It is the day before Easter. In some denominations, this day is called the the Easter Vigil. At services held, baptisms and communion are offered. In most Christian homes, the day is spent in preparation as we wait for Easter to arrive. The family gathers to dye Easter eggs, there may be last minute shopping for the latest fashions and baskets for the kids, and kitchens are busy preparing food for a big dinner after services on Sunday.
After Good Friday's sobering services, we look forward to the hallelujahs of Easter morning! And the day in between...........Saturday............seems to be the day of waiting. Waiting to hear those words that define our faith.
He is Risen!
I wonder what was going through the minds of the apostles....of Mary the mother of Jesus.....of those believers who heard the Word or were healed by His touch. Did they wait with baited breath this day? He was to rise on the third day....did they wonder if it would happen? Did they trust His words? Did they wait in anticipation and some sense of hope while they gathered in God's waiting room.
Have you ever found yourself in God's waiting room? It is not an easy place to be if we are focused on getting answers, on our circumstances, or on the what-ifs that come with life. Waiting.
Waiting feels like we are doing nothing...hearing nothing....seeing nothing.....But waiting is an action and it requires faith. Faith is daring the soul to believe what the eyes cannot yet see. We wait for Jesus with anticipation. With hope. We wait with hope because we know the rest of the story. We know that He died and rose again for our sins and for our sicknesses. We know He sits at the right hand of God. We know the rest of the story as we sit in God's waiting room. We can find rest for our soul here, as we trust in His promises.
"Those who wait upon The Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles
They will run and not grow weary
They will walk and not b faint."
Today is the Easter Vigil, but for those of us who await the words "He is Risen" with a knowing heart, we find peace in the waiting room. We know the rest of the story and can trust it with all our heart.
As Jesus faced His death I wonder if He had unanswered questions. As He waited for Good Friday sunrise did He question God's plan for him? As He hung on the cross bearing the weight of sin and disease for the world, did He ask why? When He took His last breath and said His final words, " It is finished" did He, for just a moment, ponder what was coming next?
Knowing the Father's love, did He trust God with His unanswered questions?
We are offered the same unconditional love.
They may not compare, but do we trust God with our unanswered questions?
"Trust The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."
Proverbs 3: 4,5
"Blessed is the man/woman who believes in, trusts in, and relies on The Lord,
"Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens
And I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you.
Let me teach you for I am gentle and humble of heart,
and I will give you rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
It is Holy Week and watching The Bible last night on the Lifetime channel brought to life the period of time that led up to Jesus death, and the great suffering He carried for our sins at Calvary. "We will never know the cost to see our sins upon that cross" ~ this is a verse in a praise song that speaks so much that truth....... We will never know the depth of what it cost.
This song by Kari Jobe has been anointing me with comfort this week. I am weary. And yet I cannot help but ponder and give thanks for what Jesus sacrificed for me...for you.....for all. With perfect love He opens His arms and gives us shelter from our struggles....as we remember that the cross provided rest for our souls.
Lately I find myself singing the chorus of a song I like. It draws my eyes unto Jesus, and seems appropriate for Holy Week.
I love I love.....I love Your presence
I love I love.....I love Your presence
I love I love............I love You Jesus
I love I love......I love your presence
A few days ago when I listened to the whole song, part of a verse drew my attention and brought me back to God's persistent message to me about resting.
"In the glory of Your presence
I find rest for my soul"
There it was again.......RESTING. That same day a comment left by a cyber friend in reply to a post I wrote brought tears to my eyes as it spoke Gods message to me a second time. Gayle wished me happy birthday and said, " may you find rest for your soul".
Rest for my soul.
I long for peace, but I am not so good at resting. It is a difficult concept for me, but one that God keeps addressing. During my quest for healing this past year, I have often struggled with my desire to find the key~ the formula to releasing the healing Jesus provides. I have been diligently seeking and striving instead of resting and trusting in the promises of God.
I do rest in what the Bible says in Isaiah 53, among other places~ that Jesus died for our sins and all diseases. Just like with salvation, I believe healing is availble for ALL, but there is no formula for receiving and releasing that healing. With Joel is was overnight. He commanded healing come into his body, and. it. did. Period. Amazing, right?
Recently I read a book titled, "Your Healing Door" by Pastor Greg Mohr. He wrote about the many doors available for your healing and that of others you pray for. He went on to say how important it is to listen to the Father's voice speak to us when in need of healing, and then in obedience we do what God says. Mohr metioned that God does not use a formula for healing because THEN we would rely on the formula and NOT on God! I have read many books on healing and like this one the best, as it explains things so clearly and simply.....including a chapter on when healing does not occur.
Since reading Pastor Mohr's book, I have begun to ask God what HE wants me to do regarding the return of symptoms that have me in my recliner struggling with discouragement. Remember when the Holy Spirit told Joel I was to walk to the river, which was a very strange answer to what I was experiencing? I did so and ended up going to Urgent care for a big increase of UTI symptoms immediately following that walk. Sometimes Jesus uses medicine to heal too and the antibiotics I was given cleared me of that condition. Yesterday I was feeling anxious over how weak I am and while visualizing in the Garden of my heart, the Holy Spirit showed me I was to praise God and so I began to do so, praising Him with scriptures and with whatever came from my heart. The fear left and joy took its place. Some of the weakness left, but mostly it was a renewing of my mind that happened when my focus went from me to Jesus!
