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Welcome sweet springtime

The calendar recorded the first day of spring this week, but it seemed Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

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Sweet William and I bundled in coats and scarves to run errands on Tuesday. Then Wednesday it snowed for hours. Wet and heavy, it continued to pile higher on the deck railing and hung on branches of trees until I wondered if the cedar tree in the back yard would break under the load.

 

 

Daffodils huddled under a blanket of white, and the yellow forsythia blooms peeked through sadly. The shapely Bradford pear looked as if it had already bloomed, the tips of branches coated with white.

It was stunning to look at from the warmth of the house.

In the early dawn of a frigid morning, I heard the birds singing their spring song. They seemed undisturbed with this minor setback. They know what their tiny beating hearts know.

Spring is coming.

Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song by that title, months after his young daughter was tragically killed in his family’s own driveway. I cannot imagine the pain, the dark depression, the long winter of the soul he endured. He must have grasped for something bigger and stronger than himself during the heaviness of grief to have penned such hopeful words.

“And my heart’s heavy now
But I’m not letting go of this hope I have that tells me
Spring is coming, Spring is coming
And all we’ve been hoping and longing for soon will appear”

I played the song again and again when my own heart sat in the darkness of gloom and despair. Its message of hope sings to me even now and offers something more. Something more than sinking in sorrow, more than allowing fear to swallow me, more than feeling hopeless and alone. No matter the heartbreak, as winter lingers longer than we think we can bear, spring is coming.

It is God’s order and plan, the movement of seasons, the rotating of sun and moon, the earth setting in its perfect orbit for all of us to live and breathe and thrive.

Eventually we all will experience what feels like a long, cold winter, and we become desperate for change, for life to spring forth from hard ground, to see beauty come from ashes.

Hope itself is like a star  –  not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity.
  —  Charles H. Spurgeon

The season of Lent is a waiting and hoping for redemption. Moving toward Palm Sunday, the passion week, and Resurrection day, I am impressed how nearly half the content of the Gospels is dedicated to the last couple of weeks of Jesus life. It was that important to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is that important to me.

Without Jesus, hope is illusive, a mere wish for something better than now. No one else did what He did for me. No one loved me this much. No one paid the full penalty of my sin with His own life. No one else promises me His indwelling presence now and a place in Heaven with Him simply because I believe He is the way, the truth and the life.

My hope is built on nothing less 
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. 
I dare not trust the sweetest frame, 
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name. 

He is the perfect Lamb of God sacrificed for me, the Mercy Seat of a holy God where I run for forgiveness, compassion, and consolation. He is my Redeemer and my present Helper. This is my living hope.

Snow is still piled on the deck though the sunshine is melting it with a warmth that hints of spring. The trees have shaken off the heaviness of their winter burden and bear buds ready to burst forth. Daffodils and forsythia are recovering beautifully.

Spring is coming and hope is alive in me.

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Sunday grace

 

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Through my window, I watch the sun’s red glow rise over the trees. We call it day break, when the morning rays burst through the dark of night. Sunrise pushes against the night, and night cannot hold it back.

God said, “Let there be light,” and brightness exploded suddenly into the blackness over the surface of the earth.

Light broke through when the Creator spoke it, His words full of power.

“The evening and the morning were the first day.” In Jewish culture, a new day begins at evening. It starts with night and moves into daybreak and a new morning.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. — Isaiah 9:2

Isaiah prophesied the coming Messiah, and Matthew proclaimed it fulfilled in Jesus.

The long dark night was about to be broken open by the Morning Star. And hope rises.

I have endured my seasons of nighttime gloom, wondering how long, and when will the day come. I longed for the light when my world would appear brighter, when I could see more clearly, when clouds of darkness would part and the rays of the sun would shine warm.

Weeping endures for the night, but joy comes in the morning. We watch for, we hope for, we pray for the light of day.

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. — Isaiah 60:1

Hope rises at the first sign of dawn, and Jesus, the Light of the world, is a darkness breaker.

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, — Isaiah 61:1

It is for this He came, to release us from the dank, shadowed depression of our prison cells, to open the doors wide and invite us into the presence of the Holy God where glory shines brighter than a thousand days. And with Him there is no night.

Sunday grace.

Sunset in Colorado, by travis

Sunday grace

The sun sets early and darkness settles over us. We are safe and warm inside.

As a child I was afraid of the dark. I wanted a nightlight on. I didn’t want to be alone at night.

I learned to overcome my fear by quoting Bible verses when mother sent me next door to borrow a cup of sugar, or whatever it was she needed. I ran as fast as I could, saying the 23rd Psalm all the way there and all the way back.

Working a third shift job for a few months out of sheer necessity, I parked my car in a dark lot. Only thirty minutes ago I had tucked my young son into bed for the night. I felt alone waiting for my shift to begin. It was more than the physical darkness that threatened me then. It was a gloom over my soul.

Each night in the few minutes before I exited my car to walk to the plant, I read the same chapter from the small Bible I carried with me. Psalm 139. And this verse particularly comforted me:

12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

God is with us whether it is day or night. He shines the light of His love around us showing the way, the next step, the places of resting. In the shadow of death He walks beside us. No place on this earth, not a depth of sadness or the height of joy, can keep us from Him.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39

I am never separated from His love. Never. I don’t have to be afraid any more.

