Sunday grace

“In the body of Christ, how one person breathes affects the whole body,” writes Ann Voskamp in The Broken Way.

The final chapter, “Why You Don’t Have to Be Afraid to Be Broken,” is scrawled with underlines. I identify with so many of the words.

I feel a bit broken this morning. Broken by cares and concerns. Because the world is broken, and all the programs and politics and plans cannot fix it.  We are living in brokenness.

Through the night, I wake and breathe prayers for ones I love and hold dear. My first thought of the morning is the same.

Out my kitchen window lies the beauty in my back yard, so lush and fully green. I hear birds chirping and singing, the tiny wren with the biggest voice singing his heart out. Flowers in colors bold, and I am stunned at their offerings, how they keep coming back each year in spite of my sometimes neglect.

The earth was called forth, creation was completed and called “good.” And it was so very good. But something has happened to it, to us. Sin has wrecked havoc on the planet, on its citizens. And what are we to do?

We must share our brokenness, open the cracked heart and let each other in. Let the desperate cries of the wounded be heard as we acknowledge our own broken. For none of us are whole on our own. We hold each other up. We rejoice together and celebrate. We weep with another and grieve. We feel the pain when one of us is bruised.

We must seek with open hearts to model the One and only perfect man who came into our brokenness and was susceptable to it. He didn’t turn away from our mess but instead walked right up and embraced the leprous, the bleeding, the outcast, the demon possessed, the dead, the sinner.

He allowed Himself to be fully broken in full view, shamed and forsaken. And then He showed us His scars.

Can we be so vulnerable and share our scars, our pain? We must if we are to enter into the suffering of one another.  To have true fellowship and relationship, there must be an open heart reaching out to another open heart.

Put away the perceived perfections, stop pretending we have it all together. Because we don’t. We don’t.

It takes humility to admit I am broken and in need. And it will be grace that binds up my wounds with healing oinment. If I am willing, someone will be at my side, helping my woundedness heal. With tears in her own eyes, she will embrace me and say, “It’s OK. I’ve been there too.”

Sunday grace.

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April ending 2017

I love the month of April. It may be my favorite month, and why not, I love spring.

New life popped up everywhere this month in various and sundry ways.  A cardinal built a nest outside a back bedroom window behind the clematis arbor. Three black and white eggs hatched into hungry baby birds.  When the window is open, I hear their peeps as they reach with mouths wide for parents to bring food. Daily they grow and fill their nest, and it is a gift of spring.

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The one gander who sat on her nest early last month, through the cold, hatched her eggs as the calendar page turned. I was beginning to doubt there was life in those eggs, and then there they were, five little fuzzy goslings.

Maisie and I watch for the goose family on our daily walks. Sadly there are only four babies now. I wonder how the parents feel when one is taken, perhaps by a large turtle in the lake or something wild on the bank of the river which lies beyond. Do they feel sadness? Are their hearts hurting for the one that was and now is not?

I was surprised by a batch of Mallard babies toddling along almost hidden in the grass, their little heads bobbing. I was only guessing to count them from a distance and them moving at scattered pace; I think there are eight. From what I’ve observed, mamma duck is alone. I’ve not seen her mate with her a single time.  I wonder what could have happened to him. She is a single mother trying to raise her brood. I hope she can handle it. There are so many dangers out there in the wild.

Temperatures went from cold to hot in one week alone. The gas logs burned some mornings to warm us, and the air conditioner ran its initial time this year on a different day. We experienced our first tornado warning, and Sweet William and I huddled in the hallway with our shoes on and holding tightly to our essentials. I grasped Maisie’s leash attached to her collar and imagined what might happen if we were blown away, the two of us spinning wildly in the wind. It was a madcap mental picture.

Sweet William and I visited a friend and her children at their farm in a neighboring county and shared a delicious lunch during spring break. He fished and enjoyed the company of the young son; I drank coffee and visited with my friend and her daughter, doing what we women do best – talk. We lingered so long I hoped we had not over-stayed our welcome. She said she always enjoys my company, and my heart warms by her response.

Another friend visited me on a Saturday and I was under prepared, just getting out of the shower and no muffins in the oven. I got the time mixed up. I gathered myself together, no make up and wet hair, and sat at the table with her as we laughed and remembered, and I caught up on the activities of her growing children. I understood even more that everything does not have to be perfect to enjoy fellowship with another and offer hospitality.