I know that it is here that I find rest for my soul. When my focus is on Jesus......when I stop worrying over my circumstances.....when it is not all about me.....when I open my heart to God's timing and God's way, trusting Him completely. He beckons me with familiar words:
Come to me all who areweary.....oh I am so weary of striving, Lord......and you will find rest for your soul. Thank you Jesus....I need that rest. Thank you Lord for not giving up on me, for not giving up on any of us. Thank you Lord for persisting. Thank you Lord for sending your Son who suffered so greatly on that cross for our sins and our diseases. Thank you Lord for Your presence in our lives. Thank you Lord Jesus for providing rest for our souls.
Yesterday was the first day of Spring. It was also my 65th birthday~ a big one for me in more ways than one. It has given me pause to see this number come to light. I certainly can't ignore it, as medicare has inundated me with stuff for the past three months! Avoidance ~ maybe because it seems like such a huge milestone, and I felt discouraged every time I was reminded that I was aging. Then I remembered that just five years ago I just wanted to make it to 60, so I decided to take a more positive approach as I walk with Jesus through this season of my life. This season that feels more like Spring than Winter.
Not so long ago, I was fighting Lyme Disease as it wrecked havoc in my body. That is dead and gone now thanks to the power of Jesus. Three years ago at this time I was having surgery for uterine cancer. I am still cancer free and believe I will stay that way! I used to be homebound, but no longer! I have also dealt with PTS due to childhood abuse memories, but God promises, "I will give you back your health and heal your wounds" (Jeremiah 30:17). I am not where I want to be~I have not arrived, but I have left and I am on my way thanks to Jesus and His power that lives in me. "It is for freedom that Christ set us free...."(Gal. 5:1)
When I think of Spring I think of new life! Birds return, nesting as they prepare for babies...trees, bushes, and flowers blooming, replacing the drab grays of winter with bright colors. New life coming to our broken bodies as Jesus wraps His healing arms around us. I love that Easter is set in the spring, as it reminds us of the new life given to us when Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. He made all things new.
Another definition of Spring for me? A new beginning! In the midst of winter in the Midwest it seems like nothing will survive the cold and snow. But under the frozen ground, nature waits. As the temperatures rise and the snow melts, signs of life appear once again. Every green thing begins to bud, daffodils and crocus push through the earth, and tulips boldly declare their beauty. New beginnings over and over again, year after year. Just like what Jesus offers us~ Forgiveness and healing over and over again...we are set free like the plants that come forth....... New beginnings!
Walking with Jesus in the last year has changed our lives in ways we never thought imaginable. My husband has been ordained for 33 years, but preaching long before that. After three years on disability from Lyme Disease, he was blessed one year ago this past January with overnight healing and is able to serve in ministry again. Our eyes were opened to what is available and my own journey with healing began. Slowly, sometimes taking two steps forward and sometimes taking two steps backwards, I am on the road to health and I will never stop walking that road until I reach my destination. Healing from Lyme damage, PTS, and more. "It is for freedom that Christ set us free..."
Spring....when the earth lets go of winter and nature is set free for new beginnings and new life!
Salvation~ when humans let go of their past, are set free, and new beginnings bring new life!
Healing~ when we are made whole and set free for new beginnings!
"It is for freedom that Christ set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again
by a yoke of bondage(slavery)."
I am linking up with Bonnie over at Faith Barista Jam and her word prompt for this week ~ Spring!
Reading Ann Voskamp's posts on their family mission trip to Haiti has touched me deeply. Seeing the photos of Haiti and those that live there brought me back immediately to the two years we lived in The Philippines. We were in the Air Force, but resided most of our tour off the base where we lived up close and personal with third world poverty. Watching young children dig through our garbage and chew on pork chop bones is etched in my mind like a sharp knife. Seeing the garbage collectors build a small fire on top of the garbage in the truck, dig around in the heaping pile of rich American waste, and then cook over an open fire that which we discarded cannot be forgotten. Everywhere we looked we were confronted with how truly rich we were and how truly needy so much of the world was and is to this day. There are so many of God's children in need of having their bodies and souls fed.
Last night during our home Bible study on James, twenty of us discussed the commands given in God's Word to feed the poor and take care of orphans and widows. It is easier to see the poverty in places like Haiti and The Philippines, and lend a helping hand. If we cannot take mission trips ourselves, we are able to reach out to others with donations to places like Lutheran World Relief or International Voice of the Orphan and know that those offerings will reach their destination.
What about here in our own backyards? Unless you live in a big city, you, like me, are most likely unaware of all the hidden poor that live around us. If we are aware, we don't have to look at in on a daily basis. And yet God tells us to feed the poor and take care of orphans and widows. Do we? Do we feed the bodies and the souls of God's needy children? We need only stop for the one......doing what we can....doing what God asks, whether that be in Haiti or our own backyard.
