Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
(Isaiah 40:28-31 New King James)
Back in 1989, the Lord “quickened to me” (as the Charismatics put it 🙂 ) the scripture in Isaiah 40:28-31, especially the part in verse 31 that says in the King James version … “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” In other words, I began to view the passage as specifically a word of encouragement from Him to me to meet a special need I had at that very moment, in addition to its obvious universal application to anyone who “waits on” (a phrase that implies “puts their expectant hope in”) the Lord.
At the time, I was totally drained of emotional and spiritual strength. In early 1988, after 20 years of involvement with a particular religious movement, my husband, George, and I had concluded that it had so many problematic elements that we could no longer be a part of it. George was a church pastor at the time, and we had poured the last ten years of our lives into building up a local congregation of our denomination. All of our friends were “in the church,” much of our energies, talents, emotions, and resources had been poured into the effort. When my husband announced he could no longer be supportive of the denominational leadership, and resigned his post as pastor, all but a handful of our former friends cut us off in disgust from any fellowship.
We ended up meeting in our living room weekly with a tiny group who shared our concerns. But as the months went by, even most of those people lost interest in getting together, and drifted away. I was not only profoundly lonely, but felt lost without any obvious outlet for my energy, talents, and spiritual gifts. I was physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained of all strength.
This went on for many months. And then one day I “discovered” that Isaiah passage. It’s not that I’d never read it before. I’d worked my way through several translations of the Bible verse by verse over the years, and had read past that passage numerous times. But it had never “jumped off the page” at me as it did this time.
And at that point, something odd started happening. As the weeks and months (and eventually, years) went by, the Lord used that passage numerous times to give me hope. In some of the darkest times, I would be about to go under from doubt and discouragement, and suddenly, out of nowhere I would be given “a sign.”
What do I mean? I mean that the unexpected sight or mention of eagles at just the right moment became a frequent symbolic reminder to me of that passage, and a fresh reminder of God’s love—and promise of hope for the future—for me.
For instance, one day in 1989, I was wandering through the local giant “superstore,” head down, staring at the floor as I walked along, depressed to the nth degree about the seeming hopelessness of ever finding a spiritual home where I could be active in serving again. Suddenly I felt “prompted” to “Look up.” At that exact moment clear across the store… hundreds of feet away… one of the sets of outside automatic doors opened up. And passing by the store out on the street was a semi-truck with a huge painting of a giant eagle on its trailer, wings full-spread, just at that moment framed in the doorway in full sight. It made me grin from ear to ear, and you might say “revived” me.
That same type of unexpected “eagle reminder” happened over and over for me.
Another time, I was visiting a large mega-church to hear a popular television preacher who had been invited as a guest speaker. This was during another period of doubt and discouragement, and I was praying quietly as I waited for the sermon to start, asking God to give me a sign that He was actively concerned about my plight. The preacher stepped up to the lectern and mentioned that he had originally planned to speak on a certain topic. But in the plane on the way there earlier that day, he felt this strange urging from God that he should completely change the subject of the sermon, so he did. And he launched into a sermon on … all the “eagle” passages in the Bible, starting with Isaiah 40:31.
On another occasion, I was presented an opportunity to work with a pastor of a little independent church group … but one that had a doctrinal base exceptionally different from my background. When I first was deciding if I should become involved I found myself wanting a “sign.”
I was in the pastor’s office one day in 1990. I had been led by the Lord to be there, I was quite sure, but after all, these folks didn’t understand all the things in the Bible just the way I did. And so I thought perhaps I was just inventing an excuse to find fellowship somewhere regardless of doctrine. I really felt that the Lord was prompting me to help this man, so I had approached him and offered my volunteer services as a “Jill of all Trades”—secretarial work, writer, teacher, whatever he had need for.
