What Does an “I AM” Look Like, Anyway?

Just thinking….

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I am a visual person. I remember things better when I can see them. I remember lectures better when notes are put on the board or screen. I can describe people, places, things in great detail if I have seen them….. even decades past! So it’s no great surprise that pictures of Jesus help me understand Him and worship Him better.

The problem, of course, is that there were no Kodak moments 2000 years ago. No Canons…. no cell phone cameras. So I have to turn to word pictures. And how wonderful that the WORD gives many pictures of Jesus!

Our pastor this morning spoke of Jesus as the I AM in word pictures, and it intrigued me.

Let’s begin with Exodus 3:13-14.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

Note: The name was not “I WAS”…. nor “I WILL BE”. Not even “I MIGHT BE”. It was right now, in the present…. which is exactly when I need Him most!

Then, jumping ahead in time, Jesus made an important series of I AM statements, and these are the exciting images that really stick in my brain. And of course, since God is three parts: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, then it stands to reason that the God of the Old Testament can use the same wording as the Jesus of the New Testament. They are one.

1. I AM BREAD

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John 6: 35. Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

Bread…. A staple, satisfying, filling, a source of strength. Yes, Jesus is that for me!

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2. I AM LIGHT

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John 8: 12.  When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Light…. Showing me the way, keeping from tripping and danger. Yes, Jesus is that for me!
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3. I AM THE GATE

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John 10: 7. Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.”

The Gate….. Protecting me from the evils outside. Yes, Jesus is that for me!

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4. I AM THE SHEPHERD

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John 10:11. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

The Shepherd….. Knowing what I need, and providing. Knowing when I am in danger, and protecting. Knowing when I am lost, and finding. Knowing when I am off the path, and guiding. Yes, Jesus is that for me!

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5. I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
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John 11:25. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”

The Resurrection and Life….. I have watched the first green signs of spring, pushing thru the cold soil……. Have seen corn become life from a seed that died, have observed the lilies which one day were not and then they existed in glory. Yes, Jesus is that for me!
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6. I AM THE WAY….THE TRUTH….THE LIFE

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John 14: 6. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

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The Way…. the Truth…. the Life…. The correct path gets me to my destination.  Anyone who tries to detour me off that path is false, not truth, giving me lies about my destination.  I want that narrow path to eternal life! Yes, Jesus is that for me!
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7. I AM THE VINE

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John 15: 5.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

The Vine…. the connector between the root and the fruit. No fruit is possible without that vine. Yes, Jesus is that for me!

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Sooooo……
When I get all stuck on myself, and huffy in spirit, and thinking I am in control…. When I start to believe that I am the master of my ship, the designer of my own universe, the owner of my body….  When I begin to act like I am charge of my own destiny….  then I lose sight of Jesus as I AM.  I try so often to put myself in this position: I am in charge of my fate.  I am the mastermind. I am the hard worker. And the list goes on.

When I actually believe that I am I AM, then I begin to worship my own intellect, my own power, my own self….. and not put my worship where it belongs.

Father…. help me to remember that it is not all about me. Help me to remember that Jesus is not the the USED TO BE; He is the I AM. Help me worship Him in spirit and in truth.  Forgive me for trying to be the one in charge and for all my misplaced worship. Thank You for all these pictures of Jesus!

To God be the glory…..
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Published in: on October 2, 2017 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Harvest: A Mystery of Sacrifice and Life

Just thinking…….

What do Willie Loman, Iowa corn and Jesus have in common? Read on….

October.  It’s harvest time here in southern Iowa.  Because of greater than average rainfall this summer, the harvest promises to be bountiful.    As I drive out of town, clouds of dust show where the farmers are working.

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Great machines roll through the fields and huge trucks carry away the grain.  This picture was taken of the harvest on the flat prairie fields in our area, where the corn meets the horizon miles away.

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(Photo by Brenda Burkhiser Jeffers)

The concept of harvest is ancient.  Early civilizations knew the importance of planting and harvesting in order to live.  For centuries, it was painstaking work by hand or with animals.  Even today, the crops are harvested this way by the Amish in our area.

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While modern machinery is huge, it was not long ago that harvesting machinery was relatively modest and not very technical.

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But whether large or small, or ancient or new, the harvest must go on.  It is essential in this circle of life.

My father was a farmer.  His farm was small and hilly.  He worked with small old machinery.  But in the end, he did what farmers have done in the past….. bring in the harvest….. and what farmers do today…… bring in the harvest.

