Sunday, April 29, 2012


I noticed you this morning as I passed by; you in your T-shirt and shorts,
Me hugging my open jacket across my chest.
I huffed out a short breath just to see the brief cloud of white exhaust,
Proving my assessment of the frigid temperature made more sense than yours.

I stopped and took note of your patterned colors as you alit on the tip of a new blossom.
You first caught my eye with your graceful flirting flutter.
I thanked God for your beauty and watched as you took flight.
Warmed by your wonder I walked on in the chilly breeze.

You may have thought I didn't see you as you stood stiffly still,
You and your partner, holding your breath until I had safely passed.
But, you forgot how boldly the crimson on your wings contrasts with the handsome black of the rest of you.
You have no camouflage, but you needed none with me.

Garage sale ad columns in the newspaper aren't blank anymore,
And ants make crazy traffic patterns on my kitchen floors and counters.
The weeds are popping up with their yearly threat to take over my garden,
Way before the garden center in town holds its grand opening for the season.

I've stolen a few sit-ins with you, Sun, trying to jumpstart a tan,
In spite of kite-condition gusts that make me shiver when the sun hides under a cloud.
My toe nails get a coat of color as the sandals come out of hibernation.
I may have to don that heavier sweater, but my pretty toes will sacrifice at the altar of fashion.

I love you, Spring, with your newness and promise of heat,
The comfortable air makes it easier to stop and gaze at the wonders of the outside,
But how you tease! One day making me take my coat off and the next
day sending me back into the house for socks and longer sleeves.

A harbinger of good things ahead, I celebrate you.
May your Creator spread newness and warmth into my soul.
You remind me that mourning is over;
It's time to rejoice!

Monday, April 23, 2012

The A La Carte Line

I'm borrowing a concept Tim Challies uses in his blog where he shares links to resources that have interested him and presents them to us as 'A la carte'.  Under word origin and history in Dictionary. com, a la carte means "ordered by separate items",  distinguished from a meal served at a fixed, inclusive price.  I'm sharing from the a la carte line of thoughts and readings that have influenced my life recently.  Here are some piecemeal servings I've been nibbling on.

Since I've already mentioned Challies, I liked this quote he blogged on April 15 by Charles Spurgeon, after Charles had just heard recorded sound for the first time. Charles uses the experience to share a gospel illustration.  "...I sat and listened, and I felt lost in the mystery. But what of all this? What can these instruments convey to us? But oh, to sit and listen to the gospel when your ears are really opened! Then you hear God himself at work; you hear Jesus speak: you hear his voice in suffering and in glory, and you rise up and say, “I never thought to have heard such strange things! Where have I been to be so long deaf to this? How could I neglect a gospel in which are locked up such wondrous treasures of wisdom and knowledge, such measureless depths of love and grace?” In the gospel of the Lord Jesus, God speaks into the ear of his child more music than all the harps of heaven can yield. I pray you, do not despise it. Be not such dull, driven cattle that, when God has set before you what angels desire to look into, you close your eyes to such glories, and pay attention to the miserable trifles of time and sense."  What angels desire to look into, I have! Lord, open my eyes to these glories more and more.  May time and sense be miserably deficient to me.

I continue to be blessed with the study of Revelation with my Community Bible Study group.  We've trodden heavy-footed through the sloughs of judgements;  seals, trumpets, and bowls of wrath.  Yet God's redemptive heart beats through it all, his love holding back complete destruction in one blow to gain yet one more 'whosoever' for the glory of living with him forever.  And now, our joy and wonder at the glories unfolding in the latter chapters.  New Jerusalem with colors of precious stones, a crystal river, the tree of life, lighted only and always with the Lord God. "No longer will there be any curse." Note to self, *think on such things!*

I battled desire to read the Word this week.  I had my study to delve into and I dutifully read the lesson, finding the answers.  Scholarly challenge is my thing, and I feel satisfied chewing on the insights and new knowlege I'm spooning out of the questions in the study.  But the Holy Spirit was patiently calling me into times of reading where there was no goal other than listening for His voice and encountering the Author's heart's intent towards me in that moment.  As I yielded to one of those promptings I heard my mother's voice quoting Ps 119:18, "Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law."  God will honor such a prayer; my anticipation quickened.  Lord, thank you for your unchanging Word of Life and the changing it brings to my mind and my attitudes.  Thank you, too, for a Godly heritage and a mother who sat at your feet figuratively, while here, and now, literally in your presence. 

On Sunday the pastor shared thoughts on prayer.  He highlighted the phrase in the Lord's prayer that says, 'your will be done on earth as it is in heaven'.  This is how Christ teaches us to pray.  We can so intimately know the Father that we can pray His will into any situation.  We can influence his Father's heart to act on our behalf, not for self, but to see him glorified and to work with him for Kingdom results.  I have so much to learn, Daddy.  I want to pray like this. Teach me.