But just to be sure, I was silently praying fervently in my head for a sign on our first day of working together. While talking to the pastor, I asked how I might help him. He admitted that a personal tendency to A.D.D. left organization of his personal space NOT one of his strong suits. So he suggested that as a first project, I could go through his totally disorganized shelves of religious literature in his office and organize the materials. For starters, he pointed to a shelf behind me that was crammed with hundreds of magazines. I turned to look at the shelf, with the prayer for a sign still going on in my head. AT RANDOM I leaned over and pulled out one of the magazines. On the cover was… an eagle, full wingspread, and the caption said, “They that wait upon the Lord… “ etc. I gulped.
But like Gideon and the fleece in the Book of Judges, I prayed silently again for further confirmation that same day. After I finished the shelving project, the pastor said that there was a big collection of used books in a back storeroom that had been donated by members. He suggested I could sort through them and organize a little “church library.”
I headed for the storeroom and found a huge, cluttered pile of hundreds of books spilling out of boxes that were stacked willy-nilly in the middle of the floor. With the prayer for another sign still going on in my head, I pulled a paperback … AT RANDOM… out of one of the boxes. Tucked in the pages of the paperback book was a cardboard bookmark. And on the bookmark? A picture of an eagle… and the Isaiah 40:31 scripture again!
I decided to quit fighting it. 🙂
I ended up working with that man for four years. He not only accepted my assistance in secretarial work, he eventually invited me to do much more. He gave me many opportunities to speak to the group he was responsible for, in Bible classes, public lectures, and even on occasion in sermons. Since he had no preconceived theological prejudice against a woman sharing what the Lord had given her, he encouraged me to actively speak about what I understood. And thus I was able to teach about many of the doctrinal areas that had originally caused me concern. I am still reaping fruit from my four years of speaking, teaching, and writing under that man’s encouragement … I have been able to re-use much of the material I developed there in articles for websites, in blog entries, and in seminars I have given around the country in the past decade and more. The “confirmation” I received through the incidents in his office has been confirmed many times over.
These kinds of “eagle incidents” happened so frequently to me for a quite a while that even my daughter began noticing them with surprise.
Later I wasn’t quite as “hungry” for encouragement from eagle sightings, as I eventually had my strength renewed, and the Lord opened the door for many new opportunities to use my talents, spiritual gifts, and enthusiasm. But I never wanted to chance letting myself forget that important scripture. I began collecting and displaying eagles in my home. I’ve shared these eagle stories in seminars at times, and as a result, a number of friends over the years have presented me with eagle-themed gifts. The collection below is just above my computer desk. It includes a friend’s lovely hand-made cross-stitch picture on the wall, and another friend’s gift of a large ceramic eagle on the right. (The musical statue on the left plays “Born Free.”)
To this day, if you would come to visit me, you would see eagles everywhere. I have plaques, statues, refrigerator magnets, key chains, and more. I want to NEVER FORGET what the Lord has promised me (and anyone who will put their expectant hope in Him.) So wherever I turn now there are reminders.
In 1992, Mona presented me a gift of my very own eagle mascot, that I named Jonathan Livingston Eagle.
In the past couple of years, I have found myself “needing” the reminder of the “eagle’s wings” again. I’m now 65, and I’ve been experiencing a number of health issues that have been draining both physically and emotionally. In particular, I found in 2010 that I had lost 90% of the optic nerves in both eyes to a silent, degenerative disease that I discovered had been insidiously working since birth. In the past year and a half, the specialist I am seeing hasn’t found any treatment that is working to slow the degeneration down. So without a miracle, at some point in the near future I could go blind. I’ll be going back to the specialist in two weeks, and the prospects of learning what I may be facing have prompted me to write this blog entry today—so that I can remind myself, while sharing with others, all the ways God has intervened in my life in the past. He has never let me down nor forsaken me yet, no matter the circumstances! So as I look at the eagles above my desk at this moment, their symbolism reminds me that He can renew my strength in any circumstance. Actually, I don’t look at this promise as having to do in particular with my physical strength, but with the spiritual and emotional strength to face with confidence and the joy of the Lord any challenge that comes.
