Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Greetings

 
 
Happy Easter!
 
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb  and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
 
 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:1-7).
 
 
 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me
will never die (John 11:25).
 
We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:4).










Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday: From the Garden of Gethsemane to the Garden Tomb




Photos courtesy my husband, Jerry, from a recent trip to Israel.
 
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Luke 22:39-42).
 






"...he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.  Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:41-42).

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22:47-48).

 
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified (Matthew 27:24-26).




 
 




 
 
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross.  They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”)(Matthew 27: 32).
 
 
 
There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it.  When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.  And sitting down, they kept watch over him there.  Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS (Matthew 27: 33-37).

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”  A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips.  When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit (John 19:28-30).
 
 
 

Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs. At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there (John 19:38-40).




The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment (Luke 23:55-56).

 
He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away (Matthew 28:60).
 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ten Most Wanted and Holy Week


For forty days this Lent, I’ve joined with a group of believers who are trying to pray daily for ten people we want to see accept Jesus as Savior.

We’re using the Most Wanted Devotional written by Dr. Terry Tekyl. According to one source, “Since 1980, Dr. Teykl has been actively teaching and preaching on one topic – mobilizing the local church to pray and win the lost. Whether writing on personal prayer or corporate prayer, the central purpose is to teach people to pray with power and confidence so that they might win this generation to Christ.


I’ve heard Dr. Tekyl preach many times, and his inspiring words always motivate me to pray harder for those who do not know Jesus.
 
 
The Most Wanted devotional was not originally Dr. Tekyl’s idea, but inspired by a woman he met at a ministry event. A piece of paper fell out of her Bible, and he learned it was her “Most Wanted” list, which she’d kept for years. When one of the people on her list came to know the Lord, she’d mark that name off, and replace it with another name.
 

From this experience, Dr. Tekyl developed a prayer resource to help others pray over their own Most Wanted.
 

Over the last few weeks, I’ve not seen anything happen with my eyes for these people on my list, but by faith, I believe God is moving. 




On this Maundy Thursday, we remember the washing of the feet, the Last Supper, and the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. All of this, everything that happened is part of the greater picture of what God was doing described in John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
 

In 2 Peter 3:8, we find these words, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8).
 

God’s heart is that no one should perish. To that end, he gave His only son.
 

Yet, like the nodding disciples, we believers often find ourselves drifting away, caught up in the drowsy anesthesia of the world, too sleepy to pray for those who do not know the Lord.
 

Lest you think I’m getting a bit judgmental, let me go ahead and admit I have nodded with the best of them. No stones coming from this direction.
 

But, here’s the thing: we’re God’s plan A for reaching the world. There is no plan B. Jesus left us with the assignment.
 

There you have it, so, if just one thing changes in our lives this Holy Week, let it be that we allow God to impassion our hearts for others who have not found life in Christ.
 

And if you’re reading this and do not know Jesus as Lord and Savior, today is a great day to make that commitment. For information on how to begin that journey you may go HERE.

 Related: Maundy Thursday

Sorry about the crazy font stuff. After many tries, I couldn't seem to resolve it. Oh, to be more techno savvy.
 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wilbur the cat, Elmer's glue, cracked pots and what they have to do with Holy Week


Wilbur the cat, aka “The Menace,” did it again.

While I spoke to my sister on the phone, Wilbur flew from a table to a sofa, hitting a shelf while airborne and knocked off a pottery piece I’ve had for years. It’s a handmade slab construction cup bearing a lovely glaze with rabbits stamped into the surface, probably given to me for some occasion now forgotten. Like a toddler, Wilbur amps up his antics while I’m talking on the phone to get my attention, as if he doesn’t have it any time he wants it.

So when my sister heard the squeal on the other end of the line, she in kindness tried to console me. “You can glue it back together.”

I didn’t want to glue it back together, because with Wilbur around, I tire of puzzling over pottery bits. What came to mind was a story about a friend’s mom who’d raised several rambunctious kids, and one day she went through the house, gathered all the glued back together things, and threw them away. I guess she’d had enough of Elmer’s glue holding her life together and figured she’d rather have nothing at all than so many fragmented pieces. My friend remembers her mother often saying while shopping, “We used to have one of those.”

So, I, too collected the pottery shards (there were six) and deposited them in the kitchen trash.

And that was it.

But, later, I started thinking about the glaze and how I’d rarely seen that color used on pottery. I reflected on the embossed bunnies and how much I’d enjoyed them through the years. So, several hours later, I found myself digging in the kitchen trash for all the tiny pieces.
 
I’d like to say for the record that it was a particularly gross trash day. But, after finding, sterilizing, and accounting for all of the parts, I retrieved the Elmer’s glue.

Somehow, I managed to assimilate the pieces into a shape that mostly bears the image of the original cup. Of course, it will never hold water, but I don’t think it ever did--just pencils or dried flowers.






 Another motive for the repair job is I have a soft spot in my heart for broken vessels, because I am one. I bear the scars of having been shattered. I’ve always loved the title of Patsy Clairmont’s book, God Uses Cracked Pots. Where would we be if He didn’t?
 
