The Whole Armor of God – Part Two

Paul wrote his letter to the churches of Ephesus, located in what is now Turkey, while he was a prisoner in Rome in around 62 AD. The economy of the large, cosmopolitan town was based on the worship of the Roman goddess Artemis whose temple was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Idol worship, prostitution, occult practices and money lending brought great wealth into the area. That was the climate in which God called Paul to plant churches and spread the gospel in and around the port city (Arthur, pg. 1987).
The epistle to the Ephesians can be divided into three parts. In chapters 1-3, Paul gives us a picture of our inheritance in Christ, God’s eternal plan for the mystery of the church, and how we are sealed by his Holy Spirit:
“In [Christ] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (1:13-14 ESV).
After assuring believers of our riches in Christ in the first three chapters, in chapters 4-6:9 Paul gives instruction on how followers of Jesus should behave in the midst of the darkness of this world:
“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift” (4:1-7 ESV).
In chapter 6:10-20, Paul warns us that while we are called to walk in a way that provides an example to a lost and dying world, we will also face times of struggle and spiritual warfare. He assures us that God has not only sealed us with his Holy Spirit, but he also provides us with the covering of his armor, so that we are able to take a stand, and continue to stand with his supernatural strength to meet any challenge:
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.
 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (6:10-20 ESV).
This series will continue with Part Three.

 

 

Arthur, Kay. Introduction to “Ephesians”. The New Inductive Study Bible: English Standard Version. Eugene, Or: Harvest House Publishers, 2001. Print.

Abolishment of Slavery: An Ongoing Mission

Then for the love of filthy Gold,

Strait they bore me to the sea;

Cramm'd me down a Slave Ship's hold,

Where were hundreds stow'd like me

~The Sorrows of Yamba, The Negro Woman's Lamentation (London 1797)

The practice of slavery, today called human trafficking, goes back to ancient times, affecting many different races and people groups. At times it has been quelled by abolition movements only to rear its ugly head again after times of complacency. Evil does not rest, and neither should we. The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and to destroy; ~John 10:10a

There is a list of the Seven Deadly Sins: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. When we see these elements it is not difficult to see that the fruit of this recipe is the desire to oppress the weak for personal gain. This is what God wants to protect us from when He says to follow His Way and not the ways of the world and the consequences when we do not listen.

God designed the perfect protection plan for the vulnerable: a married father and mother fully dependent on Him for guidance and sustenance. The breakdown of this structure makes the job of the Devil much easier which it is why the family is such a target. The more the family structure is corrupted within a society, the more oppression there is.

 

According to the US State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year, of which 80% are female and half are children. Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime in the world, because unlike drugs, humans can be sold for profit again and again. Cases include trafficking of children of all ages (including babies) for sex, pornography, forced begging and theft, domestic servitude, debt bondage, labor, and black market organ harvesting. There are approximately 20 to 30 million slaves in the world today.

Unsuspecting children are often lured in and abducted by deceptive people playing trust gaining roles such as friends, boyfriends, parents of friends, corrupt counselors, etc. Some are even raped and sold by family members. Teenagers are usually seduced by false promises of  love, security and material wealth and later forced into submission with violent threats to family members. Their naivety, feelings of helplessness, and dependency for survival keep them in bondage and servitude to their captors.

Many are held in brothels and transported between truck stops, sporting events, and entertainment venues, but surprisingly, others can be found working in a variety of different roles, including restaurants, nail salons, hotels, etc. Some say that there are many prostitutes who do this work by choice, but I don't believe they began that way and if given a believable choice, they would want something better. If you or someone you know or suspect is in this kind of bondage, there are some helpful links provided below.

Jesus said, "I have come, that they may have life, and have it to the full." ~John 10:10

 

How to Help and Give Hope

Pray for the victims and the persecutors (many of them were once victims). Pray for the people and organizations who are on the front lines of this battle. Educate yourself on what trafficking is and how it affects our world. Research organizations in your area to be involved with: volunteering, donating, etc. And make sure they are grounded in God's Word for guidance and counseling.