Yard work this month called my name, so many weeds and so little of me. I worked awhile and rested a while; worked a while and drank a cup of coffee; worked a while and read a book on the deck. At night I rubbed Arnica gel on my aching muscles. I’ve made good progress, though there is still much to do. Not finished by a long way, walking through the garden areas is more pleasant than last year when weeds flourished and I languished.

Memories are attached to the growing things in my yard. People have shared their own nature-bounty with me. The snowball bush, with its huge blooms, reminds me of my parents. The first start of it came from their home. I learned to plant from my dad, watching him dig the hole, place the plant, tamp the earth with his shoes, and then water generously. Branches of the bush with its white blossoms are in a large vase sitting on the kitchen table, a living reminder of the rich heritage I increasingly value more each year.

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Yard sale signs tempt me this time of year. I resisted the first ones I saw, and then gave in to another.  I am choosier than I used to be about what I bring home. I often admire something than say to myself, “I don’t really need that.”  It’s good to just walk away empty-handed.

Books and movies were on the menu in April. One worth mentioning is the DVD I borrowed from my library. Priceless is about human trafficing. It is gripping, heart-rending, and after it was over I wanted to do something.  The website offers an opportunity to be involved in local areas. I cannot save the world, but I can do something.

I’ve been to hospitals in April, surgeries that leave me in waiting rooms. Offering the gift of my presence is one thing I can do. Prayer is another. I’m thankful for good hospitals, for God-given healing knowledge, for doctors and medical professionals. Friends came and went during the waiting, others texted assuring us of their concern and prayers. Comfort is bestowed on heavy hearts and nerves strung taut with the uncertainty.

I had the privilege of helping prepare the table and food for Christ in the Passover event, presented by a member of Jews for Jesus.  Passover is one of my favorite holidays in the year, so full of meaning, symbolism, and truth as Jesus our Passover Lamb becomes a reality.

Passover occurred in tandem with the beauty of Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday this year in April. It does not always happen that way. I’m glad when it does because the events are irrevocably joined by the life, death, and life again of Jesus Christ.

I went to a plant sale this morning, an annual event I look forward to at my local county extension office. It rained like it has for several years. Those of us who are dedicated gardeners and gardener-want-to-be’s endured grey, wet weather because we are attached to the soil and what it has potential to bring forth. A little moisture would not deter us. We are looking for growth and fruit in flower and vegetable. I filled my wagon and almost emptied my pocketbook. Now plants await me and my own dirt, those tender shoots full of promise.

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God gives the same to us. Life and promise. Hope for growing fruitful in the wind and the rain.  In the storm and the warm sunshine.  We participate in the joyful events with songs in our hearts, and we endure along with others those things that bring us to our knees in tears and prayers. Fruit is produced in us through the life of Jesus, Him living and breathing through these jars of clay.

As the hours of April slip quietly by, I yet feel the stress and strain of situations beyond my control, identifying with loved ones pressed hard and stretched thin, grieving with those who grieve. praying for relief and an end to the suffering.

I remember a story of a Shunammite woman whose son died, the son promised to her by the prophet Elijah. She hurried to the man of God, answering those who questioned her with these words, “All is well.” Her spoken faith astounds me.  Her heart was bitterly distressed for this son of hers, yet somehow she voiced her faith that all is well. And so it was. Her son came back to life by a miracle.

If I believe there is a God and that He is good and strong, that He loves me enough to die in my place and adopt me into His family, then I too should be able to speak those words: All is well.

Whatever the season, whatever the trial, in sunshine and rain, on the brightest days of spring and the coldest of winter, the Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and His kingdom rules over all. He is just, compassionate, and loving in all His ways. 

All is well and all will be well.

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A week after

After last weekend’s celebration of a risen Lord, a joyful afternoon spent with extended family, and counting multiplied gifts from the bounty of God’s blessings, the week after is fraught with things difficult. My mind whirls and tilts like an amusement park ride. But I am not amused.

I hear of an untimely death and sorrowing parents. Sweet William underwent a minor surgery, but nothing is minor when one has been in too many hospitals to bother counting. News about a dear one’s jarring diagnoses leaves us in shock and questions. Yet another one close to our hearts battles dreaded disease and the pain that accompanies.

