Category: <span>thoughts by Marilyn Ehle</span>


Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you…”   Revelation 3:20 (The Message)


We attend a downtown church that has been in place 140 years. We have wonderful programs for the people of the “church family,” as well as many activities for all segments of the community. Children eagerly run in on Tuesday evenings to meet with their tutors who have prepared specific lessons for their academic growth. On Thursdays and Fridays young moms with infants in arms and toddlers in hand come for mornings of fun, practical advice and spiritual encouragements while their children are lovingly cared for. Each weekend a variety of worship services are offered.

While the church now owns several buildings fit for almost any use, faithful people sacrificially erected the current “sanctuary building” in the late 1800’s.  But years later a growing congregation sacrificed in another way. When they realized that the space they loved was no longer sufficient for growth, they unanimously voted to “implode” the stone building with its beautiful steeple. When the new and larger building was complete, huge and beautiful oak doors led from the street into the sanctuary.

But today those same oak doors—designed for welcome—often become a barrier instead of an entrance. Street people with their backpacks and homeless teens roam the streets regularly pass those doors. One young girl said to a friendly parishioner when he invited her to come in, “Oh, I could never come through those doors. That building looks like it’s for good people.”

We are people committed to being faithful followers of Jesus.

We extend ourselves to people of all backgrounds and stations of life. And yet there are those big oak doors. I wonder if there are “oak doors” in my life?  Attitudes or actions that keep people at arm’s length from me? I don’t know if the oak doors will be—or need to be—removed in our church building, but I am responsible to make sure my heart’s doors remain open for conversation and relationship.

by Marilyn Ehle
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FURTHER READING

Send Jesus to the Door – by Gail Rodgers

• When You Open the Door –  by Bill Bright

He’s Still Knocking – by Marilyn Ehle

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“I have loved you with an everlasting love…”  Jeremiah 31:3

Valentine’s Day, as celebrated in many Western countries, is supposed to be a day filled with gifts (usually candy and flowers), lovingly worded greeting cards, and special acts of kindness. Yet for many people—young and old—it is a day marked by an aching heart. The single mother weighed down by burdens of responsibilities almost too heavy to bear. A widowed man sitting quietly in his rocker with only tears of memory as his companion. The young single woman wonders why she alone, among so many of her friends, is without a fiance or husband. The married couple who merely co-exist without a spark of passion. The candy is consumed, the flowers fade and many of the special acts are unfortunately replaced with less loving gestures.

What happens on February 15th? Is there a love that helps us bear our burdens, wipes our tears, satisfies our longings? Madeleine L ’Engle writes:

One of our children when he was two or three years old used to rush at me when he had been naughty, and beat against me, and what he wanted by this monstrous behavior was an affirmation of love. And I would put my arms around him and hold him very tight until the dragon was gone and the loving small boy had returned. So God does with me. I strike out at Him in pain and fear and He holds me under the shadow of His wings. Sometimes He appears to me to be so unreasonable that I think I cannot live with Him, but I know that I cannot live without Him.”

Thank you, Father, that your love doesn’t depend on my worth or my reactions, that you loved me from before the beginning of time, that your love can fill all the empty spaces of my heart.

By Marilyn Ehle
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FURTHER READING

What’s Love Got to do with It? by Norm Miller

Two Keys to a Happy Marriage by Kevin Miller

Adhesive Qualities in a Marriage – Glue only comes in one flavor

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thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals His thoughts to mortals…  the Lord God Almighty is His name.” Amos 4:13


Perhaps you are familiar with Jesus’ words about the relationship between faith and moving mountains.

But have you ever heard about a mountain moving a person?

That is exactly what happened recently to a woman we will call Sarah.

Sarah is from an Eastern European country and was visiting family who had immigrated to the United States. Although a God-honoring and traditionally religious person, she didn’t understand what it meant when her family tried to describe the reality of trusting personally in Christ. Sarah is attractive, well-educated and has a well-deserved reputation in her country as an outstanding musician. She has studied with some of her country’s most talented musical elite and is known far beyond the borders of her nation. In spite of all this, Sarah could not quite grasp the concept of the grace and grandeur of a loving God who desired a relationship with her.

