Springs in the Desert

by Rebecca Price Janney @rebpricejanney

The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs. Isaiah 41:17-18 NIV

In his late 90s, in declining health, legally blind and stone deaf, my dad wasn’t shy about discussing death.  I planned to be with him when the time came, holding his hand, singing a favorite hymn, reading from his worn Bible.

We didn’t see Covid-19 roaring down the pike.

I usually visited Dad on Thursdays, but on Wednesday March 11th I couldn’t shake a thought, “Go now.” I went. The following day the facility closed to all visitors. Not until April 15th did I see Dad’s face again, on a video call. His face brightened upon seeing me, but his listlessness and sallow complexion were concerning. The following day an ambulance took him to the hospital. The doctor told me, “Both lungs are filled with fluid. His heart and kidneys are failing.” Dad tested positive for Covid-19. He said he didn’t want them to try to save him. He wanted to go Home.

“I want to see him.”

“No visitors are allowed, but let me see what I can do.”

I found myself in a desert with no water. God’s Word, however, promises to make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert. Isaiah 41: 17-18 (NIV) says, “The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.”

True to His Word, the Lord answered my desperate thirst to be with my father. That Friday my son and I donned masks and stood outside Dad’s hospital room, speaking to him over house phones. Dad told me, “I think my time’s about up. I’m not afraid, and you don’t be afraid either. I’m ready for the Lord to take me.” I wanted to say a prayer or the 23rd Psalm, but I was in the hallway shouting because he didn’t have his hearing aids. Not the final conversation I’d imagined.

I did say, “I guess I’ll see you in heaven Dad.” He answered, ” That will be nice.”

The next day we spoke briefly on the phone, and on Sunday I called again, but he didn’t answer. He was by then on heavy pain medication. A few minutes later, however, my phone rang and to my amazement, it was Dad! “Did you just call me?” he asked, his mind was clear, although his voice was slurred.

“Yes. I’m so glad you called me back.”

“What’s up?” I had to smile; he always asked me that at the start of a phone call.

“I’m wondering how you are.”

“I don’t know why I’m still here,” he said. “Why doesn’t the Lord take me?”

“As you always told me,” I said, “you’re a tough old bird.” Then growing somber, “You’re walking through the valley of the shadow, and I can’t be with you, but Jesus is.” Dad spoke of Jesus’ suffering, and I said, “Look how that turned out.” After ten minutes we told each other “I love you.”

He died the next morning.

I couldn’t get that phone call out of my mind. There was something otherworldly about it. I asked a nurse on his floor about the phone he used. “They’re very basic,” she said, ” no caller ID or automatic redial.”

“Did someone help him make the call?”

“No.”

Often when I’d called Dad before, he had difficulty even hearing the ringer. At the hospital he didn’t have his glasses or his hearing aids, yet somehow he heard that phone ring, sensed it was me, and made what humanly speaking was an impossible call to speak to me one last time.

God had arranged for us springs in a very dry valley.

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Springs in the Desert – encouragement from @RebPriceJanney on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Rebecca Price Janney is the author of 23 published books including Golden Scroll Historical Novel of the Year, Easton at the Crossroads, and her newest, Sweet, Sweet Spirit, a story of revival during a time of crisis in America. Her podcast, Inspiration from American History, can be found at Anchor.fm.rebeccapricejanney, and information about her books at www.rebeccapricejanney.com. Rebecca lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley with her husband, teenage son, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Rebecca Price Janney Author Photo 2018About the author: Rebecca Price Janney is the author of twenty-three books including the Golden Scroll 2019 Historical Novel of the Year, Easton at the Crossroads, and her newest book, Sweet Sweet Spirit: A Woman’s Spiritual Journey to the Asbury College RevivalShe shares her love of American history and the Lord at speaking engagements and through her podcast, “Inspiring Stories from American History.” She lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley with her husband, teenage son, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Join the conversation: Has God ever unexpectedly supplied a spring in the desert for you?

The Love of My Life

by Rebecca Price Janney @rebeccajanney

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Romans 8:35 NIV

The earliest love of my life was my Pappy Harry, who taught me about baseball, took me to carnivals, and ate my pretend cooking. Unfortunately he died when was I was five, and as I grew up I wanted to learn more about him from others. My grandmother once told me his story, how they weren’t married until they were both in their sixties, she a widow, he a bachelor.

