On Your Feet

When I was about four years old, I had an accident that almost cost me my sight. My mother was cleaning the wall oven in our kitchen with an Easy-Off product that was very caustic. She was applying it to the open door of the oven with the brush-in-the-lid applicator when I quietly came around the corner and startled her. The brush flicked a gob of oven cleaner straight into my eye, burning my eyeball in an instant.

Mom was amazingly good at thinking on her feet, and grabbed the glass of water I had in my hand and flushed my eye. She then ran me to the tub and flushed out the eye even more, amidst my howls and screams. I think I may have been in more danger of drowning than losing my sight at that point. Then she wrapped me in a towel and ran five blocks with me to our local GP. My father had taken our only car to work that day, and the doctor’s practice was located in an addition to his house.

He filled my eyes with some kind of dye to assess the damage. This is my only memory of the event … the rest of it is only known to me through hearing the story told. I have a clear memory of sitting on his examination table in the dark with my eyes closed. Naturally I had kept them shut as much as possible during the entire ordeal, with my right eye feeling as though it was on fire. They had to cajole me into opening them, and when I finally did, the darkened room was a lovely shade of blue, due to the dye. The doctor was using an ophthalmoscope, moving it back and forth to assess the damage. As I looked at my mother’s anxious face, haloed in blue, I said to her, ”Mommy! You are so pretty in blue!” Thus they knew that my sight had survived the ordeal. I got my lollipop and we walked home.

Sight, in all of its many forms, is a precious thing.

Today’s passage tells the story of a blind man who is healed by Jesus, Son of David:

Mark 10 (New International Version)

46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

This an interesting detail that Mark thoughtfully included. This entire community knew the man. He sat in the same place every day, begging for enough coins to sustain him. And yet the minute he has a chance to be healed, they shushed him.

Sometimes society likes to keep its status quo by silencing those who sit at the bottom of the class structure . The hungry, the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the immigrant, the mentally ill … aren’t we guilty of looking the other way and just wishing they wouldn’t bother us?

49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

This is exactly what we are meant to do as well. Call over the ones who are hurting. Call over the ones who need help. Call over the ones who need JESUS.

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” 50 Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

Again, Mark blesses us with detail. Don’t you love it when they say to the blind man, ”Cheer up!”? What a happy moment. They know what is coming. They know the next part of the story. They know what their savior can do.

Do you?

And don’t miss the detail of the man throwing his cloak aside. It is very probable that this is this man’s only possession. Think about that! Would you be willing to give up every thing you owned to have an encounter Jesus? The rich young ruler couldn’t. (Mark 10:17-31)

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Perhaps the greatest teaching in this passage is found in the newly-sighted man’s response. The minute he finally saw Jesus, he followed him.

Can you see Jesus actively working in your life? Do you need to be healed? Would you give up everything to follow him?

As we ponder these things today, may God grant us wisdom and insight into everything he is doing in our lives.

Open your eyes! Jesus is calling.

Miracles Around Us by Bev Mineo

Are you looking for a Christmas devotional book? Check this out!

Where Were You

Have you ever been put in your place? Has a moment of brash talk ever resulted in someone “setting you straight”? It hurts, doesn’t it? I’ve been there and felt that. In hindsight, it was not so much a punishing experience as it was a learning experience. These moments of correction are painful, and often necessary. But we have to be open to their instruction … that’s the trick.

In today’s passage we find God giving Job the ultimate moment of instruction. Wowzers, this is a doozy. God begins by calling Job a “darkening counsel” and says that Job’s words lack knowledge:

Job 38 (Common English Bible)

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:

Who is this darkening counsel
    with words lacking knowledge?
Prepare yourself like a man;
    I will interrogate you, and you will respond to me.

Yikes. But as you read this next part, see how God describes all of his omnipotent power in a way that is reassuring, even as Job is being rebuked:

The establishing of order

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?
    Tell me if you know.
Who set its measurements? Surely you know.
    Who stretched a measuring tape on it?
On what were its footings sunk;
    who laid its cornerstone,
    while the morning stars sang in unison
        and all the divine beings shouted?

Can you issue an order to the clouds
    so their abundant waters cover you?
35 Can you send lightning so that it goes
    and then says to you, “I’m here”?
36 Who put wisdom in remote places,
    or who gave understanding to a rooster?
37 Who is wise enough to count the clouds,
        and who can tilt heaven’s water containers
38     so that dust becomes mud
        and clods of dirt adhere?

