An elderly neighbor decided one day to vacuum her parakeet’s cage. Just then the phone rang. She reached for the phone, but accidently lifted up the vacuum hose. She sucked Chirpy all the way through the vacuum tube and into the dust bag. Frantically tearing open the bag, she pulled out her beloved companion and rinsed him off gently under the faucet.
Dissatisfied, she turned on her blow dryer and carefully blew Chirpy dry. Later, when a friend inquired about Chirpy’s health, she admitted, “Well, he doesn’t sing much anymore!”
Would you wonder? Sucked in, washed up, and blown dry! That is enough to steal the song from the stoutest of songbirds. Can you relate to that? Just when you conclude that life cannot get any worse, a sudden Katrina washes away your neighborhood, an Ebola virus strikes down a neighbor, threat of an Islamic war with Isis seems obvious.
This is about how the God of the Bible often appears on the horizon. He comes in an unexpected place that has a strange name, like Bethel, or Peniel, or Sheckem. Sucked into a dirt bag of crippling circumstances, you find yourself washed in the waters of a paralyzing flood; only to experience the gentle winds of God’s Holy Spirit tenderly blowing you dry. That was life for Jacob.
Jacob began his adult life by leaving home armed with only a limited knowledge of family and friends. It was a long day by the end of that first day out, but he barbequed his goat and lay down to sleep. There quite unexpectedly, he met God, in a dream of all places. God revealed to him, in a way that he clearly understood, that God occupied more of the world than he had previously believed or experienced.
“Surely, the Lord is in this place” concluded Jacob upon awakening, “and I did not know it.”
Encouraged by this new Bethel experience, Jacob vowed promises and commitments to God based upon his new understanding. Bethel became his new house of God. Bethel became the place and time where he and God met in a new and personal way. We all need such times and places where God becomes personal to us.
We leave our cocoon of family and friends and we launch into a fresh new, but sometimes raw, life, where we discover that God far exceeds our awareness. Consequently, we renew our commitment. Bethel becomes our house of God experience and God becomes intensely personal.
I never knew a time in my young life when God was not real to me. I first sensed Him speaking to me in worship as a nine-year-old. When I was approached by my Pastor at the age of twelve, I accepted his invitation and he and I talked to God at the prayer altar. There, I felt a heavenly touch that impacted my life for the decades that followed.
By the time I was thirteen or fourteen, what had once been my fondest wish to become a professional athlete with the Chicago Cubs, now slowly flared up in a new flame of aspiration. A call from God into church ministry flickered within me, slowly becoming a lighted flame. That was nearly seventy-five years ago, but since that time I have experienced Him in strange places, both far from and near to the stained glass windows of a cathedral.
Sometimes God finds us with our heads pillowed on a rock, like Jacob, beneath an open sky. Occasionally, God finds us wading about in a stinking sheep pen. At other times, He appears out of nowhere to reveal Himself in a burning bush, as with Moses. He also comes in the silence of the soul, where no one sees or hears the battle that rages while we wait in ICU for the verdict of life or death during a health crisis.
Sucked in! Washed up! Blown dry! Somehow God always comes through. Across the years I have found his Blessed Presence in the pardon of sin, followed by enduring peace and fortified with strength for the day. Sunrise waits on the morrow, bringing further promise of His blessings—all mine.
Such is the faithfulness of God! Thus, I sing:
“Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!” 1
1 The Worshipping Church, A Hymnal. Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Company, 1990); pp. 60-61, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Chisolm and William Runyan.
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