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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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Extraordinary Love

 

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It was just an ordinary town

on the edge of nowhere

Just a simple, quiet night

that took the world unaware.

She was just an ordinary girl

Frightened of her part to play

He was just an ordinary guy

with a wife and child on the way

But He was no ordinary babe

Lying in that bed of straw

Surrounded by sheep and shepherds

Even kings bowed down in awe

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Under that same old, starry night

Where one star shone out clear

A new mother held her babe

And whispered love into Love’s ear

On this simple, quiet night

He entered our world in this way

From a throne in Heaven above

To a simple bed of hay

Out of ordinary things

Comes a simple mother’s love

Out of ordinary things

Comes extraordinary Love.

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An Alabaster Jar

 

Alabaster vases KR showroom

Did she tilt the jar

And gently pour

Ah, no, broken

Given to the Lord

 

There at His feetdownload (2)

Perfume was splashed

As freely as

A child’s laugh

 

The jar I have

Is cracked and worn

It’s stood the test

Of many storms

 

But, comes a timedownload (1)

We benefit

from all these cracks

A fire’s been lit

 

It shines through

All the broken places

Its light spills intoheart leaves

Darkened spaces

 

Only now can the Potter

Repair, restore

My fragile heart

To refill me once more.

 

An alabaster jar

We live within

Split wide open

To You given.download

 

 

“where ever the Gospel is preached …

what she has done will be told”

for the Gospel is more than the words

it’s in her eyes, hands, feet and soul.

 


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Waterfalls

 

 

13319715_10209866861127389_6162260163033324150_nA short easy hike brought us to the top of this beautiful waterfall. The steep descent to the bottom, aided by trees to hold onto and roots to secure our steps, was fun. And then this magnificent view. It’s a pretty small waterfall as such things go, but for us –it was wonderful to find and enjoy. My husband climbed up the rock and sat down to watch the water cascading over well- worn stones. “Strange”, he mused. “It’s the same water going over the same stones, yet it looks different all the time.” I thought about that for a moment. The water is always the same yet seems to change depending on how the sun glints upon it or what color is the sky that is being reflected. The words “living water” came to mind.

 

 

 

 

Jesus Answered her, ” If you know the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water”. Jesus answered, ” Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:10 and 13-14

 

Christ is always the same and yet as our awareness of need for Him grows, He seems to change to fit whatever stage of life we are in. Of course, the whole illusion is that He never changes, only our perception of Him does. As we lean into Him more and more, we drink of that living water He offers us. The drink that will quench all thirst. Later in the same passage, Jesus also talks of “food” as “to do the will of him who sent me”. All of my basic needs (and oh, so much more) are fulfilled in Christ. What He offers us is beyond our comprehension and yet we are in such desperate need of. He offers life. He offers freedom from pain, fears, hurts, guilt and worries. He offers true security. He offers eternity.

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I am always reminded of this when I spend some time outdoors. When I can wander under his trees, or rest beside a stream, or feel his sun on my face, then I remember who gives me each day.  I remember who makes the sun rise and the stars shine and living water to tumble down from heights to tranquil pools below so I can dip my toes in the cool water– living water.

 

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Didn’t we just go over this?

 

 

family feetHere we are in between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. In May we honor our mom’s and June we look up to our dad’s. Such beautiful traditions that help us to remember both where we came from and look forward to where we are going. I think a lot about my parents, now both crossed over. I’ve tried to draw from the lessons that they taught me as I venture into the realms of parenthood myself. It’s been a rocky road for me and my kids. Many lessons (both parents and child lessons) must be repeated over and over until sheer repetition works its way into the intricacies of our brains. Often the same lesson must be approached from multiple angles until it clicks.

I’ve tried to follow the patterns the Jesus laid out when teaching his disciples. He would tell stories over and over again – different stories but with similar meanings to help hisfather child hands followers understand. In the fourth chapter of Mark, I found a striking example of this. The chapter starts with the Parable of the Sower, a beautiful story which explores the whole range of human angst and joy in just a few short verses. Jesus explains how the Gospel can be outright rejected, accepted with reservations or embraced wholeheartedly and allowed to grow. Some of us have experienced one of these approaches; others, like myself, have run the gamut. I have a note in my Bible in the margin of this passage that reads, “the simplicity of a complicated gospel”. It is a crazy, complex idea that a perfect God would be willing to reach out to the likes of sinful mankind, yet it is very simple when we realize that it can be wrapped up in three words – “God is love” (1John 4:16).

