Your Promptings

Heart open to you, Jesus,
I wait in silence.

The bulbul lauds you,
the bees harmonize,
setting leaves to quivering
as they light and leave.
A shiver is enough
to let me know you are here,
touching the deep fabric
of who I am, and who
you want me to be.



Just like the soft petals
that fall one by one 
from the glory above me,
your promptings drift
into my sentient soul.
I’m listening, you’re speaking.
This miracle of union
defies analysis, invites humility as awe takes over.

Have you longed, like I do, to know what the Lord is prompting me to do? How can we recognize a prompting that actually comes from him?

I’ve shared much of what I’ve learned in my collection of poetry, When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey. I did indeed sometimes “hear” the Lord prompting me to do something while I was just sitting, waiting in silence, beneath the golden rain trees in my courtyard in Ferke. But I confess that I still get jolted when out of the blue, something comes to mind that I just cannot shake off. When I do follow through, I am blown away by the confirmation that this was not coincidence but a prompt from my Lord.

Let me me tell you about two that have happened here in the U.S., recently.

I was making myself a cup of tea in my kitchen and turned to take it back upstairs to my writing nook. But I could not shake off a feeling that I should not continue in that direction, but should instead go to the house of a neighbor that I had not seen in a few weeks. So I set the cup down and walked over to her house. I rang the doorbell, no answer. I knocked, no answer. I was pretty sure she was there because the tv was on; I could hear the noise. So I knocked harder, and the tv when off. She came to the door, opened it wide, and as I walked in, hugged me!  I was not expecting that. But then I saw her tears.

We went into the living room, and she shared that it was her husband’s birthday, but he was not there to celebrate (he had passed away from cancer the year before). I listened while she poured out the memories and her grief. We prayed together.

Could that have been just coincidence, that I should go see her at that particular moment?

Another woman that I used to know in years past has been out of sight/out of mind during this pandemic shutdown. But during the past few weeks I frequently wondered how she might be doing. I kept shrugging off what I now know was another prompt. When I finally followed through by phone yesterday, I was sad that I had delayed so long, letting my “priorities” take over. Her son was murdered five weeks ago, and she is in distress! Alone, shocked, grieving – and I finally was able to listen and offer paltry comfort. It was just a beginning, but I am so glad I called.

Reminder, Linn: pay attention to those promptings!  Take time to sit and ask, to listen! When the thoughts keep falling like petals, repeating some message, act on them!

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (Jn. 10:27 NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (Jas. 1:22 NIV)

I know I am being taught in specific ways how to love my neighbor, which is in the Word. I am still learning. What stories do you have to tell about the promptings that our Lord sends? I would love to hear them!

———————————

When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey You can find the book on the following marketplaces:

Direct from the publisher, WestBow Press: https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/824658-when-he-whispers

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-He-Whispers-Learning-Journey/dp/1664224106/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=when+he+whispers+learning+to+listen+on+the+journey&link_code=qs&qid=1620606002&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-he-whispers-linnea-boese/1139300248?ean=9781664224100

Christian Book Distributors: https://www.christianbook.com/when-whispers-learning-listen-the-journey/linnea-boese/9781664224100

The Wall of Fog

Fog has painted a wall
between forest and all that’s beyond.
Thick white obscures all lines.
There is no lake, no forested shore
across those waters. What lies beyond
is blurred, hidden. Looking up we see
yet more white; there is no sky.
But we know that it is there.
I am reminded: we can’t see God,
but he is there. He is here.
When the wind blows, we see
tree branches dancing.
His Spirit works, and we can glimpse
what he is doing, inside the fog.

Don’t let this fog fool you,
saying there is nothing, No One
beyond what eyes can see.
Pay attention to the signs,
like a bird flying through the “wall”.
Remember what you’ve seen before,
reality beyond the gray.
And the closer you move to the fog
the more you can see
the ripples in the water, a hint
of expanse mostly hidden.
That fog is temporary, too.
There will come a time when
it will vanish, wiped away.
“Be still, and know that I am God."

