September 23, Sunday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided Jasmin Izumikawa. Jasmin, a member of the Church of Southland, is currently a high school teacher.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“He Walks with Me”

John 20:15-16

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher, in Hebrew).       

One of the first classes I taught was an English immersion class. The school called it “Creative Dramatics.” This class consisted of students with minimal to no English proficiency. There was no set curriculum and the only core text recommended for the class came out of a conversational English workbook from the 1980’s. Students sat in scraggly rows, chanting basic conversational English phrases back and forth to each other. It was painfully loud, the lessons were dry, and the students sounded like sad, monotone robots chanting in unison, “Where-is the- library?” “Turn-left, walk down-the- hall, then- turn right.”

A few weeks in, I had just enough. Driven to my wit’s end, I halted this tired chorus of GPS voice navigators and decided to fly by the seat of my pants. I scribbled the words of Emily Dickinson on a transparency sheet and slapped it on top of a dusty overhead projector. I recited to my students the poem, “’Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers.”

Their assignment: Translate the poem into their own native languages. They precariously took out their pocket translators and began to write. Translations in Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Indonesian began to emerge on pieces of paper. Almost immediately, I started to see engagement and excitement as students began to collaboratively piece together their understanding and translations of this poem. The next day, they jabbered away in various languages, correcting each other, making suggestions, and revising their writings. Then, I gave them the task of reciting the poem in English, line by line, from memory. As the days went by, the class would nominate students, calling them out to the front by name, one by one, to recite the poem in English and from memory; for the brief minute they stood there reciting, their peers listened, hungrily. Although some words were slurred and choppy, they understood the heartbeat of the poem, and I could tell because the tones of their voices changed, the tempo slowed, and there was joy as their peers patted them on their backs and applauded them. From a classroom of dry, reluctant readers, there was now the presence of thirty-six hungry poets who had breathed new life into Dickinson’s poem. Those words would not mean anything at all if the students could not connect to it, struggle through it, and celebrate it in their own encounters with it first.

Up until the point Jesus appeared before the tomb, Mary Magdalene may have recognized Him only as a teacher. Jesus must have known this, so He says to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17). It is as though He was saying, “I’m fulfilling what I came to do. Did you forget I am your Savior? I’m always with you, Mary.” She had now encountered Jesus as risen LORD, living God, and her personal Savior. Her life changed completely. Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the LORD!” Then she gave them His message.

The hymnist, C. Austin Miles, who wrote the words to “I Come to the Garden Alone,” celebrates his personal encounter with Jesus. He wrote:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear,
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other, has ever, known!

How beautiful, how life-changing, and how exciting is the life that encounters the living God, our loving Savior? His Word is not a lifeless and disconnected book. It is a living promise that beckons you to join Him in the struggle and in the joy of knowing Him personally. Perhaps you have found yourself in a season of spiritual dryness. Have prayers fallen from your lips? Sing to Him and hold onto His words. Let go of your fears and doubts and be reminded, He is always with You, He embraces you, and calls out to you. Maybe today, more than ever, you need to hear Him call out your name and to walk with Him in the garden alone, to be told you are His. May the LORD bless you and give you the assurance that He is with you.

Prayer: LORD, what an incredible encounter Mary had with You. I want to meet with You in a personal way and walk with You through this life. Your voice is what I want to hear, so open my ears so that I may hear. Thank You for Your assurance that You have never left me. I love You, God! You are so good to me. Soften my heart and help me to let go of my fears and doubts. Breathe life over me with Your words. What have I to fear when You’re right here with me, speaking to me? Thank you, LORD, for being my personal Savior, the living God, our risen King. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 38

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