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Sunday grace

Very early in the morning while it is yet dark, I rise, remembering the words penned about  Mary. She made her heartbroken way to a garden expecting to offer the spices of death.

Instead, she was first to receive the hallelujah message and went to proclaim it with a glad and believing heart.

“I have seen the Lord!” she said.

When I was a small child, mother bought new clothes for me to wear on Easter morning, from socks and shoes to underwear and slip. Dress, hat and gloves were spanking and sparkling fresh. I was new from the hide out.

Today,  I reach for a skirt and top that’s been hanging in my closet for years. I add a purple sweater since it is a springy Easter-like color. I put on my mother’s vintage wind-up watch and the earrings my eldest granddaughter made for me when she was a child. I reach for two bracelets, gifts from good friends, adding the one that says “forgiven” and another with golden charms attached, words written on circles, “Messiah,” “King,” “Merciful,” “Jesus.”

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I’m not new from the hide out, but I am new from within, a new creation through Jesus.

What other philosophy, religious regulations, treatment plan, or heart surgery can make someone new? In the dark of a hidden meeting Nicodemus faltered at the idea of re-entering his mother’s womb to be reborn.

It was and is what Jesus offers to those who can believe He is who He says He is – Lamb of God, the Promised One, Redeemer, Mediator of a better covenant, intercessory Great High Priest.

No longer called a sinner, I am proclaimed saint, clothed in the righteousness of the One who is worthy of the title of Savior.

I once walked in darkness, but now I am in the light.

I once was lost, but now I am found.

I once wore the stained garments of my own sin, but now I am clean.

And like Mary, I proclaim, “I’ve seen the Lord!” He is alive forevermore.

Alleluia!

Sunday grace.

 

 

 

 

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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

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 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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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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Sunday grace

It’s not always been so, but these days I love getting up very early in the morning, while it is yet dark.

I listen for the first bird song in the spring that ushers in the full avian chorus.  I check the eastern horizon for the light of a new day.  It is quiet, before the world wakes, and I think of Mary on that one Sunday morning when she came looking for the body of her Lord and instead found an empty tomb.

What must it have been like for her in that first moment of realization.  Jesus was not there!

Go with me this morning to a place near Jerusalem.  Put yourself in Mary’s place.  Experience the revelation anew.

My friend, Debbie Moore, takes us there.

The sun skipped through the garden as a gentle breeze danced with spring blossoms weaving a canopy of pink lace overhead. As my turn came to enter the Garden Tomb, a wonder filled my heart no words could convey.

How many times had I tried to picture this very scene as a bonneted child seated on our family pew each Easter? I could never quite grasp how the stone had mysteriously been rolled away and the dark tomb emptied of the body of Jesus who had been so lovingly cradled within.

At this moment, though, the dampness and still air walked with me as I peered into the small section where my Savior’s body would have been placed. I closed my eyes and pictured the angels lingering at the doorway, the neatly folded burial cloth that promised His return, and the whisper of Hope eternal at His exit. I suddenly realized I had not taken a breath since entering the tomb.

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The Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

As other tourists took my place, I stole one last glance at the empty tomb and my heart seemed to burst with a Hallelujah Chorus all of its own.

We concluded our tour in the Garden with the observance of the Lord’s Supper.  Our guide read the Easter story in the backdrop of a capella hymns being lifted heavenward from groups of fellow sojourners nearby. Oh, what a glorious day!

Would that we could celebrate Easter in our hearts so vividly each and every day this Holy season as we prepare our hearts to receive again the Passion of our Christ.  How can we ever express our deep gratitude for His ultimate Gift of Love?

Let us consider a reverent observance in silence and wonder at the most precious of sacrifices the world will ever know. Reflect on His boundless love overflowing with tender mercies and hide them in your heart.

Do not look for the living among the dead. He is alive!

 

Sunday grace.  He lives!