Are you in a place where you wonder if God is really hearing your prayers? Do you wonder if he is inactive? Do you wish you could peek inside a curtain and see what might be happening, out of sight?

I’ve often been there. I pour out my heart to my Father, asking him to do what he says he does: hunt down the wandering sheep, intervene in a crisis, reveal wickedness and promote justice. I know that he says to wait for him – it is a theme throughout the psalms. It is often a long, anxious wait: “I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Ps. 130:6 NIV). I want whatever is obscuring my vision to dissipate, whether it be darkness, fog, distance, or chaos.

But his answer is that I need to quiet my soul and my babbling, to trust that he is always actively doing what is necessary to accomplish his purpose. In fact, he is the sovereign one who “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Eph 1:10 NIV). I must remember that he is good, and has given his all to provide a way to healing, restoration, and new life. He can do way more than we imagine (Eph 3:20).

A metaphor came to mind that helps me calm my questions. He is the Ultimate Undercover Agent! Because he knows the ins and outs of every person’s situation, and the rolling out of the story of the nations, he can work through people that have no idea they are participating in accomplishing what he wants. He can work inside minds and hearts, even when those being lovingly pulled toward healing do not see his hand or recognize his voice. He is not distant; he is the one present in time and space, the I AM. He knows absolutely everything that is going on – even when a tiny bird falls down or my aging hair is thinning (Mat 10:29,30). In every situation, he is at work even when we cannot wrap our minds about it because we do not know all that he knows and we cannot see all that he is doing. Sometimes his messages seem coded, but we can stay alert and watch for the signs that he is on the move.

Once again I hear that message whispering in my heart: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). That says it all. Be quiet. Remember his awe-inspiring attributes of goodness and unending love, and that he is King of everything. Rest. Wait. He may be under cover, but he is on the move.

His Good Hand

His good hand sustains me,
lovingly shading me daily,
cupping my soul 
and holding me,
his Spirit breeze
moving gently, 
directing me
into the paths of his choosing.

He never gets tired,
he never gives up on me,
sheltering me
from burning heat,
shielding me
from poisoned darts,
grabbing my hand
when I stumble
so that I don’t fall down.





This is his hand of mercy,
this is his hand of power,
this is the hand 
that healed the sick,
chased away blindness,
gently blessed
the little ones,
and took the nails for me.

Spending hundreds of hours in the process of translating the Psalms into Nyarafolo taught me far more than I ever imagined it would. Sometimes it allowed me to suddenly realize the power of the original meaning of the metaphors, especially since most of them are natural for Nyarafolos in a way they are not for us Westerners.

Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible talks about God’s “right” hand? In cultures that have come to accept left-handedness as just as acceptable as right-handedness. the difference that is made by a reference to a “right” hand is lost. But in many cultures around the world, the right hand is seen as the one that is reserved for good actions; the left is for doing “dirty work”. For instance, in northern Côte d’Ivoire the right hand is to be used for eating, and for handing something to someone. The left hand is reserved for wiping your nose or other dirty body parts. Handing money to a vegetable seller with your left hand is an insult unless you apologize for the action. (Maybe your other arm is carrying heavy baggage. I found myself apologizing for my left hand at cash registers here in the U.S. when my right hand was occupied, confusing the cashiers!)

In the context of Scripture written in the Hebrew culture, the right hand is also the “good hand,” the hand of righteous action. It is the hand of righteous power for the king or leader, and the follower’s right hand is also their hand to be used for doing good. Use this information to interpret these verses:

You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. (Ps. 18:35 NIV)

4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously in the cause of truth, humility and justice; let your right hand achieve awesome deeds. (Ps. 45:4 NIV)

Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness. (Ps. 48:10 NIV)

Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered. (Ps. 60:5 NIV)

I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. (Ps. 63:8 NIV)

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. (Ps. 73:23 NIV)

The LORD watches over you– the LORD is your shade at your right hand; (Ps. 121:5 NIV)

And yes, he is our shade! When you live in a hot climate with a sun that literally beats down on you, shade is a common metaphor for “protection.” You can see in the featured photo that sheep in West Africa look for shade, lining up in a narrow swath to survive the heat. With the LORD himself the protection (shade) at my right hand, he is making sure that I can keep doing good, protecting me so that I can be active in the right ways.  (And you can see in those last two words that “right” has certain key connotations of correctness in English too!)