And we pray. What else is there to do?

We ask in faith, believing God already knows and nothing takes Him by surprise. We trust in His goodness and His strength because He is a good and strong Savior. We know we are His children and will not be given a stone when we ask for bread and fish. We petition a Mighty Warrior who fights our battles with a powerful arm.

We pray and wait to see what will be His answer.

“And we know with great confidence that God, who is deeply concerned about us, causes all things to work together as a plan for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.” — Romans 8:28 Amp.

I have recognized this week that trials bring people together. Texts and phone calls run to and fro through space, keeping us updated, friends and family expressing their love and offering help in some way. As a result, prayer is our connection to those we care about and to the Father who loves us with an everlasting love.

If trials bring people together, then prayer binds us to one another, brothers and sisters reaching heavenward as the family of God and the body of Christ. One one hurts, we all feel the pain.

Jesus offered reassuring words just before He disappeared into the sky as astonished followers watched:

” . . .  and lo, I am with you always, remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion, even to the end of the age.” — Matthew 28:20 Amp.

In all of our trouble, trials, testing, there is only one consideration:  Jesus.

Jesus with us, in pain, in uncertainty, even in death.

Jesus, the man of sorrows who is familiar with suffering and runs to our cry.

Jesus, the One and only who came from the Father’s loving hand to open the way into His presence.

Jesus, dying for us so that we might live free and abundant.

Jesus, showing us how to love one another by His own extreme love and servant hood.

Jesus, holding onto us when the rope we cling to frays at the end and we lose our grip.

Jesus with us at all times, “regardless of circumstance and on every occasion,” giving us His strength and comfort and answers we cannot even imagine.

Pain and suffering draws people together. Sometimes we sing the song of heartbreak, disappointment and confusion in the minor key. As God’s family, we sing united.

Prayer binds us as brothers and sisters. And our chorus, ascending upward, is heard and is answered. We sing the song of the redeemed. And the world will hear the melody.

Perhaps that is part of the plan.

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Sunday grace

Very early in the morning . . .

The night is over and the promise of a new day infringes upon the darkness. Just a glimpse of dawn-breaking at first light, but the sun will have its way.

Mary and the women came expecting death wrapped in linen. They found an empty tomb.

Peter, who denied three times, wondered where he would go from here, but he was found by the Shepherd who seeks out the lost sheep.

Disciples, fearfully hiding behind closed doors, could not believe the reports they were told until He gloriously appeared to them.

Thomas, waiting a full week later, sees, believes and proclaims, “My Lord and my God.”

Evil did not triumph. Death was not the end. A tomb could not contain and hold the majesty of Heaven.

On the first day of the week, a new day dawned, a new covenant completed, the law of love becoming the seal of commitment.

Nothing in history equals it. No other man ever consummated such a magnificent plan. It was conceived in the mind of the God-head, designed before creation, predicted by the prophets, and accomplished through a Savior.

The Suffering Servant became the Victorious Champion, the Great High Priest who invites unto the very presence of a holy God.

 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” — John 20:31

He lives! Celebrate His victory over death, hell, and the grave. Believe and accept the life He offers to whosoever will.

There is life in Jesus’ name.

Sunday grace.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green[photo by MaRanda Green]

And it was dark

It was a dark night.

For Judas who walked away from the Passover, into his own passion for something other than he’d been offered, who left the Light of the world at the table of communion, it was dark.

For Pilate who came face to face with Truth and didn’t recognize Him, who asked the questions but could not grasp the answers, who washed his hands of the only One who could cleanse his heart, it was dark.

For the Jewish leaders and authorities who refused to believe and accept the one sent from God the Father, who were determined to go their own way, work their own agenda, it was dark.

For the eleven disciples and others who loved Him, who saw Jesus arrested, convicted and crucified, who did not understand the plan of God, it was the darkest of nights.

Jesus came to bring light, but for a while it seemed the light had been extinguished forever. Those who hoped He was their promised Messiah were left in their own prison of darkness.

Judgment must come.  Sentence would be passed and punishment meted out.  The prince of the world would be cast out.  Darkness veiled the earth for a time.

Those who will not believe, who choose to worship something other than the Christ,  remain in the darkness still.

