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In the changing seasons, I see you dear Lord. I see your hand in the detail of emerging fall colors on the leaves of the trees. I see your touch in the way all the leaves blend together to create a symphony of beauty for our eyes.

I praise you dear Lord for your hand in the intricate details of our lives, for your touch on the littlest things in our life. Even though I often cannot see how these small details contribute to the larger tapestry, I praise you that your promises are true, that indeed you are creating a larger picture of beauty. I praise you for your never ending love for us, for your abundant grace. You are worthy of all praise. I praise you that some day we will see the vast vista of all the intricate details together. All praise to you dear God.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:13-14

© 2019 CGThelen

Praise to you dear God for the way you show your love and grace. I praise you that you do not always meet my expectations, but instead choose the better path for me; the path with the long term view, not short term gain. I praise you for the littlest surprises that appear in our day to bring encouragement. Your love dear God abounds. It is unfathomable. I sing praises that your love is not limited by our ability to love you back. You created us in your image and love us beyond measure. May our love for you deepen each day dear God.

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

I sat with her in her living room as she talked about her life. Somehow she managed to keep her frail body upright in the chair. A small plastic tube by her nose fed her oxygen as she spoke with a raspy voice. I could sense the bitterness as she told me about past injustices done to her from decades ago. Over the years I had known this aged woman it seemed the grip of bitterness had only grown tighter on her life. It seemed to cripple her to the point where she was hunched over, eyes pointed toward the floor. I longed to free her from the bondage of unforgiveness with the loving touch of Jesus Christ, but she would have nothing to do with it.

Days later I came across Luke 13:10-17 where Jesus healed a woman crippled “by a spirit for eighteen years.” Toward the end of the passage Jesus remarked that she had been kept bound all those years by Satan. What is interesting about this passage is that the woman does not seek healing from Jesus. She was there in the synagogue listening to Jesus teach and he called her forward. Jesus told the woman, “you are set free from your infirmity.” He placed his hands on her and then she, immediately “straightened up and praised God.”

It reminded me of my aged friend I visited a few days earlier and how she chose to let Satan hold her in the grip of bitterness — choosing to let past injustices keep her bent over and unable to straighten up. She was emotionally and now physically crippled, refusing to even enter a church to hear the teaching of Christ. She refused to hear Jesus call her forward so he could touch her with his grace and release her from the grip of Satan. She chose to remain hunched over in bitterness instead of letting Jesus set her free from the grip of Satan.

In this life we are often struck by emotional and physical events that can cripple us for years. Satan wants to bind us with these infirmities so that we remain crippled, hunched over with our eyes to the ground so we are unable to stand and raise our hands to praise and worship God. Jesus calls us forward to touch our lives, but the grip of the injustices of this life hold us back from receiving his freedom. Instead we listen to those, like the synagogue leader in this passage, who don’t want us to receive Jesus Christ and his healing touch. We remain hunched over in bitterness with eyes pointed to the ground instead of Jesus.

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published March 10, 2017.

© 2017 CGThelen

People will disappoint. Expectations will not be met. I will be hurt by others. Grief will come. I can count on them happening to me in this world. Yet you dear God are faithful. Your grace and love continue to abound. Your promises are truth. Forgive me for having unreasonable expectations of you. Forgive me for being disappointed when you don’t meet my expectations. Forgive me for being inpatient with you dear God when you don’t work in my timeframe. Help me to align with your will, your plans. Help me to forgive those who hurt me. Fill me with your grace and love.

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. – Luke 23:33-34 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

Shattered

Broken pieces

Scattered all around

Void of any shape

A broken vessel

Unable to hold

Fragile clay pot

Smashed against

A cold, hard floor

So many pieces

Yet God’s hand

Patiently shows

Porous clay edges

Now exposed

Readily absorb

His love and grace

One by one

His compassion

Glues pieces together

Little by little*

He rebuilds

Restoring this vessel

To serve him

Until one day

It is complete

A vessel worthy

To hold his love

Filled with hope

Cracks still visible

Brokenness still evident

But held together

By God’s love and grace

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)

© 2019 CGThelen

*Thanks to Jennifer Arimborgo and her post http://feedingonjesus.com/2019/08/27/little-by-little-2/ for inspiring this poem.

I sat with her as she lay dying. The machine behind me pulsated, providing oxygen to sustain her in these final moments. She could no longer swallow and her voice was barely audible, yet occasionally she was able to say a few words. I held her hand and told her, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Even though she was very weak, she managed to lightly squeeze my hand. The cancer had ravaged her body, taken away all her strength, and now it was taking her life. She was no longer able to sit up and had been bed-ridden for more than a week. But now I sensed the end was near.

I gently pulled the hair away from her face and slowly caressed her head, trying to sooth her. “Water,” she managed to utter. She was no longer able to drink with a straw. I picked up the small sponge on a stick, dabbed it in the cup of water by her bed, and moistened her mouth with it. She sucked on it and I could see the relief on her face as the water refreshed her parched mouth. I set the sponge down and held her hand. “Thank you,” she managed to say with a raspy voice. “It’s okay,” I repeated to her with my mouth close to her ear. “God loves you,” I added.

