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Undefiled access

by davesandel on March 18th, 2023

Saturday, March 18, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

Undefiled access

Come, let us return to the Lord. It is he who has rent, but he will heal us. He has struck us, but he will bind our wounds. On the third day he will raise us up to live in his presence.

Hosea wrote this passage, a man whose experience with his wife threw him to his knees. Her falseness and foolish pride, her betrayals of both husband and children, and finally her collapse into slavery did not affect Hosea’s loyalty to her, nor his love for her. Of course, God will use his story to call out his chosen people!

Let us strive to KNOW the Lord; as certain as the dawn is his coming, and his judgment shines forth like the light of day. He will come to us like the rain.

Hosea’s hope rises like the morning sun. His confidence in Yahweh eclipses the despair he feels for his wife’s return.

I’m meeting this morning with my friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth and I have read a couple Charles Dickens books together. We’ve walked the sidewalks of King Park across the street from my house and stopped sometimes to talk. There are benches in King Park, where I sit and rest. Elizabeth glides up in her wheelchair, smiling like the sun, and says hello.

Our conversations sometimes extend to her physical difficulties, although only rarely. Since her birth as a quadruplet in Kansas, she’s lived with cerebral palsy. Elizabeth graduated from John Brown University and then decided to take on the MSW at the University of Illinois. She moved from Kansas to Illinois, and crossed the graduation stage a couple of years ago. Social work became her career. Since then she’s worked and played and worshipped at the Urbana Vineyard, and (of course) continues to study what she really loves at Global Awakening Theological Seminary.

Elizabeth was always a writer. She remembers stuff (her sister Rachel calls her the “family vault”) and she can tell stories. But now, more than writing, she has written a book. That’s a different animal. She didn’t stop until she could say, “It is finished.” And I can imagine the smile on her face when she said it. Get off that writing cross for awhile, she might have said. Let the resurrection come!

Undefiled Access, her baby, has just been born.

The sleeping bags in my parents’ house must have been anointed Every time I slept in one, I encountered the Father’s affection. It felt like the Holy Spirit wrapped around me. The last time I slept in one on a family camping trip, the Lord’s presence and conviction settled over me as soon as I curled into it. I knew who it was. My fifteen-year-old heart had opted for internal rebellion at the time. I made a 180-degree turn and barreled into the Father’s arms. His kindness overwhelmed me, and I could not resist his presence. I still cannot.

Elizabeth’s surname blooms like daffodils two days before spring, even now in Illinois, at least here and there. Elizabeth Flora-Swick doesn’t stop smiling, not while she flings herself along the sidewalks of King Park. We’ve gotten together in my office and at her apartment at times. She hires student helpers who make moving around like that possible for her. Her body doesn’t work like she might have expected when she was born, and it never has. I know she knows God and loves God and knows God’s love through all of that. She says so – sure – but she also lives so.

Let not your piety be like a morning cloud or morning dew that quickly flies away. It is love that I desire, not sacrifice; knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

At the end of her book Elizabeth flies her testimony like a bright flag off the bow. Look into the sun. Out of her vision and her intimacy with Jesus she writes.

It was the safety Jesus provided in his recognition and acceptance of my need for care that fostered my capacity to receive what else he had for me. Healing or no healing, he was taking me with him. I’m along for this ride. I will be about my Father’s business – to display his goodness in its depth and glory.

So I’m psyched to see Elizabeth today. We’ll sit at Einstein’s and eat bagels and drink coffee. We’ll talk about our lives. I just finished Dickens’ Hard Times; she said she’d try reading it again. Maybe she did. Either way, Dickens and Elizabeth and I will find our paths through our own difficulties and seek out some semblance of the Circus of Heaven.

Jesus spoke to those convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. After he spoke he summarized: “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled. But the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

 (Hosea 6, Psalm 51, Psalm 95, Luke 18)

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