There are many testimonies on YouTube from former victims of human trafficking. Listen to some of them. Their stories are similar.

http://The Flesh Trade: Jasmine - YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBUaN1AzjL4

Operation Liberate investigates and identifies victims and then connects with various law enforcement agencies to shut down trafficking rings and facilitate rescues. http://www.operationliberate.com

Path 2 Hope: Reaching out to people in the sex industry and other broken people to offer hope and direction towards a better life. http://www.path2hope.org

Veterans For Child Rescue was founded specifically to help bring an end to child trafficking. Our primary methods are to widely expose the threat through multiple mass media platforms and to directly combat the problem by running joint sting operations against traffickers with law enforcement and allied non governmental organizations. http://www.vets4childrescue.org

City of Refuge seeks to lead individuals and families on a journey to self sufficiency for generations to come by focusing on health, wellness, housing, vocational training and youth development. http://www.refuge-city.org

Rahabs Rope Giving hope and opportunity to women and children at risk in India to bring them out of the sex trade and training them how to live outside of the industry. http://www.rahabsrope.com

 

 

 

Protect Your Family

Pray for their protection, that God would look over them in ways that you cannot.

Keep your marriage healthy. If you are a single parent, make protection a priority over who you allow into your household even for a visit.

Educate them in ways they can understand about inappropriate activity that could endanger them inside and outside the home.

Know your children's friends, family members, caretakers, teachers, church leaders, coaches, etc. Regular contact and conversation is necessary.

Situational Awareness: When out in public, always be aware of your surroundings, who might be watching or paying inappropriate attention.

Supervise all internet interaction and television programs and research reading materials, movies and music. Plugged In is a helpful link from Focus On The Family.  http://www.pluggedin.com

Support Legislation on local and national levels that protects life and families and properly prosecutes crimes including trafficking and pornography.

The Whole Armor of God – Part One

Has anyone ever told you that as a Christian, you should “Put on the whole Armor of God”?
Maybe you’ve heard a pastor or Bible study teacher tell you what all the parts of the armor are, but no one has ever explained how exactly you’re supposed to “put it on,” and what you’re supposed to do with it after that.
What is the whole Armor of God, how do we put it on, and what is it for?
Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-11, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (ESV).
Ok, so far, so good. The Armor of God helps us be strong, so we can stand against the enemy. But how? And why?
It’s important to understand, as Paul continues in verse 12, that putting on the whole Armor of God is necessary not to protect us from enemies who are “flesh and blood,” but against the devil and his “rulers of darkness” in unseen places. In other words, the Armor of God is spiritual armor, intended to equip us for spiritual battle.
Let’s look a little more closely at the way Paul describes this spiritual armor.  It’s not “Suzanne’s armor,” or “Jeanette’s armor,” or even “Paul’s armor” - it’s God’s armor – the armor belongs to God, himself. God’s spiritual armor is not like anything we try and take up and put on for protection that comes from the world. God’s armor comes to us directly from his throne in heaven.
The Old Testament contains a foreshadowing of what Paul wrote about the difference between worldly armor and spiritual armor in the story of David and Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17.
David was the youngest son of Jesse, a well-to-do sheep farmer. While David’s older brothers went out to war against the Philistines, David’s job was to stay home and tend the sheep. One day his father sent David to carry  supplies to his brothers on the front lines, where a giant named Goliath was threatening the army of Israel.
Goliath was so terrifying that all Israel’s mighty men were afraid to engage him in battle. But of course when teen-aged David, fresh from the sheepfold where he’d defended his father’s sheep from lions and bears, heard the taunts of the giant and saw that even his big brothers were afraid to fight him (and hearing from the crowd that whoever killed Goliath would marry King Saul’s beautiful daughter), said to the king:
“…’Your servant will go and fight…The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.’  And Saul said to David, ‘Go, and the Lord be with you!’” (17:32b, 37 ESV).
Then King Saul, who stood head and shoulders above other men, realizing that he’d just sealed the fate of a boy who was braver than his whole army put together, offered his armor to David:
“Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them” (17:38-39a).
Can you imagine the shepherd boy clonking around in Saul’s armor, going against an angry giant? Me neither. And neither could David:
“’Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David put them off” (17:39b).
Picking up five smooth stones and with his sling in his hand, David faced Goliath:
“And the Philistine said to David, ’Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.’  Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hand’” (17:44-47 ESV).
See what David did there? He set aside Saul’s worldly armor and instead ran straight for the giant, armed with only a sling and a stone, in the name of Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts. He was certain that God would deliver victory into his hands because David understood that although he was up against a huge physical enemy, the battle was a spiritual one that only God could fight. David’s protection came from God alone.
Today we aren’t usually called to go up against a nine-foot Goliath waving a sword and a spear, but we do find ourselves facing giants that look like unconquerable physical enemies – health crises, financial difficulties, family issues, relationship problems, storms, terror, loss - that can only be conquered in faith.
Paul wrote, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV).
In this series, we will explore the elements of the Armor of God, how God provides them for a covering, and how they are designed by God to strengthen us so that we are able to stand firm in the spiritual battle that the Lord is fighting with us, through us and for us.
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57 ESV).