Wanting Sarah to experience much of the beauty in this part of the world, they traveled with her to some of this area’s most famous sites. She was thrilled to see wildlife coming into urban neighborhoods, deep gorges cut through centuries of granite-like rock, blue skies with mountain peaks piercing the clouds. Each Sunday they visited a different church so Sarah could glimpse the wide variety of Christian worship.

And then one afternoon Sarah’s family drove her up to one of this country’s highest peaks, over 14,000 feet high. Expecting her to surely enjoy the experience, they were unprepared for her stunned response as she stood in the silence of the peak, gazing at clouds both above and beneath her, at the valleys far below. She suddenly spread out her arms and cried, “Oh, this is the God you’re talking about!”

Later conversation revealed that at that moment on the mountaintop, God lovingly revealed Himself to her in a way that spoke uniquely to her soul and she opened herself to all that He wanted to be for her. God used a mountain to move her into relationship with Himself.

by Marilyn Ehle
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FURTHER READING

Fully Committed to God

Pressing On! – a lesson on focusing our eyes and goals on Christ

Broken but Made Beautiful

Living Waters

 

thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


‘I (resolved) to be as wide open toward people and their needs as I am toward God. Windows open outward as well as upward. Windows especially open downward where people need most.’    Frank Laubach in Letters by a Modern Mystic

“…Jesus saw their faith…He saw a man named Matthew…Jesus turned and saw her…News of this spread throughout the region.”  Matthew 9

Windows in the house of my childhood were sash windows: the bottom half pushed up, the top half could be pulled down. My mother—who considered washing windows a frequent necessity—twisted herself into unimaginable poses while sitting on the sill to wash the exterior of these windows.

Imagine my delight while living in Germany to discover a much advanced window design. In a country where sparkling windows were a priority, not an option, engineers built them with unique hinges at the bottoms, sides and tops. With a turn of handles to just the right angle, the windows could swing up from the bottom, down from the top, or out from the side. Not only did housecleaning become a much easier task, but even in a rainstorm, windows could be opened to allow refreshing breezes into the house without water damaging floors or walls.

The maneuverability of those windows caught my attention. Laubach writes that he wanted to not only look upward toward God, but “open downward where people need most.” Do you ever find yourself looking away from the homeless person standing at the intersection with a sign reading, “Out of work. Need food”? Do you glance away in church where a frazzled young mom is unsuccessful in stifling her toddler’s cries? Do you avert your eyes if you see a woman clothed from head to toe in black?

Reading through the gospels, it is amazing to discover the number of times the phrase “Jesus saw” occurs. He found the movement up toward His Father and down toward people the normal way to live. The question remains: are the windows of my soul clean and wide open to see as He did? As we live and love toward that goal, the news of this wonder working Jesus will “spread throughout the region.”

by Marilyn Ehle
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FURTHER READING

The One Who Sees It All – by John Grant

• Jesus Never Looked Down on Others– by Jon Walker

Two Sides by Kristi Huseby

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thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


“Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19-20


It was a fitting song for a New Year’s Eve service:

God of our life, through all the circling years, we trust in you.  In all the past, your hand we view.  God of the past, our times are in your hand.”*

We sang with a sense of gratitude and faith. In the beautiful sanctuary, surrounded by friends and in anticipation of the bread and wine we would soon share, the words slipped easily from our lips. We have seen his hand and we have trusted; we basked in his presence.

But then we came to the first line of the final stanza.

God of the coming years, through paths unknown we follow you. The past is past, we cannot change any of its triumphs or losses. We now face the future and its sure challenges, its unknown paths.”

We dare not merely mouth the words; God hears every whisper of every song. Will we follow him as we promise in music? His part is to never leave or forsake us; our part is to follow through all the stanzas of our lives.

(*God of Our Life – by Hugh T Kerr)

Good Shepherd, it is so easy to sing the words and even to mean them to some degree. Help me carry the song into every moment of every day, singing to you.

By Marilyn Ehle
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More:  New Year Articles

Further Reading

•  Year End Reflections

•  On Whom Will You Rely in the Coming Year?

•  Is it Time for a Maintenance Check-up? – Spiritual maintenance

•  Salvation Explained

 


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The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you”…Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea… Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Luke 1


In the Western world of refined medical practice, the first three months of a woman’s pregnancy are considered some of the most important. She is encouraged to care for her body through good nutrition, appropriate exercise and frequent visits to her doctor.

