Saturday, March 26, 2022

Precious Parachutes


A golden parachute typically refers to the generous severance package provided to CEOs or other top-level executives when they leave a company, at the request of that company, to cushion the “fall” as they transition to new employment. It may seem redundant to many who are not such high income earners, as the golden parachute is often many times greater than the employee’s yearly salary; that salary far exceeds usual wages; and most such executives have an ample nest egg from which to draw living expenses for quite some time.

Such a golden parachute is really more of a luxury than a life saver. That was not the case for the silver parachutes in the Hunger Games book and film series, portraying a dystopic society in which teens were forced to battle one another to the death, until only one was left and declared the winner. These "games" were widely broadcast, and sponsors could send their favorite warrior a silver parachute, which literally floated down from the sky, bearing a lifesaving gift such as medicine to treat a deadly wound, or food when it was unsafe for the warrior to leave shelter.

It reminds me of the many precious parachutes we receive from God, sometimes even daily, once we are saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Sometimes these actually descend from the heavens, as in the case of manna God provided to feed the Israelites as they wandered through the Promised Land (Exodus 16:4). God gave them exactly what they needed when they needed it.

Manna appeared on the ground for them to gather every morning, enough for each person to meet their daily need, except for the Sabbath. So that they would not have to dishonor God’s day of rest by working (Exodus 20:8), God provided and allowed them to gather twice as much the day before, and it was still perfectly fresh on the Sabbath. But if they attempted to store manna on any other day, it would spoil and be foul with worms in the morning (Exodus 16:5; 14-28). What a great reminder not to hoard God’s blessings (Luke 12:16-21), but to use them in accordance with His perfect plan!

Another example is the prophet Elijah, soon to be used by God in spiritual warfare (and victory!) over the pagan prophets of Baal. During the preceding drought, God guided Elijah to drink from the brook Cherith, and nourished him from a most unlikely source, also descending from on high like ebony parachutes! Ravens, known for their greed and mean-spiritedness, brought him his daily bread and meat, most likely carried in their beaks or talons! (1 Kings 17:1-7)

But such examples are not limited to Scripture. No doubt all born-again Christians (John 3:3-8) can think of times God sent them exactly what they needed, at the very moment they needed it! The youth pastor at a church we once attended gave a testimony of having committed to tithe $20 every Wednesday, when he was first starting out and had very limited funds.

One Wednesday evening he just didn’t have any extra cash in his wallet, cookie jar, or ATM, and he was ashamed at having to go to the weekly prayer meeting empty handed. But he knew it was God’s will for him to go to church, so he reluctantly drove there. To his amazement, as he opened the car door, a $20 bill fluttered to the ground near his feet, and he knew God had provided the means for him to honor his tithing commitment!

But sometimes God’s precious parachutes are not lifesaving, or even necessary for us to carry out His will, but just an unexpected blessing, perfectly timed to lift our spirits to heavenly places when we most yearn for encouragement. These are like love letters from our Savior, tender reminders of His constant faithfulness (Lamentations 3:23), and are no less appreciated. These could be as simple yet beautiful as a rainbow piercing a cloudy sky (Genesis 9:12-17), a vibrant bloom pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk, or a soothing bird song chiming in as we pray out loud.

At one time I went through a particularly challenging legal battle, and received especially bad news one day regarding this struggle. Although I was despondent, my spirits lifted when I received an unexpected letter of encouragement in the mail from a dear sister in Christ. She had no idea what I was going through, yet God had laid it on her heart to reach out to me with this note. She had actually written it ten days before she sent it, and waited for the Spirit’s gentle nudge to mail it so that I would receive it exactly when He knew I would need it the most.

On another occasion my husband and I were entered in a dance competition and show in which we would be dancing to a Gospel song with a strong resurrection message. Ordinarily we looked forward to such opportunities and our mood was usually one of excitement and anticipation (sometimes with a few nerves thrown in), and as the time to dance approached, our focus and resolve would intensify.

Yet my mental state was totally different for this competition. For the first time, my spirit was bound in such heaviness, gloom and dread that I felt physically unable to dance. We were backstage in rehearsal, a few hours before we were scheduled to perform, and I told my husband that I didn’t think I could do it. He said he understood, that we were not obligated to continue, and that he would respect whatever decision I made, but that we should pray about it and be open to God’s leading..