After the spring planting, and as the summer months go by, the farmer eyes the skies, prays for the right amount of rain at the right time, hopes the markets stay steady, readies his machinery and tools, and prepares the trucks, bins and barns.  He chops the weeds that choke out the good grain.  He holds his breath as storm clouds gather in the west.  And then at just the right time, the tractors, combines and corn pickers head out to the fields.

My father would harvest well into the night.  We would take sandwiches and mason jars of water out to the fields for him.   There was a narrow window of time between rains where he could safely harvest .  I remember times when it rained too much, turning the fields into mud pits.  And Dad had to wait until the ground froze to finish the harvest.

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Despite  growing up on a farm and knowing the drama of the farm, I did not become a farmer.  I became a teacher, instructing my students in literature, composition, speech, theater, and journalism.  It was a different kind of drama.   One of my favorite pieces to discuss with my students was Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.    Willie Loman was tragic, and as a farmer’s daughter, I could see some aspects of Willie’s actions that my city students could not see.

Corn.   How did it go from this  th-9

to this corn sprout

to this  cornplant

to this  th-8

to this  th-5.

None of it could happen if the kernel did not die.  The kernel had to be put into the dark soil, with the right amount of heat and moisture, and then the kernel died.   Out of that death, came the sprout that developed into the stalk of corn.

Willie Loman understood this cycle of life.  He had spent his life in failure: failure as a father, failure as a faithful husband, and failure as a salesman.  His past was painful, his present was fragile and he could not see a future.  In his horribly distorted reasoning, he decided to plant a garden.  It is dark, and he traces rows in the small yard which receives little sunlight.  He drops in the seeds, mumbling to himself about giving his sons another chance.  In a few minutes, Willie will leave home and have a deliberate car accident.  He dies, like the seed.  His damaged mind  had begun to equate the seed, dying in order to bring new life,  with his death, which he believed would bring new life to his no-good sons.willieloman

Willie had an idea of this circle of life, but he left out one very important part:  his life insurance.   He did not pay his premium.   And so his sacrifice of himself came to nothing.  There would be no life insurance to give his sons a new start in life.  There would be no harvest.

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Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!.”  (John 4:35)

I don’t know what grain Jesus might have been referring to in this verse.  th-6  Here in Iowa, whether it is corn, wheat, or beans, the plants get lighter and lighter as the harvest approaches.  The fields are no longer green.  But Jesus was not referring to plants; he was referring to a world filled with people who needed to know about Him.  Look!  There they are!  Go and harvest!

I’ve been going in a few different directions with this concept of harvest.

 Let me try to tie the strands together.  

1.  When the kernel of corn dies, there is a sacrifice of form.  The corn no longer is the intact kernel.  But the result of that sacrifice (the harvest) cannot occur without the preparation and wisdom of the farmer.  And even there, the farmer must make his own sacrifices of time and labor in order to bring in the crop.

2.  When Willie Loman died, there was a sacrifice of life.  His body and soul were no longer intact.  But the desired harvest of that sacrifice would not happen because Willie had not prepared with wisdom concerning his life insurance.

3.  When Christ died on the cross, there was a sacrifice of Himself for the sins of the world.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16).   The fields of humans are ready for His message of life.  But that complete harvest won’t happen without the preparation of believers to share Christ’s message.  And  yes, it calls for sacrifice on the part of believers:  sacrifice of money, time, and labor.

Harvest.  Life.  Sacrifice.  It’s all one.   The sacrifice of one seed to bring forth many seeds, which will continue to nurture life.  The sacrifice of One who was both God and man,  to bring forth many people into eternal life.

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O Father…..   Let me not be a Willie Loman, understanding some aspects of life, but not grasping the part that would give meaning to his sacrifice.  Let me not be a Willie Loman, operating in darkness and not in light.  Let me not be a Willie Loman, who lacked wisdom and preparation for the harvest he desired.  Father, equip me with Your wisdom.  Give me courage to go to the harvest, and not let Christ’s death be for nothing.  

To God Be The Glory…..

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For Ever and Ever….. ??

Just Thinking….

I was folding laundry in the bedroom this morning, when our neighbor came over to bring the city newspaper. He and his wife are so kind as to share the paper with us. We moved to this home about 2 1/2 years ago, very grateful to find this nice of a home here that we could afford. And it has been a blessing to have good neighbors who share with us, who stop to talk, who look after our home when we are away.

Anyway, the neighbor said that the obituary for the man who sold us this house was in the paper. The Hubs and I looked at each other in shock.