Decades ago, God picked me up out of the ruin I made of my own life, and lovingly began to restore me. He's still working on me, and I'm not nearly where I need to be, but you'd have to know where I came from to truly appreciate God's handiwork.

As we move ever closer towards Good Friday, Isaiah’s words once more roll in my head.

But it was our sins that did that to him (Jesus),
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed (Isaiah 53:5 The Message).

Through what Jesus suffered on the Cross, God restores our fractured lives, and not to anything they’ve ever been before, but to something more wonderful than we ever dreamed.

So often, we only focus on the striations of cracks and fissures, and we fail to step back and see how God is using them all to create a bigger picture—a better picture.

Though my cup may never hold water again, God’s work stands the test. To borrow a phrase from Ernest Hemingway, we become, “…strong at the broken places,” often stronger than we were before.

I’m glad God does not tire over repairing our damaged vessels as I do over the ones Wilbur leaves behind. God's persistence in the restoration of our lives gives us one more reason to offer Him our gratitute.

 On this Wednesday of Holy Week, we thank God for Calvary and His restorative touch in all our broken places.
 
Related: Thoughts on Suffering for Wednesday of Holy Week

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Scooch Closer


 
 
As the children brought the palms in on Sunday to strains of, “Hosanna, Loud,Hosanna,” I think almost everyone present wanted to stay with the poignancy of the moment. Precious to see the little ones waving the approach of Jesus, and yet at the same time, we know what happens later.

The palm branches of victory give way to betrayal, bloody thorns, and piercing nails as we fall headlong into the events which lead to the crucifixion.

It’s almost as if we hold our breath as we see the Via Dolorosa coming into view. The conflict makes me want to pull away and draw close all at the same time.

Yet, this is why he came—to walk this very road—to die this death.

Holy Week is a good time to ponder these things, and as we do, it’s a time to draw even closer to the Lord.

When I was growing up, in my part of the South, we used to say something like, “Scooch over next to me,” which meant we wanted someone to slide really close. I thought we had dibs on the word, scooch, until I researched it a bit, and found that even folks in Northern climes use it.

Though probably slang, scooch is included in several credible dictionaries.

Even Anne Lamott uses it in Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith, though she changes the spelling, “I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kind of things. Also, that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in the silence, in the dark.”

So, her meaning’s a bit different here, but still, she uses it.

James 4:8 proclaims, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” Of course, the sentence that follows that one says, “Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James points out, in order to draw close, we have to repent of the things that separate us from God. So, let’s do it. Let’s cast off everything that would keep us from the intimacy with God that we seek.

I’ll be pondering here more often this week as we move toward Easter. Meanwhile, let’s scooch closer to Jesus than we’ve ever been before.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If You're In a Tight Spot


My sister’s family adopted two puppies, now about six weeks old. Their mama is a border collie, while their daddy is believed to be a St. Bernard.

Lizzie

 

And Sophie.
 

We puppy sat for them a few hours and all my husband, Jerry, could say was, “Look at the size of those paws.”

He’s right. They’re going to be big girls. Lizzie found the cat door at my sister’s house, and though the picture is a bit blurry, I think you can see she won’t fit through it for long.
 

Years ago, before our most recent feline additions, we had a dog door. Now closed, we miss the easy access it gave us when we forgot our keys. Every member of the family has been through it several times. The last time I crawled through the door, I determined if I had weighed even one more ounce, we might have had to call the fire department to get me out. I guess it’s just as well that it’s closed up now.

I know what it’s like to be in a tight spot, and not just because I’ve squeezed through a dog door.

Sometimes, God allows us to go through situations where there doesn’t seem to be much wiggle room.

The apostle Paul called himself “a prisoner of Christ Jesus” in Philemon. I just shared these verses from Paul with a group a few days ago, “We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken”(2Corinthians 4 The Message).

Paul knew what it was like to be in a tight spot, too. He met his death while imprisoned in Rome, but not before he’d written his prison letters:  Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. In all, he wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven books, which later became canonized in the New Testament. Echoing from the small confines of a first century Roman prison cell, God speaks to us through Paul’s words to encourage, exhort, instruct, and correct us today.

God used Paul’s incarceration to do something extraordinary.

When we allow God to speak to us through and in our circumstances, we open a way to turn any confinement into a broad land.

Someone once paraphrased Harriet Beecher Stowe this way, "When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn."

So, hang on to Jesus, and know He’s with you in any tight spot.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Mystery on the Wing





 With spring rustling in the air, new visitors have been showing up daily to the bird feeder proving to be a distraction for the woman inside pecking away at the computer. And let me tell you, she has looked for any reason to be distracted.

I’m coming to the end of another screenplay. For several reasons I’m not at liberty to share just now, I wrote this story outside my usual genre. It's a mystery. I now possess new admiration for all mystery writers, because I’ve had a brain cramp for going on three months. There’ve been several times I’ve been tempted to hit the delete button on the whole file. With all the twists and turns, clues and red herrings, I’ve been afraid I was going to lead my protagonist right over a literary cliff. Thankfully, here near the end, she has lived to see another day, but barely.