In our rush toward Christmas and the miracle of Bethlehem, we often ignore the humanness of Mary. True, she was singled out and blessed by a visit from Gabriel who pronounced her highly favored and the recipient of God’s intimate presence. But we note the angel did not say she would be immune to the very normal routine of pregnancy—morning sickness, back pain, sleeplessness.

Can we imagine how older Elizabeth and young Mary spent those three months? Did Elizabeth stroke Mary’s long hair as she bent over with sickness? Did Elizabeth prepare special food to stoke her appetite? Mary would have been experiencing disgrace from her family back in Nazareth. Did Elizabeth wipe her tears while assuring her of God’s grace and unending love?

Angel visits are miraculous but infrequent. During Mary’s first trimester God used the very ordinary words and actions of a willing friend to further prepare her for what lay ahead.

Each of us has a “trimester” in our relationship with God, often more than one. During these times of preparation and waiting, our needs are similar to Mary’s. Even though some may have had miraculous spiritual experiences—perhaps akin to Gabriel’s presence—we must all walk forward within the limitations of our cultures, our families, our specific circumstances. We will need “Elizabeth’s” to nurture and teach. We will need the time to learn the pondering process that Mary would practice for the rest of her journey. Three months is just the beginning.

Thank you for the story of Mary that helps me see how You work in all the seasons of my life. Waiting is hard for me, Lord. Help me look forward with faithfulness to the Bethlehem’s that lie in my future.

By Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•   Christmas Every Day

•  The Christmas Story 

•  A Wonderful Christmas Morning


thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


“…there was a priest named Zechariah…he was serving as a priest before God…an angel of the Lord appeared…” Luke 1:5-11

We only hear about him at Christmas, but Zechariah should be a yearlong model for us. He was a man who loved God, a man who prayed, a man who struggled with doubt.

When we are discouraged, when we live with the confusion of unanswered prayer, when we feel God is distant, it is easy to remove ourselves from the fellowship of other Christians, to neglect the rituals of the church and put the Bible to one side. And yet Zechariah, whose deepest heart longing was unsatisfied, continued his spiritual duties. How he must have wondered if the God he prayed to in the temple was really a trustworthy God. We know that he doubted God’s promise even when delivered by the angel Gabriel.

During the months of his wife’s pregnancy, Zechariah’s prayers were silent ones. He could only commune with his Heavenly Father in the stillness of his heart, but I believe his long years of faithful service—even when he couldn’t hear God speaking or see God working—provided strength during those silent months.

Be careful to “keep on keeping on” during the days when God’s presence seems to have disappeared, when the Bible seems to contain promises only for others. Gathering with fellow Christians—many who are experiencing their own doubts—can be encouraging. Participating with your friends at the table of communion will provide spiritual sustenance. God will, in his good time, speak again.

God, give me courage to keep on when I don’t hear your voice or when I seem to be making no “progress” in my faith. Teach me again that you are near.

How has practicing the essentials of the Christian faith helped you during dark times?

By Marilyn Ehle
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FURTHER READING

Learn more about knowing Jesus at: https://thoughts-about-god.com/four-laws/


thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


“When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed… (he) called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared… (They) were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod…” Matthew 2


During these beautiful weeks of Advent, we shudder to think of the hatred and murderous plot of Herod and his son Archelaus. These men vividly represent those who feared the humble birth of an infant who was rumored to become king.

Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of this dark side of Christmas is how God dealt with these enemies and their schemes to kill Jesus. There were sufficient numbers of political zealots in Israel who could have been enlisted to fight off Herod and enforce God’s plan. He could have miraculously intervened to strike Herod dead, thus introducing God’s Kingdom in a way that would gain the world’s attention.

Instead of these headline-making actions, however, God quietly sends a dream to the searching Magi, and their route homeward is altered. Joseph, too, hears God’s warning whisper in a dream and travels to Egypt where his young family will avoid Herod.

Years pass, Herod dies and life should be safe for the small family. They prepare to return to the land of their birth but once again are warned by God in the stillness of night to change their plans and head toward Nazareth, the town where Mary first heard the angel’s news.

