What is the common activity among these people: surgeons, firefighters, astronauts, military personnel, deep sea divers, mountain climbers, children playing in the snow? They suit up in specialized gear in preparation for what’s ahead of them. The last example is the only one I’ve experienced personally, that multi-step, multi-layered process undertaken by my very patient mother. There was long underwear, heavy socks, knitted mittens connected by braided yarn and threaded through one sleeve, across and down the other (it was to guarantee that there would be no lost mittens!), the required, hooded one-piece snowsuit, a warm hat, a scarf covering nose and mouth, and finally, the snow boots. At this point one was only a couple steps from being fully immobile, but there would be no getting cold! A recent comic strip showed a man on the sidewalk, looking to his left and seeing a boy lying in the snow. The man comments that the boy is making quite an impressive snow angel. The boy responds: “Snow angel? I’m just trying to get up!” (my four-year-old self can relate) As complex and awkward as these preparations sometimes are, they are necessary and, appreciated, if only after the fact. Of course, preparations are a vast part of daily life, from morning routines, to cooking, to agenda planning, to making vacation plans .  .  .

Paul exhorts his church friends and family in Ephesus: “…you need to be head-to-toe in the full armor of God …” (Eph. 6:13, VOICE). Preparation. As author John Eldredge reminds us: we are always at war. Jesus pointed out that without him, we would accomplish nothing (John 15:5, VOICE). Paul elaborates: “We’re not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.” (6:12) Now, all this sounds very menacing and it would be if we were to engage the (inevitable, inescapable) battle without the preparations Paul is advocating. Here’s where the ‘gifts and benefits’ (aka grace), come in. Paul describes our ‘suiting up’ as not only necessary, but as something that is fully provisioned, fully available, to all friends of Jesus. He talks of the need to extinguish the flaming spears hurled at us, just to drive his point home more vividly (no pun intended). Flaming spears being hurled? At me?? (He has my attention!) I think I’ll double check to make sure I have the Grace giftings/benefits of truth, righteousness, peace, faith, Salvation and the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:14-17) properly fitted as this year marches steadily onward to December 31. And, by His grace, I’ll still be standing, still winning, still protected, still loved!  PD

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