Song of the Spirit

c0eeb9d4c8a6a37e075d7e261182b8ffOne of the most familiar American tunes is “Taps.” (We named it in just 3 notes and without any hints on Tuesday Morning!)

We’ve heard it played countless times as a bugle call. But have we ever heard the words? (Only 1 person among our group could sing a few on Tuesday Morning.)

Here’s the first verse:

Day is done. Gone the sun, from the lake,  from the hill, from the sky. All is well, safely rest. God is nigh.

Not only are the words unfamiliar, but the story behind the song is also unknown to most of us. This is what I discovered:

During the height of the Civil War, July 1862, Union Army General Daniel Butterfield evacuated with his company after one of the most savage and pivotal battles if the campaign. Recovering from wounds and discouragement, July heat and dysentery, General Butterfield decided to change the military sounding call that customarily ended the day to something more fitting their needs. So, in the wake of defeat, suffering himself I’m sure, this army general set to work on a new song. He adapted another military tune, slowed it down and took out a difficult note.

The song was originally a bugle call at the end of each day, to signal lights out and time for rest – that’s what the word “taps” means.

Later that year, a Captain Tidball used “Taps” to honor a well-respected soldier who was killed during a battle in the woods. Fearing that firing three canon shots would be unsafe (considering how close they were to the enemy), “Taps”” was played.

“Taps” formally became a mandatory part of Army funeral ceremonies in 1891, perhaps in part because General Butterfield, now retired, oversaw the funeral of General William Sherman where it was played.

Today “Taps” is played every day at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and every night at the Arlington National Cemetery, both to “call an end to the day [and] as a tribute to those that gave the ‘last full measure of devotion.'”

This replacement tune, born of battle and struggle, is played to honor American servicemen and women around the globe. More than almost any other tune, it is recognized as being distinctly American.

This story speaks to me about a life of faith . . .

Our Faith – our belief in Jesus as King and Lord of our lives – gives us a recognizable tune in our hearts. The Spirit of God plays this tune … to settle us down, to set our focus, to give us our identity IN CHRIST.

It’s our well-known “Taps.”

Just as we could appreciate more about this song when we learned where its origin, we can appreciate our story of redemption when we dig deeper into God’s Word:

  • The story of redemption begins in Genesis  and continues through the prophets, kings & poets …
  • to Jesus, the perfect Lamb who was slain as a sacrifice for the sins of the world …
  • to the expression and guidelines of redeemed living in the early church.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says,

“… when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. 14 The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.”

That’s like adding the lyrics to a tune to give it life and meaning. God is writing lyrics of Truth into our lives in moments that stir us, and we offer that back to Him as our life song.

I wonder today . . . how clearly do you hear and understand the song of the Spirit in your life?

  • Do you hear it when you’re sitting in church?
  • Do you hear it with your family during the week?
  • Does is resound when you turn on the TV or computer to catch the latest sound bite on the election? Does is show in how you react on social media?
  • Is it there in the grocery line … when you always get stuck behind the person with a stack of coupons?

If the song of the Spirit, born of battle and struggle, is the most recognizable tune of being a Christian, when you open your mouth what does the world hear?

I invite you to reflect on that question as you listen to “Taps” with the lyrics only (click on link below). The words remind us of the truth of the gospel that “God is nigh”: in Jesus, He is here with us, His Spirit is counseling us, and through Him, we represent the Kingdom of Christ.

Mel Carter: Taps


The Weekend that turned into Twenty-Two Months

By Debra Hobelman

After I moved to Lincoln five years ago, I decided I would like to renew my relationship with my cousin, Terry. After all, we had grown up as first cousins both living in the same small community with just a few years difference in age. As young children, we spent Sundays playing together when our families gathered often for dinner at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.

As we got older, our life directions changed, and Terry chose a path that was nearly 180 degrees opposite mine. Through the years he found lots of trouble, lost his marriage, spent time in prison, became estranged from his children, then found a companion and moved in with her and her handicapped son in Lincoln.

I had prayed for Terry throughout the years – I hoped he would turn to God and trust Him. Since I was also now in Lincoln, I decided to contact Terry. I remembered learning of Terry’s companion’s death a few years earlier, and knew he’d become the guardian of her handicapped son, Shane. I discovered Terry was in ill health, but didn’t realize just how ill he was. He was in and out of the hospital. When he was in the hospital, that’s when he would usually call me. I would chat with him and found he was receptive to my offer of praying for/ with him. However, he reminded me that from his experience he didn’t believe prayer worked. But, he was worried about Shane, and I began to see a softer side to Terry as his own health declined. I continued praying for Terry’s salvation and attempted to share Jesus with him, but he continually shut me out.