Christians often deplore what is called the “commercialization of Christmas,” and understandably want to take action against ideas that seem to threaten what is held sacred. Some suggest boycotts, picket lines or similar actions. None of these is wrong, but I wonder if perhaps God’s method of furthering His Kingdom that began with the humble birth of the King might be more subtle and in line with His character? Could God possibly whisper creative ideas in the quiet time we spend with Him? Would an encouraging word to the harried cashier reflect His plan? How about a loaf of freshly baked bread to the single working mom who just wishes Christmas would disappear?

How strange of God to say that His plan for dealing with His enemies is to love them.

Prayer: Reaction is easier for me than loving action! Bring to my attention how I can reflect your love during these busy December days. Amen

by Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

• How Dearly God Loves Us – by Bill Bright

Love: Answer to Hostility  by Muriel Larson

Your Kindness Quotient – by Max Lucado


thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


Oh, how I love your word! I think about it all day long.”  (Psalm 119:97, (Living Bible)

All scripture is God-breathed¦ so that all God’s people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”. 2 Timothy 3:16, 17


It was a week of body-numbing activity as we worked in clinics near poverty stricken villages. We awakened early and fell into bed exhausted each night. Children seemed to pour from buses like water out of a bottomless pitcher. Challenges multiplied as we faced the logistics of meeting the endless vision, dental and medical needs of over 2,000 children.

We were Christians surely we began each day in lengthy meditative prayer and gleanings from the Bible? While some of the team met each morning for a few quiet moments, the reality was that responsibilities swirled for those of us in leadership, demanding attention nearly every waking moment.

In the midst of these long days that were drenched with activity and people, the gracious Spirit of God repeatedly brought to my attention words that had long before been committed to memory and implanted in my heart.

From this resource, God brought to my attention answers to problems even before they were articulated. He provided all that was necessary for the needs of the moment.

The city in which I live depends on reservoirs for its water supply. When there is insufficient winter snow or spring rain, we are warned to carefully monitor our water use.  In a similar way, our spiritual reservoirs cannot go long without refilling. Returning from the humanitarian project described above, I was desperately thirsty for fresh and abundant ‘the water of the Word’ and God is faithfully refilling what I had spilled into others lives.

Father God, your word refreshes and fills and invigorates me as I faithfully meditate on it. Thank you for its life giving strength.

by Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

• Enjoying God’s Word – by Brigitte Straub

Feeding on the Word – by Violet Tse

God’s Timeless Gift – by Allan Mitchell


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thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter…” Luke 22:61

All around was chaos. Jesus had been betrayed by a follower, then shackled by soldiers and led away from the peaceful garden. He now stood before religious authorities intent on putting Him to death. Peter had heard Jesus’ prediction of his own betrayal but had hotly denied that he would ever leave his Savior. Now he stands in the courtyard within sight of Jesus’ first appearance before His accusers and—just as Jesus had forecast—Peter vehemently three times denies that he knows Jesus.

And then the rooster crows. Peter immediately remembers Jesus’ words: Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times. Peter looks over to where Jesus stands, perhaps expecting an outburst from Jesus: “I told you so, Peter.” Or maybe “It’s just what I expected from you, Peter.” We have no words of Jesus recorded, but Peter’s immediately reaction to Jesus’ look was sorrow: He went outside and wept bitterly. Because of Peter’s later life, I believe he saw sorrow, acceptance, compassion and love.

Often we cringe when we think God is looking on us. We transfer our own judgmental attitudes onto Him, finding it difficult or impossible to believe that His looks are full of grace and truth. That His forgiveness is ready and that He has plans for us almost beyond comprehension. The psalmist wrote it beautifully:

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
They outnumber the grains of sand.
And when  wake up, you are still with me!
Psalm 139:17-19 (New Living Translation)

Lord, I do love you. I do trust you. But I often want to hide myself from your penetrating gaze. Help me “look full in your wonderful face” and there find forgiveness and love.

Describe how you think God is looking at you. How does your description influence the way you look at others?

by Marilyn Ehle
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“In freedom Christ has made us free and completely liberated us; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery”.  Galatians 5:2 (Amplified Bible)


Frederick Douglass, leader of the abolitionist movement, discusses at great length the difference between the mindsets of slavery and freedom. In one book,* Douglass reveals how his demeanor changed when he began thinking—or visualized—what it would be like to be free. Conversely, he began to understand what it was like when he stopped dreaming about freedom. Adam Abraham writes that Douglass “gained spiritual sustenance and physical strength only when he had an active connection with his soul’s longings.”