To paraphrase scripture, Jesus is basically saying. “Listen up guys, this is easy, don’t try to complicate it” in verses 1-20 of chapter 4. Then he adds in the image of a lamp on a stand images (3in verses 21-25 for a little extra clarity (God knows, quite literally, that I always need that extra clarity). But the boys are still confused. So He says, (excuse the paraphrase again) “Didn’t we just go over this? No problem, let me give you another example”. In verses 26-29, He tells the Parable of the Growing Seed. Still, it is not enough. Like the patient father that He is, He says, “Didn’t we just go over this? Alright, one more time.” Jesus adds in the Parable of the Mustard Seed. He has been telling them that understanding requires faith and this story drives that home. Verse 34 tells us that He knows the disciples will still need continual explanations of His parables and Jesus is more than willing to teach them with patience and love as any good parent would.

Now comes the test. Verses 35 -41 finds them out on the water when a storm comes up. They wake up Jesus and accuse Him of not caring about their safety. His answer is the classic parental response, “Didn’t we just go over this? Don’t you know yet that you can trust me?” Can’t you just see him shaking his head with a tired half smile as he prepares to smooth out the waves with a mere gesture of his hand?

family love

It’s a familiar scene from a parental point of view. My parents did it for me and I try to do the same for my kids.

“Didn’t we just go over this? Alright let me show you again how to fold your t-shirts.”

“Didn’t we just go over this? Come here and let me help you make your bed.”

“Didn’t we just go over this? Bring the water to a boil, throw in the pasta, and add a sauce and cheese. There you go! I knew you could do it!”

And sometimes we have to yell things like “how many times do I have to tell you to clean the hair out of the sink!” But it’s all the same. Teaching lessons over and over because that is how we are wired to learn things. We’ll never learn without patient teachers. Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart but Jesus set us a great example. He says again and again, “Didn’t we just go over this? My Father is Love. Now stop trying to complicate it.”

father and child feet


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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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Being Still

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Being Still

The other day I wrote about the dragons that we all fight as we battle through life. In Exodus 3, God had a beautiful land waiting for the Israelites but they would have to fight their way through a desert to get there. We all have choices to make every day, battles of temptation to overcome every day. I’ve often said that being a Christian is not for the proverbial timid church mouse. Today I am reading in Exodus 14 and came across this verse:

The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still. Exodus 14:14

I think of all the times in the Bible that men like David and Joshua and countless others led the Israelite army into battle and realize that there are just as many times that they are told to “be still” and let God do his thing. So I wonder how do you know when to step up and fight and when do you need to “be still”.

Just today a friend was telling me that several times in devotionals ever the last two days, she had read verses that emphasized the need to be still. She felt that it meant her need to stop the hectic pace of her daily life and just rest in Christ. This is how I have always viewed verses about being still and it’s a very important practice that should be the foundation of your daily prayer life. But reading this verse in the middle of the very active story of the Israelites flight from Egypt, the whole idea of “being still” seems a bit out of place.

Then I realized something that has been nibbling at the edges of my thoughts as I read these passages about Moses in Exodus. There were times when Moses was called to do battle with Pharoah and there were times when he was told to lay low.

“Stretch out your arm”,

“Stretch out your staff”,

“Stand before Pharoah and say…”

These are all the things that Moses had to do before God would “lay bare His holy arm, in the sight of all the nations, and the end of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Isaiah 52:10). Moses had to make a choice each day about whether he would obey God. God sent plagues, pillars of fire and parted a whole sea but always allowed Moses to make his own choice first.

I’ve come to think that the dragons that we face in daily battle are the choices we must make in response to the temptations that we do battle with. Every day, in multiple ways, we are faced with the choice of whether or not we will follow God. As we slay each dragon another may rise up and we will fight again and again. What we need to keep in mind is that as difficult and dangerous as our individual battles may be, Jesus has already fought the biggest battle of all. The cross is the place where He won, and where we should be still. We have nothing to prove, there is nothing more to do and we can rest in assurance that Christ has prepared everything for us. That battle has been fought, swords have clashed and He has won. In that, I can be still.

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Be still before the LORD, all mankind… Zechariah2:13