Jul 22

Our Emmaus: Day 24

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called
you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen,
and establish you.”
– 1 Peter 5:10

 

Did you know that only 1% of visitors to the Grand Canyon make it to the bottom? It’s true: almost everyone sticks to the beautiful views from the top, or embarks on a short hike part of the way down. Can you blame them?

One year ago my family decided we needed to be in that elusive (crazy?) 1%. In May 2013, we started our bucket list journey to the bottom of the Canyon and back. For me, the trip was also a personal milestone: I had been diagnosed with a form of arthritis one year prior, and was struggling with sore joints and pain along with the emotional toll of living with a chronic illness.

Over the course of three days, we hiked a total of 16 miles over 9,000 vertical feet. No amount of training could have prepared me for the strenuous physical challenge of this hike. I was hot, dusty, and sore. It seemed like my blisters grew blisters. My body was pushed to the limit—and I still had to hike back out of the Canyon!

As I began the 10-mile trek back up to the Canyon Rim on the third day of our adventure, I remember silently asking Christ for supernatural strength and energy. I was exhausted emotionally and physically. My body was aching from the sore joints caused by my arthritis. At a certain point about 2 miles from the top, I legitimately wondered how I was going to make it to the end.

How often do we come to a point on our journey where the only thing we have left to do is cry out to Christ for His strength? We’ve tried everything else, and we realize (yet again) that we can’t do it on our own. We can’t take another step without Him.

Well, I made it to the top, one step at a time. Jesus met me on the trail that day. I specifically recall looking out, back over the trail I had hiked up, with tears in my eyes at the thought of how much I had accomplished and how far He had led me. Not only did I complete the hike, but I left the Canyon with a sense of awe at how Jesus had brought me through a year-long emotional rollercoaster. He was there with me in the struggle and the celebration, and He gave me the strength to push through to the end when everything seemed impossible: not just out of the Canyon, but through so much more.

-  Caitlin Robertson

Jul 21

Our Emmaus: Day 23

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  – Proverbs 3:5–6 (NIV)

My “tent making business” is mergers and acquisitions. If my client is sold, I get paid. If not, I don’t. It’s extremely volatile, with no financial stability. Five years ago, I was selling a client while working at another firm. The complexity was beyond my client’s skill level. They needed my stewardship. Late in the process, the buyer changed several terms. It all seemed innocent, but in reality, it became a bad deal. Yet after 10 months of investment, there was a lot of pressure to get it done.

One morning in the shower, a gentle thought bubbled up within me. God said, “If you really trusted Me to provide, you wouldn’t push that deal through.” Suddenly, I was faced with the uncomfortable truth of His gentle guidance. I had to choose. I decided to trust Jesus. I said “Lord, I want Your best, and I trust You’ll take care of me.” Well, the deal fell apart, and it became a rough year.

Two years later, I left my old firm. I really wanted my own firm, but didn’t think that I could fund it. Right when I had to decide, in what can only be described as surreal, a buyer surfaced for that old client. A complex sale process that normally takes 300+ days was completed in just 49 days. Suddenly, I was able to fund my own firm, with everything fully paid for in advance!

A year later, the Lord showed me two things.

In the shower, He didn’t say, “If you follow My ways, I’ll give you your
own firm.” That would have been a business deal, where I followed Christ because I saw how I could benefit. Instead, He gently said, “If you really trusted Me to provide…” He wanted my trust, and I had to choose, with no guarantees. His word was a fork in the road. Did I have the courage to blindly trust Him
or not?

If I hadn’t trusted God’s direction, I would have sold the company to the wrong buyer at the wrong time. I would have missed His plan for me.

“You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light.”  – 2 Samuel 22:29 (NIV)

- Tom Turpin

 

Jul 20

Our Emmaus: Day 22

“When I thought, ‘My foot is slipping,’ Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.”
– Psalm 94:18–19

By the end of 2005, my world was crumbling down, and I suddenly found myself struggling to get out of bed every day. Desperately looking for answers to questions such as “Why is this happening to me?” and “Where do I go from here and how?” without much success, I turned to God.

Not knowing anyone at Bel Air Presbyterian Church, I sat all the way in the back of the Sanctuary. The service was on Sunday, January 1st, 2006, so it was all about the new year, new beginning and new chapter filled with hope. I could not connect with the pastor’s sermon until he began sharing a story of a man who had found a long lost son:

A man was driving to a volunteer event one morning, and as he was stopped at a red light, a panhandler came to him and asked for change.

The man recognized the panhandler’s face and realized it was his son who had ran away from home many years ago.

The man called his son’s name, “Johnny?”

Johnny said, “Dad?”

The man said, “Here’s what. I don’t have any change in the car, but I have everything you need at home. Why don’t you come home and we can start all over again?”