Just then his phone rang. It was a missionary brother we had not spoken with for quite some time. He explained that God had laid it on his heart to call us, as he sensed we were going through spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). He prayed with us, for God to strengthen and uplift us (Isaiah 41:10), and to enable us to fulfill the mission He had set before us.

I felt as though a great burden had lifted from my chest – perhaps borne aloft by a God-sent parachute? We went on to dance better than we had ever danced in our lives, to a packed-out theatre, delivering the Gospel message through dance and song to a largely unsaved audience, fulfilling the unique opportunity God had given us to spread His Word. Only by the grace of God and to His glory!

That precious parachute not only helped us sail through that spiritual battle, but stays with us as a memory of God’s faithfulness (1 Samuel 7:12), uplifting us when we grow weary or discouraged, and strengthening us to continue His work as we wait upon the Lord for His perfect will and timing. Sometimes God’s parachutes are like the wings of eagles! (Isaiah 40:31).

A parachute can save your life, if you’re jumping from a plane, or re-entering earth’s atmosphere, as in the photo above. But only if you have a genuine chute, pack it properly, and wear it! Faith saves us from eternity in hell (Ephesians 2:8-9), but only if we accept the freely given gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23) through true faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. May we thank God daily for the precious parachutes He provides, and may we follow His leading to be the parachute others need, when they need it most!    

© 2022 Laurie Collett


Saturday, March 19, 2022

Spring Cleaning


On Sunday, March 20th of this year, is the first day of spring! A much needed new beginning from a winter of extreme weather, natural disasters, pandemic, and now war. The recently high and continuous pollen alert triggered us to do a thorough house cleaning before allergies overwhelm us. Even my computer, which some days falls asleep unless I tend to it constantly, needs a good purging of unwanted emails and files. All this prompted me to repost the following:

At last, winter is over, the Christmas decorations have long since been stashed in the attic, and the empty space in our living room and on mantels and hutches seems to invite more mementos, for nature truly does abhor a vacuum.

Time for spring cleaning! Sometimes when I go on a cleaning streak, I fool myself that I’m accomplishing something meaningful. Sometimes I organize and clean the things in my life to give myself the illusion of control, which is far more feasible over things than it is over circumstances or negative attitudes.

My husband often jokes that our house looks like a museum, not because its contents are of great material value, but because we tend to collect and display many things. I attribute such proclivities of mine to genetics. My aunt left me her collections – spoons, teacups, Hummel figurines; and my mother her collections of books and Russian Easter eggs. I guess I am just too sentimental not to display them. And of course, my husband and I had to add to this by collecting books and spoons of our own, and Christmas ornaments unique to every place we have visited.

The upfront cost of these trinkets was minimal, and they do bring smiles to our faces when they trigger the associated memories. But they take up wall space, and drawer space, and make dusting seem like an endless task. As you might imagine, I tend to put this off for special occasions or for when we are expecting company. No doubt our allergies would improve if we didn’t have so much to dust!

My husband got the bug for collecting from the beach, which at least has no additional monetary cost beyond the expense of traveling there. First it was shells, then sharks’ teeth, and now fossils that delight us as we marvel that petrified horse toes, ankle bones of a camel, and other rare finds wash up on the shore!

He has run out of space for these in the collector’s chests I bought him one Christmas. (Yes, one of the problems with having a lot of stuff is that you have to buy more stuff to organize and store it). So now the best of these treasures find temporary lodging there until they are relegated to the garage, replaced by newer and more interesting specimens.

Speaking of the garage, its musty corners have been the bane of my existence lately as I continue the never-ending chore of sorting through old stuff. Stuff that got dumped in boxes, moved to a paid storage facility, then from one closet and garage to the next. It followed us, binding us like the chains of Ebenezer Scrooge, as we moved from one home to another, as I closed my private practice, and as my mother closed her gift shop and moved from Pennsylvania to Florida.

When our son outgrew his childhood things, went to college, moved into his own place, and got married, guess who was left holding his unwanted stuff? When my mother and then my husband’s mother moved from their homes to an assisted living facility and then passed into eternity, we became curators of their remaining stuff.

