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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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Simple Truths

crossGood Friday

A day that, upon reflection, was not very good. I can see that cross in the sanctuary of my church each week and know that God loves me. I can wear a cross necklace daily and know that it symbolizes the life, love and sacrifice of my Savior. But, on Good Friday I am forced to contemplate what the cross is rather than what it is a symbol of. It is an archaic, cruel invention meant to take a person’s life in the most painful way possible. It was designed to purposefully prolong the dying process and increase the agony. The cross encapsulates everything that is evil about mankind.

As the pastor spoke at the Good Friday service last night a simple truth hit me. While we always say that when Jesus died on that tree He conquered death, there is more. He conquered all that is brutal and cruel and inhuman in us. He used that mechanism of evil intent to become the sacrifice that changed the world. God took what had to be the ugliest invention of His creation and turned it to be the catalyst of everything that is good and loving and glorious of Himself. The path to eternal life runs straight through and is victorious over man’s own depravity.

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”    Genesis 50:20

It reminds me that no matter how low I have sunk, how ugly my thoughts can get, how angry my actions can be – none of that is too much for God to turn around and still use me for His purposes. He will love me despite my sins, He will use me in this fallen world despite my shortcomings. Nothing is too evil for God to embrace and turn to good. That is a powerful truth that I am struggling to wrap my mind around even as I read the latest headlines out of Brussels. But I will cling to the simple truths.

“God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all.”  1 John 1:5b


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Hold My Ground

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He’s got no hold on me

Jesus said to His friends that night

I hold those words so close and tight

He’s got no hold on me

he might try to hold me back

he’ll hold up temptations

that hold me down

with guilt he’ll hold things over my head

and all I can do is hold onto these truths

and hold on, hold my ground

he’s got no hold on me

Jesus said to his friends that night

I hold those words so close and tight

he’s got no hold on me

he’s gonna try to hold me up

he’s gonna try to hold me in

and that’s gonna hold me down

we have to hold onto each other

while holding hands with eternity

and hold on, hold my ground

’cause the best place for a sheep is right beside the shepherd

cause the wolf is not afraid of the sheep

but a great big shepherd saves the day

so he’s got no hold on me.images (3

he’s got no hold on me

said Jesus to his friends that night

I hold these words so close and tight

he’s got no hold on me

One day he’ll be held responsible

for all the tricks that he’s pulled

and all the whispering around

one day, as I try to hold out

against all the pretty pictures he holds up

I’ll know that I held on, held my ground

well, I can try

I’ll just hold Your hand

and hold on, hold my ground.

I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me.    John 14:30


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I wanted to be with You

cross

I wanted to be with You

as You fell down to pray

but there were so many things

that kept me very far away.

Things like pride and anger,

things like plain old fear.

But I am so glad to know

that You were praying for me there.

I wanted to be with You

when your friend turned You in,

 I saw the soldier with drawn sword,

 my little bit of courage wore thin.

I was held back by pride and anger

and just plain old fear.

But when you faced Judas’ kiss

I saw compassion shine so clear.

(how did I miss this?)

I wanted to be with You

to defend You at that trial,

making waves and speaking out

but you know that’s not my style.

I cowered in pride and anger

and just plain old fear

I was no help to You

Had my own burden to bear.

I wanted to be with Youcross - Copy

as they led You up that road.

that cross that You carried

should have been my heavy load.

But I couldn’t bear the suffering

and tortured agony

yet, You walked the walk I couldn’t walk,

each step you took for me.

I wanted to be with You

but I’m not good enough, I guess.

Still You carried on alone

even when I had to rest.

You took all my failures

that had stopped me in my tracks

as you walked up to Golgotha, my weight across your back.

You took all these things that held me down,

my pride and anger and fear

You took them with You on that cross

and I’m so sorry that You were there,

so sorry that I couldn’t share,

so sorry.

And yet, somehow glad that You were there

so glad that You truly care

for me.

I wanted to be with You

yet all the time

 You were there with me.

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Heavens Child (for Troy)

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(I wrote this song for Easter about ten years ago.  It’s a little about Mary and a little about me and a lot about a compassionate God. I think any parent who has lost a child looks at Mary a little differently than the rest of the church.)

Heaven’s Child

I tend to think of Mary

as a mother only can

standing on that hillside,

was she questioning your plan.

for you trusted her with your son

an infant needing care,

then you made her watch him suffer

as her eyes filled with tears.

for that baby was a man now

and the hope at his birth,

had given way to your purpose

a mother’s tears fill the earth.

and did Mary say….

If he can’t be in my arms, I’ll put him in yours.

he was yours from the beginning, mine for just a while.

I held and I rocked him this precious Heaven’s child.

now though you are the Master

a father’s heartbeat I have felt,

and I know you were with Joseph

at the manger as he knelt.

and if Mary cried her tears

at the foot of Calvary,

how much greater was your sorrow

you could have stopped the tragedy.

you could have reached and stilled the hand

of the soldier with the nails

but you let the thing play out

with all the pain that it entails

and did Mary say…

if he can’t be in my arms

then I’ll put him in yours.

he was yours from the beginning

 mine for just a while.

I held him and I rocked him

this precious Heaven’s child

 


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A Tale of Three Mary’s

The last of the snow is finally melting and even though it is still cold out, the temperature is starting to sneak back up the thermometer and I’m looking forward to spring. Some of my neighbors still may have a few lingering Christmas decorations that have been frozen in place for a  few months but I’ve already placed an Easter themed wreath on my door. Winter hangs on but spring is going to happen…eventually.