The pastor then said, “God doesn’t want to give you just some chump change. He wants to give you a full life. He wants you to come home and start your life with Him. Will you come home?”

“Will you come home?”

My heavenly Father was asking ME to come home…yes, ME. I was that prodigal “Johnny.” I was spiritually homeless and wandered around for many years, and yet my Father still recognized me as His daughter, called me by my name, and invited me home. That morning, with tears in my eyes, I said “Yes” to His invitation and rededicated my life to God! What a beautiful day!

- Ashley Kim

 

Jul 19

Our Emmaus: Day 21

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.’” – Matthew 25:40

My first mission trip ever was a Bel Air mission trip to Mexico. One day we went to Santa Fe House, a home for abandoned kids. It was lunch time.

The nuns gave me, a bachelor who has had little experience with babies, Vicente, a chubby little ten-month-old with wisps of dark hair and round, brown eyes. Vicente quietly “took me in” from his little bouncy walker. I sized him up, too. I got his bottle and dish of cereal and sat on the tile floor against the cold, cement wall.

First, the cereal. I quickly discovered this would be harder than I expected. Vicente seemed to think the spoon was something to be played with—a toy that he should grip in his little jaw and not let go. I didn’t get any of that cereal inside him, though a lot got on the outside—of both him and me.

The nurse suggested I try the bottle. No luck. The woman feeding the next baby over suggested that I should hold Vicente and lay him back while he drank. After a minute for both him and me to get accustomed to this new arrangement, he relaxed. And, he drank that bottle right up. The nurse added a little water to the cereal and put it in the bottle, and he took that, too.

As he settled down after the meal, Vicente was content and quiet. The nurse thought the understaffed hospital he came from had never fed him with a spoon. I thought we were feeding; he thought we were playing the spoon game.

As we sat, I absentmindedly tickled his belly. He immediately started to laugh, arching his back and smiling and laughing. I tickled more. He laughed more. Silently.

I realized I hadn’t heard him make a sound the whole time. He couldn’t. He couldn’t crawl. He couldn’t cry. He couldn’t babble baby talk. He couldn’t try to hold the spoon. But, he could laugh, silently. And he could play the spoon game.

Little Vicente broke my heart. Or, I should say, broke open my heart. I sat there, as silent as he was, though in my case it was to hold back tears.

I don’t need a sermon on Matthew 25:40 that says that what I’ve done for the least among us, I’ve done for Jesus. I’ve met Vicente. I’ve met Jesus.

- Chuck Slocum

Jul 18

Our Emmaus: Day 20

“[We] boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3–5

Sometimes “the Road to Emmaus” is not a road of our choosing. All of a sudden, life takes our breath away and we stand staring down a road that is strikingly different from the one we swore we were on just a moment ago.

This was my experience nearly five years ago, when I sat in a doctor’s office trying to absorb the words, “There’s a problem with the baby.” In the blink of an eye, the road ahead was a vastly different landscape, full of uncertainty, fear, and anguish. My husband and I had been given the news that our baby had a rare genetic anomaly that affected her brain and skull. She would not be able to live outside the womb—if she even survived birth—though while within the womb she would continue to live and grow.

Suffering is indeed a crucible through which we are able to come to know the Lord more deeply, if we allow Him access to our hearts in the midst of the pain. During the six remaining months of my pregnancy, the Lord impressed upon me the word, Surrender.

While this involved a conscious choice on my part to place my hopes, fears, circumstances, weakness, agony, and (most importantly) trust in Jesus, the act of surrendering brought a peace and a freedom, knowing that I was in His care.

I have often reflected on Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” as a visual image of this particular time in my life. While not a perfect metaphor, I could imagine the trajectory life was taking when the fork in the road suddenly steered me down a less-traveled way. But I would not trade that road for the world. Why? In the midst of losing a child, I became a mother and understood love and sacrifice for another in an entirely new way. In the midst of brokenness, I received overwhelming support and kindness from friends and strangers. In the midst of wondering “Why?” the Lord revealed glimpses of purpose in my own life and in the lives of others. In the midst of grief, I learned how to comfort with the comfort I had received from Christ. And in inviting Jesus to be my companion along the road, I came to know His grace, compassion and sufficiency in a measure that truly did make all the difference.

- Mandy Clark

 

Jul 17

Our Emmaus: Day 19

“When you search for Me, you will find Me; if you seek Me with all your heart.” 
– Jeremiah 29:13

After living in Los Angeles for just six months, I headed home to Virginia for Christmas for what I thought was going to be an amazing and relaxing two-week vacation. Instead, over the next two weeks I spent five nights in the hospital and lost around 20 pounds because my body was rejecting all food and water. The doctors weren’t sure what was wrong, and I was never diagnosed with any sickness.