We have a vivid biblical picture of this same kind of thinking in the story of the Israelites after they left Egypt. They were finally within stepping-into distance of the land promised by God, but when they heard the discouraging “majority report” of realities within that Promised Land, they balked in fear. They returned to slave thinking.  David Stubbs writes, “Israel rejects God not because they want to be more, but rather because they are willing to settle for less.”

We who walk with Christ often experience this tendency toward slave thinking. We grow discouraged in the tough battle of addictions or grief or abuse or self-doubt. We quake with discouragement because it is easier to believe that nothing can ever change than it is to believe that “Christ has made us free.” Instead of “standing fast,” we let our weak legs wander off the path of discipleship. We are “hampered” by voices that shout true freedom is an impossibility. We succumb to the false teaching that freedom is only for the favored few.

God has built soul longings into us. The psalmist likens his own yearnings after God to a thirsty deer panting after water. When Frederick Douglass envisioned freedom and began to live like a freed man, he set out on the road to change society. What even greater miracles can God do when His children stand fast, are not hampered or ensnared and truly live as free people?

*Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave,

by Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

• Break the Cycle – A Devotional by Rand Kreycik

Forgiving Yourself – by Sylvia Gunter

How to Begin a Relationship with God


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“Search me, God, and know my heart…” Psalm 139:23


Have you ever watched a television situation comedy where the characters never knock on friends’ doors, walking in announced, assuming they are welcome? Most of us in the Western world would find this unacceptable behavior. We expect a knock on the door or ring of the bell.

I love my privacy. Because my desk is in the corner of a much-used room, I bought a folding wooden screen to afford at least a small sense of privacy while I am working. I often pray for missionaries who have similar “privacy passions” yet minister in cultures where being alone is considered socially unacceptable.

While my yearning for privacy is frequently necessary to accomplish my work and even desirable in my practice of solitude for spiritual growth, that very hunger to be alone can feed an immature wish that God Himself knock before entering. Do I really want Him to view every secret desire, especially those best described as self-centered? Do I give Him ready access to every corner of my heart and mind or are there spaces I keep securely locked?

David gave God the key to his heart and life, but his words indicate that this ready access was given because David had a personal bond with God. His close relationship with the Creator of the universe almost springs off the page:  “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.” (Psalm 139:17 NLT)

Could it be that the rooms of my life closed off to God are locked because I haven’t sufficiently developed that same love and trust with my Heavenly Father? In addition to gaining information about God in our spiritual growth, deeply embedded in the Hebrew and Greek meanings of the word “know” are the ideas of perceiving, experiencing, and responding to Him. When I consistently pursue not just knowing about God, but unceasingly walk in intimacy so that I ever more deeply love and understand Him, fear of opening myself completely to Him will decrease. Little by little, I will unlock the private rooms.

by Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

• A Morning Prayer – By Katherine Kehler

The Mountain Top and the Valley – by Roy Lessin

We Hear His Voice – by Bill Bright


thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


“(Jesus said) Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you…I am coming to you now…so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.”  (Read John 17)


Friends are about to set off for a cross-country journey and I say, “I’ll be praying that have a good trip.”  Our friend responds, “Oh, don’t worry. We always have a good trip. After all, God wants to keep his children happy.

As the door closes and they leave our presence, his words lay heavy on my heart. Is it true? Does “God want to keep his children happy”? Modern dictionaries define a happy person as one who is fortunate or successful. In the Bible, however, when the word happy is used, it primarily means blessed as in Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” etc. This gives a nuance to the word that we do not usually consider.

Did the Apostle Paul pray for our interpretation of happiness for his friends, many of whom were suffering? “I keep asking God…to give you wisdom…so you may know him better.” And “This is my prayer: that your love may abound…” And “…we have not stopped praying, asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will…”

If I am not happy, has God removed his hand of blessing and protection? Carol is slowly recovering from deep grief after her husband’s long and painful battle with cancer and subsequent death. She smiles – but through tears. Happy? No, but at peace.

Terry is making slow but steady progress after long and dangerous surgery. Her pain has been unimaginable. Did God fail his promises? Is he punishing her? Others would not call her situation happy, but she is deeply aware of God’s presence and love.

Simone Weil wrote,

Joy is the sweetness of contact with the love of God.”