As difficult as it was to sit with her, I had a sense of peace. I couldn’t help but think of this as an image of God and how he tends to us with a loving touch. In the midst of our difficulties in life, when we feel weak and helpless, he is there holding our hand saying, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” He dabs our parched soul with living water to refresh us. He is there by our side each step of the way, gently caressing our head, soothing our weary soul. We only need to take his hand and say, “Thank you.”

After a few hours of sitting with her, a family member arrived and took over the vigil. A few hours later she died. I thought of what a privilege it is to serve God; how he calls on each of us to serve him in a special way. No one act of service is any greater than any other in the Kingdom of God. We all have our own calling to convey God’s love to others in need of a loving touch; people who need their parched soul moistened with living water. As followers of Jesus Christ it is a privilege to be his hands and feet in a world full of need.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28 (NIV)

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt. 28:20 (NIV)

© 2018 CGThelen

This #ThrowbackThursday post commemorates a good friend who died a year ago on August 17. Originally published August 21 2018, this post reflected on the experience of being there that day.

The world rages on. Disputes arise, kindling flames. Yet in this moment, in your sanctuary I hear only silence. “Peace be with you,” Jesus tells me.

I am unsettled, anxious about this day. I thirst for calm waters. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you,” Jesus reminds me.

I feel surrounded by those hostile to you God. They clasp their ears so they cannot hear your truth. I am discouraged, tired; my efforts seem futile. “Peace be with you,” Jesus repeats.

Praise God for his calming voice. Praise God for his peace, the peace that surpasses all understanding. Praise God for his reassurance, that we can call him Father. Praise God for his grace, his loving touch that calms and soothes. Praise God that we can approach him with our fears and worries, that he listens. Praise God that he patiently guides us on his path and purpose. All praise to God who is our rock, our fortress, our constant in a world of shifting sand.

Peace scripture: Luke 24:36, John 14:27 & John 20:26 (NIV).

© 2019 CGThelen

Years ago we were at a conference with other Christians and during the break we struck up a conversation with a couple we had never met before. They soon learned that my spouse and I were in the middle of moving and our new home would not be available for a few weeks. “This may sound strange,” the older gentleman said. “I know we just met, but why don’t you stay with us. I feel like we’re family.” We reassured him that we had a place to stay nearby with family, but thanked him for his generous offer.

Even though this happened years ago, I have often thought about it when I consider who is my family. In Luke 8:19-21 Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but the crowds prevent them from getting close to him. Someone informs him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you (verse 20, NIV).” To which Jesus replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice (verse 21).”

We are born with an earthly family yet as Christians we are children of God our father. Romans 8:14-15 tells us, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” We are adopted into the family of God so we can cry, “Abba, Father.” Only those who believe in Jesus and follow him will be part of the family of God. It pains me to think some in my earthly family are not part of God’s family because of their disbelief.

Praise God, however, that he is patient, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).” Even though we are sinners, he welcomes those who believe in Jesus into the family of God. In John 11:25 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” There is hope for my unbelieving family members, I just need to continue to pray and reach out to them.

© 2019 CGThelen

Darkness covers the land, but in the east light emerges. Soon brilliant hues of orange and red light up the sky. The darkness gives way to the light. Soon all that was hidden by the night is illuminated by the morning sun.

Praise God that he has given his son Jesus to us to dispel the darkness. Thank you God that your light reveals what was once hidden, that you reveal our sin and provide a way to redemption. Praise God that you gave us your Spirit to help us discern good from evil, to help us see the path you have given us to follow.

Thank you God that you have provided a community who follow Christ Jesus, a community to help one another grow in our faith in you. Praise God for your grace and love, that we can be called children of God.

“Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” – 2 Samuel 7:18

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” – Romans 8:14

© 2019 CGThelen

In the deepest pit of sadness, as sorrow overwhelmed me, I cried out to God to somehow free me from the suffering. When tears flowed seemingly from no where, I cried out to you Lord, “Let this pass.” When my body tensed, my breathing quickened and my heart rate increased, I cried out to you God. Tears flowing, filled with sorrow, I cried to God to let this pass, but you gave me the words of your son Jesus instead: “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will (Luke 14:36, NIV).”

God has created us for a specific purpose. He has uniquely crafted us, chosen us to do his will. Our obedience, as difficult as it is at times, is essential to carrying out God’s plan — to help others find the path to salvation through Christ Jesus. Through our struggles God deepens our faith. He uses our pain to help build empathy for others who experience pain. In the Kingdom of God nothing is wasted; fruit is born out of our suffering.

When I feel alone and full of grief, I recall the words of Jesus: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death (14:34).” Even though Jesus shared with his disciples the deep emotional pain he felt, they ultimately abandoned him in his time of need. Jesus understands the feeling of loneliness; he understands suffering for God’s purposes. In Christ Jesus you are not alone. He will never forsake you.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:32-36

© 2019 CGThelen

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