After prayers from my family, I got on a plane to come back to California—hoping that the worst had passed. The moment I landed (and was driving home in 70 degree weather) I felt better. That night I ate my first meal in days. Alone in my apartment, I sought the Lord as I had come to do regularly in LA. I felt the Lord there with me in my tiny apartment, listening to worship and praying.

I came to realize through that experience that my faith was “safe” at home in Virginia. I was comfortable: my faith began at home, and grew throughout college, but it was also a product of my family, friends and the community around me. When I moved to LA, it was just me and God for the first time in my life. I didn’t know many other Christians, so I spent most of my free time seeking the Lord. As a result of that season where I was alone with God, I met Jesus and experienced Him in new ways. I was no longer a Christian by default; I was a Christian because it was my life. My walk with Jesus was a real and deeply intimate relationship with Him.

After returning to Los Angeles (after an anything but relaxing trip home), I felt the Lord encouraging me to continue to run after Him, to seek intimacy, and to keep my guard up in a city that constantly attacks your beliefs. God was there, He was with me—and He’s here in this amazing city!

- Willis Robertson

 

Jul 16

Our Emmaus: Day 18

“Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song to Him who rides upon the clouds—His name is the Lord—be exultant before Him. Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. God gives the desolate a home to live in; He leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious live in a parched land.” – Read Psalm 68:4–6.

My father lay intubated in ICU with an elusive pulmonary infection, from which he was not expected to recover. Mother had taken on a new man the year earlier, from whom she was not to return. “I want nothing of my marriage including the children,” she had said when she left me at my father’s hotel. His turn-of-the-century Spanish suite with its bougainvillea and sea breeze became our oasis, until his coughing, the hospital, the overdue rent notices. At nearly 15, where was I to go?

Gathering babysitting wages and bottle redemption change along with my little suitcase, I set out for the Greyhound station bound for Berkeley. The torn paper read, “Rebecca 2211 Oregon.” On the paint-bare Victorian porch, Art, a grad-student explained, “Rebecca’s moved in with her boyfriend; her room’s available, $35.” Tall, sunlit windows overlooked a playground where squealing children played. “She’s a waitress now; you could take her job as a hasher.” Images return: Bertha’s face as she pulled biscuits from the frat-house oven; the steeple rising through fog, visible from the hill above campus where Art taught me to meditate, lying in the tall grass with thoughts passing by unattended like clouds while basking in God’s presence.

My father was discharged to the care of a kind stranger but was never to fully recover in body or spirit. I returned home, subletting a bungalow near the beach, anticipating my sixteenth birthday and a work permit. My former classmate, Jeff, broke down in class the day following our chance meeting. “She should be in school, not a German restaurant!” he sobbed to his mother. Wisdom pried my grip from the sweetness of freedom and I agreed to meet the Presbyterian Nau family. The week before my sixteenth birthday was spent Easter camping as the trial fourth child of the couple who would become Mom and Dad. The only mother’s kiss I previously recalled was the one I received the day she came to sign away my guardianship.

Straight A’s, college, and medical school followed. During a 36-on, 12-off training period I traded shifts to heed an irresistible prompting to hike Fat Man’s Misery, the narrow trail I had hiked to the beach with my new family. “No, Dear, that trail’s closed; it’s crumbling, unsafe,” Mom had warned. Indeed I had to shimmy under the chain-link fence that early morning to stand in the weak sunlight above the fog-blanketed sea below. A slight male figure approached from the haze ascending the trail as I stood planning my descent. As he drew closer I recognized his face. “Now I know why I had to come here,” he mused. “Are you alright?” I described my journey to my old friend up through medical school. “I guess I needed to know you were alright,” he muttered. “Wait!” I chased after him. “I don’t even remember your name.” “Art,” he replied and added he had received his Ph.D from UCSD often walking this trail during his time here. He worked as a chemical engineer in Silicon Valley but flew down the night before to satisfy an undeniable call to walk this path again.

You see, this was the only place the Good Shepherd could have, by His Spirit, called us back to where our paths would cross to tell us that He had been the One providing for, protecting and guiding me all along; that indeed the Father had placed this lonely child in a family so that I could sing His praise to you reading this story today.

- Sharon Nau Spooner

 

Jul 15

Our Emmaus: Day 17

A Gentle Nudge 

It wasn’t a shove, really. Not even a push. A gentle nudge would probably describe it best. But it was enough to wake me up at 7 a.m., my usual time on a not very usual day. I glanced at the clock, but noted the alarm hadn’t gone off. It was the gentle nudge that woke me.

