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I, God, make myself known to them in visions; I speak to them in dreams.
Numbers 12:6 (NRSV)
When Mama's father knew he was dying of kidney disease, he brought his family back from Norfolk to the family farm at Calloway, near Roanoke, Virginia. Shortly after they arrived,
Mama's mother began having a chronic cough. It was the much dreaded tuberculosis.
Mama's parents died within a year-and-a-half of each other. Her "Papa" died first. Then, after a lingering bout with what was then called "galloping consumption," her "Mama" passed. My mother was orphaned at the age of seven.
During her final days, my grandmother entrusted her two year-old toddler to her brother and his wife in West Virginia. The two older girls, Fran, who was twelve, and my mother, Ethel, seven, remained on the farm with their widowed Aunt Lizzie and her three daughters.
This was a traumatic time for the orphaned girls. Their lives had changed dramatically and tragically in so short a time. They lost the home they were familiar with, their parents, and their younger sister. Today, of course, we would seek therapy for children suffering crises; such was not the case, however, in the second decade of the twentieth century.
That is why my mother's dream was such a wonderful, healing intervention from a loving, ever-watchful God. Throughout her life, along with countless other family tales, Mama remembered this dream and told it often:
"I was alone and frightened, inside an unfamiliar, dark and scary old farmhouse. Fearfully, I stumbled forward, moving from room to room, frantically looking for a way out. I was so scared that it hurt to breathe. I fought back hot tears and tried not to cry. Where, oh where, was the door? I began to sob. Then, suddenly, there was a light- a brilliant but not blinding radiance-and in
the middle of the brightness I saw Jesus! He looked at me with such loving eyes and reached out his hand to me, inviting me to take it. As I took hold of that steadying hand, all my fear left me and I felt a rush of peace and love like I had never_ known. Gently, Jesus led me through the maze of confusing rooms and right out the front door to the safety of a beautiful summer day. Then he was gone, but I wasn't afraid any more. When I woke, I knew that Jesus was telling me, 'Don't be afraid, Ethel. I will always take care of you."'
A loving God has each one of us by the hand, leading us safely through life's mazes, out of confusion, into a lightsome, airy place where we can grow to the maturity to which God calls us.
Let the echoes of this eighteenth-century hymn be an affirmation for you today of God's love:
0 God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home!
Under the shadow of thy throne Still may we dwell secure; Sufficient is thy arm alone,
And our defense is sure.
0 God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home!
Let the lines of this eighteenth-century hymn be your affirmation today that God is in charge and you are safe:
Guide me, 0 thou great jehovah, Pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; Hold me with thy powerful hand;
Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more, Feed me till I want no more. Open now the crystal fountain,
Whence the healing stream doth flow; Let the fire and cloudy pillar
Lead me all my journey through;
Strong deliverer, strong deliverer,
Be thou still my strength and shield, Be thou still my strength and shield.
If you do not know the melody of this eighteenth-century hymn, simply let your heart sound the words and take comfort in them as your prayer today:
Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; God with me abide! When other helpers fail and comforts flee, Help of the helpless, 0 abide with me.
I need thy presence every passing hour;
What but thy grace can foil the tempter's power? Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, God, abide with me. I fear no foe, with thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory? I triumph still if thou abide with me.
Make this your prayer today:
Today, dear God, I use my own words of prayerful trust, clinging to your words of promise. I reach out today, God, to grasp your guiding hand. (Complete this prayer, expressing your need and trust.)
Make this your prayer before retiring today. It is an old Celtic prayer, adapted here from the Carmina Gaedelica, a Scottish collection of folk prayers. With this prayer, confide yourself into God's near and dear embrace.
I lie down tonight at the day's end
In fellowship with Christ, Mary's Son,
In fellowship with the gracious and glorious Father; In fellowship with the Holy Spirit, my strength.
With Your Arm, 0 God, like a pillow under my head, My dreams come sheltered in Your Peace.
My dreams come sheltered in Your Peace.
Tonight I lie down to rest with God, And God will lie down to rest with me. No sin will share our place of rest.
No shadow of sin will harm me;
With Your Arm, 0 God, like a pillow under my head, My dreams will be sheltered in Your Peace.
My dreams will be sheltered in Your Peace.
Make this adaptation of an ancient Irish poem your prayer of confidence in God's saving presence for you:
0 God, be my vision; may you rule my heart. Nothing means anything but that you are!
In waking and sleeping, you are my best thought!
And at night your blest light makes all darkness as naught! I look for no riches; I seek for no praise,
For you are my birthright to the end of my days. You, only you, God, are my dearest treasure.
Oh, Ruler of Heaven, my portion and measure.
You are my vision and heart of my heart; Nothing can happen to rend us apart!
Be always my vision; my heart's brightest star. Let nothing mean anything but that you are!
Prayerfully let the words of Psalm 23 fill you with confidence in the way God is caring for you, as a good shepherd cares for the littlest lamb. Try writing your own psalm, or let your heart respond to the psalmist's words with your own inspired words.