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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Exhale of Heaven

"And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them,
'Receive the Holy Spirit'." John 20:22

The phone call was one I'll never forget. "Guess who is moving?" my husband asked. I was not prepared for his answer. I immediately hung up the phone and cried my eyes out when I found out he was referring to a senior couple in our congregation who are beloved to us as well as every single person in our church and community. These two have a vibrant, healthy marriage after 50 years. They are the life of the party everywhere they go, love my children as their own, and are faithful co-laborers in Christ. They still keep the nursery for Pete's sake! Though we have only known them two short years, I can not imagine my daily life without them in it. Their going will leave our church body with a limp much like the one Jacob had after wrestling with the angel. Jacob was able to function, but he never forgot. Neither will we.

Preparing to tell these dear ones goodbye has drawn my thoughts once again to the Cross and the devastation the Disciples and others who loved Jesus experienced when they had to part with their Beloved Savior. How do you let go of someone with whom you have shared so much? Who accepted you when no one else did? Forgave you when no one else would? Mary couldn't let go in the Garden after Jesus' resurrection which prompted His gentle rebuke, "Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father." (John 20:17) Do you blame her? Had it been me, I can just see Jesus trying to walk away, dragging me on His leg behind Him. What Mary did not understand at the time is that Jesus was not going to leave her or the Disciples. He had another kind of Presence in mind.

Since the Garden, God has longed for fellowship with His Creation. Even before sin caused the Great Separation, He had a plan in place for bridging that divide so that He could once again dwell among us. God first hovered above the Israelites in the desert in a pillar of cloud and fire. He then talked 'face to face' with Moses and His Presence filled the Tabernacle. He was getting closer, but not close enough for Him. He was aching to touch His creation again. To have them see Him and not die. To speak to them and not have them cover their ears or hide their faces. The joy of communion was destroyed in the Garden and He's been missing us ever since.

The next step in His drawing near is what captures my imagination. I think of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in Heaven just before Jesus came to Earth. I picture Jesus saying to the Father, "I'm going in". Just then, He inhales deeply of the Spirit before diving into the waters of humanity. With the breath of Heaven inside, Jesus plunged into our atmosphere in order to provide atonement and infuse us with the Spirit He possessed. And then, much like a swimmer just before he emerges out of the water, He exhaled. Jesus breathed the Spirit out. We breath the Spirit in. You can't get much closer than being indwelt.

Jesus never intended on leaving His creation alone yet there would be a new way of relating to Him after His ascension. John 16:7 says,
"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you."
The Helper is the agent of conviction of sin and remembrance of God's Word when times of testing come. He guides in all Truth and glorifies God by disclosing His will to His children. He comforts, He teaches, He exhorts. No, we are not alone. We are empowered and full of Christ Jesus in a way we never could have been if He remained in human form self-limited in His Presence. Though we would love to have Jesus in the flesh before us, we all have to agree it is to our benefit to have an equal measure of Him dwelling inside.

So my thoughts return to our friends who will be leaving soon. I will treasure every moment still remaining and while doing this, I will also ponder How God blesses us with the ability to experience this mystery of relationship with Him and one another. When they go, I will turn my face towards the sky as the wind of His Spirit breezes into my face. And I will breathe deeply of the Exhale of Heaven for the comfort I can find in no other Name.

I will miss you terribly, S. and L.

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Blogger Denise said...

This was very touching, thanks for sharing.

April 23, 2007 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger NspiredByFaith said...

You said that beautifully, Lisa. I almost crashed my vehicle when I saw that For Sale sign in their yard. My first thought was, "who put that there?" I love these two people so dearly and have shared so much with them over the years. I only hope that my husband and I can be as happy and passionate in our marriage after 50 years as they are. I can't stand the thought of not getting my weekly hugs and seeing them fishing in the pond in my yard. Thanks for this post. Obviously, I needed it!

April 24, 2007 at 1:00 AM  
Anonymous Mindy said...

WOW! What a beautiful post!
Made me tear up first thing this morning!

April 24, 2007 at 7:50 AM  
Blogger Laurel Wreath said...

Lisa this is beautiful. I remember when my mentor (an elderly lady) was moving away to live her last days with her children. I wanted to selfishly cling. But knew it was the best for everyone. The good news is that seperation like that is only temporary.

"You can't get much closer than being indwelt." OH AMEN!!!!

April 24, 2007 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Connie Barris said...

Wow.... Lisa.. this is incredible.... My visual picture is flowing with the imagery you painted.

Don't you know we all would have grabbed Jesus by the leg and held on for dear life. I guess it's safe to say, we still can...


April 24, 2007 at 9:40 AM  
Anonymous Lynn Donovan said...


...And I will breathe deeply of the Exhale of Heaven for the comfort I can find in no other Name.....

Oh, Amen.... Amen.. This was lovely and filled my heart.

April 24, 2007 at 12:22 PM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Lisa, what a gifted writer you and teacher you are. There IS no other comfort, is there? God bless your friends and your church family. Thank you, Holy Spirit for the relationship You bring to us. In Jesus' name, amen.

April 24, 2007 at 2:24 PM  
Blogger eph2810 said...

Lisa, you have such a way with words that go deep down...I loved how you described Jesus in Heaven waiting "to go in"...I can just see it :)

I know how it is to miss people you dearly love. I have seen many people enter into my life, but then moved. One comfort we have though with all the friends we make this side of heaven--we will dine with them at the big banquet...

Blessings to you and yours.

April 24, 2007 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

You have painted such a beautiful picture with your words. I know the heartache when those we love and serve with and who have loved us move on.

April 24, 2007 at 10:18 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Beautiful. I know people like the couple you mentioned. What a blessing that you had those years with them and that they touched your family so deeply.

April 25, 2007 at 7:19 PM  
Blogger Darlene said...

You are such a gifted writer Lisa, I enjoyed this so much. I also have felt that hole many times when people have left my life.

April 26, 2007 at 12:25 PM  
Blogger Elise said...

Oh, this is beautiful. My heart is fairly in my throat.
He is so good to give us earthly relationships - it's as if He created us, and knows us better than anyone else...

April 27, 2007 at 7:45 AM  

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