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Good Night, Sweet Prince

17155323_10212514174588571_3581718803438938048_nSince my kids were very young, we have always had pets in the house. A dog, 4 cats, 4 guinea pigs, gerbils, chameleons and fish. A lot of fur, a lot of pine bedding, and I could have done without the weekly purchase of crickets. But they learned compassion in caring for another living creature. It was so worth it all to see my kids playing with the dog or snuggling with a cat. Over the years we have had to say goodbye to them all and each goodbye brought the tears of grief that spring from a heart that has loved much.

Today we said our goodbyes to our last fur baby – a 14 year old grey and white cat 20170414_094941named Smokey (whom I came to call “the Prince”). He was your run of the mill domestic short hair cat but he had the softest fur you can imagine. He was very shy when all the other animals were around but as each one slipped away we would see Smokey’s personality change and he would become more outgoing. He spent the last 18 months of his life as an only fur baby and during that time he was the most affectionate sweetie you could imagine. It turns out that he was one of those animals who do not like to share their people and he should have been an “only cat” all along. I am so grateful that we got to see his true personality come out in his senior years.16473075_10212257314687234_3889801842831162922_n

Today, as I mourn the loss of a beloved family pet, I cannot help but think of the church service that I will be going to later this evening to contemplate the death of my Savior. And out of that death – new life.

 

 

Out of sacrifice – another chance for us all.

Out of pain and sorrow – the sweetness of promised salvation.

Today, I mourn. But in three days…….

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Follow Me

Palm Sunday reflections

“Come, follow me”, Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:19

fishermenPeter and his brother Andrew dropped their nets and followed the man they considered a prophet and came to know as Messiah.

They followed as He traveled and preached, healed and taught. They listened as they follow Jesusfollowed and learned many things about a Heavenly kingdom that was promised them. They watched as they followed and saw the storms calmed, thousands fed, blind eyes opened and weakened legs regain strength. They followed as the dead were raised to life. They followed for a joyous parade into the city, a tender Passover dinner, a late night walk singing hymns and into a quiet garden for prayer.

They continued to follow, although from a distance, through arrest, a trial, the final sentencing and death.

Did they think that their following days were over? Had they been left adrift and on their own?

Fear, shock, grief ….then three days later…. surprise, joy, the Master had returned!

In His final private instructions to Peter Jesus repeatedly asks Peter if he loves him. Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus then repeats what had been said three years earlier:

follow“Follow Me!”

John 21:19b

Jesus lays out his final instructions – Peter must follow with love for anything else will fail him.

Two thousand years later we are still called to follow from the day we make that first commitment to the day we leave this earth.

Following, loving, watching and listening to the One who calls us –“Follow Me!”follow 2

 

 


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Step Boldly

I’ve been doing some research about the German pastor/author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a courageous man who lived during a very dark time in history. His resistance to the Nazi party in Germany during WWII eventually led to his execution just weeks before the war ended. As I leafed through his writings, I found this quote,

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“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin, than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Those words got me thinking. The Old Testament is all about following the rules. God lays out the Ten Commandments and tells his people to obey. Today, I think most Christians will tell you (myself included) that we are grateful that the Lord spelled it out so completely for us in Exodus 20. It’s a much needed roadmap to help us avoid all the pitfalls of this world. By the time that Jesus shows up in the New Testament, mankind is ready for the next step.

Jesus replied: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

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This is really the same as the first commandment in Exodus 20:3. Jesus is quoting directly from both Deuteronomy and Leviticus but his words reach beyond telling us what not to do and tell us how to “do”. He tells us to love. That verb “love” resonates through all of Jesus’ teachings.

“Love one another”

“love your neighbor”

“love as I do”

It takes us from how to avoid sin and jumps into how to live lovingly. It shows us the steps from “do not” to “do”.

Anyone who has experienced love can tell you it is not easy. It can be messy, painful, exasperating, joyous, uplifting and turn your world upside down crazy. It is the most difficult command to follow because it encompasses all the other commands. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer was able to cut right through that and instead of cautioning us to watch our steps, he is encouraging us to step boldly.

In both the Old and New Testament we find that God never stopped at just listing the things that we shouldn’t do. God has always instructed, admonished and often has to push us into action. Following Christ has always been more about what you do than the things that you don’t do.

 

 

I’ll just leave you with this favorite verse of mine:

He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Micah 6 8

 

 

 

 

 


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To Be Led by You

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It’s a simple prayer really

I’m not asking for power or wealth

Not even asking for wisdom or health

Just asking to be led by You

 

Of all the things that I think I need

I just need to ask for eyes that can see

And hands and feet to follow faithfully

And just let me by led by You

 

I wish I could live in a world at peace

But I can’t even find peace in my heart

Feeling in need of a little head start

In just being led by You

 

Maybe I just take a single stepp1010195

then someone else comes along

We’re walking your path and humming your song

Just learning to be led by You

 

There are those days when I dare to think bigger

I ask that the guns be laid down

I ask that a cure for pain be found

I just want to be led by You

 

Those are the days that I realizep1010205

War will not stop because of a president’s hand

An executive order won’t heal the land

But only when we let ourselves by led by You

 

So, today here’s what I’ll pray

Lord, take my anger and pride and fear

those things that get in the way and hold me here

And I cannot be led by You

 

Take me from valleys shadowed by doubts

And take me to a shining hilltop place

Where I can run through rivers of grace

And only then be led by You

 

Just let me be led by You.

