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Sunday grace

My friend texted me late last night: “Karen left this world at 6:50 pm tonight.”

Karen, a woman who has battled cancer that ravished her once healthy body, left this world of pain and suffering. Karen left this world and went Home.

There’s no place like home. I look forward to coming home at the Wright House. The old and familiar things comfort me with memories. I recall family and friends gathered at the table, filling the rooms with their sweet presence.

We’ve fought battles here and shed tears. We’ve bent over in laughter and shared joy and victories. We’ve found comfort in each other’s embrace here and weathered storms as we prayed for peace. Here at home is where we built our lives.

Home is where my people are.

Paul describes it so eloquently: Being absent from this body is to be present with the Lord. This is our true home. To be with Jesus will be home like no other place I’ve ever dwelled.

The tribulation and trial that are part and parcel of this earthly existence will fade away. No more suffering. No more weaping. No more death. God Himself will wipe away our tears.

As the years add up, I find myself longing for home more and more. I see that this life is temporary, that my body is aging, that I am susceptible to ailments and pain. I look forward to corruptible putting on incorruptible. When perishable will put on imperishable.  Life will swallow up death.

And I will be Home. In Heaven. With Jesus.

I will hear the familiar words I am longing for, “Welcome Home.” And I’ll run into my Savior’s arms.

Sunday grace.

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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]

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.

the cross

 

Spring fling

Spring weather just teased us as winter holds tight a little longer.

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The trees are flowered and daffodils have bloomed. I enjoyed it while it lasted. Now the mornings find me in my rocking chair with the gas logs burning to chase away the chill. I crack the window open when I can to hear the first bird sing. Whoever that little soloist is, he delights me. Soon joined by a chorus of birds, the woodland symphony captivates me as I  walk out to the deck, coffee in hand, snugly throw around my shoulders.

It’s Spring Forward weekend. I’ve already set all the clocks an hour ahead, and I wonder why “they” keep doing this to me. My internal clock is not so easily adjusted. I’ve set my alarm an hour early several days this week in an effort to trick myself so that in the morning I will not feel so sleep deprived.

A nap is in my future tomorrow.

Weather predictions can say what they want. Spring will come. It always does. The Creator planned it to be. And He is faithful and true.

With the season comes lent which is already in process. Those who practice it, their foreheads ashen marked, have determined some sort of fast during the forty days leading to Easter Sunday.

While my spiritual experience has not always included a season of lent, I see the value of preparing our hearts to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. His victory over death is what separates Christianity from all other religions. We have reason to celebrate.

And we have reason to prepare our hearts. For Christ’s sacrifice for the sins of the world was no small event in the history of the world. From creation, all things led to it. And from the day of resurrection all things flow from it.

To remember is a command. Jesus told His disciples as He handed them bread and wine, “Do this in remembrance of me.” It is my commission also. Remember.

I shall not take His incarnate life, His death, and His triumph over the tomb for granted. This month I’ve been reading the Gospels, anticipating the last weeks of Jesus’ walk upon the earth He created. I don’t want the story to grow old or so familiar I lose sight of its majesty.

I will think on His teaching, the hard sayings that call for humility and courage.

I will wonder at His miracles of healing and forgiveness and will believe that they are still real in the 21st century.

I will ponder His suffering for my sake, to offer a redemptive price for my sins and the sins of the whole world.

What great love, what abounding mercy, what amazing grace.

Springtime offers the perfect picture. Death tries to hold on but it cannot. It lost the battle, and the grave was swallowed up. Life has come from the tomb because Jesus lives.

I am setting my heart toward recollection and reflection of this special season. I will call to mind the great things God has done for me and give Him thanks. I will pray that the Word will be fresh bread feeding my soul and that the Spirit will spring up as a fountain of refreshing.

And I will remember to worship the living Lord and Savior of my life.

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When it’s not all merry and bright

ornaments

My cell phone jingled with the notification of a text: “Can you play for a funeral on Saturday?”

It is my only day this week with nothing scheduled. I respond, “If you need me.” What a silly response. Of course I’m needed or otherwise I would not have been asked. I say “yes” because this is the gift I can offer.

Just because it’s December with Christmas around the corner, we are not immune to heartache. Death does not take a holiday. More email brings announcements confirming it.

I remember back to other years, other people, other funerals. Other sorrows.

I ache at the thought of families enduring heartbreak at the time of year when so many celebrate with gusto. Children are excited at the prospect of their wish lists showing up under the tree. Holiday parties fill calendars. Family gatherings are planned and anticipated. Preparation for out-of-town relatives is a labor of love as we look forward to being together once again.

If only it were all so merry and bright. We kid ourselves if we think it is.

For some it is not: a couple facing Christmas for the first time without a beloved granddaughter at their family table; a woman whose mother died in December and the anniversary brings poignant memories; a friend who is learning to live in the unknown of a diagnoses that is terminal.

Others deal with their own sicknesses and disabilities. Caregivers carry responsibilities that drain the life from them some days. A husband and wife wonder about a job that may be ending and an uncertain year ahead. Bills stack high on the desk as funds dwindle low. Families are divided for one reason or another. Plans we made for a joyful season implode when the unexpected report crushes them.

Life can be hard even at Christmas time.

The good news is Jesus. Jesus is Christmas. Plain and simple. He is the One and only reason for any kind of celebration.

God’s plan was formed before the foundations of the earth were laid, and He planned for Christ to come for us.

Jesus birth was not haphazard but detailed in every possible way. In the fullness of time, the eternal blueprint began to take shape exactly as the grand Architect designed it.