The last time I saw my extended family was at Christmas when it was cold and snowy out but now we are planning what we will do for Easter and hoping for a warm, spring day to celebrate on. As I wait for Easter, I find it curious to think that Jesus had only one other human at his side on both that first Christmas and the first Easter and that was his mother Mary. There were two other Mary’s who were also close to Jesus during his time on earth and this in between holidays, winter ending and not quite spring might be a good time to sit back and revisit these ladies.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is one of the most striking examples of faith that we meet in the Bible. She was a young girl from a little backwater part of the mighty Roman empire. When we first meet her she is engaged to be married to Joseph. The angel Gabriel appears to her with an incredible message. Women married early in those days so we can assume that Mary herself is just a young girl when she received the angel’s message (Luke 1:28). She is “greatly troubled” by the words. What must she have been thinking? She had heard stories of Moses, David and Elijah. They had been “highly favored by God” and look what they had to go through. Surely, God would not ask anything that extraordinary of her. She was just a child in a poor country town on the edge of nowhere. But the angel continues his message. He tells her that she “will be with child and give birth to a son…the Son of the Most High”. Mary’s answer is very practical. She wanders how this could happen to an unmarried girl but Gabriel explains that this is God’s son who she will bear. Is she terrified or perhaps just so overwhelmed by the very idea? Who can say? Thoughts of her angry parents and fiancé’s inability to believe her story must have frightened her. What would she do? How would she live? Yet, if the angel’s message is unbelievable, Mary’s answer is staggering and resounds down through the ages.

“I am the Lord’s servant”, Mary answers, “may it be to me as you have said”.

Complete submissiveness, no questioning, pleading for clarification or outright denial. I like to imagine that she paused for a moment, took a deep breath and then answered, but Scripture doesn’t record that. We just see the most stunning example of faith, trust and submission ever recorded. She accepts her fate and trusts God to handle all the details.

There have been times when I knew that God had a job for me and I wasn’t too thrilled with it. Maybe it was a volunteer position that no one else wanted or dealing with a sticky issue with a friend. I knew it was the right thing to do but I dragged my feet the whole way. Mary’s example of total submission to God’s will is not something we see very often. Sadly, most of us tend to react more like Jonah did when he ran from God.

Mary’s complete trust is evident throughout her son’s ministry. When the family attended a wedding and the host ran out of wine, Mary knows exactly where to turn for help. She will continue to be mentioned throughout Jesus’ earthly life. She is with Him at the cross and with the disciples praying after the Ascension. She was a little girl with a big faith and all the strength that is needed for that most difficult thing – submission.

Two other “Mary’s” come to mind. They each followed Jesus. If his mother can teach us with her words, these two ladies teach us by their actions.

Mary of Bethany was all about worship and adoration. Mary lives in Bethany with her sister Martha and brother Lazarus. They are friends of Jesus and hosting a dinner party at their home. Mary and her sister are in stark contrast to each other. Martha is always bustling about serving her guests but Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet. In Luke 10:38-41, Martha tries to complain about Mary’s “laziness” to Jesus but the Lord defends Mary. He tells Martha that while she lets everything distract her from her guests, Mary has decided to focus on Christ and that is always a good thing.

Probably, the best known story of Mary of Bethany is when she poured perfume on Jesus’ feet at another dinner party at their home. Martha’s reaction is not recorded but she is probably too busy to notice. She is there, serving as usual, as recorded in John 12:2. Mary takes a small jar of very expensive perfume and pours it out on Jesus’ feet. She dries it with her hair. The men present are shocked, but Jesus again defends her. He understands her.

Mary wants to show her love and devotion to Christ with her every movement. She seldom speaks yet her actions tell her story. When her brother Lazarus died she was beside herself with grief . When Jesus arrived on the scene she falls at his feet. She can think of nothing else to do than to throw herself on her Lord’s mercy. The only time Mary does speak is at this moment when she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”. Jesus, himself, is moved to tears. In a powerful scene Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and the family is restored. The next time we see Mary is at the dinner party where she is pouring perfume and everyone is wondering if she has lost her mind. She does not speak. She simply shows her love and devotion to God. This is pure worship. She doesn’t care that those present will laugh or worse, have her removed from the room. She simply answers her overwhelming need to worship God regardless of how others will receive it. She is only concerned with Jesus’ response and He understands completely. Worshipping God is a way of saying “Thank you” to your Savior for all he has done and will do for you. How do you express those feeling? Not all of us can be as open and demonstrative as Mary was but can we try to put our love for God first and foremost in everything we do? Mary didn’t hold back; neither should we.

Lastly there is Mary, called the Magdalene. We are told that she had seven demons cast out of her. How horrible her life must have been until the moment of deliverance. She appears in Scripture as a loyal follower as Christ after the demons are removed from her life. She even helps to support Jesus (Luke: 8:1-3). Mary only wanted to be where ever Jesus was. She loved him and wanted to be in his presence.

Yet, she is more than just a picture of devoted love. She stuck around when things got tough. She was at the cross, the burial and even returned to the tomb after the Sabbath. When the empty tomb was discovered, the disciples went home but Mary stuck around. She was crying and didn’t know where else to go. It is then that the risen Christ appears to her. What a wonderful gift that God has given her! The first sighting of the Resurrected One was by Mary!

When things are going well, we want to stay by Jesus. We like to revel in how blessed we are. We slap each other on the back and say “blessed” and “hallelujah” but what happens when things go wrong? And they will go wrong. I hope you know that. It’s not your fault. It will just be a part of God’s plan for your life. Will you be able to stick with Jesus on dark days as well as good times? It will be very hard but we can look to the examples set before us. Mary, the mother of Jesus, shows us faith and trust. Her submission to God’s will is breathtaking. Mary of Bethany lives her life visibly showing her thankfulness to God. Mary Magdalene exudes simple yet profound love, just wanting to be wherever God may put her. A tale of three Mary’s that is still relevant today. Faith, trust, worship and love as it was lived out two thousand years ago and still holds true today.