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Why did I have to be with the last ones? I knew it was my own fault for hesitating to leave when my division packed up and headed out laden with silver, gold and clothing as well as their unleavened bread. It all happened so fast. I couldn’t believe my own eyes when I saw the Egyptians urge us to hurry and leave. I think they were actually scared to have us around after all those plagues, especially that last one. I have to admit I was scared as the first born son, but we did as the Lord instructed through Moses and I was not harmed.

Only the mighty hand of God could’ve ended our slavery and brought us out of Egypt. But now fear and doubt returned as I stood between two walls of water. It was the same fear I felt when we were camped near Pi and I thought the Egyptian army was going to overtake us. I thought we were going to die right there in the desert. Moses’ words still echoed in my mind: Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

I saw it all with my own eyes. A pillar of cloud kept the Egyptian army from reaching us all night with darkness on one side and light on the other. I thought we were trapped by the sea until I saw Moses stretch out his hand and a strong east wind blew all night so that the waters of the Res Sea parted creating a dry path to the other side. It was an amazing sight to behold. But now here I stood watching the Egyptian army advancing, pursuing us on the same path through the Red Sea, but with fast moving chariots. I quickly trudged up the dry shore to the other side of the Red Sea with the last few people to cross, knowing I would be the among the first struck down by the army.

I wanted to run as fast as I could after reaching shore, but the word of the Lord that Moses gave us caused me to stop and turn around. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” The Lord has brought us this far, yet fear began to fill me again as I watched the army coming closer. “Can I just be still and trust the Lord will fight for us, for me?”

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a person who is part of the exodus out of Egypt through the Red Sea based on Exodus 12:31-14:31.

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat down after a long day to rest my weary body after a day of toil in the fields. My young children came to me and a I greeted them with a hug. How blessed I felt as I gazed above the heads of my children in my embrace at my beautiful wife preparing our evening meal. She smiled at me. Suddenly this moment was interrupted by a knock at the door.

My wife frowned as I glanced at the door. Once again their was a knock. I sighed and released my children as I stood up. “Who could that be?” I looked at my children gazing up at me with a curious look. They were as puzzled as I was about who was visiting us at this hour.

When I opened the door I was surprised to see the widow from down the street with her two boys. One of the boys held an armful of empty jars.

“Well, good evening,” I greeted her. I did not know her, but I had heard of her plight — how her husband died and now his creditors were likely to take her sons as slaves to pay for the debt left by her husband. I was sure she was looking for handouts to avoid the fate of her boys. In my mind I thought they were getting what they deserved. It was a consequence of taking on debt. I wasn’t about to give up what what I earned. By this time my children gathered behind me by the door as my wife looked on from the table while she continued to prepare our meal.

“Please, can you spare a few empty jars?” She asked.

“Empty jars?” I didn’t expect that request. “What do you want with empty jars “ I asked. She certainly did not have anything to put in them.

“I am only doing what the prophet Elisha asked me to do.”

“Elisha?!” My eyes widened. “Is he at your house?”

“No, I went to him and pleaded for help to save my sons from slavery.”

“I’m aware of your situation,” I replied. “As are most people in town, yet this is all your ask for?”

“It is what the man of God told me to do.”

I nodded. I had a lot of respect for Elisha and I wasn’t about to argue with his instructions. “Children. Go get a couple empty jars from your mother.”

They immediately ran to the table where my wife already had two jars waiting. She smiled at me and nodded in agreement. When I took the jars from my children, I noticed they were the jars my wife’s mother made for her. I glanced at her, unsure whether I should give up these special jars. She smiled again and nodded.

“Here you go,” I told the widow as I handed her the jars.

“Thank you,” she replied with tears in her eyes. She handed the jars to her son who held them tightly in an embrace. “I hate to impose, but do you have any more jars you could spare?”

I glanced back at my wife. She reached toward the shelf behind her and grabbed a jar that was given to me by my grandfather. She looked at me and I nodded. “Son, go get that other jar from your mother.”

My son retrieved the jar and I handed it to the widow. “I’m afraid this is all we have to spare.”

“Thank you so much,” she said as she handed the additional jar to her son who carefully added it to his armful of jars.

“May I ask what the prophet intends to do with these jars?”

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “After I pleaded with him to help, he said, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ Then I told him I had nothing except

a small jar of olive oil. That’s when he told me, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

I nodded at her as we exchanged a stare. Behind her eyes I saw hope. She revered the Lord like her husband.

“Thank you for the jars,” she said with a slight smile.

“You’re welcome,” I replied.

