Higher Ground

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 Photo received from my sister June 2, 2015
Mt. Denali (McKinley)
Tallest Point in North America


I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows.  

I believe that somewhere in the darkest night, a candle glows.  

I believe for everyone who goes astray someone will come to show the way. 

I believe, I believe.

I believe above the storm the smallest prayer will still be heard.

I believe that someone in the great somewhere hears every word. 

Every time I hear a newborn baby cry or touch a leaf or see the sky. 

Then I know why I believe.

(Words and music by Ervin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl and Al Stillman)

I like to keep an eye out for the “fingerprints of God.”  I discovered several as we moved into the month of June. 1) The opening scripture in Jesus Calling By Sarah Young for the month of June is Isaiah 41: 13. I have that scripture on the fob attached to the key of my prayer room. It states: For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear, I will help you.” 2) I felt in my spirit on June 1 that it was time to change my opening song of worship in my daily prayer time. I have been singing “Breathe on Me Breath of God” since I started blogging August 1, 2013 when both my sister and I developed some health issues. The song of worship I desire to sing in this second round with cancer is “Higher Ground.” 3) The office manager at the Fraser Center gave me The Word for You Today /June-July-August. The very first devotional in the book was for June 1 which is entitled: “When Jesus Comes on Board.” I am quoting the devotional in the following:

He got into one of the boats…belonging to Simon.  Luke 5:3 

One day Jesus “saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats…..belonging to Simon and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then He sat down and taught the people from the boat. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break” (Luke 5:2-6). Are you sitting today where Peter sat? Your outlook is bleak (I’d say Stage 3 cancer is bleak), your nets are empty (the only option shared by the oncologist is the one we felt spoke death from our perspective back in 2013), you’ve tried everything you know to do (You bet! Surgery, devoted time to connecting with God daily, chose to be proactive, developed healthy boundaries, changed diet, regular exercise, 20 minutes of sunshine a day, avoided processed food, hormone therapy, selective supplements, reduced stress, captured negative thoughts and spoke life…..just to name a few) and you’re ready to give up (I am finding it challenging to stay positive)? It happens: you get to the place where you simply stop expecting anything good (It’s tempting, but I am not there yet……… and by the grace of God it is my personal intention to avoid embracing that expectation at anytime…. EVER) . You’ve experienced too many disappointments (How do you gauge “too many?”  I have had my share) and you’re afraid to dream, reach, stretch, or broaden your horizons (Stop!!!!! That’s more than enough pessimism! I would prefer to say I am challenged at the moment by a temptation to stop dreaming, reaching, stretching, and broadening my horizons. HOWEVER, in my personal experience over the course of 60 years……God’s love “never fails, never gives up and never runs out on me.”). Jesus knows how hard you’ve tried and today He’s inviting you to try again-this time with Him (I believe that). Even though you’re wrestling with depression and tormenting memories, unemployment, addiction, financial failure, or sickness(BINGO), the Lord of new beginning wants to come on board. If you let Him , He will show you what to do. Now, what He says may not initially make sense to you (Right….I’m not understanding cancer round two). But if you’re willing to respond like Peter-“Because You say so, I will”-You’re on the threshold of a miracle (Yes, I remember my sister sent me a text the day after her second diagnosis May 14: “Sherry, we will witness miracles we could not even imagine!). Today invite Jesus on board and watch how your situation changes (Ok, Jesus…..hop in and I’ll start rowing toward the deep waters of cancer expecting to witness a miracle).

Returning to my discovery of “ God’s fingerprints” in June, here’s  number 4): The scripture this devotional is based on is on of my favorite images that I have cherished since my first year of teaching. Toward the beginning of that school year, I wearily climbed into my car following a stressful day of trying to motivate  and teach 38 fourth graders who were a year behind in reading skills. I sobbed as I drove home! I shared with my father that evening that I was ready to quit. He said to me, “Sherry, God has called you to teach. Show up every day and do whatever it takes to survive. If you impact the life of one child in your classroom this year, it will be well worth all the blood, sweat and tears you have shed in the process.” The next morning, as I drove to the school, I was listening to Don Francisco. When he started to sing “Come and Follow” which is a ballad based on Luke 5:2-6, I heard in my spirit Jesus’ invitation to go out farther with Him on the educational waters of teaching and His confident declaration as He jumped in the boat with me, “Do not fear, I will help you” and He did. I taught 30 years and retired in 2012.

My sister returns home Friday June 5 to begin to research options for alternative treatments for the presence of cancer in her body. Two boats are beached on the sand. Jesus is standing beside them. There is a storm approaching. The wind is picking up and the thunder rumbles as the lightening flashes. Jesus starts beckoning to us excitedly, I can barely hear His voice as He calls out to us, “Come on, girls, let’s go fishing!”

I want to live above the world, though Satan’s darts at me are hurled: for faith has caught the joyful sound, the song of saints on higher ground. Lord, lift me up and let me stand, by faith on heaven’s tableland; a higher plane than I have found, Lord plant my feet on higher ground.

( Second verse of the Hymn, “Higher Ground,” lyrics by Johnson Oatman. Jr.)

John Stetzer