Let us be deeply grateful for the loving, sustaining grip of our God, and the way that he acts for justice and does all that is necessary to empower us to do the same!

Just Cling!

Just cling,
cells interlocked,
bark intact,
and let the sap flow
slowly but surely
through winter frost,
tingling gently, 
keeping you alive,
vibrantly pouring
when summer sun
saturates the world
with heat, 
a constant feeding 
in the sleep 
of night.
Rest, but cling.

Just cling,
small one,
drinking from
my veins,
and you will 
turn strong:
sturdy when 
wind whips you,
healthy though
insidious pests
attack and try
to suck the life
from you,
full of luscious
clustered fruit -- 
and you,
all mine!



Just cling!
And know that,
weak as you are
on your own
(a dry twig,
snapped and gone),
attached to me
you’re part
of something huge,
a Vine wrapped round the world, 
hugging humans
into a new thing:
variant colors
joined in peace,
re-Creation!

4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. (Jn. 15:4-5 CSB)

Nothing! Jesus said we can do “nothing” without him. This is all about being able to produce “fruit” instead of withering away. And the fruit that he is referring to here comes from being so attached to him that what he wants is what we want, what he values is what we value, and what he wants us to do is what we want to do. With his love nourishing us, we can flourish and live out that love to those around us – this is exactly what we must do to be “fruitful”:

9 “As the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commands you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 “I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. 12 This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.  (Jn. 15:9-12 CSB)

Yes, clinging to him will have consequences, both joy and sacrifice. Loving one another in the sense Jesus is talking about includes loving our neighbor to the point of being willing to put our own life on the line for them:

13 No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends. (Jn. 15:13 CSB)

We want to stay attached to Jesus, right? So are we willing to be who he wants us to be, and actually produce the kind of fruit he has in mind? This is dangerous stuff, not just a cozy rock-in-the-cradle-and-stay-isolated love. He wants us to reach out to others, even others different from us (cf the parable of the Good Samaritan). As we cling to him, following his desires, he holds us tight as we spread out as part of a constantly growing, loving community., each of us drinking in his amazing love and developing actual clusters of fruit. Let’s just cling!

Plant in the Morning and the Evening





You are indeed the Master of timing!

Your world turns; morning shows up

with colors and hope, turns into noon,

and as time passes the evening enters,

darkening the sky. The stars come out.

Unless there are clouds.

We humans also cycle through life.

We wake up infants who become teens,

adult life stretching out far for some,

for others too short. For everyone,

someday it comes to an end.

“So,” you have urged us, “rise in the morning

and plant your seed in the sun’s warm light.

The plants will sprout and blossom, grow tall,

and when it’s the season, there will be fruit,

the reason for all your work.”

We never know how long it will take

to get to that harvest. Rain, stormy winds,

or sometimes drought can change all plans.

Some crops die from infection or fire.

Or maybe too little was  planted.

So, you say, even in the evening,

don’t just stand there. Work at whatever

you gave me to do. I may get old

but I still can reach out, plant more seed,

and pray that it will grow.

Morning and evening, midnight and noon,

you set the cycle in place with its timing.

I breathe in your air, gain strength in your light,

and keep on going about your business

until you call me home.

This year the verse that was underlined for me was this:  “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11),

What? “Never?” Yes, there are interludes in life: vacations, retreats, retirement. But even then, the Word said, “Keep your spiritual fervor.” Don’t ever go off duty.  Be ready to serve the Master, whenever and wherever.

Why? Elsewhere that is also made clear: “Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well” (Eccl. 11:6 NIV).