“Why didn’t he get married when he was young?” I asked.

“During World War One he met the love of his life in France.”

“My starry eyes reflected my romantic bent. “What happened?”

“She loved him, but she wouldn’t leave France to marry him.”

That captivating Frenchwoman deeply disappointed my grandfather and changed the course of his young adulthood.

Maybe in your own life, a special love has not been requited. The truth is, however, even when love is returned, fallen creatures—including redeemed ones—cause each other pain sometimes, and death eventually parts the greatest of loves.

There is, however, a deeper love we can rest our lives on from birth to death. The love of Jesus is ever-present and everlasting, secure for all eternity. Romans 8: 35-38 (NIV) proclaims, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Imagine never being separated from the Love of your life! Yes, there are human loves that enliven our spirits and bring us great joy, but we cannot always be with them. A dear friend and his bride are currently apart for several weeks while one of them works in India with a team from his company. They treasure each other beyond anything else in this world, but for now, they can’t be together. There is, however, no getting away from Jesus when we belong to him. There is no journey you can take anywhere on earth, or even in space for that matter, no condition or trial, no tragedy or downward spiral that can separate you from the One who holds you in the palm of His hand.

This is a “love divine, all loves excelling.” We can depend on God’s love for us throughout the course of our lives, from the time we are born until the time we depart this life. Isaiah 46:4 (NIV) puts the matter this way: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” There is no greater love!

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The Love of My Life – encouragement from @RebeccaJanney on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Rebecca Price Janney Author Photo 2018About the author: Rebecca Price Janney is the author of twenty-three books including the Golden Scroll 2019 Historical Novel of the Year, Easton at the Crossroads, and second place winner, Morning Glory. Her latest book is Sweet Sweet Spirit: A Woman’s Spiritual Journey to the Asbury College Revival. She shares her love of American history and the Lord at speaking engagements and through her podcast, “Inspiring Stories from American History.” She lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley with her husband, teenage son, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Join the conversation: Who is the love of your life?

 

 

Opposition

by Rebecca Price Janney @rebeccajanney

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…you are from God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.                                              1 John 4:1, 4 NASB

When I was in seminary, I dreamed of becoming a historian, professor, and author. Newspapers had been publishing my articles since I was just fourteen, I’d written for a national magazine, loved history, and enjoyed the affirmation of people who’d taken my Sunday School classes. All students were required to meet with a career counselor to determine our fitness for the various ministries we hoped to pursue, and I went to our meeting confidently. I did not leave in the same emotional state.

Talk about blunt. After reviewing the tests I’d taken, he pronounced, “You’ll never be happy holed up in a library doing the kind of research getting a doctorate would require.” He added, not for good measure, that I possessed “average writing ability.” Didn’t he know I was already an experienced journalist?

I was crushed, but not in despair. God had given me certain talents and goals, and I was determined that He was going to have the last word. He enabled me to earn that doctorate, with honors, and I’m about to have my twenty-third book published.

Many have said whenever God directs His people toward the work He has for them, they can expect opposition. Biblical examples abound. Think about Noah. When he began building his ark, his neighbors jeered and publicly humiliated him. How about Joseph? After sharing his dream with his brothers, they sold him into slavery. (At least my career counselor didn’t throw me into a pit and sell me.) No doubt Mary endured misunderstanding and averted-eyes-whispers when villagers learned of her “problem pregnancy.”

Nehemiah certainly encountered ridicule as he attempted to restore Jerusalem’s shattered walls. Opponents of the Jews tried mixing their insults with his mortar. They asked, “Who does he think he is, anyway?” Sanballat, Tobiah, and their cohorts held the visionary up as an example of deranged ambition, but even worse, some of Nehemiah’s fellow Jews “came from all directions,” shelling him with a steady barrage of negativism (Nehemiah 4:12). Ten times they urged him to give up the work. I imagine it was a struggle for him to maintain focus on the One who had called him to the job.

Not all “experts” have clear vision. Did you know Lauren Daigle tried out for American Idol twice, and failed to achieve success? One of my favorite stories along these lines is about Fred Astaire. When he took a screen test, the report came back, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Slightly balding. Can dance a little.”