In his final days, he was hospitalized and called me, in a state of panic, desperately crying out for help. He wanted me bring Shane to the hospital because he believed DHHS was coming to take Shane away from him. My husband and I went to talk with Terry. Indeed, it did look like his time here on earth now was short. We picked up Shane and took him to the hospital, where he stayed at Terry’s bedside during the final week of Terry’s life.

The last time my husband was with Terry, who was now very weak and near death, God used Gene in a powerful way. In a non-threatening voice, Gene explained salvation and the assurance we have from Romans 10:9-13. Gene knelt beside Terry wiping the fluids drooling out his gurgling mouth. On his death bed and with little energy left, he nodded yes to Gene—like perhaps he got it??  As Gene left the room that evening, Terry, with every ounce of energy he could find, raised his head up and said, “Thank You Gene!”  Gene and I continued praying, trusting and thanking Him for this opportunity in Terry’s last moments.

When we went to the hospital the next afternoon, we found Terry in a coma. Gene had been the last person to talk with him.  After we were there only a short time, Terry passed away. We want to believe he truly accepted Christ as his Savior the night before when Gene shared the Gospel with him.

At this point, Adult Protective Services was at the hospital. What will happen to Shane?  I began praying for him and his future care. Now, he was truly a complete orphan and handicapped with physical & mental limitations.

The Adult Protection Services case manager asked us if we knew if Shane had any family or knew of anyone that might take Shane in. From our knowledge, he had no living family – and also his ability to express himself and be understood is quite limited.  Shane had No One to advocate or care for him–no family and it appeared No One wanted him. It was Very Sad.

A.P.S. was struggling with what to do with him. They talked of government housing that took folks without homes, but these places had many mentally ill and “mildly violent” people. Shane really wasn’t a “fit” . . . and we worried he might be physically harmed there. Gene became convicted as he recalled James 1:27:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

He asked me how I felt about taking Shane for the weekend–until A.P.S. could find a more suitable place for him. I have to admit, I did not feel the same conviction in my heart. But if my husband thought we should take Shane for the weekend, then I felt I should consider it. My prayers became more intense, calling out to our faithful God. This was all very alarming to me! I needed a lot of courage to do this . . . courage I didn’t possess on my own!

So, I agreed to have Shane stay with us for a few days. We took him to gather his clothes and personal items. However, when we arrived at his “home,” we were in shock at the living conditions. They were terrible!  Why DHHS hadn’t removed Terry from being Shane’s guardian and removed Shane from those home conditions, I’ll always wonder! Well, instead of gathering his minimal & poor-condition belongings, we took him to our home. The next morning, Gene went out & bought him new clothes and personal items.

Now, I’m really praying! God you are always good! You always love me! We must find a real place for Shane to live . . .  but please God, not us! And, if us, then not with us forever! You know All Things, and You know I’m already feeling stretched to the max! I never felt my new life and marriage would go like this. This was a recent marriage for both of us after losing our spouses to early-onset Alzheimer’s. I didn’t foresee or plan on a 42-year-old, handicapped, orphaned man living with us!

The following week we again met with the man from Adult Protection Services.   Basically, he said the situation was this . . . since Shane was now living with us and not on the street, the State no longer considered him “Emergency Status”!  So he said, “I’m sorry, we don’t have immediate placement for Shane.” I had agreed to take Shane in for a WEEKEND. In reality, he lived with us for 22 months . . . that’s nearly TWO YEARS!

Many prayers were lifted to God by our friends and family asking God for direction in this struggle. As some of you know, my husband’s daughter Lisa lives with us. She was born with Down syndrome and is now 42 years old. We had concerns about Lisa and Shane both living in our home. When we first brought Shane to our home, Gene explained to Lisa what was going on. Her simple, childlike, unfiltered remark was, “Dad, its okay. This is God’s calling for you at this time.”  Wow, we didn’t see that remark coming from her!  We had asked God for answers, but never saw that affirming answer coming through Lisa!

We had come to a place of: Ok God we get it, we just need to trust You! We prayed for Lisa’s safety in this situation, and Gene spoke with her and gave her counsel.  Actually, she became kind of a policewoman–she would ‘nark’ on Shane if he had been in the candy, cookies, chips or anything she thought was against house rules.

And, not only did we grow to love Shane . . . so have our children and grandchildren. In all reality, I’ve yet to come across anyone who does not find Shane stealing their heart soon after meeting him. He is very compliant in his behavior. He just isn’t a problem type of individual.