Sunday grace.

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The grey days

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The greyness of the winter days stretch long. Though I know by fact that the nights are getting shorter this time of year, it seems an act of faith to believe it.

I saw someone’s Facebook post yesterday: “Anyone needing a little sunshine?” I responded with a “like” when what I really wanted to do was shout, “YES, I need the sunshine!”

It happens each January. The festive season passes, and we are left with the winter of despair” while we longingly wait for “the spring of hope.”

I should not be bewildered that history repeats itself and seasons come and go as naturally as night turns to day. But sometimes the short winter day can feel long when the sun does not appear.

Such is life. It is the waxing and waning of delight and pleasure versus the bitter and despondency that exists in our world. Somewhat like the moon. There are nights I see it brilliantly in its fullness or as a crescent sliver. At times it disappears altogether, being a new moon or a cloudy night.

Fact says the moon and sun are both still in the sky rotating as they have since creation day when the Creator set their courses and determined their orbit. Whether I see them with my eyes or not, they remain.

There is a confident knowing of this same Creator who also sets my course and determines my days, whether they be tinged with grey or absorbed in brightness.

It is just a season. And seasons change. Happiness is circumstantial. Joy is a deep resevoir within the heart of one who knows.

I know that my Redeemer lives, just as Job knew, despite our trials and tests. We walk through our own grey days while looking for the dancing sunbeams.

As I went to the bedroom to open blinds, I saw the light blinking through. It was the sun. I pulled up the blinds and saw it there in the sky, blue hues peeking through the clouds. It lasted only about an hour before soft ashen clouds covered the horizon.

But I have seen resplendent light once again. And hope rises.

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Be the light

I am intrigued by light and darkness. Perhaps it is one reason I rise early while it is still dark outside. I like watching the new day arrive, the eastern sky growing bright ever so gradually, the sign of a new day.

On a cloudless morning, I am often rewarded with a blaze of color that stretches across the expanse of sky.

When I was a little girl, I was very afraid of the dark. I needed a night-light. I needed reassurance. I needed my Mommy!

As I got older, sometimes my mother would send me next door to my Aunt and Uncle’s house to borrow something – in the dark. I learned to quote Bible verses, memorized in children’s church, all the way there and then back again to quell my fear and calm my beating heart.

Eventually, I overcame the fear of the dark.

As I read the stories of Jesus coming to this earth, clothed as an infant, I see references of light. The coming Light of a Savior was promised. Because who doesn’t want to be relieved of the darkness.

When our electricity goes out occasionally at night, Sweet William and I start scrambling for flashlights, candles, matches, something that will give us the ability to see in a dark house. When we find and turn on the flashlight, strike the match and ignite the candle, the darkness flees and we can see.

Jesus came to be a light to a dark, sin-filled world. He was showing the people who God really is. And He calls us, His followers, to be light. How we do that will be individual according to our personalities and what circumstance we find ourselves in. For some it will be having bold conversations. Other times, it will be a warm smile, a welcoming heart, or a simple acknowledgement of appreciation.

The ways to show light of Christ are only limited by our imaginations.

While we focus on Christmas virtues in December, could we be challenged to show Jesus’ light all year long? A perpetual Christmas celebration! The joy we feel during this month could carry on for the other eleven months. The patience and kindness we offer could be a year-long gift we give to others. We could extend grace instead of a whole host of negative emotions, and it would reward us as much as the other person.

Being the light will dispel the darkness wherever we allow Christ to shine. In our homes and neighborhoods, on the construction site, in the office and the classroom, at the factory or the grocery story.

Jesus the light of the world desires to fill us with Himself so that He shines through us, His children. Our brokenness allows His love to filter through, to flow out of hearts that have been forgiven and filled with glory.

Shine, for our Light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen upon us.

Be the light. Reflect His light. Shine for Jesus.

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And it was night

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, it was dark.

For the leaders and authorities who refused to believe and accept the Son sent from God the Father, it was dark.

For the twelve disciples and others who loved Him, who saw Jesus arrested, convicted and crucified, it was the darkest of days and nights.

Jesus came to bring light, but for a while it seemed as if the light had been extinguished, and they were left in darkness.

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

Those who will not believe remain in the darkness still.

Resurrection day will come at break of dawn.  Light will arise and shine throughout the world.

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

And they will never be afraid of the dark again.

 

 

 

Sunday grace

I stand in front of yet another casket this week, a long time friend and mother of one I hold dear.  She weeps and I remember my own grief.

Her heart is broken and her mind cannot conceive how she will live without her mother.  I remember feeling the same way some 30 years ago.  My memories stir and I go back to that place in time when earthly life ended for my mother and I felt like mine did too.

But it didn’t.  I moved on.  I had no other choice.

And God was near.

There is evening and there is morning.  Each new day begins, even after the darkest of nights.  And grace is near in the dark and in the light.

After we walk through the shadow of death, we will enter the light of a new day, a new beginning, a new journey.  Until then, we look to the Ancient of Days who changes not.  Darkness and light are the same to Him and He is there in both.

Until the sun shines again, until the light of morning glows bright and color-hewed, we reach for the hand of the Almighty and find He is already holding us.

All is well and all will be well because He is near.

Sunday grace, friends.

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