We can all relate to times we’ve heard God’s clear call upon our lives, and others rose up in opposition, whether they were authorities, family members, friends, or casual observers. When you undertake the plans God has for you, expect antagonism. Don’t let the naysayers catch you off guard, though. If you are sure of God’s call, take heart “because he who inspires you is greater than he who inspires the godless world” (1 John 4:4, NEB).

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Opposition – thoughts on #followingGod when others object from @RebeccaJanney on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Rebecca Price Janney Author Photo 2018About the author: Rebecca Price Janney is the author of twenty-two published books, including the Easton Series, Morning Glory: A Novel of the First Great Awakening, Great Women in American History, Who Goes There? A Cultural History of Heaven and Hell, and Harriet Tubman. A theologically-trained historian, she holds a doctorate from Missio Seminary, as well as degrees from Princeton Seminary and Lafayette College. Rebecca and her husband Scott live in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley with their teenage son and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. She does a weekly podcast, Inspiring Stories in American History and is a popular speaker on historical topics.

Rebecca’s book, Easton at the Crossroads, is the compelling story of two people, more Easton at the Crossroads (Easton Series) (Volume 3)than two hundreds years apart, bound by family ties, life experiences, and the town of Easton, Pennsylvania. They have done everything they know to be right, but still, life is turning out all wrong.

Join the conversation: Have you ever been discouraged by someone as you pursued God’s calling?

The Blessings of Doing a Hard Thing

By Rebecca Price Janney

Many Bible verses comfort encourage, and inspire me—Joshua 1:10: “Do not be afraid. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” All of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd…” Psalm 46, especially verse 1: “God is our refuge and strength, and ever-present help in trouble. . .” John 16:33: “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer—I have overcome the world.” Philippians. 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

These verses regularly appear on refrigerator magnets and note cards because they “comfort us when we are afflicted.” There are, however, verses that do the opposite. They afflict me when I fall short of God’s way. I’ve found Luke 6: 27-30 especially difficult to follow:

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (NIV)

What was that? Give to someone and not expect to get what you loaned back? This has challenged me since childhood.  If you have a brother, you will understand. Do you remember Sid from “Toy Story,” the boy who tore off a doll’s head and put it on an Erector Set spider? My brother wasn’t quite that awful, but none of my belongings were safe in his destructive hands. I learned early on to protect my stuff and carried the lesson to adulthood.

I still feel ashamed about something that happened when a dear friend stayed at my house while we taught at a writer’s conference. She needed an object to illustrate her lesson, and her eyes sparked when she spotted my Williamsburg punch bowl my husband had given me for our anniversary. I imagined the bowl slipping out of her hands and shattering into hundreds of blue and white pieces. I quickly steered her toward a far less important one.

Many years ago “Fixer Upper” star Joanna Gaines was asked to share one of her most precious possessions. Her father had given her a purse-sized Bible for her first trip away from home and lovingly inscribed the inside. Joanna treasured that Bible, which became a constant presence. One day a friend asked if she might borrow it for a missions trip, and Joanna hesitated. Then she concluded it would be wrong somehow not to allow a friend to use a Bible, of all things. Her friend returned from the trip, but she had lost the Bible. She felt so terrible Joanna decided not to hold a grudge.

Many years later Joanna met a pastor and his wife from New England, and during their conversation, the man asked if her father had a pet name for her. “Yes, it’s Jo Jo.” Startled, he told her he’d come across a small Bible with a dad’s inscription to his daughter Jo Jo. Many years after loaning the Bible, after the Word of God had ministered to many others, Joanna was reunited with her prized possession.

When we live according to God’s ways, He fills us beyond anything we can imagine.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6: 38

Rebecca Price Janney Author Photo 2018About the author: Rebecca Price Janney is the author of 21 books including Easton at the Crossroads, the third installment in her Easton Series. A popular speaker, she’s a graduate of Lafayette College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and received her doctorate from Biblical Seminary. She lives in suburban Philadelphia with her husband, teenaged son, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. www.rebeccapricejanney.com

Join the conversation: What has been the hardest thing for you to loan someone?

Photo by Juan Jose on Unsplash