Interestingly enough, we’ve discovered how much he enjoys community! Even though he’s not too verbal, he is social! In maneuvering through the community we have found connections from his past – someone in a barber shop knew him and called him by name; someone in the bakery at Sam’s came up to him and said, “Hi, remember me?”; some HyVee coffee-goers knew him; Julie Braunsroth, from here at Lincoln Berean, recognized him from working food service on East campus. All of us understand how important community and connection is to us, but what we discovered is, it is just as important to someone with Shane’s limitations.

fullsizerenderMy husband, Gene, really is a hero in this story. He has been so tender and loving with Shane. He takes care of his “man” needs. He even became his legal guardian—and that’s no picnic…wading through all the government bureaucracy. When Shane fell off two steps this past summer, his collar bone was broken. Shane was unable to do his self-care, so Gene helped him. I thank God for my husband’s nurturing characteristics.  Each night he tucked Shane in and asked him, “Who is Jesus?”   Shane always said boldly, “Jesus is God.”   As Gene departed Shane’s room each night, Shane would usually say, “Going to heaven someday.”  Then Gene would turn around and say, “That’s right Shane, and who is gonna take you to heaven?” Shane would always respond, “Jesus is God!!!”

In God’s perfect timing, He found a family home for Shane. His care provider is certified, experienced, AND a Christian. Shane has been living there since last October. We are grateful how our loving God has answered our prayers for Shane.

Gene remains his guardian, and we stay in touch. God has definitely shown that His ways are higher than ours. He has taught us many things through Shane. It’s been an incredible story and journey.

Every person has value, and I had to look at what’s right in God’s eyes – not what I thought I needed, or what I thought I could make happen.

The big lesson I’ve learned is—JESUS is Always Trustworthy. He Hears and Perfectly Answers all my prayers!  I just need to Rest in Him during the uncertainty, Depend on God, and TRUST Him in every situation!

As Shane simply says, “Jesus is God!”

May God Be Everywhere I Go

dscn4202By Carey Helmink

I love to read, love the written word. And I can be persuaded to read any number of things. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction. Biographies are great. I used to read my share of self-help books, but at this point in my life I don’t read too many of those. The Bible is probably the only thing that can help me now.

One of my favorite genres is historical fiction. I love stories that take place in another time/place. I also enjoy movies/shows that take place somewhere other than here and happen sometime other than now. Downton Abbey, for example. Big fan. I love being transported to and experiencing life through the eyes of someone else.

There are, however, certain times and places in history I would not wish to experience. Think back through history. If you could be born in a different era, what years would you avoid?

How about during the early days of the church when Nero was using Christians as human torches? Or Nazi Germany during the reign of Hitler? What about the Civil War years or during the Great Depression? Or, actually, any number of modern-day countries where Christians are being martyred at alarming rates. At times, people in our culture carry on about how awful things are in our country during this political season, but if they think this is as bad as it can get, they are very naïve about the history of man.

So many horrific events and times we would choose to avoid. We could go on listing them all day. But if I had to choose the most difficult period in human history–to me it would be the 400 years between Malachi the prophet and the coming of Jesus.

The silence of God. No word on this planet from Him for generations. Not silence for a few years but silence for hundreds of years. No wise Spirit to lead and guide. No constant and compassionate Comforter. No ever present help in times of trouble. Silence. Complete, heavy, enveloping silence. The world absent of the breath of God and the wind of the Spirit.

I can’t think of anything more horrifying.

I understand that we do not always FEEL the presence of God but that makes it no less true. Girlfriends, this is just a friendly reminder that He is with you. Sometimes the reason we don’t feel his presence is because we are so unaware of it. We are distracted on numerous levels. And it is just so easy to take for granted the fact that God is not only ever-present all around us, but if we are believers his Spirit is ever present within us.

“Your light to guide me; Your hands to hold me; Your presence when I’m alone. Your heart is beating forever with me. Your voice will call me home. May God be everywhere I go.”  [Andres Figueroa, Mariah McManus & Matt Maher]

Corporate Prayer

prayer groupBy Katie Kafka

As we talk about praying, the things we can do to make it genuine, I would really like to stand up here and wrap a pretty bow around it and say, “Here you go. This is how we pray. This is what we do and its going to be fun.” As much as I would like to do that, I can’t necessarily wrap it into a pretty package for you. Prayer is a really unique thing. It is personal and intimate and a way we can communicate with our Heavenly Father. How you pray and how comfortable you feel praying has a lot to do with past experiences and also where you are at presently. To give a few examples:

  • Maybe genuine prayer was a part of your upbringing and you have continued on in that legacy.
  • Maybe prayer is something you have always received in the form of a blessing or words from a pastor.
  • Maybe you have yet to embrace God’s “open door” communication policy.
  • Maybe you have never prayed out loud.