At first I justified this by rationalizing that we are documenting our family history and preserving family heirlooms for future generations. And sometimes I do enjoy opening boxes for the thrill of perhaps discovering some lost treasure, or awakening a joyful memory that has slumbered through the years, or wondering about people I don’t recognize in old photos of family get-togethers.

Yet some memories are best left undisturbed, and the reminder can be as troubling as finding a silverfish scurrying across a dainty embroidered napkin. When I am being honest with myself, I realize that the costs of holding on to these unneeded things can be stifling and oppressive. The expense of a storage facility, in retrospect, was totally unjustified as I have recently opened cartons only to find that their contents are obsolete, damaged by time and the elements, or not worth saving in the first place.

Yet we are not alone in this folly. In 2014 alone, with rates on the rise ever since, there were approximately 52,000 self-storage facilities in the U.S., occupying a total roofed area three times the size of Manhattan, and generating more than $5,200,000,000 in revenue each year, renting to one of every ten U.S. families!

Not to mention the intangible costs: clutter, lack of access to space needed to maintain a home workshop or to protect vehicles, potential for injury and fatigue from repeated moving of heavy boxes, and exposure to allergens causing respiratory or skin issues. Or even tripping over a wayward box and falling. At first we may think we enjoy owning a lot of stuff, until we realize that the stuff owns us.

Too much clutter has invaded other areas of my life. The DVR is constantly warning me “97% full,” even though I delete programs as soon as I watch them. As I only play these programs as background while exercising, sorting through mail, or cleaning, will I ever get through them all? On a more worrisome note, my Inbox is filling up so rapidly and I’ve accumulated so many downloads that now my computer is crawling at a turtle’s pace.  It’s time to clear those out too, before it crashes altogether.

Dealing with all this junk reminds me of the need to release the spiritual burdens in our life. Jesus was the perfect, sinless sacrifice Who died on the cross to pay for all our sins (John 1:29; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). So why do we refuse to lay down our heavy burdens of guilt over past mistakes at the foot of His cross and just leave them there?

He is risen from the dead (Acts 17:3; Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 20) so that all who trust Him as Lord and Savior will have eternal life with Him in Heaven (John 3:16), and even now are elevated to heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6).

So why do we needlessly carry around the weight of a bad attitude, unthankful spirit, unclean heart, or fear? He has liberated us from this spiritual clutter, cleansed us from our sins in His own precious blood (1 John 1:7), and robed us with the pristine garment of His righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10).

As we tackle spring cleaning, whether it be just vacuuming and yard work, or more vigorous measures like pressure washing the driveway, or finally parting with cumbersome baggage, may we not neglect the need for spiritual cleansing. Scripture tells us to cleanse daily by washing with the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26).

If we neglect this, God, as our loving Father, may see fit to do some pressure washing, first using the Word as a two-edged sword to cleave apart joints from marrow and soul from spirit (Hebrews 4:12), and then applying physical pressure in the form of trials to chasten us (Hebrews 12:6).

God wants to bless us with His best gifts (Matthew 7:11), but as long as our arms and hearts are filled with the junk of our life before we were saved, He will not replace this with His abundant blessings (Philippians 4:19) His burden is easy and His yoke is light, so why do we stubbornly cling to our old ways? He invites us to come to Him for respite from our burdens and to learn from His servant’s heart, and He promises us rest (Matthew 11:28-30).

Being yoked together with Jesus (Hebrews 13:5) ensures that He will help us, and that He will not only carry our burdens (1 Peter 5:7), but that He will carry us. Learning from Him to have a servant’s heart means that our priorities will be in the right place, on loving and serving Him and others (Luke 10:27), and not on hoarding excess things that weigh us down (Luke 12:15-34). Peace comes not from having earthly riches or provisions, but from storing up treasures in Heaven, where we can enjoy them throughout eternity (Matthew 6:19-20).

Suddenly I feel motivated to rummage through the remaining boxes in the garage, armed with a huge trash bag for most of the contents and cleaning supplies for those items that can be salvaged and given away. More importantly, I vow to cleanse myself daily in the Living Water (John 4:10) of His Word!

© 2019 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives