God’s Kingdom, God’s Places
by Patty Morwood
I describe it as a slow glowing simmer surrounded by dark darkness but given to sparkling moments of blinding glory.
This is the Christian life in the Kingdom of God; the “already but not yet” of living as a believer whose place of citizenship is not only here but there, in a Kingdom that’s beyond our imagining.
We know His kingdom will one day be in its glorious fullness when the end of time has passed, sin and disease and suffering are banished, His people gathered in, and all tears gone for all time. And Jesus face-to-face! But meanwhile, we are sojourners while in this place, on a path that is really hard.
My friend Elizabeth lives in the hard and the glorious. Her husband Michael is a man slowly dying of stage 4 Sezary Syndrome, his cancers leeching his very life before her eyes. I watch her and listen; and I see a woman living a life of glory as she cries out for protection against fears that lurk and taint everything with darkness.
How did this woman learn to walk so strong and upright on this hard path?
She answers first with her background: “I was taught His Word by family, church, books and godly mentors. I bless His name for all the praying generations before me. I have a rich inheritance by His grace!”
And living today, every day? “I dare not go into a day without seeking His face, His words, His blessing, His will and His intervening in the lives of those I know and love. I am desperate for His Presence first thing in my day. This is my place.”
What do you mean by ‘place’? Circumstances? An actual ground on which to kneel and stand? Several answers follow.
She first says, “In this cancer journey, I see how He prepared a place for us in the fields and forests of Clinton County, Ohio. Daily we bless Him for giving us such a splendid acreage as our ‘Heaven’s Hill.’
“It soothes and restores our souls when we step out onto the front porch to watch the sun rise or sit on the back deck soaking in the beauty while the sun sets the woods aflame.
“We’re surrounded by trees, gardens and wildlife, both of us energized and healed by simply walking in the woods.”
In addition, the Lord prepared another place: the staff at the James Cancer Center at Ohio State University. Just an hour away it is their source of medical direction and care. It’s not surprising the Lord has directly addressed their need for help: at the James is one of the world’s foremost specialists in Sezary Syndrome, a rare cutaneous lymphoma, and a collection of remarkable, attentive and kind medical specialists and non-medical personnel.
Years ago God gave them a place at home for learning the skills of caring for the dying. Mike’s Uncle Bud lived his last years with Elizabeth and Michael and died in their home under hospice care. Her father sacrificially cared for her mother for ten years while a rare brain disease slowly took her life away.
“I certainly had no idea that the Lord was preparing me to spend years loving Michael in a similar fashion.”
And there is this very human place of touch: “I notice in Scripture how often God speaks of holding us by His right hand or our being upheld by His everlasting arms or sheltered under His wings.
“We have both learned the healing power of touch. Just a few minutes of gentle skin on skin massage to his neck, arms or back brings relief to both of us. Sometimes I think the person giving the touch gets more results than the one receiving.”
I asked her how Christ has met her in this hard place since Michael’s diagnosis. I had reasoned that peace must be elusive always and fears multiplying daily. That she is exhausted by the creeping power cancer has over their lives.
She says sometimes she struggles with sleeping at night, and can wake with a sick fear.
“So I start my day by looking for Him. I get up, go to my place which is a comfortable old corduroy-covered chair. Nearby is my basket of books… my Bibles and an assortment of devotionals. Due to this retired season of life, I now have the luxury of time to sit quietly and be still before my Lord.
“I ask Him to steady my mind and show me what He has for me that day in His Word. After reading and praying, I ask Him to show me His will for that very day and to help me do His will. I surrender myself and my day to Him.
“And I walk out of the room a new woman full of His assurance and His peace and His strength.
“I really do have a new solid center. Though outwardly I may be wasting away, I am strong and renewed in my inner man by His Spirit.
“This is very much a one-day-at-a-time process. When I’m scared I call myself back to the reality of His Presence right now in this place.
“This journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death with Michael has freed me to be more child-like in my absolute dependence on His daily love and provision. I need Him. And He is here.
“It’s impossible to capture my satisfaction in His goodness. I’ve tried. So I’ll close with these words from John Flavel’s tiny book, Triumphing Over Sinful Fear: ‘When will we learn to trust Him in everything? Whoever lives by faith never dies by fear. The more you trust God, the less you will torment yourself.’”
Won’t you choose the hard but glorious way described here? You can be strong.
Begin by asking God to help you remember how He has prepared you for the challenging things you are living through and has equipped you to pour yourself out for the well-being of another, as you grow in dependence on Him.
Elizabeth looked back and realized all the places God had met, trained and shaped her: her background and heritage, a rural home and acreage to share with Michael, the James Center, living with Uncle Bud and witnessing her father with her mother those last years, God’s “touch” experienced through each other and even through their doctors, the prayers of His people.
And most vividly now, the blessing of meeting Him first thing in the day. This will train your inner eyes and inner ears to hear and see how God answers when you call out for His Presence.
You too can start your days with the “first thing” every morning … time in quiet, with an open Bible on your lap or on your smart phone.
And another ask, that He would form in you what delights Him: a surrendering heart.
What a beautiful sight, this slow glowing simmer, in this not-yet full Kingdom living!
Author’s note: Michael and Elizabeth have three adult children and seven active grandchildren. They themselves are active members of First Baptist Church, where Michael is treasurer and Elizabeth is deacon of missions.
He crafts beautiful furniture out of oak, walnut and cherry trees in his studio just a few feet from their home on top of their beloved ‘Heaven’s Hill.’ And his laughing place is sometimes still the golf course, where recently he made not one but two holes in one.
Beautiful Elizabeth makes meals to Michael’s tastes and sits by his side to just share life together. She participates in a long-standing Literary Club for Christian Women of Letters and Bible studies, and drives a ’97 Dodge Dakota truck answering to the name “Black Beauty,” so she can haul manure for her gardens and rescue discarded furniture for re-finishing and a fresh new life.
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