Dear friend, God has far deeper purposes in our lives than happiness. Jesus promised to leave us his peace and joy. Nothing less.

Father, I am so very tempted to look for fleeting happiness as evidence of your presence. But then I look at Jesus’ life and see one sure of your love, your acceptance and your plan for his life. And he was blessed. May I walk in that same kind of blessing.

by Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

• What God Already Gave – JOY – by Bethany Hayes

You Can Have Joy – by John Grant

Maintaining Joy – by Charles Stanley


thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


“Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” Hebrews 13:2 (New Living Translation)


When we lived in Germany, a call came from a friend living near the then-closed border of Eastern Europe. During the Communist era, our friend, along with others, had developed close bonds with Christians who longed to see their countries free from tyranny.

The request was simple. Our friend knew of a priest who was being allowed to travel from his home in Poland to Holland for a crucial meeting. Could my husband pick him up at the airport, drive him to the meeting only a few hours away, wait until the meeting was over and return him to our home for an overnight stay.

Our house was well suited to hosting guests and hospitality was a major element of our ministry to international men and women in both diplomatic and business circles. Our ready response to our friend’s request was automatic.

We all know that hospitality involves conversation as guests and hosts learn more about each other. In this instance, conversation was limited because this gentle, black-clad priest did not speak English, and we spoke no Polish. As we were still learning German and our guest had only limited use of that language, even that means of conversation was scarce. But to my surprise, I found that our times together over dinner and then breakfast were not only easy, but there was a special sense of God’s presence as we sat together.

Only years later did we discover the identity of our guest: a Catholic priest who was key to opening doors for evangelism and discipleship in all of Communist Poland. Because he was well respected in many circles, he became crucial to the development of religious freedom efforts as well as all other Kingdom activity.

Was our friend an angel as described in the book of Hebrews? He didn’t look particularly angelic, but his presence brought blessing that we recall to this very day. He became a lesson to never turn away the person who might be used of God as an instrument of peace and joy.

by Marilyn Ehle
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Further Reading

•  Miracle an Angel and a Surgeon

Angel Comes to Encourage – Angel Story

Angel at a Bulgarian Train Station – True Story


thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women


“…at once the Spirit sent Him (Jesus) out into the wilderness… Mark 1:12

(Herod) locked John up in prison.”  Luke 3:20

I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.”  Isaiah 41:13

I recently wrote an article describing how when Christians experience the loss of our dreams, it might be good to sit quietly in the presence of God waiting in trust for what God has prepared for the future.

What has been amazing is the tone of the responses I’ve received. Almost all sound like the popular song, “Don’t worry, be happy.” A kind of “don’t-worry-it’s-not-really-that-bad-everything-will-get-better.” Could this be denial of the pain and reality of life, the stuffing down of emotions?

It was with these responses in mind that my mind wandered to the verses above. John had just experienced the earth-shattering, heaven-opening baptism of Jesus. Now surely the glorious beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the fulfillment of all John the Baptizer’s dreams of the coming Messiah will occur. But then we read that immediately after hearing His Father’s affirmation, Jesus is sent by the very Spirit entwined with His own being into the wilderness of temptation and suffering. And then this cousin of Jesus, blessed to be the herald of the coming Kingdom, is thrown into prison.

Both John the Baptist and Jesus were faithful and learned Jews who knew the writings of the Prophet Isaiah. Was it in prison and in the wilderness—real places of real suffering—that both men recalled, “Do not fear; I will help you”? God did not rescue Jesus from the temptations of the Evil One. He gave Him power to resist. God did not open Herod’s prison doors so John could escape and continue ministry. Instead the Tetrarch Herod ordered John’s head to be presented on a platter for the cruel enjoyment of his guests.

It is in all places, in all times—in the Jordan Rivers, in the wildernesses, in the prisons—that we hear the “Do not fear; I will help you.” As the Apostle Paul described it, it is “in every circumstance and in everything, we are to “make your wants known to God.” Then “God’s peace shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 Amplified Bible)

The real God comes in the real pain.

by Marilyn Ehle
Used by Permission

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FURTHER READING

The Value of Pain by John Fischer

He Knows Pain – by Idelette McVicker

Does God See the Pain I’m Facing? by Ashlea Massie

thoughts by Marilyn Ehle Thoughts by Women