“This or that” – we won’t always be sowing in exactly the same way, with the same “seed.” I think of my mother-in-law, now 99 ½ years old, unable to move about freely but fervent in prayer, and always ready to tell a story she hopes might help someone be encouraged or maybe more receptive to the Good News. She is still “sowing” in the evening of her life. I think of my son, who has become a safe place for hurting people he meets on the Internet, who can share about the One who gives him peace.

Glenn and I are officially retired from our life of mission service overseas, but in this phase our Master still has us involved “over there” in new ways and is opening up opportunities to serve in our current neighborhood. Besides that, he allowed me to break my ankle and face restricted movement, then prompted me with a louder voice than usual to use this phase for writing – telling what he has done. It is different seed to sow, but can be planted even in the evening.

We have morning, afternoon and evening. Whatever time it is for us, let us be aware of how we can be planting!

The product of this winter’s “sowing” is When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey. You can find the book on the following marketplaces:

Direct from the publisher, WestBow Press: https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/824658-when-he-whispers

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-He-Whispers-Learning-Journey/dp/1664224106/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=when+he+whispers+learning+to+listen+on+the+journey&link_code=qs&qid=1620606002&sourceid=Mozilla-search&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-he-whispers-linnea-boese/1139300248?ean=9781664224100

Christian Book Distributors: https://www.christianbook.com/when-whispers-learning-listen-the-journey/linnea-boese/9781664224100

That Moment of Connection

That robin hopped onto the deck,
carefully checking out the territory.
He looked at me through the window;
I looked back, silent, immobile.
We connected for one moment,
then he was gone.

But that instant of connection
made this forest personal, alive.
When have I linked eyes with
a stranger, affirming their existence,
making our shared space in time
full of meaning?

A robin and a human! We had little in common, but our eyes meeting and sharing that pause was enough to make an impact on me.

There are times when a small gesture can reach across differences between us humans, as well, whether the gap is formed by skin color, ethnicity, class or just a lack of personal relationship. Glenn, my husband, will never forget the first time he went into an office in Ferkessédougou, the West African town where we lived, to pay our water bill. He had to stand in line a while, and when he got up to the window he immediately began to state his business. The clerk looked at him, silent for a moment, then said, “Don’t you greet first?” Ah. So Glenn started over, greeting him first very politely, and all went well. Lesson learned: greet first, then do business.

That gesture recognizes the personhood of the one you are addressing, we found out. There, it is a must, even at a cash register or when buying tomatoes in the market. We had some re-entry shock when we returned to the U.S. and saw people talking on their phones while paying the cashier, never addressing her, or walking past each other on a sidewalk on a sunny day in cold silence in the suburbs, eyes averted. Crowded city areas are of course another thing. But why not try the more personal approach in other settings?

Glenn is the master shopper in our family, and he has fun connecting with people this way. When he comes up to an older woman, he may even try adding things like we would do back “home” in Ferkessédougou: “How are you today? And how is your family?” Smiles are the response. After a long day of working as an anonymous servant, someone has acknowledged them as a person.

The city neighborhood where we live is really good at doing that, too — Black culture encourages those connections. I walk by two elderly men sitting on a porch and they call out a greeting. I pass a woman walking her dog and she waves, says “hi” and asks how I’m doing. And there is the farewell that warms our hearts, called out even if the person just opened a door for us at the store: “Have a blessed day!”

Let’s all practice noticing each other, extending warmth especially to those who are different from us, reaching across divides to demonstrate that love that we are called to live out. After all, we are told to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18 NIV) A friendly greeting is an easy way to start something that could lead to a meaningful connection. A little further in the same chapter in Leviticus it says: “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Lev. 19:34 NIV) Israel needed to remember what it felt like to not belong somewhere, even after living there for years. For many of us this verse is a reminder to empathize with our “neighbor” who might be a foreigner in our country or a stranger to us.

We can be like that robin, oh so different from me, who stared at me without fear and connected across our shared space. I was there, he was there. Together. And my morning took on a fresh new feel.