If you needed to be reminded of who is in control, this is it. God sends lightning and wisdom alike. He counts the clouds, tilts heaven’s water containers, and gives understanding to the rooster. Can you do that?

Lion and raven

39 Can you hunt prey for the lion
    or fill the cravings of lion cubs?
40 They lie in their den,
    lie in ambush in their lair.
41 Who provides food for the raven
    when its young cry to God,
    move about without food?

Job is a righteous man who experiences a humbling lesson. So should we. But rather than receive these words as a chastisement, as Job had to, may we embrace them as a beautiful reminder that God is God … and we are not.

Thanks be to God!

Smart Kitty Hawkers

Descriptions

Online shopping has taught us to be very careful about reading descriptions. Size, color, texture, weight, and even other people’s reviews are all helpful as we are trying to discern what a product is actually like. If you have ever ordered something without paying attention to the description, this may have been part of the learning curve for you. It was for me!

In the beginning of the pandemic, I panic-ordered hand sanitizer from an unfamiliar source and failed to look at the description closely. Where the picture (and the price!!) was indicative of a large bottle that would sit by your kitchen sink for family use, the actual product was a very expensive pocket-sized container. Thank goodness I ordered two!

The scriptures are full of descriptions of Jesus. John 3:16 gives the most concise description: ”For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (I did that from memory … the King James Version was all the rage when this kid was in Sunday School.)

When I was researching scripture for ADVENTuring to the Manger: 25 Devotionals for Christmas, I stumbled upon a great explanation for the ”why” of Christmas in the book of Titus, of all places:

Titus 3 (Contemporary English Version)

God our Savior showed us
    how good and kind he is.
He saved us because
    of his mercy,
and not because
of any good things
    that we have done.

God washed us by the power
    of the Holy Spirit.
He gave us new birth
    and a fresh beginning.
God sent Jesus Christ
our Savior
    to give us his Spirit.

Jesus treated us much better
    than we deserve.
He made us acceptable to God
and gave us the hope
    of eternal life.

Reading the description makes us much more aware of the qualities and special aspects of the subject. Titus beautifully describes the grace that was involved in Jesus’ coming.

I don’t think anyone would argue that some of the best descriptions of Jesus come from the book of Isaiah. This Old Testament prophet had a working knowledge of the suffering servant that was yet to come. His description came with no reviews, as he was describing something that hadn’t even happened yet. Unlike the eyewitness accounts of the Gospel writers, Isaiah only had prophetic visions to rely on … and yet he provided some of the most accurate and beautiful language about our Savior:

Isaiah 53 (Common English Bible)

It was certainly our sickness that he carried,
    and our sufferings that he bore,
    but we thought him afflicted,
    struck down by God and tormented.
He was pierced because of our rebellions
    and crushed because of our crimes.
    He bore the punishment that made us whole;
    by his wounds we are healed.
Like sheep we had all wandered away,
    each going its own way,
    but the Lord let fall on him all our crimes.

He was oppressed and tormented,
    but didn’t open his mouth.
Like a lamb being brought to slaughter,
    like a ewe silent before her shearers,
    he didn’t open his mouth.

11 After his deep anguish he will see light, and he will be satisfied.
Through his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant,
    will make many righteous,
    and will bear their guilt.

He was pierced for our transgressions.

He was crushed because of our sins.

He bore the punishment THAT MADE US WHOLE.

By his wounds we are healed.

Ponder that today. Who is Jesus to you? If you were to write a description of him, what would you say? How would you describe our Wonderful Counselor?

Do this today … and write it on your heart.

Cloud Mountains by Scott Brown

The Helpers

I cannot imagine going through life without helpers. I am blessed to be married to a man who knows how to fix things, how to cook amazing dinners, and he always remembers where I left my shoes. Not everyone is so lucky … after all, he’s married to me.

There is an interconnectedness of life that was intentional in God’s design. We were made to live in community. God’s plan was for harmony in his creation, so when discord breaks out, it truly grieves him. We are given to one another in order to help, support, build up, and encourage. Families, groups, churches, sports teams, institutions…every basic unit of life functions better when acceptance is given, help is available, individuals are lifted up by the group, and the strong look out for the weak. None of us is meant to go it alone. This is why twelve step groups like AA, NA, and Al Anon are so successful.

