Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What the palms lead to . . .

I told my class, "We'll be placing palm branches on the altar next Sunday."

“What is an altar?” one little fellow asked.

I forget if you haven’t been on the planet very long or are not indoctrinated into church talk, some words don’t make sense.

“Field trip,” I said.

We left our seats and trekked out to the sanctuary. I stood in front of the communion rail and altar table with the cross and talked about how we prayed before it. As I spoke, I wondered if these small children with their concrete thinking were ready to hear about all the details of sacrifice, which is much of what the altar is about.

The altar used to be the place where animal sacrifices were made for the sins of the people, but one Friday over two thousand years ago, God provided the sacrifice of all sacrifices, his own Son, to atone for our sins.

When we put those branches down this past Sunday, we were paving the way for what comes next just as the frond-waving crowd did when Jesus entered the city long ago. What came next was the last thing anyone expected. After the jubilant palms came the hard sacrifice.

As we move through Holy Week, we remember what He did. We remember we have what we have because Jesus gave what He gave his life for ours.

As we consider this, we almost certainly hear God calling us to sacrifice. The apostle Paul put it this way, “So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary lifeyour sleeping, eating, going-to-work , and walking-around lifeand place it before God as an offering” (Romans 12:1 The Message).

He laid down His life for us. Now we lay down our lives for Him.

This reminds me of a hymn we rarely sing anymore, but is probably in my top five, “O love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee. I give thee back the life I owe, that in thine ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.”

For the little fellow in my class and all those who wonder what an altar is for, that’s it. The altar is for sacrifice.

That’s what the palms lead to.

From the beginning of time, it was His sacrifice.
And now, hopefully, ours. 
We remember we have what we have because Jesus gave what He gave his life for ours. click to tweet

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If you plan on buying the book, it would be a huge blessing if you could purchase it during this presell period. My understanding is you won't be charged until it releases. HERE for presell.




Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Worry Less. Pray More.

As we whizzed down the road toward coastal Georgia, I turned around in my seat to look behind me.

“What are you doing?”Jerry asked from the driver’s seat.

“Reading a wayside pulpit.”

The adage on it hit me hard.

“Worry less. Pray more,” some pastor or church member had posted in front of their little building. It appeared not more than a few dozen might fit in their sanctuary, but I wondered the countless ones, like me they touched who were traveling the busy state highway in front of their building.

Such a simple truth.

Yet, how often what I do is the oppositeworry more, pray less.

I should probably have worry less, pray more tattooed on my forehead. Sadly, they’d probably offer me a senior discount. Irritating.

We might even shorten the thought to pray more or maybe one wordpray.

Pray, I tell myself when I drag out my list of concerns intending to ruminate over them. Again.  

Pray, when I worry about Jerry’s situation and whether he’s doing what he should to deal with his cardiac issues (If you missed the story from last week, HERE).

Pray, when something touches one of my children or grandchildren and my anxiety starts to rise.

Pray, when I wonder if I can get the right marketing off the ground for my new books. Like most writers, marketing is not in my wheelhouse, but so expected by publishers.

Pray, when the thoughts of a thousand tomorrows invade my brain, and how will things ever work out, anyway?

The Apostle Paul said it best in I Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray all the time.” (The Message).

Because here’s the thingif we’re praying all the time, there’s no time for worry. That’s the benchmark.

In an interview with Jerry Jenkins, Billy Graham told Jenkins the Bible instructs us to pray without ceasing and that’s what he did.

“I was stunned,” Jenkins wrote. “You pray without ceasing?”

“I do,” Graham said, “and I have every waking moment since I received Christ at age 16. I’m praying right now as I’m talking to you that everything I say will glorify Christ.”

So, if you were wondering what we should aim for, that’s it. If you’re like me, you’re a good ways off. We might even need a telescope to see the target. No problem. God meets us right where we are in this moment.

And in this moment, what we do is . . . Worry less. Pray more.



Tuesday, March 13, 2018

All the Matters of Our Hearts

We covered about half the  walk with our dog Lucy for the day when Jerry turned and spoke the words I hoped never to hear again. “I don’t want to alarm you, but I’m short of breath and feeling weird in my chest.”

With two stents in his heart after a heart attack thirteen years ago, we had been here before.

Jerry popped a nitroglycerine. I looked around me, and realized by God’s grace, we were right in front of a coach’s house at the school where Jerry is the football team chaplain. I knocked on the door. “Hi, Denny, Jerry is having breathing issues, and I need to leave him here while I go get the car.

“No problem,” he said. “But why don’t I just put him in my car?”

He carried Jerry home while I ran with Lucy back to the house. At home, we called his cardiologist who directed us to urgent care. After tests, they sent him by ambulance to the hospital.

At two in the morning, we received good news that blood tests revealed no heart attack and no heart damage.

Yet, something weird with the left bundle branch necessitated a heart catheterization.

After an hour praying while he was in the cath lab, the phone call came.
The right coronary artery ninety-nine percent occluded. This artery has a propensity to cause massive heart attacks, often fatal. A stent inserted into Jerry’s artery opened up the passageway so blood could once more bring nutrients to the heart.
So, here we are.

Saved. Saved. Saved.
Years ago, God rescued Jerry from a massive heart attack with potentially catastrophic damage, and now he has been delivered once more for the work God has for him.
These words from the prophet Isaiah seem especially poignant. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Isaiah 36:26).

An oxygen-deprived heart begins to die and that’s where my dear fellow was headed, but God has restored life.
My writer training tells me I need to offer you, my readers, a takeaway, not just share our experience. So here it is.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). As I have attempted to ponder what God has done from beginning to end in our circumstances, I am amazed at all the things that could have happened but didn’t.
We could have been anywhere but in front of the house of someone who could help us. Jerry could have again dismissed his rather minor symptoms as he had done a couple of days before when the same thing happened and he didn’t tell me. When we returned home, Jerry even wondered whether he should call the cardiologist. The list goes on.
God has indeed rescued this man from a time bomb of destruction.
Sometimes, we hear the ticking when something’s about to blow, other times we don’t. But I’m using one of my favorite Priscilla Shirer quotes again, “God is doing something right now for you that you can’t do for yourself.” Right now. God is at work. We don’t have to live in fear that these things are sneaking up on God. He knows. He sees. He cares.  
For you. For me. For us . . . and all the matters of our hearts. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

When you long for color

A snippet of conversation at church resonated with me.

“I really like your purse,” someone said about a friend's floral linen bag.

“Thanks. I changed because I was so tired of black.”

Yes, what she said.

So tired of black, and grey, and brown.

I’m at the point in the year, I’m ready to splash color anywhere I can. That’s coming from a woman who likes dark shades.

While shopping with my daughter recently, I picked up a pair of brightly colored slacks.

My daughter moved beside me. “No, Mom. No.”

She was right. My hind quarters would have looked like a big bubblegum ball in them, but that just goes to show how desperate I am even to consider such a thing.

The good news is spring is close. In parts around here, flowers are poking through the ground and flashing us with promise (Photos taken at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia).


This craving for color reminds me of a verse in Matthew which Eugene Peterson translates this way. “You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors of the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill” (The Message Matthew 5:14-15).

As we long for brightness when winter grows long, there is a spiritual longing for the colors only God can bring. He alone can ignite the riot of beauty our hearts ache for in this dimly lit world. If we have received him, we are to be the lights shining into dark places bringing out those “God-colors.”

At our church, we’re praying daily during Lent for God to show us who we can disciple . . . who we can help see the “God-colors.”

Winter is almost over. Hopefully not only in our gardens but also in many hearts. Would you join us in this prayer journey?

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