I began to close the door, but paused as I watched her walk to the next house with her two sons. I admired her faith, her trust that this prophet would work a miracle for her.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who encounters the widow at his door asking for empty jars based on 2 Kings 4:1-7 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

When I look at the stars at night, I cannot comprehend the vastness of the universe you created dear God. I feel so insignificant gazing at the heavens. I feel like a lone grain of sand on an infinite beach of stars.

Yet I praise you dear God that you don’t see us as insignificant in your eyes. Just as you ordered the universe, you have ordered our lives. I praise you that as believers in Jesus Christ you count us worthy to serve you. That you value us in your kingdom. All praise to you dear God for giving us life. May we bring honor to your name today.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

She was just a poor old widow barely getting by on what little she had. Yet I’d never seen someone with such devotion to God. Despite the trials, despite losing her husband, she did not lose her faith in God. All she had was two small copper coins to her name, but she wanted to show her gratitude to God.

I pleaded with her not to go, to keep the two small coins. I reminded her that the teachers of the law should be taking care of her. It was their duty after she lost her husband. “Why support the temple when it doesn’t support you?” I questioned. She just smiled back at me. She wouldn’t listen to me and proceeded to the temple to give her last two copper coins.

I followed behind her. She was too stubborn to want my help, but I would follow her just in case she needed someone to assist her. Inside the temple court, as she made her way to treasury, I spotted those teachers of the law putting on a show as they deposited large amounts into the treasury. The coins made a large noise. When this widow made her deposit, the two coins were barely audible. I stood a ways back, slipping behind a pillar so she wouldn’t see me as she exited the courtyard. That’s when I saw him standing within earshot of me.

I had heard about this teacher who called himself Jesus. I noticed him watching the woman leaving the courtyard. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

His words amazed me. Such wisdom. I knew she gave all she had in belief that God would provide, but how did he know? It was as if he knew her heart, as if he had listened in on our conversation, as if he knew my thoughts. This widow’s faith, her actions, and now the words of this Jesus pierced me to the core. My heart stirred like never before in my life.

#WednesdayWalk Through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of someone who witnessed the poor widow contributing to the temple treasury based on Luke 21:1-4 (NIV).

“For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.” – 2 Corinthians 8:12

© 2019 CGThelen

In the midst of late summer, I see the fruits of my labor in my garden. Ripe, red tomatoes, green peppers, and cucumbers all appear on lush green plants. Flowers blossom bright hues of reds, orange, pink and purple. The grass is a blanket of soft green carpet that feels soft under my feet. I can say that all of this is a result of my work, but I know that none of it would be possible without God’s hand.

We are the benefactors of God’s creation. He could have chosen to place us in a stark and sterile world void of color and a variety of plants and animals. Yet he created a world full of color, beauty, and awesome splendor — a world that soothes our troubled souls with the sound of waves lapping the shore, the fresh smell of rain and the vast display of a mountain range. God offers us so much more through life with him, but like Adam and Eve we often opt to pursue selfish desires.

Psalm 147: 8-11 reminds us of who sustains us and this world we live in: “He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”

If we only look at the world around us through the eyes of our accomplishments and selfish desires, we will miss seeing the true author of life. God’s love for us is evident in the world he has placed us in. His hope and peace can be found in the life and purpose he has given to us.

#ThrowbackThursday – This post originally published June 30, 2015.

© 2015 CGThelen

Day after day the pounding continued. It would not stop. But this morning I awoke to silence. After listening for so long to the mallets pounding on cypress wood beams and planks, the silence seemed strange.

I climbed out of my bed and peered out the window at the massive structure. It was eerily silent. No activity at all around it. “Is it finished?” I mumbled as I dressed and made my way to the door. I had a strange feeling about it all. I needed to see for myself what was going on. I wondered if perhaps the people had enough with this idiot and his family and dragged them away. “Good riddens!” I mumbled. I was pretty fed up with having that self righteous man as a neighbor.

This Noah and his family were quite the talk of the town. Noah acted so righteous, so pious. He walked around like he was better than everyone else and now he was building this stupid thing he called an ark. Despite what everyone said, I was convinced they built it to lock themselves away from everyone. After all, they were stockpiling all kinds of grain and stuff inside that ark.

It was just as well since Noah never went to any of our parties. He seemed to think they were corrupt and violent, I called them fun. Such a boring and arrogant man. Who needed him anyways. If they dragged him and his family away, they had it coming. We didn’t need them around.

“Anyone here?” I shouted as I approached the ark and gazed up at the open door on the side. I studied the massive ark with its cypress planks. The smell of fresh pitch coated on the wood was strong. It was an unusual house built by an unusual man. “Anyone here?” I repeated.