Everyone needs a helper.

Our need for others was built into us from the very beginning:

Genesis 2 (New International Version)

18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

Is God telling you to offer help to someone today? Or has he shown you that you need to reach out to a friend and ask for help? This is a game where we all take turns. Sometimes you give help, and sometimes you need help. When we participate in a community of helpers, we experience the genius and the blessing of God’s creation.

A friend has recently been going through a very hard time and she has been emailing me through the process. I can see in her emails that the act of talking through things and then listening to my supportive responses is helping her. What she may not know is that it is helping me, too. To come alongside someone in a challenging life-moment is a blessing that is shared. As I see her making good decisions and moving on with her life, I am relieved to know that my friend is going to be okay. When we both look back at this time, we will be able to celebrate how much stronger our friendship became through this adversity. A burden shared is a burden halved.

And it’s really not that hard to be someone’s helper. I sent my friend a meme that said “Trust your hard work. It’s unlocking doors you can’t see yet.” A few weeks later she sent me a picture of her work computer. She had printed out the meme and taped it to her monitor as a daily reminder. It took me less than a minute to send it to her, and it is giving her encouragement every day. God works through the helpers!

Sometimes all a person needs is a kind text, a quick phone call, a casserole to be delivered, or a lovely card to be sent. You know how it feels to be on the receiving end of such kindness … so let us be about helping someone today.

God said it is not good for us to be alone. Be somebody’s somebody today.

The Birds in the Sky by Michelle Robertson

Why (Not) Me?

Many years ago, I sat by my daughter’s hospital bed waiting for her to wake up from surgery. It was my job to tell her that the ”fibroid” that had just been removed turned out to be a malignant tumor. When I delivered this news, she shed a single tear, and then asked one question: was her roommate Maritsa still in the waiting room, and could she come see her now? I still marvel at that moment. She didn’t ask a thousand questions. She didn’t yell ”Why me?” She didn’t cry hysterically….she was ready to get on with it and tell her friend she was okay.

Throughout her cancer treatments, Sarah never once asked the why me? question. I finally asked her about that, and she shrugged. ”Why not me?” was her response. Her faith as a 20-year-old was strong enough to believe that since God had brought her to this moment, he would bring her through it. And he did.

Anyone who has undergone cancer surgeries and chemo treatments can probably relate to Job a little. In fact, anyone who has battled severe illness can find themselves somewhere in his story. Certainly those who have battled COVID and come out the other side must feel as though they had been sitting on an ash-heap covered in pain, with friends and family unable to relate to what they are going through.

There are many things in life that put us on an ash heap. Job loss, unfaithful spouses, belligerent kids, family members succumbing to addiction…we all have suffered in some way. The challenge is this: will your suffering cause you to cry out against God? Do you love him in the good times and curse him in the disasters?

Let’s look at Job today.

Job 2 (Contemporary English Version)

2 When the angels gathered around the Lord again, Satan was there with them, and the Lord asked, “Satan, where have you been?”

Satan replied, “I have been going all over the earth.”

Then the Lord asked, “What do you think of my servant Job? No one on earth is like him—he is a truly good person, who respects me and refuses to do evil. And he hasn’t changed, even though you persuaded me to destroy him for no reason.”

Satan answered, “There’s no pain like your own. People will do anything to stay alive. Try striking Job’s own body with pain, and he will curse you to your face.”

“All right!” the Lord replied. “Make Job suffer as much as you want, but just don’t kill him.” Satan left and caused painful sores to break out all over Job’s body—from head to toe.

Then Job sat on the ash-heap to show his sorrow. And while he was scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery, his wife asked, “Why do you still trust God? Why don’t you curse him and die?”

10 Job replied, “Don’t talk like a fool! If we accept blessings from God, we must accept trouble as well.” In all that happened, Job never once said anything against God.

As you may remember, things get much, much worse for Job from this point on. But even after losing everything, he still refused to curse God. This is a lesson for us today. It is a reminder that even when things go very, very wrong, God is still in control. Things always happen for a reason, just like our mamas told us … even when we can’t fathom what that reason might be.

Are you sitting on an ash heap today? Take heart. God is with you in your suffering. If he brought you to this moment, he is guaranteed to bring you through it. So what are you meant to learn from it? Ponder that, and ask God to help you understand.

In all things, God is able. He is present in your suffering, and you do not walk alone. Remember that with him, all things are possible. Let that be your hope today.