Flashback to 2 1/2 years ago: We had been coming to this city almost every weekend to look for a house. Our house had sold (although we had started looking before it sold), and we had a time constraint on finding a new home. Frankly, it was discouraging. Nice homes, like we were used to, were out of our price range, and what we could afford were old, rundown, leaky, moldy, had poor layouts, no garages, small rooms, not enough space, in a bad area of town, etc.

The real estate guy told us he had another place to show us: a place that actually had not even come on the market yet, but he had wind of it soon being up for sale. We went through the house and were immediately sold. It was an older home in an older neighborhood, but everything in the neighborhood and in this home were well taken care of. There were things that needed to be done to the home, but we could get around to those in due time. The roomy layout flowed nicely, and it was comfy…. homey.

The agent explained that the husband was a professional who had been downsized. The stress from that had provoked a heart attack. So they needed to move. We entered negotiations about the house, and met the owners. They were very nice folks and we could tell that they had taken pride in the home. The sale was completed, and we all moved.

But they didn’t move too far: just across the street! That gave us a little more opportunity to meet them and talk. And then a job opportunity came up, and they moved again. That was the last I saw them…

…until the picture today with the obituary. I stared at the picture, with an unfolded T-shirt in my hands. I willed it to look like the former owner, and there were traces of the man I remember. He was so young…. much younger than Hubs and I. And despite the heart attack, he had seemed so active and vital….. and alive.

Stenciled above our bed are words that the previous owners had placed: “For Ever and Ever.” I began wondering about when they stenciled it there. Did they think about how it might not be for ever and ever? Did they talk about how short life is? About counting their days? Did they cuddle right below this stencil, talking about their dreams of growing old together?

I was sitting in the family room tonight. It is bitterly cold outside and we have a fire burning in the fireplace. I remember the previous owners being proud of that fireplace, and Hubs and I have been oh so grateful for it. I wondered: Did the previous owner stare into the flames, thanking God for the beauty and warmth? I looked out the window to the backyard, the deck, the bird bath that they left here. Did he enjoy that view as much as we do? There is a little pantry door in the kitchen. Did he ever open it and grab a snack, like we do? Did he wander into the sunroom with a cup of coffee and enjoy the early morning, like I do? Did he ever linger by the front door, enjoying the lake view across the street, like we do?

I had a sudden urgent appreciation for this new home, and am sorry that I did not appreciate it as much as I should have when we moved here. My rhythms of life are being established here now; it feels like home. I’ve memorized the light switches, know the number of steps from the bed to the bathroom. I know what time the neighbor’s yard light comes on in the evening. I’m on speaking terms with the sump pump and its periodic groan.

When I am gone from here, will a new owner sit in the window seat and watch the maple tree sway lazily in the summer wind? Will the new owners be mesmerized by the fire? Will “For Ever and Ever” still be stenciled on the bedroom wall? Will they walk in the same rhythms?

Oh Father! Life is so short! I can’t help but pray for the wife tonight, who knows that for ever and ever is broken here on earth. Let her find Your comfort. Please give me awareness of life, the beauty of life, the shortness of life, the sacredness of life. Let me make the most of my days, for Your sake. Amen.

To God be the Glory…..
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Published in: on February 11, 2012 at 6:52 am  Leave a Comment  
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Happy Birthday to Me!

Just thinking…..

Yesterday was my birthday; I was 60. Don’t feel sorry for me. Don’t think, “Oh, she must be wailing her eyes out.” Contraire.
I anticipated this birthday with excitement. I had a marvelous day from the time I awoke until I fell asleep. And the celebration lasted for more than one day.

It began on Sunday when the Hubs threw me a party after church for 25-30 friends. There were decorations, cake, cards, singing, well wishes. Now that’s how I like a party! And I received 60 slices of bacon (they know how much I love bacon). The Hubs doesn’t do parties; he’s just not too interested in all the hoop-la, so that was a real gift he gave me.

Then on Monday the Hubs took me out to supper at my favorite Chinese restaurant here in town. This place has a sushi bar and shrimp on the barbie, as well as 4 bars of food. I’ve never seen another place to compare to it. The Hubs can take or leave Chinese food, but just for me, we ate there.

Tuesday and Wednesday were calm, but I began to get a trickle of email birthday greetings.