Jesus came for just such a time as this, to give us unspeakable joy and to share in our inconceivable sadness. His name is Emanuel, God with us. He is the Comforter, the Sustainer and Provider, the Friend of sinners, the Way to the Father, the open Door to forgiveness and freedom, the Wisdom and Power of God.

He is Wonderful. Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end of it all. Period.

Who else offers this kind of relationship, who invites us to cast our burdens upon Himself, who bore our sins – all of our sins – on a cross and rose from the dead to assure us of an eternal home in the Heavens?

The circumstances of our lives do not dictate the celebration of Christmas. If we are expecting the picture-perfect magazine layout, where everything and everyone looks great, to be our holiday experience, we will be disappointed every single time.

But if we are looking for a Baby in a manger, a Child who embodies the very presence of Almighty God, we will find Him. He came to be one of us. He invites us to come to the celebration of real life.

There is cause for celebration this December. It is Jesus. 

The tinsel and lights may droop. The presents under the tree might be scarce. The family get-together could be somewhat dysfunctional. The cookies might burn in the oven. The hospital corridor may be familiar ground. There may be the sound a funeral song in the distance.

Do not be dismayed. Do not fear. Do not lose hope. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord.

He is the reason for this season of celebration. Let us rejoice with exceeding great joy!

nativity-vectorimage from freevector.com

Dealing with our grief

I’m reminiscing today, thinking back, remembering.

It was a year ago this very day when we took our Little Dog to the vet. After the shot, Little Dog quietly died in my arms. I remember the rain reflecting my tears, the heartbreak I felt at placing our beloved companion of 13 years into the earth.

I’ve passed that little grave and its marker at the corner of our yard countless times as I’ve walked my quiet lane. A small tree grows there now as a memorial to a faithful little friend.

Now Maisie lies beside me in the early mornings as I sit in my rocker for some quiet time with the Father. She is so different from Little Dog, in size and color, in personality and demeanor. They are not alike at all, yet both have places in my heart.

Reading a book recently, I remembered other losses as the author wrote about her miscarriages.

I dealt with that grief twice. Those many years ago there wasn’t much written about it as I recall. My experience in the hospital at the first miscarriage was made more emotionally painful because I had to share a room with a new mother whose baby was brought into the room regularly. The curtain was pulled between us, but when I heard those infant noises and my arms were empty, I thought I was going to die right there at that very moment.

Procedures had changed by the second miscarriage, and I was placed in a different section from the new moms. Thankfully, someone realized women were dealing with a death to be grieved, that is was not just a medical procedure.

Today I am thinking of a young friend who is facing the one year anniversary of her mother’s untimely death. I can identify with her, recalling the first holidays, birthdays and family events where my mother was strikingly absent. My friend’s grief is still in process.

In some ways mine is too.

We sustain other losses like losing a job or a friendship that ends suddenly. When our health fails or disease threatens, life changes dramatically. When my family who lived in the house next door pulled out of their driveway on a September morning in a big yellow moving truck, the loss was almost more than I could bear.  That loss resurfaces often, especially when we say our good-byes after time together.

Grieving is a process. It takes time. It has its stages but it is not orderly. Sometimes those stages circle and repeat. They may swirl and come back to slap you in the face when you thought you were done with that one.

Tears well up unexpectedly at a thought of someone we miss and long for. The flood of memory and emotion can surprise us.

One person’s grief can’t be compared to another’s. We each have our way of working through it. It is a road we travel alone in some ways. While we can share our experiences and grieve with those who grieve, each person deals individually with their own emotions and pain.

Hopefully, eventually, we come to a place of acceptance and healing.

Having endured many losses of one kind and another, I’m not sure we ever “get over” them. We move on. We learn different ways of doing life. We call it our new normal. But we don’t forget what it was like before.

The open wound closes but the scar is a mark of our heartache.

We remember. At the remembering we cry and we smile. When we can talk about the experience and the one who is gone, we relive the joy of having loved, even through we have lost.

I read Revelation chapter 21 and see the picture it paints of a day when there will be not more death, no more pain, no more crying. God himself will wipe away the tears from our eyes. And He will dwell with us in a way we only faintly understand now.

God will make all things new.

I look forward to that. In the meantime, I find comfort in knowing the truth, that while we suffer here, God does not waste our suffering. He comforts. He restores. He brings beauty out of ashes and gives joy to replace sadness.

Death reminds us that we are not in Eden any more, the garden of perfection God planted. And somehow we know it is not the way it was supposed to be.

We grieve but not without hope. We hope in God who promises a new order of things.

And so we wait, expectantly, for that day.

Sunrise by MaRanda Green

Photo by MaRanda Houston Green

 

Sunday grace

Oh death where is your victory?

grave stone

Sad stories have grieved me this week. A life that seems too young was cut short. A husband whose age is too close for comfort received a dark diagnoses. A woman we visited less than a week ago, who smiled and talked about getting stronger, is suddenly gone.

Life is uncertain and death is appointed for everyone. The grave stings our hearts as we lay loved ones in the ground.

But for those in Christ Jesus, swimming in the rivers of His grace, death leads to life as surely as night gives way to day. And none of us left wiping away tears can even fathom the glory.

Eyes have not beheld it.  Ears have not heard the full story.  The full beauty and mystery of Heaven cannot be imagined.

We see through a darkened glass. A veil masks our vision. The unknown remains unknown until the day of our departure arrives. We wonder while we wait.

But we wait with hope. We anticipate our faith becoming sight. Tears will be wiped away. Pain will be erased. The Presence will be the light we crave. And we shall see Him as He is.

Jesus’ face will satisfy our questions. And it will be enough.

Sunday grace.

Sunset in Destin

 

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