Hope Flows by Nancy Bealer

Good News/Other News

That dichotomy is usually set up as Good News/Bad News, but today, there is no bad news … just other news.

The good news is that I am in final edits on a book called ”ADVENTuring to the Manger,” which is a collection of 25 devotionals for Christmas. It will be available on Amazon, hopefully as early as next week. While it was written for personal devotional use, it could also be a resource for small groups or bible study classes. In order for that to be easy on the leaders, I have decided to write a free, downloadable Leader’s Guide.

My other good news is that I have been hired by Cokesbury (the United Methodist Publishing House) to write an Adult Bible Study book that will be published in the summer of 2023. I have until next April to finish that manuscript, but even with the long deadline, attending to my church work and family has made all of this wonderfulness become somewhat of a juggling act. As someone who regularly drops things while unloading the dishwasher, I am not at all skilled at juggling. But thanks be to God for all these amazing opportunities to continue a ministry of writing!

So here is the other news. I need to take a step back from writing devotionals every day for At Water’s Edge. It will be a small step for now, as I intend to continue to publish two or three days per week.

I have cherished knowing that many of you are reading this EVERY DAY. As of this morning, I have published 618 devotionals in a row. Some of you have actually read all 618 of them. Bless you! My singular desire for this adventure was to get people immersed in scripture every day, and together, we have done that! Thank you, thank you! So while it is my intention to return to that at some point in the future, for now, please watch for devotionals two or three times a week.

Paul beautifully expresses how I feel about each one of you:

Philippians 1 (Common English Version)

I thank my God every time I mention you in my prayers. I’m thankful for all of you every time I pray, and it’s always a prayer full of joy. I’m glad because of the way you have been my partners in the ministry of the gospel from the time you first believed it until now. I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. 10 I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. 11 I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God.

Thank you for being my partner in God’s grace.

Betsy

A New Day Dawns by Michelle Robertson

From the Mouths of Babes

Last week I received prayer concerns for several babies who had been born too early. A clergy friend asked for prayer for her granddaughter, who was born by emergency C-section at 33 weeks. A church member asked for prayer for a cousin’s baby, who was born weighing just over five pounds and requires surgery. Seeing pictures of newborns fully hooked up in the neonatal intensive care unit brought back memories of my twin grandchildren, who spent the first two weeks of their lives in a NICU. Today, they are thriving, healthy, ORNERY four-year-olds and I pray that every baby on our prayer list ends up just like them. Please Lord, make it so!

I had just finished praying for these babies when I read today’s lectionary passage from the book of Psalms. Look for David’s reference to babies:

Psalm 8 (New King James Version)

O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.

Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, God has ordained strength. What a wonderful concept! Can you imagine these tiny babies singing praises to God as they receive the tender care and ministrations of well-trained intensive care nurses and doctors? The beauty of this passage takes my breath away. As they lie there with their eyes taped shut, ventilators helping them breath, feeding tubes down their noses providing sustenance, and multiple monitors strapped to their little chests, they are busy singing praises to their God as they wait. Oh, my, yes!

David continues his own words of praise as he contemplates God’s creation:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.

As we wait through life’s trials and tribulations, we can sing praises to God regardless of the situation, hardship, challenge, or threat that we face. We are ordained with strength! God has made us just a little lower than the angels. All life is precious in God’s sight, and we are crowned with glory and honor.

This undeserved status is a gift from the One who told the stars and the moon where to sit. We are so loved by God.

You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.

And with this crowning of glory comes responsibility for the works of God’s hand. We must care for God’s creatures. We must care for God’s earth. We must do everything we can to ensure that the tiny babies have clean air, unpolluted seas, and a healthy planet to raise their own babies. It is our job to take care of the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. How are we doing?

How will you respond to this today? Will you pray for the tiny babies? Will you change your habits to ensure a healthy world? Will you support your local SPCA?

God’s name is over all of the earth, from the smallest baby to the biggest whale in the sea. May all life rise up and sing praises to his name!

O Lord, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!

The Paths of the Seas by Michelle Robertson

Intrigue

Deception. Revenge. A double-cross. A beautiful queen. A wrathful king. Political intrigue. A nation hanging in the balance.

Believe it or not, this is not a description of the latest Netflix series or an update on the Harry and Meghan story. No, this twisting plot is from the Old Testament, and is found in a book that never mentions God once.