Henry Nouwen spoke to my fragileness, through an article he wrote in radix magazine.  He travels widely and sees a common human condition: we all struggle with strong needs.  These needs are for attention, being noticed, to be cared for.  They come from woundedness, which we've all experienced.  We grope for that sense of belonging that dangles just out of our reach.  As we realize the way wounds and needs are networked together and our entanglement in them, what should be our response?  How should we live?
Jesus asks us to make our home in him.  It's our home, our place to belong, a place where we are loved first.  We need to come home, move in fully, unpack the baggage, and settle in to stay.  Jesus said we do not belong to this world.  Therefore he is sending us into the world as the Father sent Jesus into this world. Because we have a home in the Lord, we can be in this place of needs and wounds without being destoyed.  We can go home for comfort, healing, and affirmation, finding total love and acceptance.  Love on me, Jesus.  I need you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Held by Hope

Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.  Heb. 11:1

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him...  Job 13:15

You may remember a blog entry I posted last spring about the accidental death of Karlee, a young girl whose family attends our church.  This past Sunday her father shared what life has been like for them since the accident.  He referenced the above two scriptures several times, quoting them by memory. He likened their darkest day of losing Karlee to feeling as though God had slayed them.  Every night he had prayed protection over his children and believed that God had good plans for them; plans to prosper them and not to harm them.  The accident felt like a monstrous betrayal.

But this heart-broken father stood before us and assured us that they, like Job, still hoped in God: the God who they had known as consistently good, faithful and loving.  They lived in the reality of faith that hoped in the things unseen, despite what their physical senses were experiencing, despite the enemy's roaring taunts and doubts-"did God really say...?"

This unseen reality believed Karlee was now protected by the perfect Father and that she was experiencing joy and delight beyond anything they could have hoped for her here on earth.  What a powerful illustration of the Hope we as believers possess in Christ!

Our pastor continued the service with his meditation on the Hope of heaven.  His main points included focusing on our future home with excitement, allowing suffering and injustice to make our faith stronger, and making whatever sacrifices we need to make in this life to gain the glory God will give us later.  And seeing Jesus our Savior will be worth it ALL.

He used the illustration of being guests for dinner and having the hostess clear away the first course and say, 'Keep your forks', meaning forks will be needed for eating the dessert to be served next.  Keeping your forks meant there was more to come, the sweetest part was yet to come.  God is saying to us, similarly, 'Keep your forks; keep the faith.  The best is yet ahead'!

(The pastor had stated earlier that heaven is reality, not some 'pie in the sky', as the saying goes.  As he shared about keeping forks, I had to think maybe he was contradicting himself about there not being pie.  Isn't it fun to see humor, even during the sermon?)

He ended with this verse from Colossians 1:5 from the Message Bible:
"The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by HOPE". 

May your Hope and Faith be encouraged today and during this week.  Christ is there, in heaven, now preparing a place for us.  We have a glorious future to look forward to!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Does Easter Have to Include Violence?

As believers, we understand the story of Easter to include the necessary sacrificial death of our Lord Jesus Christ; a barbaric, torturous death.  There are some today who are concerned that sharing such violence with children, particularly, is not good.  They would minimize his death, or at least not mention how he was crucified.  I admit, these influences effected my thoughts as I shared this story with my grandchildren a few days ago, even more so than when I taught my children this message a few decades ago.

How do we explain that our God suffered and died in this fashion, and yet he is loving and good and we want our image of Him to be sweet and gentle?  Emphasizing the incredible good news of resurrection Easter morning, brings the story to a satisfying end.  I understand how he conquered death and bought my pardon and redeemed all those who believe in Him.  But why share the gore and blood?

I read an interesting article in a column of our local paper by Melodie Davis.  I include the link at the end of this post.  She shares a practice of old shepherding communities where blood becomes a symbol of adoption:

The shepherd would find newborn lambs lying besides ewes who had died during the night, and other ewes silently sitting with a stillborn lamb.  The orphan would die without nourishment and the childless ewe would die of a broken heart.  So why not put the orphan with the mother who was mourning?  The two do not accept each other.  The shepherd would then, slit the throat of the dead lamb and wash the orphan in its blood and then the living mother would recognize it as her own and allow it to feed.

This is a great picture of how Jesus' blood covers me, an orphan in need of adoption, a sinful orphan who God can now accept because of Jesus' blood.  I don't understand why God chose this way to bring us forgiveness and communion with him, but I know the story cannot be told without realizing Christ's death, freely given up to fulfill the Father's plan.  I am glad I have this wonderful story to tell my grandchildren and I don't want them to miss any of it's significance.  May God build on this firm foundation in their lives, and may they come to know the God who would give his very life because he loves them so much.

"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.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
All other ground is sinking sand."

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Later Understanding-Prelude to the Holy Week

Three jars took up residence atop my bedroom dresser soon after I first started earning money as a child. One was labeled Savings, another Spending and the third Tithes. A percentage of every dollar grossed found a home in one of those jars. I lamented how a lone dollar yielded so little spending power after what I considered such severe dissection. I wish I had a fantastic story about how I filled that Savings jar by the sweat of my brow and exemplary discipline and then purchased some coveted treasure. But I only remember dutifully counting out the right change into the right jar, never removing the savings, taking the tithes to Sunday School and buying Sugar Daddies, popsicles, and jaw breakers at the corner store up the street. What I did then I would understand later. With time I came to appreciate the lesson of money management and my jar trio tutor.

This week we will likely focus on practices and sacraments of our faith; some of them newly instituted by Christ during the holy week prior to his death. Jesus knew the disciples would not fully understand the meaning behind the actions of washing feet and taking the cup and bread as his body and blood. But he also knew the significance would kick in later when his physical presence was gone and they would need reminders of what he had given them and how he had fulfilled the Father’s will and plan.

As present day believers we have the advantage of time perspective and can read the story of Jesus from beginning to end. But yet I think Christ is saying again today, that what he does now we will understand later. I Cor 13: 12 says,
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known”.

We know some about the significance and sacrificial love of our Lord in observing faith practices like communion or baptism, but as we partake in the elements of this season let’s anticipate and ask him for ‘later’ understanding, also.