Then came yesterday. Wheeeee-ha! The Hubs gets up about 2 hours earlier than I do to go to work. So when I leisurely stretched and opened my eyes, I was looking at the chevel mirror in the bedroom. And there was a message written on it. I have good eyes; even at 60 I don’t wear glasses. So I had no problem making out the words: Happy birthday! Smiling, I got out of bed and wandered into the bathroom. There was another message on the bathroom mirror: Happy birthday! And the Hubs also wrote a poem: Another year gone by, A year full of grace, Because I can look, On your beautiful face. Gotta admit it: the Hubs has a way with words! So then I amble down the hall and look into the other bedrooms and the other bathroom on this level. Yep. More mirror messages. All written in blue dry-erase marker. When I went downstairs, I found another message in the kitchen mirror and still another in the half bath mirror. Then when I went into the basement, there was still another message on the bathroom mirror down there. And there was a message on the hand mirror that I use in the bathroom. I opened my purse to see if a message was on the compact mirror, but no…..

So that was a grand start to the day. Then the phone rang. It was my father, singing loudly and slightly off key. So I had a Happy Birthday serenade. Then my mother came on the line and wished me a happy birthday. A little later, the phone rang again. It was the Hubs and the secretary, and they sang to me, while I heard the whole office laughing in the background. Later in the afternoon, our son called. And then the grandchildren called. The three year old was asleep, but the other two sang to me. The little 5 year old wondered how old I was. I said, “60.” There was a moment of silence. Then he said, “Oh.” The 8 year old wanted to know who all called, what they said, who sang, what I got, etc. Then late at night, after 11 pm, the phone rang again. My heart thudded. No one calls then unless it was an emergency. It was my mother. “Just wanted you to know that 60 years ago, I was in labor and about to deliver!” she announced. And then my father’s booming voice chimed in, singing, “Happy birthday to you!”

All day long, I had emails wishing me a happy birthday, reminding me that Tweety Bird had the same birthday as me, asking me if I needed large print on my letters, and more of the same. I had an email from a grade school friend who now lives in Germany. She said that every April 9 she thinks of my birthday. Awesome. I also think of her every December 16 on her birthday. Memories last a long long time…..

One sister said something that warmed my heart. She wrote, “You make 60 look good.” Bless you, Sis! Another sister typed out the Birthday Song lyrics and then added, “How many candles does it take to light her birthday cake? 60!” And my brother flooded my in-box with a series of greetings. So did my mom. Don’t I just have the greatest family in the world?

When the Hubs came home from work, he took me out to lunch at Pizza Hut. We ordered a bacon pizza, but they sent out a beef one. We were hungry so said that we would take it, anyway. Brought half of it home. The Hubs then gave me a certificate good for 2 massages, and a book. I got some cards in the mail. The Hubs gave me a card that said that he was giving me a kiss for each year I had lived, and that he was going to greatly exaggerate my age!! And he carried through on it!!!

Then it was time to get ready for my evening class. Yep. The end of my birthday was spent teaching a class at the university. When I walked into the classroom, there was a sign on the board and balloons drawn on the board announcing my birthday. The secretary (the same one who sang the duet with the Hubs) had decorated. And a student brought in a cake and plates. So at our first break time, we all enjoyed that. The class wished me a happy birthday several times (do they want a good grade?). And when I came home, the Hubs continued to wish me a happy birthday.

I wish every 60 year old woman could experience the same wonderful birthday that I just did. I felt so cherished and loved and appreciated. I love birthdays. I have no problems in getting older; I just look forward to another year of adventure and learning, and give praise to God for the wonderful year that I just safely finished. The perfect birthday party was just what I experienced all day: singing, cards, food, greetings, kisses, and being with friends and family. I want to live to 100. 60 down and 40 to go!

I try to stay in good shape. I watch my diet and my weight; I work out daily. I take a handful of fishoil and vitamins every day. I make time to pray and read the Word daily. I try to stretch my mind with mental exercises, writing, games, reading. I stay very busy with church work, hobbies, correspondence, volunteer work. I really believe that by keeping an upbeat attitude and making time for mental, spiritual, and physical fitness, that I can enjoy my years.

Sometimes I reflect on the days that I have lived and wonder how many days are left for me. No one knows. But I have determined to live my life on purpose and deliberately, not accidentally. I want to live with no regrets. I want to live in such a way that others remember me in a positive way. I have determined that I want to live a life of honor, hope, humor, and honesty. I want to live with joy and praise in my heart and in my mouth. So no matter how many days are left, they will be good ones. No matter what…..

Thank you, Father God, for the gift of life. Thank You for surrounding me with wonderful people. Thank You for all Your provision in this past year, and thank You in advance for how You will care for me this year. Praise and glory be Yours, amen.

To God be the glory……..
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Published in: on April 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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