We all come from different backgrounds and predispositions, BUT nevertheless, let us pray because prayer is for you right now. It’s for you right now where life has you…no matter what your life used to be or what you would like it to become, you can pray in the now and that is a beautiful thing.

On Tuesdays, we get to pray with a small group of women. So, why is prayer one of the values here at Equip Her? There are a couple reasons. The big reason is that group prayer is Biblical. There are a ton of examples in the Bible of both individual and group prayer. These examples come in the form of stories and testimonies to the power of prayer. From these examples we can see that God values group prayer. I wanted to share one of these examples with you this morning. It is an example of the power of group prayer in the early church. It is the story of Peter’s arrest and deliverance. Here is Acts 12:1-19:

Now about that time [a]Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now [b]it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four [c]squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

On [d]the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and[e]put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he *said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 When Peter came [f]to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all[g]that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” 16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to [h]James and the brethren.” Then he left and went to another place.

18 Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to [i]what could have become of Peter. 19 When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.

That is an action scene. I think it could be in a major motion picture of the movies today! It’s just an incredible story. I love the peoples’ reaction to everything going on. They were all shocked and amazed. The critical verses that stuck out to me were verses 5 and 12 that make mention of group prayer. So obviously group prayer is a biblical thing.

Another reason why we value prayer here on Tuesday mornings is because it is a blessing. We may not be praying for someone’s freedom from prison, but we can realize the blessing that comes from praying with other Christians. People of the church were praying for Peter’s deliverance all along the way. My favorite moment in the passage is when Peter sees that people are praying for him and then also when the people praying realize that God had answered their prayers. Let me read that part again:

12 And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” 16 But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.

I love Rhoda. Bless her heart. I would do the same thing! She was so overjoyed that she left Peter standing at the gate rather than welcoming him into Mary’s house. It is a special moment when everyone was amazed. They realized God was at work in their lives. The same is available for us here at Equip Her. By praying in a small group, you get the privilege of participating in what God is doing in lives of the women sitting next to you. It is a glimpse of His handiwork. It is a way for us to see God.

We all met in our prayer groups for the first time last week. I want to express thanks to the teachers because they thoughtfully determined who will be in a group together. God’s hand is over that process. For the first few weeks we are all just getting to know each other. I know it can be a little intimidating…maybe a little awkward at times. I want to encourage you to lean into that potential awkwardness. Come as you are. Take the time to get to know the people in your group. Learn from them. Our prayer groups are safe, confidential places. It is a time for you to talk through what God is teaching you through your class. It is also a time to pray these truths for your life and others in the group.

We have a couple of resources to equip us to pray. These are also resources you can use throughout the week. The first resource is A Legacy of Prayer journal. We would like to give prayer journals to those women new to Equip Her. You will get those in your classrooms. It is a great resource for learning more about how we value prayer with in the Equip Her ministry. It is also filled with Scripture verses that encourage us to realize who God is and our need for Him. The second resource is our monthly prayer verse. This is something we started last year that we are going to continue. Each month we will have a verse for you to direct your focus and prayers. There are 2 formats to engage with the monthly prayer verse.

  • Prayer verse cards that we will hand out here on Tuesday mornings.
  • Paperless option
    • The verse comes in the form of an image that you can download and use as wallpaper for your mobile device. Here is this month’s image: image1-1

The idea is to get this verse in close proximity so that you can be reminded of God’s Truth often. It is just another tool that you can use to communicate with God. You can pray this verse back to God or use it to encourage someone else. There is no wrong method here.

All of the prayer verses this year are inspired by the Armor of God study so many of us have taken and enjoyed. The October verse correlates with the belt of Truth. By the end of the class year (April) we will have put on the full armor of God! I would like to give a special thank you to Piper Romshek. She is the one who hand-lettered our verse cards in such a beautiful way. Let’s close in prayer.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for this time and space today to think through our prayer walk with You. What an amazing gift You have given us…this ability to speak with You and connect with You in a profound and meaningful way. I pray that we would embrace this on a daily basis. Thank you also for the gift of corporate prayer. You reminded us in Acts 12 this morning that big things can happen when a group of Christians fervently pray. May we keep Peter’s testimony in mind as we pray in confidence with the women in our small groups.  We love You, Lord. In Jesus Name we pray.