Intrigued?

Esther was a beautiful jewess who was given to the Persian King Xerxes after she won a beauty pageant that was held to find a new queen. Her benefactor and older cousin Mordecai received a position in the palace as well, infuriating a jealous and insecure man named Haman. Haman then plotted to annihilate the jews in order to rid himself of this competition. But the plot backfired when Esther, now the queen, leveraged the king’s favor and asked him to save her people:

Esther 7 (Contemporary English Version)

7 The king and Haman were dining with Esther and drinking wine during the second dinner, when the king again said, “Esther, what can I do for you? Just ask, and I will give you as much as half of my kingdom!”

Esther answered, “Your Majesty, if you really care for me and are willing to help, you can save me and my people. That’s what I really want, because a reward has been promised to anyone who kills my people. Your Majesty, if we were merely going to be sold as slaves, I would not have bothered you.”

“Who would dare to do such a thing?” the king asked.

Esther replied, “That evil Haman is the one out to get us!”

Haman was terrified, as he looked at the king and the queen.

In a beautiful twist of events, Haman’s scheme to hang Mordecai is used against him:

Then Harbona, one of the king’s personal servants, said, “Your Majesty, Haman built a tower seventy-five feet high beside his house, so he could hang Mordecai on it. And Mordecai is the very one who spoke up and saved your life.”

Earlier, Mordecai had uncovered a plot to assassinate the king, and acted quickly enough to save the king’s life. Xerxes is infuriated to learn that Haman is now plotting to execute Mordecai.

“Hang Haman from his own tower!” the king commanded. 10 Right away, Haman was hanged on the tower he had built to hang Mordecai, and the king calmed down.

20 Mordecai wrote down everything that had happened. Then he sent letters to the Jews everywhere in the provinces 21 and told them:

Each year you must celebrate on both the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar, 22 the days when we Jews defeated our enemies. Remember this month as a time when our sorrow was turned to joy, and celebration took the place of crying. Celebrate by having parties and by giving to the poor and by sharing gifts of food with each other.

And thus began the celebration known as Purim, which commemorates this turn of events that saved a nation, and celebrates the woman who used her influence to bring it all about. Esther understood that she had been brought into the kingdom ”for such a time as this,” and trusted that the time would come when she could save her people. And so she did.

This story is a great reminder to us today to celebrate the victories that come in the midst of hardship. It is important to acknowledge even small steps forward when you are in the midst of a trying time. Every kindness shown to you, every good health report, a child getting all A’s on their report card, the completion of one more chemo … celebrating these moments center your faith on the One who provides them. Purim is a Jewish feast designed to remember when a time of sorrow had turned to joy, and celebrants are encouraged to share that joy by giving to the poor and sharing gifts of food. Perhaps we also could give a gift of generosity when we receive a small triumph.

Do you have something to celebrate today? Can you recall a time when God put you in a place of influence to do something good for someone? God’s invitation is to pause and remember … and mark your joy with a gift of generosity. We give thanks to God in ALL things! He is our provider, our sustainer, and our rescuer.

Joy by Michelle Robertson

Trapped

I recently flew on Southwest Airlines and discovered the world’s smallest airplane lavatory. I’m talking really, really small. I’m not a large person, and I banged my shoulders on the walls as I tried to maneuver around. As I washed my hands, I had to breathe deeply, move fast, and concentrate on what I was doing to hold my claustrophobia at bay.

Claustrophobia is not just a fear of small spaces, it is a fear of getting trapped. As I reached for the door handle, the inevitable thought flashed though my mind: what if it doesn’t open? What if I get stuck in here? What if panic takes over?

We get trapped in all kinds of places and situations by all kinds of things and people. I have a friend who is trapped in a bad relationship and can’t find her way out. Another is trapped by addiction. A third is trapped in his credit card debt. Our world is trapped by a pandemic that caught us by its teeth and won’t let go as it shakes us back and forth in an effort to snap our collective neck. Bad choices, bad luck, bad friends, and bad timing can make us feel immobilized and helpless.

What can you do when you feel trapped?

Our psalm today addresses this issue, and reminds us that the Lord is FOR us. This concept is so important, the psalmist repeats it twice:

Psalm 124 (Common English Bible)

If the Lord hadn’t been for us—
    let Israel now repeat!—
    if the Lord hadn’t been for us,
        when those people attacked us
then they would have swallowed us up whole
        with their rage burning against us!