My book of poetry, When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey, is available on these sites, WestBow Press, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon:

https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/824658-when-he-whispers

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-he-whispers-linnea-boese/1139300248

The Alert Wait

The birds and I flit about
in this gray dawn
inspecting windfall treasures,
breathing the dense perfume
of damp earth
and spectacular blossoms.
The trees wait in silence
for whatever happens next
and now so do I.
This day is one that God has made;
he has a plan,
and I will stay alert to it.
If winds blow and whip me,
may treasures fall about
for those in need.
Meanwhile I’ll drink deeply
of the love soaking in
and pray that my aroma is a blessing.

One of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver, captured a key element of how to live a meaningful life with her famous three phrases: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”. It is so easy to just keep on keeping on without noticing the wonders around us.

The women I join for morning walks in our Detroit neighborhood were just talking about this the other day. I pointed out a young man that we all recognize and called out a greeting to him as he moved quickly down the sidewalk on the other side of the street; he is out there every morning, his limp and strong stride setting him apart. My friend Kitty looked up, startled, and said, “I need to pay attention. I didn’t notice him!” From then on we made a point of commenting on whatever we were noticing – blossoming trees, new fences, daffodils. It is spring, and even in a gray dawn with cold wind whipping by, there is beauty.

I wrote the poem above, “The Alert Wait,” when I was back in my “sacred grove” beside my home in Ferkessédougou. The seasons were changing, dry season gradually giving way to the rains. We had had a rain that night and the ground was drenched; the wind had ripped new blossoms off the frangipani trees and their aroma was gently blending with the strong smell of wet dirt. I walked around then sat in silence, absorbing it all, grateful for the moment of peace and contemplation.

What was going to happen that day? I’m sure you’ve wondered that many times too, as you rise and look out the window. What is God planning for me to do? How does God want me to be his servant today? Will there be another dilemma? Am I going to be frazzled, or will there be peace?

What I was hearing then, and what I hear now when I remember to put myself on alert, is that he does have a plan and I just need to be listening, paying attention. My friend Kitty’s remark about doing that made all the difference on what we gleaned that day on our walk. It reminded me that I want every day to be like that. I want to notice what is happening around me, and see my Father’s fingerprints. I want his work in me to flow out to others, impacting them in the way he desires. It is a daily learning curve.

This poem is included in the collection that I just had published, When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey (https://www.westbowpress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/824658-when-he-whispers and also on Amazon). You can join me in learning to wait alertly, paying attention to evidence of Abba’s handiwork and his personal messages!

Grateful, Listening

Under the wet grass
crickets crick-crick;
perched high near the sky
winged things sing melody.

If I don't pay attention
I miss the concert.

A rooster crows, 
reminding me to listen.
A coucal adds her commentary,
counterpoint in alto.

Are You speaking, too,
and I'm just unaware?

The world is drenched
with Your kind blessing.
I soak it in, on alert,
grateful, listening.

Have you ever been desperate to know what the Lord might be saying to you? I have been, many times. Sometimes his Word made the message clear, but other times I needed personal input from Abba. About 20 years ago I began to deliberately pursue the ability to listen to him. And I discovered that it was often when I picked up my pen to write a poem that I began to realize what he was impressing on my heart.

So in this phase of retirement I have put together a collection of my poems that specifically address this process of learning to pay attention to the Voice. When He Whispers: Learning to Listen on the Journey has just been published by WestBow Press, and you can find it on Amazon and westbowpress.com, where you can get free shipping: https://www.westbowpress.com/…/824658-when-he-whispers

I am launching the book this week and am reaching out to my friends and readers to join the book launch team! If you would like to help promote the book by writing a review that you post on Amazon and any other sites you use, it would be a huge help in getting out the news that this book is available. Just let me know via email at glboese@comcast.net or messenger.