But let’s go back a little bit. Four days earlier, when at work I received a phone call from my mother that I needed to come to their home right away. My father—who had been succumbing to cancer for nearly a year—was nearing the end of his fight. Hospice had arrived, and now it was time for the family to gather. I hurried right over. In the week since I’d last seen him, dad’s health had deteriorated. He had lost his speech, and had begun writing little notes to everyone. When I arrived, that old World War II veteran met my anxious sadness with an elegant sternness I will never forget. He scribbled on his pad, “Why aren’t you at work?” I didn’t really have an answer, but shrugged and mumbled something inane such as, “Nothing’s really going on at work, so I thought I’d stop by and see you.” He nodded, but did not persist. He knew what was coming. He knew why I was there.

The next couple of days are indescribable to anyone except those who have witnessed the passing of a loved one. Oddly, when he left this world to join Jesus, I think he was at peace. My mother had given him the final permission, and he had at long last returned home. The next night, I went home to my own family. My incredible children and strong wife said all the right things, putting me to bed with prayers and patience. My wife forbid me from setting the alarm or going into work the next day, and I, exhausted, agreed. But then, as sunlight was beginning to filter through the curtains…the nudge. I turned, assuming it was my wife, but she was still fast asleep. In a true fog, I got up, showered, dressed and quietly went to work. I walked into a morning meeting, and everyone seemed to ask at once, “What are you doing here?” I realized at that moment I was in the hands of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…and my own father…who had sat in for The Trinity my whole life.

Consciously, or maybe unconsciously, parents do that, I think. We push the plough of parenthood for God’s children. A gentle nudge. A gentle reminder. We are the sons and daughters of fathers and mothers, and now I know, so much more.

Thank you all for letting me share this. God bless.

- Chuck Pratt

Jul 14

Our Emmaus: Day 16

When Jesus Met and Rescued Me on a Road to Misery 

I experienced some pain and suffering after my separation. One day, I felt something I never felt before. I had to call a friend and ask for some help. I went to her house and she told me that I was having a panic attack. She gave me some medication, and after that, I felt much better. She gave me a few more just in case I needed it again. When I felt the same way again however, I asked God this time to help me. I didn’t want to take the pills and I didn’t want to start an addiction or dependency to these pills. I told God that I didn’t want to use these pills and He helped me. I knocked on His door and He opened it. He was waiting for me to knock and let go of my anxiety. He was the one who helped me thrive during this difficult time in my life.

After that, I started going to church every Sunday and got very involved. When I didn’t have a relationship with God, I always thought my life was good; I had no addictions, I was a good person, everything was fine. But then one day, I desired more. I wanted a close, intimate relationship with God. This is when I renewed my baptism vow. Having a deep relationship with God is like having a relationship with anyone here on earth, but so much better. It is the same, though, in that we have to give our relationship with Him time and devotion. I now enjoy reading His word and love talking about it. I feel so good following His commandments. He is the only one to cure our pain, sickness or addictions. In my case, He cured me before I even had the addiction. He restores us and loves us no matter what, and He will meet us anywhere we are. We don’t live in this world forever so we need to trust in His promises and know that He loves us unconditionally. One day, we will be reunited with Him for all of eternity.

I feel so rich. He lives inside of me!

- Marietha Dubin

 

 

Jul 13

Our Emmaus: Day 15

Jesus, My Friend 

It was 1989. I was 44 years old, our kids were going to Catholic school and our family were regulars at mass.

It was then that I joined a Bible study—yes, at a Catholic church—because a friend invited me and I thought it was about time to learn something about that special Book that I had avoided.

I believed in God, prayed when I felt it was necessary, and I knew something about Jesus but I didn’t know Him.

That study was a verse by verse journey that lasted 13 years, and it was in the pages of Scripture that I first met Jesus in a very special and personal way.

For me there was no epiphany nor alter call but rather a slow and steady progression that led to an intimate friendship with the Creator of the universe.

Getting to truly know the Lord is not unlike falling in love for the first time: the excitement that learning about someone new brings, then the comfort and security from familiarity and intimacy, and then commitment as when one finds their life partner.

From the anticipation of Christ in the Old Testament to His revelation in the New, and seeing the thread that weaves all 66 books together an open mind will be astonished. But it is in the Gospels that I find Jesus at the place He wants to meet me. Through His grace I was able to enter into a relationship with Him regardless of who I was or what I had done. The salvation that came from that relationship drives me daily to worship and glorify Him.

He is a friend who loves me unconditionally and unendingly and looks out for my best interests even when I don’t know what they are. He is always available, will never desert me and plans on me being His companion forever.

Every time I page through the Scriptures I am reminded that He loved me so much He died for me so that I might live eternally with Him.

That He is my Friend I have no doubt, that He is my Savior I am sure.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” – John 15:13–14

Jesus said I am His friend, how grateful I am to know Him.

- Richard Moselle

 

 

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