Remembering that the Lord is for you is crucial when it comes to finding the strength to pry open the steel jaws of what has you trapped. God can overcome the raging waters and the enemies’ teeth when we are too weak to help ourselves.

Then the waters would have drowned us;
    the torrent would have come over our necks;
    then the raging waters would have come over our necks!

Bless the Lord
    because he didn’t hand us over
    like food for our enemies’ teeth!

What has you trapped today? Your help comes in the name of the Lord. He made heaven and earth! He surely can reach down and release you from the hunters’ snare. All you need to do is ASK. Prayer makes all the difference in an imprisoned life.

We escaped like a bird from the hunters’ trap;
    the trap was broken so we escaped!

There is nothing in life that you can’t escape if you turn yourself over to the Lord. In fact, there is nothing in death that you can’t escape either. When Jesus was crucified, died, was buried, and then on the third day arose from the dead, he opened up an escape hatch that can never be shut. Do you believe that? I do.

So no matter what has you by the teeth, cry out to the Lord of all creation and ask for freedom. It will be hard. You will have to do your part and make the difficult and exhausting changes that are required. But the good news is, God has come to deliver you, and he will walk beside you toward your freedom. You are never alone.

He is the Truth, and the truth will set you free.

Our help is in the name of the Lord,
    the maker of heaven and earth.

Thanks be to God.

Freedom Awaits by Michelle Robertson

Anointing

I remember my first healing service like it was yesterday. I was a very young pastor, fresh out of seminary, and the prayer ministry had asked the pastoral leadership to do a healing service for the church. There is a service in our United Methodist Book of Worship that involves prayer, the laying on of hands, and the anointing with oil.

I had never experienced a healing service growing up in the Methodist church as a child, and I was very curious about what would happen and how we would proceed. Visions of dramatic and overblown ”healings” from pentecostal television filled my imagination, and I tried to reconcile those images with how we methodical/Anglican-based Methodists would do such a service.

The service began, and after a homily, people were invited to come forward to kneel at the altar and be anointed with simple olive oil from a bowl. The pastors made a sign of the cross on the foreheads of those who came, and offered a prayer for each. As I laid hands on the people who were directed to me by the ushers, I felt the power of God in the words and the anointing as they knelt and received. There are very few moments in a worship setting that can be as powerful as a healing service.

James 5 (Common English Bible)

13 If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. 14 If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. 

This is where churches receive authority to offer healing services. James lays it right out: Call out the leaders. Pray. Anoint. Do it in God’s name.

15 Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. And if they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 For this reason, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. 

So here was my conundrum. If we all gathered and prayed from our collaborative faith for healing, surely the Lord will restore the person to health. That’s what it says, right? So what happens if healing doesn’t happen after a healing service?

My thoughts were immediately put to the test as a woman in her final days of terminal cancer was brought over to my side. Her husband pushed her wheelchair to the altar, and as I leaned over to anoint her and lay hands on her head, I realized she was wearing a wig. Of course she was. Chemo had stolen her hair many months before that. But that detail has remained in my memory for decades. I can still feel the surprise of that false hair under my fingers and palms.

Two days after the healing service, she died.

So what did that mean? Why wasn’t she healed? What happened to her anointing? Did our prayers not work?

A few days later, her husband sent us a note to thank us for the healing service. He said it was the first time his wife had been out of the house in over a year, and her first time back in the sanctuary since her diagnosis. He went on to thank us for allowing her to receive healing that night. When she got home that evening, she was filled with joy, peace, and hope in ways that she hadn’t felt in years. Her appetite was back and they shared a late night supper. She had confessed her sins at the altar, and knew exactly where she was going the minute the oil touched her forehead. Right before she passed two days later, she told her husband that she was finally healed.

Prayer had healed her. Hope had healed her. Jesus had healed her. Death had healed her.

17 Elijah was a person just like us. When he earnestly prayed that it wouldn’t rain, no rain fell for three and a half years. 18 He prayed again, God sent rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

I am glad that this happened early in my ministry, as it taught me to never be afraid to boldly ask for healing in the name of Jesus from that point on. It also taught me that Jesus will ALWAYS heal….and it may not look anything like what you were expecting.

What aspect of your life needs healing? Remember that the prayer of the righteous person is POWERFUL.

Just Pray by Michelle Robertson