In The Garden

There is something about a garden that causes us to pause and to ponder about life and what it is all about. Is it any wonder that God created a magnificent garden to put the first humans in? It is a perfect place for quiet time with Him, sitting or walking.

Enjoy this excerpt from Then Sings My Soul, Volume 1, 150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories, by Robert J. Morgan:

1912

.... she turned around and saw Jesus standing there... ~John 20:14

The art of meditating on scripture involves using one's imagination. Instead of simply reading a passage, we must read it, close our eyes, and visualize the scene, perhaps even putting ourselves in the picture. That's what the author of this hymn did.

C. Austin Miles was a pharmacist who began writing gospel songs and eventually became  an editor of hymnals and songbooks, as well as a popular music director at camp meetings, conventions and churches. His hobby was photography, and he found his darkroom perfect for developing, not just photographs, but his devotional life. In its privacy and strange blue glow, Miles could read his Bible in total privacy.

One day in March, 1912, while waiting for some film to develop, he opened the Bible to his favorite chapter, John 20, the story of the first Easter. Miles later said: "As I read it that day, I seemed to be a part of the scene... My hands were resting on the Bible while I stared at the blue wall. As the light faded, I seemed to be standing at the entrance of a garden, looking down a gently winding path, shaded by olive branches. A woman in white with head bowed, hand clasping her throat as if to choke back her sobs, walked slowly into the shadows. It was Mary. As she came to the tomb, upon which she placed her hand, she bent over to look in and hurried away. John, in flowing robe, appeared, looking at the tomb; then came Peter, who entered the tomb, followed by John. "

As they departed, Mary reappeared, leaning her head upon her arm at the tomb. She wept. Turning herself, she saw Jesus standing; so did I. I knew it was He. She knelt before Him, with arms outstretched and looking into his face, cried, 'Rabboni!.'"

I awakened in full light, gripping my Bible, with muscles tense and nerves vibrating. Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words would be formed the poem exactly as it has since appeared. That same evening I wrote the music."

In The Garden

I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses;

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear, The Son of God discloses.

(Chorus)

And He walks with me, And he talks with me, And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

 

He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet, the birds hush their singing,

And the melody that He gave to me, within my heart is ringing.

(Chorus)

And He walks with me, And He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

 

I'd stay in the garden with Him, Though the night around me befalling,

But He bids me to go; through the voice of woe, His voice to me is calling.

(Chorus)

And He walks with me, And He talks with me, And He tells me I am His own;

And the joy we share as we tarry there, no other has ever known.

 

http://Alan Jackson - In The Garden (Live) - YouTube YouTube‎ · ‎alanjacksonVEVO

Pray for New Zealand

Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
We are praying for the families and loved ones of the 49 people who lost their lives and the dozens who were injured in the attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Our prayers also go out to all first responders, law enforcement officers and medical personnel who are the heroes on the front lines when tragedy strikes, everywhere in the world.
We stand together in prayer for the people of New Zealand, as the nation mourns.
“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19 KJV).