Resurrection day will come at break of dawn.  The Light of the world will arise and shine once again. His glory will be revealed throughout the world.

 

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Those who accept the Son and the Father who sent Him, will walk in the light of day.

And we will never be afraid of the dark again.

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Revised and reposted from March 2016

The Friday of Passover week

We call it Good Friday. Two days before Easter Sunday. It seems an odd description for the original day.

Researchers differ about the origin of the term Good Friday. The one that seems most reasonable is that “good” related to “holy.”

It was a Holy Friday.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, would not have thought it a good day as she watched her son suffer an agonizing death, this son proclaimed by an angel to be called the Son of God, an heir to the throne of David.

The disciples would not have called it good since by this time they had scattered like scared rabbits. They were disillusioned, disappointed, fearful, and confused.

How could the people of Jerusalem have thought the events of the day were good? The city was in an uproar. Barabbas, a proclaimed dangerous criminal had been turned loose. Pilate was under pressure from the Jewish leaders and was concerned about his political position.

There was a crucifixion occurring during the week of Passover, the festival of freedom. And the prince of darkness appeared to be on the winning side.

But there was something holy happening.

The plan of redemption was at work on a hill called Calvary.  A perfect spotless Lamb offered Himself as the once-and-for-all sacrifice. The sins of the world were being carried to the cross.

Trespasses were forgiven.  The debt we owed was paid in full. Spiritual dark rulers were disarmed.

Christ on the cross brought great anguish to those who watched Him suffer, knew Him intimately, had learned to loved Him, and hoped He was their Deliverer.

They could not see any good on a Friday when the sun was darkened.

But there was something holy happening that day, something that would change everything.

It was a good Friday for me.

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The hidden things

Jesus unceasingly taught the disciples during their three years together. At every opportunity, He was teaching, sometimes in plain language and sometimes in parables. Whether they were listening, and more importantly whether they were understanding, is something altogether different.

It seemed there were some lessons that needed to be repeated. Like loving one another and the first shall be last and the one who leads shall be servant to all.

Sometimes they seemed to grasp the message and sometimes not. Perhaps they didn’t always want to. Perhaps they wished Jesus to be who they wanted Him to be,  made in their image, to accomplish their goals and desires.

I’ve been there.

Toward the end of the Gospels, I read how Jesus told them what was ahead, how His earthly life was coming to a close, that He would be lifted up on a cross. They didn’t get it.

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. — Luke 18:31-34

Sometimes the messages in life are hidden from us.

I think of people I care about who are dealing with such hard things, disease, brokenness, troubled marriages, wayward children, death. And we don’t understand. I wonder what good can come from trials that crush us. I have walked in those uncomfortable, even painful shoes myself, where there are more questions than answers.

The reasons are hidden from us for a season.

I would like to know why two pregnancies ended too early. I would like to know why my mother died when I was in my 30’s. I would like to know why many health issues have wrecked havoc on us. I would like to know why my heart has ached from longing that felt physically disabling. I would like to know why some of my prayers seem to go unanswered.

I would like to know why. But I don’t. And so my faith reaches for the unseen, reaches beyond the veil of this life into the spiritual realm. It stretches me to strain for what is invisible, the substance of what I hope for, the evidence of things not seen.

After Jesus’ death and then His resurrection, God’s heavenly purpose finally begin to be clear. But the disciples suffered agonizing despair for the days of mock trials, crucifixion, and a dead body in the tomb.

On the other side of resurrection day, the Son rose and light shined and the minds that had been shrouded by darkness began to comprehend. The disciples lives were changed forever. In fact, the world was changed forever.

One day my faith will be sight. All things will be clear. The face of my Savior will be glory like I cannot even imagine. And it will all be worth it

The uncertainty will be certain. All sickness will be healed. Every broken heart will be mended. Strained relationships will vanish in the beauty of God’s presence.

And I will understand that the tapestry of life includes dark threads as well as golden ones.

I may not get all the answers I hunger for here while I trod this earth, but there are reasons and there is a purpose. It is God who sovereignly rules and reigns and will cause all things to work together for good, according to His divine plan.

One day I will know as I am known. When I see Christ, it will be worth it. In the meantime, I will trust Him who knows all the hidden things now and forever.

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