A moment later Noah poked his head out from the open door and motioned at me. I shrugged my shoulders, not sure what he was trying to tell me. He motioned again. What was this silly man up to? Then I heard a soft rumbling sound from behind me. I turned and was surprised to see an odd assortment of animals approaching as if they were being herded. “What is that nut up to now, collecting meat for his stash of food?”

I moved away from the ark as the herd approached, seemingly in pairs. Dust rose from the movement of the great number of animals. I kept my distance as I looked for someone herding the animals. There was no one in sight. Perhaps they were hidden by the dust cloud. Things were getting weirder by the minute.

I shook my head and walked away. I didn’t want any part of this silly man’s antics. I didn’t want to be associated with Noah and his family. What would people think if they saw me with all these animals? They might think I helped herd them into the ark. “Let him lock himself up in this thing,” I laughed as I hurried off to my friend’s big party. “He’s going to miss all the fun and excitement.”

#WednesdayWalk through the Bible — an exploration of what unknown people might have seen or felt when they witnessed the events in the Bible. This post is from the perspective of a neighbor to Noah based on Genesis 6:9 – 7:16.

© 2019 CGThelen

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” – Luke 17:26-27

Suffering is a part of life in this world. It is difficult to understand the reason we experience pain and grief. Like Job, we wrestle with why we experience anguish — trauma that causes us to cry out as Job did: “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the sea… (Job 6:2-3, NIV).”

Pain in our life, deep misery, can cause us to cry out for help. As Job wrestled with God’s purpose for his agony, it caused him to open up to God and others about his pain. He expressed his true feelings: “Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul (Job 7:11).” This is the essence of true community with God and other Christians; open and honest conversation about our struggles and emotions that builds a deep connection with God and each other.

When we share our suffering, we open the door to sharing a journey that can deepen our faith in God. We move beyond surface conversations like Job’s friends who claim they have answers for his suffering: “Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty (Job 15:5).”

To walk with a friend through the anguish is to experience it with them; to cry with them; to grieve with them. Sharing our deepest feelings, our deepest pain, welcomes others to deepen their faith with us as we replace trying to understand the purpose for pain with a deeper faith, a deeper trust in God. We can exclaim as Job did, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted (Job 42:2).”

© 2019 CGThelen

I dig deep in my soul. I think your ways are my ways; your desires my desires. And yet I can feel distant from you God, not understanding why some things need to be the way they are — why the pain and suffering. It seems so unnecessary. I only desire for them to be free from being enslaved to the lies, to the deceit; free from the sin that only brings misery. I only want them to bask in the joy of your light dear Jesus. Isn’t this also your desire dear God? So much pain, at times it seems unbearable. My heart aches, my soul weeps. I cry out to you God in prayer for change. Help me to grab hold of your wisdom and truth, even in the midst of my doubt. Help me to trust in you.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3

© 2019 CGThelen

Life has a way of giving us formidable challenges with seemingly impossible hurdles. “It would take at least six months of work to make that happen,” we say, discouraged as we assess our options. “We don’t have nearly enough here to help all these people,” we cry as we are overwhelmed by the need around us. From our limited perspective we can’t see beyond ourselves and our limited abilities. We do the math and things just don’t add up.

It’s the same type of response Phillip and Andrew gave in John 6:1-13 when Jesus tests them with the question, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat (verse 5-6, NIV)?” Jesus specifically asks his disciples the question in response to a large crowd gathering around them. As believers in Jesus Christ, it is the question we are often faced with in our walk of faith: Do I trust God to provide or rely solely on my own means to try to overcome challenges in life? In our head things just don’t add up.

“It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite,” Phillip answered Jesus, with a rational approach of doing the math to determine it would cost more money than they had available to feed everyone. “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Andrew replied, only seeing what was available in front of him. These are answers I often give when what I have available doesn’t add up to the need.

But Jesus shows another way to look at the equation: “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish (11).” He shows his disciples that God is able to meet our needs in ways we can’t imagine. When we try it on our own, we come up short, but with God we get our fill: “When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten (12-13).”

© 2019 CGThelen

My heart races

In the tall grass

I make my way

Eyes wide open

Alert for sounds

I hear growling

A twig snaps

I am pursued

By my adversary

Once he held me

Tightly bound

With heavy chains

And a steel cage

Until my savior

Told me the truth

That I had the key

To set myself free

Once unlocked

I fled his evil grip

Feeling freedom

My heart overflowed

With pure joy

Yet his anger stirred

He came after me

Angry I was free

No longer a prisoner

Chained to his lies

He keeps pursuing me

Not wanting to let go

Hunting me in the dark

With flaming arrows

Shouting out lies

Hiding somewhere

In the tall grass

Waiting to pounce

But I press on

With the truth

Close by my side

With the key

Firmly in my hand

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

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