On the Wings of Hope – Part Five

Throughout history, human beings have struggled with questions about our identity and place in the world, the hunger to satisfy the desires of the flesh, and how best to answer the call of the Spirit.
Whether we are saints, poets, mystics or simple men and women – young or old - with a heart for God and a yearning to know the truth of who we are in him, the answer is the same. Our hope is in Christ.
Lazarus had been four days in the tomb when Martha, who had always been so caught up in the cares of this world, accosted Jesus, questioning his motives. She said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 ESV).
In the company of her grief, Jesus gave Martha a profound revelation of himself, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live” (11:25).
Her sister Mary, who had been sitting shiva in the house, came to meet Jesus at the tomb. What had this woman who had worshipped at the Master’s feet been contemplating in the castle of her soul as she mourned the death of her beloved brother?
Mary and Martha knew the Lord intimately. They had shared bread with him, listened to him speak, witnessed miracles. And yet, in a dark hour they doubted even their own experience of him.
But Jesus did not reject them. He did not abandon them. He wept with them and met them in the place of their suffering, deeply moved. Jesus did not reject, he restored.
Finally, Teresa of Avila said, “Oh, how everything that is suffered with love is healed again!” (45).
And Emily Dickinson wrote of that feathered hope,
“I’ve heard it in the chilliest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.”
(Dickinson 80)
When you are suffering the pain of loss or grief, confusion or doubt – come to Jesus, and find hope and strength in every circumstance.
 “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT).

 

 

 

Avila, Teresa. The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, vol 2. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 2011. Print.

Dickinson, Emily. The Seagull Book of Poems. 4th ed. Ed. Joseph Kelly. 79 - 83. New York: Norton, 2018. Print.

On the Wings of Hope – Part Four

In her exquisite book, The Interior Castle, Teresa of Avila employs the illustration of a castle filled with many rooms carved from precious gems as a metaphor for the soul.
On how she came to this vision of the soul as a diamond fortress, she writes, “I can find nothing with which to compare the great beauty of the soul and its great capacity… [for God Himself says] He created us in His image and likeness. Now if this is so – and it is – there is no point in our fatiguing ourselves by attempting to comprehend the beauty of this castle…the very fact that His Majesty made it in His image means that we can hardly form any conception of the soul’s great dignity and beauty” (15).
As an ascetic nun Saint Teresa was a recluse set apart from the world by vocation, as Emily Dickenson was by choice. However, unlike Dickinson who struggled with worldly preoccupations, Teresa of Avila wrestled internally with her human failings and her perception of herself as unworthy in the sight of God. Although she knew the soul to be precious and beautiful because it is made in God’s image, she was always keenly aware of the hideous affects of sin that cannot be pleasing to him.
She writes to her sisters in Christ, “As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God: let us think of His greatness and then come back to our own baseness, by looking at His purity we shall see our foulness; by meditating upon His humility, we shall see how far we are from being humble” (23).
When we enter the contemplative life and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us ever deeper into the chambers of the interior castle of our souls, we will be confronted with aspects of our fleshly selves where, in comparison to the purity of Christ, we discover that traits and behaviors we once freely identified with have become worthless. As Paul said, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8 ESV).
Saint Teresa spoke of battling to overcome such thoughts as “’Are people looking at me or not?’ ‘If I take a certain path shall I come to any harm?’ ‘Dare I begin such and such a task?’ ‘Is it pride that is impelling me to do so?’ ‘Can anyone as wretched as I engage in so lofty an exercise as prayer?’ ‘Will people think better of me if I refrain from following the crowd?’” Until she cries out, “Oh, God help me, daughters, how many souls the devil must have ruined in this way!” (23).
 Sound familiar? These questions were written over four hundred years ago, and we still wrestle with them today.
In order to find the answer to this age-old dilemma, we must go back even further.
Writing to the church in Rome, Paul said, For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19 ESV).
Until he becomes so frustrated with this struggle that he cries out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:24 ESV).
But God opened for us a new chapter, declaring: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (8:1 KJV).
Romans 8 goes on to tell us that we who are in Christ Jesus, who are guided by his Holy Spirit, are dead to sin because we are no longer under the law and alive to Christ because we are made righteous in him by God’s grace. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6 ESV).
We cannot find peace if our minds are set on the things of the flesh. Yes, this means that as with Emily Dickinson, if we continually resist Christ’s call to come to him - and not the world – for all we need; and as with Saint Teresa, if we resist the grace of God in Christ, refusing to claim our righteousness in him, clinging to our sinful nature which is under the law, we cannot abide in the secret place of God and find rest under the shadow of his wings because we are working against him and not with him.
We will never find hope in the world or in the works of our flesh, no matter how alluring or well-intentioned.
But God has made a way of escape from these things, and that way is himself. Jesus said,
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.  And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (ESV).

 

 

 

Avila, Teresa. The Interior Castle. Ed. & Trans. E. Allison Peers. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover Publications, 2007. Print.