It is a very intimate journey that I share in this book! None of the poems were written with the intent to publish them. But as time went on I would sometimes share one that was particularly relevant to a friend’s situation, or post one on Facebook. The affirmation that I was often startling. It showed me that others could benefit from this journey too, and some just really enjoyed walking the long path with me. So I decided to share what I personally had gleaned along the way by publishing a collection.

God had made me what can be called a “word nerd.” I love books, writing, and languages. I do have a journalism degree as well as two masters, one in linguistics and one in biblical studies (an MDiv). These were all part of the bigger picture that he was preparing me to do, training pursued as needed along the way.

When we entered into ministry in Côte d’Ivoire, concentrating on reaching the Nyarafolo people, I was learning a language that had not previously been written, learning the culture through participation and interviews, then working in Bible translation, I would come home with words in at least three languages whirling through my thoughts. And since one of the highest values in that people group is life in community, we kept our front door open until 8 p.m., receiving visitors – or else went to friends’ homes to visit, especially on weekends. Their stories were added to the burgeoning piles of thoughts.

Since words were the key element to my processing all of this, it should not have surprised me that the Lord could use that very thing to speak to me: words. I had started writing poems at the age of 7, and as an adult I found that one way I could hear Abba was by taking up a pen when I felt him nudge me with a thought. When the words came out in prose poetry I knew that he had impressed the content on my heart. Sometimes lament, often praise or just conversation, those poems became a journal of my learning to listen. The poem highlighted above, “Grateful, Listening,” is included in When He Whispers.

I am so thrilled that now this experience is one I can share through this book! I hope and pray that it will encourage many to pay attention and listen, discovering how it is that the Lord communicates with them. We are each unique, and he knows the way to reach each one of us.

Show Me the Path!

Lord, teach me how
to stay on alert,
watching out for the traps
insidiously camouflaged,
waiting for me
to take one false step
and cave in to fear,
or greed, or false symbols
of who I am. Show me where
the enemy has poisoned
the thorns inside the bushes.

Help me to recognize evil,
and avoid it completely,
clinging to what is good
and promotes love.
When the path is overgrown
and I’m wading through tall weeds
only you can show the way--
your wise kindness
and the light of your truth
pointing out danger,
leading me forward.

Heart fixed on you,
I can walk safely
through the brush
on the narrow path
you’ve chosen for me,
your loved one,
without stumbling.
I will follow without wavering,
rejecting inertia and deviation,
choosing the right way forward
because you’re with me,
holding my right hand.

Everywhere around us, the world seems to be a tangled web of assumptions, and temptations to believe “whatever.” It is so easy to just retreat in fear, to grab onto that which seems safe and dismiss what might challenge our own past suppositions.

More than ever I find myself begging for discernment. Only our Lord knows the real truth, and only he can direct me forward in the way that conforms with his purposes. I was so desperate to be discerning last year that I dared to delve into memorizing Romans 12, attracted by the verse that says: “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2 CSB). In the NIV, it says, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is” (Rom. 12:2 NIV). To discern is to test what you are hearing, and to choose to approve that which aligns with what the Lord wants.

What is implicit here is that you must be able to recognize and reject that which is not from him. It comes later, in verse 9: “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” What this said to me was that I was not to fall prey to the easy way out, excusing the wickedness that is in some choice just because of the other good that is being used to camouflage it. This is not normal, and it sure is tricky!,

It is, in fact, scary. Like the woman in the picture above, there were times in my African experience when the bush path we were taking was basically covered up by the burgeoning plants. What if there were snakes down under it all? Or scorpions? I always felt safer when I was not alone but following someone, still stamping hard to scare off any threat. How else could I even take the right steps forward?

So it makes a huge difference to me that the Lord has promised to show us the way! He even states firmly that he will hold our right hand, to lead us. In the West African culture, as it was in the Hebrew culture, the right hand is the hand of good action (the left hand is saved for dirty work!). With the Almighty All-wise God holding my right hand, he is not just comforting me but making sure I choose to do what is right.

That is, if I pay attention to him, to his grip and to his pull in the direction he has chosen!