When my new birds showed up, I considered it my ornithological duty to find out who they were. So what if it took a few hours with my nose in a field guide.
 
 
I recognized a goldfinch, and identified a pine warbler from  the Cornell site.
However, there remained one bird I couldn’t seem to place. Shades of warblers in the fall. I even brought my son who’s studying to be a wildlife biologist into the search.

“We’re studying raptors, not songbirds right now,” he said when I showed him a picture my mystery bird.

No help.

While taking a break from the screenplay, I found myself ensnared in an entirely different kind of mystery. More brain camp as I poured over page after page of the field guide comparing females and males, spring plumage against winter plumage.

And then the unthinkable happened.

I came home to find one of my unidentified birds struck down in the prime of life dead on my welcome mat--a gift from the formerly feral Mama Kitty.

It took me most of an afternoon to get over.

“Why do cats do that?” I complained to my son while the now docile Mama Kitty napped on the sofa in my office.

He stroked her.  “She likes you, so she’s bringing you meat offerings. On, the brighter side, you can look more closely at the bird now to find out what it is.”

He’s spent a good portion of this last year in his professional program to be a wildlife biologist looking at animal skin and scat.

Oh, deliver me. I’ve known artists who keep dead animals in their freezers so they’re always accessible for reference. Not happening here.

Thankfully, another of the birds showed up at the feeder. I think it’s a pine siskin. I’m not an expert, but that’s what I’m going with.
 
 

Back to the mystery story now, to untangle a few word snarls. But it’s almost spring, and I don’t want to miss anything great in the backyard, so I’m staying open for more distractions.

Here's hoping it's not a mystery to Mama Kitty  that I can get my own meat.

“…He breathes on winter—suddenly it’s spring” (Psalm 147:18 The Message).

Thursday, March 7, 2013

If you're running a quart low


 
As we finished Beth Moore’s ten-week Bible study on James, Mercy Triumphs, many messages continue to resonate, but one in particular has to do with patience.

In chapter 5, verse 7, James writes, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming.

Some folks seem by nature to have a fuller tank when it comes to patience. Then there are those who continually run about a quart low. I see myself leaning more in the quart low direction…ready for God to fulfill all his promises today.

Moore writes, “…the point is not just getting us into our proverbial lands of promise where we bear much fruit. The point is developing the spiritual muscle on our way so once we receive it; we are strong enough to keep it. The hardest part of possessing the land is defending it…Nothing in the visible realm is a greater reality than the unseen battle raging over our heads.”

I’ve heard those just starting their spiritual journey say, “I want to be like (insert name of well known teacher/preacher).” And they want it right away. Yet, none of us can ever be like anyone else, nor should we be. If we were to look at the cost those well known teacher/preachers paid along the way to get where they are, most would reevaluate their objectives.

“Be patient….”

If all were given us right now, the wheels would soon come off, and the doors would break from the hinges. God knows when we’re ready. He alone knows when it’s time.

Oswald Chambers writes, “Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says – ‘I cannot stand any more.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. For what have you need of patience just now? Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him.’"

The apostle Paul wrote, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

Let’s ask God to help us press on, making us patient in the process even through stretching and straining, strengthened to hold on to all God gives us.

Friday, March 1, 2013

One thing that's really impossible


Why is it when we single-mindedly set our hearts on giving, we come away feeling as if we’ve only received?

I spent a recent weekend in ministry with a group of folks in a town nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains.





 

Arriving a little nervous and shaky because of the tasks before me, I found God already there. So, mostly what I tried to do was just stay out of His way, so He could do what only He does.

I found myself endeared to people I’d only known for hours, because when we are in Christ, we are family. We can share deeply from our hearts because we trust the relationship in Him.

When we part, it’s like saying goodbye to those we’ve known for years. But the good news is that we shall meet again, perhaps not in this world, but someday. Instead of feeling tired, I felt energized.

So, I’m back to the economy of things. How is it that in pouring out, we only have the sense of being filled up?

I grew up in a little town, which prospered during the middle part of the last century in part due to the work of R. G. Letourneau who was often dubbed, “God’s businessman.” He manufactured earth-moving equipment and built a plant in my hometown in 1938. As the nation moved into the Second World War, according to sources, Letourneau’s factories supplied 70% of the earth moving equipment used during the war.

It’s reported that, “As a multi-millionaire, Letourneau gave 90% of his profit to God's work and kept only 10% for himself…Letourneau said that the money came in faster than he could give it away. Letourneau was convinced he could not out-give God. ‘I shovel it out,’ he would say, ‘and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel.’”

Letourneau’s legacy in my hometown is not just in the financial realm, but his spiritual legacy continues to this day with many works he had a part in still flourishing decades later.

You see, what is true in the physical is also true in the spiritual. When we shovel out, God shovels back in an even bigger way.

In Luke 6:38, Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

We never give to get, but the principle stands that it's impossible to outgive God.

This week, I’ve been living in a sort of afterglow of all God did over the weekend, and as earlier followers of Jesus did, I’ve “rehearsed all that God” accomplished. Came right home and started preparing for the next opportunity to minister in Jesus’ name.

If you want to know more about about R. G. Letourneau you may go here.

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