Dickinson, Emily. The Seagull Book of Poems. 4th ed. Ed. Joseph Kelly. 79 - 83. New York: Norton, 2018. Print.

On the Wings of Hope – Part Three

The Enlightenment of the 1700’s released a torrent of scientific innovation into the next century, including the introduction of laboratories; the improvement of instruments such as microscopes which led to the discovery of germ theory by Louis Pasteur; the rise of women in the field of nursing, made famous by Florence Nightingale; and the first women doctors in the United States, notably Elizabeth Blackwell (science museum).
Dickinson’s poem 185 declares,
“Faith is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see –
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.”
In this climate of innovation, discovery and the promise of emancipation for women and the end of slavery as the American Civil War loomed on the horizon (Donnaway), Emily Dickinson struggled, not with loving Christ but with reconciling her experience of his love with what she perceived to be the constraints of the Puritan ethic, prejudice and the grief and loss of war.
She wrote to a friend, “I was almost persuaded to be a Christian. I thought I never again could be thoughtless and worldly – and I can say I never enjoyed such perfect peace and happiness as the short time in which I felt I had found my savior. But I soon forgot my morning prayer or else it was irksome to me. One by one my old habits returned and I cared less for religion than ever…When I am most happy there is a sting in every enjoyment. I find no rose without a thorn. There is an aching void in my heart which I am convinced the world can never fill. I am far from being thoughtless upon the subject of religion. I continually hear Christ saying to me Daughter give me thine heart…” (Knapp 29-30).
Have you ever felt pulled in a million directions by the call of worldly pleasures, griefs and obligations? Have you experienced the intense joy of communion with God’s Holy Spirit, only to find yourself before the day is over arguing with someone you love or worrying desperately over this month’s bills?
Have you experienced a tragic loss that has left a void in your heart and your life that you thought only one person, or occupation, or pleasure on earth could fill?
Do you wonder if you’ll ever find your place in the world, and how success should be measured? Have you asked, Can I give myself fully to Christ and still have a life of my own? Have you run to Jesus, and then at the last minute, turned and run the other way?
God is not unaware when we face all kinds of challenges. Listen to what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with temptation he will also provide you a way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV).
Not only does God provide us with a way of escape from temptation and sorrow; when he makes a way, he also helps us to move forward.
Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust in the Lord with all our heart, and 1 John 1:9 gives us the assurance that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ESV).
None of us has what it takes to cleanse ourselves of our own mistakes, and we can’t see far enough into the future to find the clearest path in the right direction - and we’re not intended to. When we feel lost, confused or alone we only have one job and if we remember to do it, it’s the easiest job in the world. Jesus makes a way when we hear him say, “Daughter, give me thine heart”:
“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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV).
Come to Jesus. He has everything you need to give you peace, hope and a future. 
“And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –“
(Dickinson 80)

 

“Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine: Science and Medicine”. n.d. science museum. Web. broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/science. 11 March 2019.

“Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine: Women in Medicine”. n.d. science museum. Web. broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/practisingmedicine/women. 11 March, 2019.

Dickinson, Emily. “Faith is a fine Invention”. Poetry Foundation. n.d. Web. www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48184/faith-is-fine-invention-202. 11 March 2019.

Dickinson, Emily. The Seagull Book of Poems. 4th ed. Ed. Joseph Kelly. 79 - 83. New York: Norton, 2018. Print.

Donnaway, Laura. “Women's Rights Before the Civil War.” n.d. Web. people.loyno.edu/~history/journal/1984-5/donnaway.htm. 11 March 2019.

Knapp, Bettina L. Emily Dickinson. New York: Continuum, 1991. Print.