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a fair question

5096_1197313732195_1677986_nO LORD, what is man that you care for him,

The son of man that you think of him?

Psalm 144:3

A fair question.

Why does God care about us? I know that theologians can (and have) gone on and on about this but the answer is simply that He loves us. I wish I could state it more eloquently. I wish I had the beautifully poetic words that would make the notion of such a love come to life for you. But, honestly, there is no need to complicate things. God is love and He loves his creation.

That’s it – a pure simple truth.

Man is like a breath

His days are like a fleeting shadow

Psalm 144:4

Compared to God’s greatness, we are nothing

He loves us anyway

Our time on earth is momentary

He notices us anyway

Our foolish waywardness has to be frustrating

He shows us a true Way

Our speeches and written words (like this) must be entertaining

He listens anyway

And responds by pointing us to the Word – His Son

Why does He care?

He simply does.

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Anchored in a Foreign Land

How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4

 

I hear it all the time these days. People are asking how our country could have fallen into this quagmire of conflicting ideologies that have triggered such hate and fear. Whether you are on the right or left of the political fence, confusion reigns as finger pointing spreads the blame and shame.

So how do Christians respond?

Maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about responding to the world. Truth is, we need only respond to our God who is in control of this upside down world. If we can do that, I think we would find that our actions and words would spring from love and compassion rather than knee-jerk reactionary confrontations with the world we live in.

We may feel that we live in a foreign land, one that does not recognize Christian tenets but that would be short-sighted of us. God’s fingerprints are all over this world and its inhabitants. We sometimes miss what is right in front of us because we are so overwhelmed by the anger on social media feeds fueled by often biased news reporting. No wonder the land seems so foreign to us.

So here’s the best advice I can think of; take it or leave it.

anchorAnchor your life in both heavenly and earthly realms. Your faith must be built and daily
nourished by prayer and the Scriptures. This provides that all- important “hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19) that gives you an open avenue of two-way communication with God. Secondly, do not neglect the earthly anchors God has placed in your life to keep you grounded. Work to protect the relationships you have with your family and friends who love you, will pray for you, will trust you and allow you to trust them. Jesus said it all when he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Finally, and this may seem contradictory, but remember that this is not your home. On the deepest level this is a foreign land; for we are spiritual creatures who will only come into our fullness when we enter into that next realm. In the meantime we have the Holy Spirit who indwells us and keeps us tethered to each world. We may at times feel adrift but we are never really drifting. We are always within reach of eternity even while grappling with a fallen world.

Go ahead and sing the songs of the LORD! Sing them with words of love, joy and peace. Sing them with actions that display the patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22,23) that comes from the Spirit within, the Father above and a Savior who bridges that gap for us.

The land may feel foreign but it’s only temporary and even the temporary can be very beautiful in its fragility.blue-sky-w-rainbow


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Christmas Shepherds and Quirky Fringes

shepherds-1Even though I identify as a Christian, that doesn’t mean that I can walk on water. I am not that good, not even close. I am a Christian not because of how wonderful I am but because of how good He is. Truth is, I have a very bad temper. I have a tendency to worry more about myself than others. I try to fight my own way through issues rather than trust in the One who wants to fight for me. I read the words of Scripture, go to church and pray continually just as we are told to do and yet, I forget everything when a dark moment hits and it’s always a struggle to get back to the One who loves me.

Does all this make me a “bad” Christian?

Consider this – God sent His Son to bring us back to Himself. He needed to get the word out there but mankind hadn’t invented 24 hour news yet. So He called on an unusual choice. God appeared to shepherds outside of town and told them to go and see the new King. They then “spread the word concerning what had been told them about the child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” Luke 2: 17-18.shepherds-2

Shepherds? That’s right! The guys who spent months living with their sheep outdoors. They would have been that loner sort of person who isn’t at home in a crowd and certainly not comfortable talking to the townspeople. I often wonder if the people they spoke to were more amazed at the fact that a shepherd had entered the town and wanted to speak rather than what they were actually saying. Perhaps the news of the baby sank in later after the shock of talkative shepherds had worn off.

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It is very comforting to know that God can use me as I am: somewhat quirky, often weak and scared. I feel like I am always living on the fringes, not always accepted by the church proper because I don’t always show the correct exterior or say the right things.But when God reaches out to someone like a shepherd, it shows me that I don’t have to be good to be a Christian. I don’t have to be smart to be a Christian. I don’t even have to brave and strong to be a Christian. What did the shepherds have going for them? Although they were good, smart, brave and strong in the ways the mattered to their profession, society wouldn’t have looked up to them. In fact, shepherds occupied one of the bottom rungs of the Judean social ladder. But they had the qualities that God needed. They were willing, faithful and obedient. Not that those qualities are any easier. I would say they are harder, but that is what we are called to. And it is what He will provide for you in the measure that you need it. Then stand back and let God handle the rest.

But God choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise: God choose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:17

Paul continued this thought in his next letter to the Corinthians:

“For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:10b

Maybe being on the quirky fringe isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s right where God wants me.

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