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But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, "Give them up," and to the south, "Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth– everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." -Isaiah 43:1-7 (NRSV)
My mind wondered to memories of singing a song taken straight out of Isaiah 43:1-7, "Fear not, for I am with you …. I have redeemed you, I have called you by name … child you are mine…" The melody, the rhythm, the music all helped to reinforce the youthful mind in me that I could confront all fears and all kinds of storms.
And true enough, in life we are will crash into multiple fears of different shapes and sizes, and storms which come like flash of lightning. It’s during times when we find it hard to sing songs like "fear not" that we are truly put to the test. It’s times when the words spoken from God through the lips of Isaiah touch the storms we face, that we genuinely appreciate it’s meaning and power.
This week there’s news of a missing person which has troubled me deeply. It brought out some fears I have for our children specifically. It’s the kind of storm no one wishes to face. But sometimes they come. As I continue to pray for the missing person and the family. I’m also battling my own fears and reconsider my readiness to face any storm.
The fact is these fears and storms don’t come to us well announced ahead of schedule. The just crash into us when we least expect it. Sure, the promise of God as our refuge tells us we can run to him. We will face that when the time comes. But for many of us, learning to run to him now even when there are no storms is needed. Because we need to be familiar where to run to, when the time comes – first, initially out of crisis, but more importantly out of a real bond of love.
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The Lord said to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." -2 Corinthians 12:9 (NRSV)
Anything related to HIV-AIDS is often so distant from my experience. I recall a lady once knocking on the door of the previous church I served and it was my first encounter listening to someone’s story in detail. When I was overseas for summer school or at conferences where friends from Africa would share on HIV-AIDS, then the issue becomes closer to heart. One step closer.
I will never forget a quote from Henri Nouwen if I’m not mistaken, "If we talk about suffering, we lack no message". I agree. And even with my limited experience personally and with others, I recognize success is not the norm, suffering is. That’s why a suffering God in Christ can relate to us. That’s why when we hear words, like his grace is sufficient for us in our times of need, it is relevant. It is timely. It is needed.
The roots and causes of suffering won’t vanish so quickly on this side of heaven, we look forward to the day when there won’t be any more tears or pain. That’s the hope God promises us. We cling on to that. And then, we return to the realities of the daily experience of unwanted, uninvited, unsolicited suffering. .. and we pray and trust in God’s will to work in us no matter what. And somehow, God’s grace comes again and again … through all sorts of ways. And we press on forward …
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These Harmonics vibrated from August 25- August 27, 2008