Sunday, March 15, 2015

Sustaining Words

I adjusted my hat to shield my face from the hot Costa Rican sun and wiped my brow with a clean patch of forearm. My gloved hands gripped the shovel handle again. Lunge downward, lift. The blade had barely scalped the tough grass from the heavy clay soil. The next spadeful was dumped into the 5 gallon bucket waiting to be filled and then carried to the construction site next door. The dirt would be pounded into the floor of the structure, preparing it for a layer of concrete. The hours dragged on as my mission trip teammates and I continued to dig.

Finally,  the word we longed to hear was flung from the kitchen. " Comida!" We abandoned the tools, tugged off our rubber boots, so as not to track mud inside, wriggled our feet into shoes and formed a line behind the food counter.  Our weariness was dissolving as we anticipated the Eating, the Sitting, the Resting.

Whether physically, emotionally or spiritually weary, sustaining words give hope and relief.  The mission trip was two summers ago. More recently, during a slough of despondency,  I needed prayer from a trusted friend.  "You never have to be ashamed of your weaknesses", she reminded me. I was weary from trying to appear strong, when she was graciously allowing me to fall apart. When we think we are disgraced, the God of rest graces us with help. Once strengthened in that humble place of need, we can go forth proclaiming "Hosanna in the highest heaven!"

We had the privilege of gathering with the Costa Rican church in their new, not-quite-finished building the night before we left them. The worship we offered to God there, sitting on plastic chairs with dirt beneath our feet, was well worth our labor of service.

Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to earth as the Word made flesh. My needy life is nourished as I hear your word through Holy Scripture and when you speak through your servants. Open my ears to the Holy Spirit today, and teach me how to speak encouragement to any who are longing for a word of comfort and hope.

Is. 50:4-9b
'The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain
    the weary with a word.
Morning by morning he wakens—
    wakens my ear
    to listen as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious,
    I did not turn backward.
I gave my back to those who struck me,
    and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
    from insult and spitting.
The Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame;
    he who vindicates me is near.
Who will contend with me?
    Let us stand up together.
Who are my adversaries?
    Let them confront me.
It is the Lord God who helps me;
    who will declare me guilty?

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