still lingers in my mind! Those wonderful summer days of gathering apples, listening to the neighbor’s honeybees about their work, and resting in the cool shade of their boughs are forever etched in my memory. I can still hear the sounds of laughter as my three brothers and I played, worked, and ate our fill of those apples!
Have you ever wondered where the phrase “the apple of my eye” came from? The writer of Deuteronomy says that God found his people in a desert land, “a barren and howling waste,” but cared for them and guarded them “as the apple of his eye.” The psalmist prayed to God, “Keep me as the apple of your eye”! This phrase is literally translated “the little man of the eye.” …If you look closely into the eyes of someone, you can see your own image reflected in that round central circle of their pupil. Think about it. Our very image is reflected in the eye of God! How awesome is that?!
God watches over us. Cherishes us. He keeps our very image before Him! Like those childhood memories, He brings comfort and joy to His children.
When the Hebrew people were in the land of exile, home of the Babylonians, God first spoke to the Jewish priest named Ezekiel. He was only thirty years old! … God had allowed the people to be taken into exile because they had turned from Him, worshiping idols, offering their children as sacrifices, living immorally, violently, and selfishly.
God gave words to his new prophet Ezekiel to call them back to Himself, hard words and difficult messages. There were some really weird visions!
In one vision, there was a valley full of dry bones!
“Ezekiel, can these bones live?!”
“Only You know sovereign God!”
“Prophesy, speak to these bones. I will restore them and put breath back into them.”
And so, Ezekiel obeyed and God did as He said He would.
Wow! Dry bones. Dead. Without life. Unable to stand. To walk. To serve God and care for others. God speaks, breaths on those dry bones (on us), and restores life. Sinews. Flesh. Bones knitting together. We begin to take on God’s character. The breath of God’s Spirit fills us and He raises His children to stand in that dark valley of dry bones.
Shepherd us, oh LORD I pray!
Bring our dry bones to life!
Breathe in us Your very being,
That we may walk in You anew!
Have you ever noticed how a mother bird will spread her wings over her chicks to provide protection and to hide them from the eyes of predators? That space under the shadow of her wings is a refuge, a place of safety and comfort. The chicks trust the hen and so they stay close-by and are nurtured, protected, and guided.
What a powerful image that is for us when we feel overwhelmed, attacked, or swallowed by grief and despair! In the books of Ruth and Psalms, God is a loving protector who gathers us in the shadow of His wings. Like the chicks, we are His children, knowing our own weakness and need. When we come to Him, He offers us a place of security.
Ruth realized that her mother-in-law Naomi had something special; she came to God when all seemed lost. The psalmist said, “Hey, this is a good thing! I’m going to stay here with God forever, walking close-by and covered when times are tough!”
How easy it can be to wander off. Jesus lamented, grieved deeply, for the people of Jerusalem who had turned away those God had sent. “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37 & Luke 13:34). At times my own thoughts churn endlessly, stressing over a day’s events or unresolved issues and troubles. This image of God surrounding us with His sheltering wings provides comfort, security, and hope for everyone and reminds us to stay close to Him.
How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Psalm 36:7 (NIV)