On the Wings of Hope – Part Two

In 1515, 300 years before Emily Dickinson, Teresa of Avila was born in Spain to Catholic parents, two years before the Protestant Reformation of Martin Luther rocked the Christian world.  As a Mother Superior of the contemplative Carmelite order, she was the first woman to be named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI, in 1970.
Speaking to the nuns in her keeping she wrote, “For humility is the principle virtue which must be practiced by those who pray, and…it is very fitting that you should try to learn how to practice it often…it should be known by all those who practice prayer” (Avila 50).
In his first letter to the churches in what is now Turkey, Peter wrote, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (ESV 1 Peter 5:7).
Saint Teresa in writing to the women in her care, and Saint Paul in writing to the churches in his care, encouraged the men and women for whom they were a spiritual mother and father to walk in humility towards one another, and towards God, by casting all their cares on him. Why is this important? Because this humility, this casting all our cares onto Christ - not in lifting ourselves above another, not in indulging in worry or blame, not by living in fear - but allowing the mighty hand of God to lift us up above the cares of the world and resting in the shelter of his wings, is a demonstration of trust.
We cannot have hope without trust, and we cannot have trust without faith. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substance and the assurance of what we hope for, and the evidence of things that we don’t yet see. Romans 8:24-25 says, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (ESV).
“’Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all – “
(Dickinson 80)
This winged hope that makes its home in our souls is as invincible as it is invisible. We cannot see the hand of God in action, but we do see and feel and live in the working out of his will in our lives.
Jesus did not promise that our time in this world would be carefree, but he did instruct us to cast all our cares onto him so that he can exchange our burden – which is much too heavy for us to bear – for his burden, which is light and easy, because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).
King David, the sweet Psalmist, who was also a poet, wrote that we who “…dwell in the shelter of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’” (ESV Psalm 91:1). Almighty God is the same One under whose wings we find refuge from every storm, because we can have absolute trust in his faithfulness toward us. This sure and steadfast hope is the anchor for our souls (Hebrews 6:19).

 

 

Avila, Teresa. The Way of Perfection. 1st ed. Ed. & Trans. E. Allison Peers. Ignacio Hills Press, 29 July 2009. Ebook. Kindle.

Dickinson, Emily. The Seagull Book of Poems. 4th ed. Ed. Joseph Kelly. 79 - 83. New York: Norton, 2018. Print.

“St. Teresa of Avila: Spanish Mystic”. Encyclopaedia Britannica. n.d. Web. britannica.com/biography/Saint-Teresa-of-Avila. 10 March 2019.

On the Wings of Hope – Part One

In this five-part series, we will compare the writings of two reclusive women of faith, the poet Emily Dickinson and the mystic Teresa of Avila, who were driven by a passionate desire to know God that often resulted in an internal struggle between the flesh and the spirit that was expressed in their work.
Born in 1830, Emily Dickinson wrote 1775 poems, most of which were published after her death in 1886. Although she rebelled against the constraints of institutionalized religion, her faith in God never wavered. Yet the poet labored to define and express her relationship with God as Creator, as Savior, and in Dickinson’s mind, as an authoritarian Father.
In her biography of Dickinson, Bettina Knapp quotes from a letter the poet wrote to a friend, “I hope you are a Christian for I feel that it is impossible for any one to be happy without a treasure in heaven. I feel that I shall never be happy without I love Christ” (30).
Emily Dickinson understood that hope, happiness and love are to be found in Christ, and yet she had difficulty allowing herself to accept what was so freely offered. One of her best-loved poems is number 254, where she compares hope to a selfless bird, in whom we can recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit:
 “’Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chilliest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of Me.”
(Dickinson 80)
Hope is a promise and a gift from God. Teresa of Avila said this about experiencing the presence and power of God residing in her soul, “…God seemed so present to me that I thought of St. Peter’s words: You are Christ, Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). For God was thus living in my soul. This presence is not like other visions, because it is accompanied by such living faith that one cannot doubt that the Trinity is in our souls by presence, power and essence. It is an extremely beneficial thing to understand this truth” (Avila 7051).
Romans 15:13 says it this way, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (ESV).
Because the Christian walk is not without difficulties, and sometimes the trials that we face seem to be more than we can bear, we can remember that God has given to us the promise of his sweet Holy Spirit, who abides with us forever. Like the joyful, tenacious bird that Emily Dickinson describes in her beautiful poem, the Holy Spirit is alive within our souls, singing an eternal song of hope and guiding us through every storm.

 

 

Avila, Teresa. The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila: Volume One. 2nd ed. Trans. Kierran Kavanaugh, O.C.D and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D. Washington, D.C.: ICS Publications, 1987. Print.

Dickinson, Emily. The Seagull Book of Poems. 4th ed. Ed. Joseph Kelly. 79 - 83. New York: Norton, 2018. Print.

Knapp, Bettina L. Emily Dickinson. New York: Continuum, 1991. Print.