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Rom. 12:9 NIV)

Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them. (Hos. 14:9 NIV)

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. (Isa. 41:13 NIV)

On a Thread

It’s a quick walk on a fine thread,
this gift of life, this privilege
of breath and beating heart
and strength to step ahead.
So many disappear, flash out of sight,
thread cut off before its final length
unwinds. We shout “no!” and cry,
and move along, subdued, with more
awareness of the dangers, right 
and left, above and underneath.
It’s a wonder that we live at all,
considering the tragic possibilities
inherent in our threads’ trajectories.

And yet we push ahead, and marvel that 
we share the lavish brilliance of
sunrise, sunset, moon-glow, star sparks,
the precious wash of rain and winds
to dry us off again, the vibrant greens
of grasses and the trees, and sunshine on
the panoply of swimming, crawling,
flying, running, purring, playing,
living things on their own threads.
Woven all together, we are 
the tapestry of Earth. Creation.
Devotion. Delinquency. Destruction.
Survival. Commotion. Celebration.
Revival. Departure. Graduation.

Just one thing holds it together
and keeps it winding towards
a meaningful conclusion, resolution
of stories silenced early
with translation of anomalies 
into the fabric of Truth – one thing:
the Hand of God. I rest in this.
And breathe. And vow to use 
the energy of every heartbeat to 
contribute to his Grand Design.

I sat in my “grove” in Ferkessédougou the morning these words came flowing into my notebook, watching a spider move silently along her nearly invisible thread. She had woven a complete and intricate oval that was shimmering in the sunlight, a miracle of expert lacework framed in the air between two leafy branches. Elsewhere there were leftovers of other webs, tangled threads hanging down, broken off, those spiders gone. All it would take was a strong wind to carry away this masterpiece too.

My mother-in-law has lived a long and fruitful life. At 99 ½ years, she has woven a strong web supporting many loved ones with her prayers and love, and now that her lungs can barely breathe even forced oxygen, her thread is coming to its end. She’s been on hospice for over a week, and although it sometimes seems as though that endpoint has come, she is still hanging on.

Her daughter, Diane, came to help with the long hours of care and accompaniment that were being managed by Bev, Diane’s older sister. After four days, she wanted to leave to go home for the Easter weekend, but was tired so decided to sleep there in Saginaw one more night. She did not wake up here on earth; sometime during the night, her “thread” broke and she left for Glory. Her parting was a shock.

She had truly contributed to the Grand Design, letting her love for the Father overflow to bless others around her. When I picked up my dishrag this morning I remembered that she had made it for me when we were first moving into this home, evacuated from Côte d’Ivoire by war, unexpectedly putting things together in Detroit through the kindness of friends. The red dishtowel was one she brought me just one week ago, the last time I saw her, when we visited the family in Saginaw. She was gifted in giving. After news of her passing had gone out, the husband of one of her immigrant friends back home in Pennsylvania wrote me that Diane was going to be deeply missed: she was his wife’s best friend, and every week she cooked brown rice and brought it over to her. Diane also told the truths of the Word to children in the form of stories that enthralled them. She loved the Lord and his Word, and was a woman of prayer. And I will never forget our last conversation, just last Wednesday – she grabbed me aside to ask how the Lord is leading us in ministry in our new phase, retirement. And she listened. Her spiritual fervor is unforgettable. She left many silken threads woven into God’s plan.

And my mother-in-law still awaits her turn to go.

Diane graduated on Good Friday, when we take time to remember that Jesus offered himself as the sacrifice that would open up the way to life forever with him. And Sunday we celebrate his resurrection. He is alive! Those of us who trust in him pass over from this fragile thread to a real, solid life that will never end.

It moves me to renew my commitment to live a purposeful life, aware that my thread is also only temporary, but part of the Creator’s Grand Design. He knows his plan and how he wants me to participate in it. And he is love; his purpose is one I can rest in.

The same is true for you: may you also find peace in the truth that his Hand holds the world, and you. May we pay attention and savor the moments we are given as we take this brief walk on the fine thread of life.

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