I don’t mean to imply with my stories that my experiences are somehow unique among Christians! It is clear that in Bible times God used many ways to communicate with His people. Sometimes it was with unexpected circumstances that confirmed His presence in their lives; sometimes it was with verbal words they could hear; sometimes it was in dreams or visions; sometimes it was in a message conveyed by another human but obviously from God. I am convinced that He uses these same methods today. Whenever I share stories of God communicating with me in some way, or moving in miraculous ways in my life, it prompts others to share similar stories with me from their own lives. I believe that sharing these incidents is one way that we “build one another up,” and at the same time lift up praises to God for His work in our lives.
I’m convinced that God can and will communicate with all His children. His methods will vary widely, and I certainly don’t think everyone should expect to have their attention drawn to Isaiah 40:31! But if any sincere believer will “listen” with their heart, I know they will hear from Him in some way.
I have one last eagle story to share. In 2003, my daughter Mona, her husband Scott, and our grandchildren Jonathan and Katie (11 and 9 at the time) traveled with us to an 8-day convention in Florida in celebration of the biblical Feast of Tabernacles. But what we hadn’t told Jonathan and Katie was … after the convention we were going to take a side-trip to Orlando, to spend four days at Walt Disney World and one day at Universal Studios.
We all shared a condo and had a great time for the eight days. And on the eighth day, we told them that we really DID have plans for something special for Jonathan’s 11th birthday, which was the next week. They finally guessed what that plan was … and about jumped out of their skins with excitement.
The five days we spent in the Orlando area were awesome, with picture-perfect weather and lots of family fun. Katie was chosen out of the crowd to be on a closed-circuit TV show at the Nickelodeon Studios. Mona and Scott were chosen out of the crowd to be extras in a display of special effects for a water battle scene on the back lot tour of MGM. (They were on the deck of a cruiser being attacked by planes and got totally soaked by explosions in the water surrounding the boat. They did a good job of portraying terror and panic.) And Mona and Katie got to dance in the street with the Blues Brothers at Universal Studios.
My favorite part of all of the attractions is just the beautiful environment at Epcot Center … and even, on a cutesier level, at Magic Kingdom. I was pleased that Jonathan’s very first reaction to walking down the Main Street at Magic Kingdom wasn’t anything about the glittery attractions and all the cartoon characters wandering the streets. Instead, he said with awe, “This place is so PEACEFUL! I love it here.” As a life-long Walt Disney fan and budding filmmaker at the time (he is now 19 and majoring in film directing at Savannah College of Art and Design), his favorite part was the Walt Disney life story museum at MGM Studios. There he got to see lots of memorabilia, including miniature stage sets handcrafted by Walt himself. He took dozens of pictures, with plans to alter them with computer tech to insert himself directly into those little sets. And he came back with his brain exploding with ideas for his own animations.
But my favorite part was on the last day of our vacation, which was Jonathan’s birthday. I was sitting on a bench eating next to the lagoon at EPCOT and gazing across the water when right in front of my eyes appeared … an eagle in full flight! I almost fainted! It soared across the lagoon and landed in a tree right near me. It then took off again and circled the lagoon several times, landing again in the tree. George was able to get some footage of its flight. When we got ready to walk on down the pathway to the Canadian pavilion, it took off and soared in a path right over our heads and off into the distance. I’d never seen an eagle in the wild before, and never expected to, since I thought they mostly hung out in places like British Columbia and Alaska. Who would ever have expected to see one in the wild at Walt Disney World in central Florida?!
Jonathan (who’s always known about my love of eagles, and by age 11 understood their biblical significance to me) came alongside me at that point and said that he was convinced that God had sent the eagle for me to see, to help Jonathan thank me and his Grandpa George for making the wonderful trip possible. WAHHHHH!