Our discussion last night turned to whether we are to feed the poor with the Gospel first or with food for their bellies. The concensus was that we need to do both. We talked about seeing the children in Africa who know Jesus, and yet are still praying for their next meal. The smiles on their faces that lit up their eyes could not be denied. They know of the love of God and are happy even when their bellies are hungry. It is something to ponder.
I was blessed to see Ann's posts on Haiti. It took me back to The Philippines and was an important reminder to my heart. When we are aware of what poverty looks like and when we read God's commands, we cannot look away. People need God's love, and that love comes through us. It is not always easy. But it is necessary. And it is not only a command, it is a privilege. Today as I link up with Ann over at A Holy Experience I am so grateful for Ann opening my eyes once again. For reminding me of the need to help others and look beyond myself. I am grateful for a full fridge and the money to keep it that way. I am grateful to have God's love within and experience it without. I am grateful for the privilege to stop for the one.
"He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.
After he has gathered his own flock he walks ahead of them,
and theyfollow him because they know His voice."
John 10: 3,4
Lately this verse from the book of John has been showing up! I would think about it for a fleeting moment and then move on, not letting it really capture my attention. Recently it came together for me as I read a guest post by Sheila Walsh over at Ann Voskamp's Blog. She spoke about the sheep on their place in Scotland where she grew up. Sheila talked of how the lambs rejected by their mothers are hand fed by the shepherd until they are strong enough to go out on their own. When a shepherd calls his sheep, it is those orphan lambs that come running first. Not because the shepherd loves them more, but because they believe they are loved! They trust the shepherd and dare to believe they are truly loved.
I have been meditating on Bonnie's word prompt for this week over at Faith Barista Jam. The word "follow" has had me humming the chorus of a song our family learned at church in 1975 when we were living in The Philippines.
"Follow Jesus, I will follow Jesus
Anywhere He leads me I will follow
Follow Jesus, I will follow Jesus
Anywhere He leads I will go"
I often take time in the mornings to meditate by visualizing the garden of my heart, where I meet with Father God, Jesus, or Holy Spirit. It is here that Holy Spirit uses my imagination to speak with me. Today as I went walking through the garden I had the word "follow" on my mind. I was carrying a backpack and wearing my hot pink tennies. Jesus and I took off walking and soon we were in a beautiful meadow filled with wild flowers, tall grasses, butterflies and birds. As I turned full circle I could see the meadow was surrounded by beautiful mountains and hills. I asked Jesus if this was heaven and He said, "No, this is your freedom". We sat down to have a picnic and lunched on fresh fruits. After we ate we began the journey back. I looked back wistfully, not wanting to leave such a beautiful serene place, but I knew I needed to be lead by Jesus back to another place that for now makes me feel unsettled. I asked Jesus about following Him and He said, "When you follow Me it is necessary to keep your eyes on me or you will get lost. You need to keep your focus on Me and not on your problems".
Sometimes we find ourselves in places we are not so eager to be.......difficult places. For a season we may feel lost or confused and just plain overwhelmed by what is going on around us. Battered, broken, or fearful, we can become distracted and take our eyes off of Jesus our Shepherd. Like sheep, who have little depth perception, we may loose sight of how much He loves us and we find it harder to hear His voice. Yet, there He is~~Our Shepherd, who is never far from His sheep. The Shepherd who offers us peace. And as one of the Shepherd's flock, we know that we are loved and we listen for His voice so we can follow Him wherever He leads. Isaiah 26:3 tells us .....and I paraphrase it here for myself....
"I will be in perfect peace when I keep my eyes on Jesus
(and listen for His voice)
because I trust Him."
I am linking up with Bonnie and asking her question here.....
How is Jesus placing the word follow on your heart today?
We just spent a few days visiting our oldest daughter and her family at their home in WI. This was a really big deal for me since I have never been able to go there due to health issues. Joel has visited a few times, but this was my first. We saw the grandkids perform in a school musical, helped celebrate our oldest daughter's birthday, and went to church services Sunday morning.
It was wonderful for me to walk around their home and take in the joy of not only being there but seeing our daughter's artistic abilities displayed throughout. I would have loved to sit in on her Old Testament teaching with her Bible Babes, and it would have been awesome to observe her teaching piano to one of her students. We just could not do it all. I did enjoy a glimpse into their daily life in their home, community, school, and church. Seeing everyone and getting to know their gentle horse-size dog was great fun. It makes such a difference to actually be there........in their home......where they live life so fully.
I think when your children grow up you still tend to see them as, well, your children. As parents we try our best to instill in them morals, faith, forgiveness, and a love for fellow man. On the other hand, as parents we know we have made plenty of mistakes and pray they will do better than we did, and forgive us in the process. When we observe them in their own homes and communities, we are impressed with who they are. We are proud, and so so impressed. They do life so well. As oldsters we have much we can learn from these adult children of ours. Our in-loves included!
So we are home recovering, feeling like it is awfully quiet in this house that holds only two people and one elderly dog. We are both happy and sad this day. Happy to have gone, happy to be home. Sad to be home, and sad to live so far from those we love. It is a mixed bag of blessings. Much of life is isn't it. Where to we turn to hold tightly to the joy? We turn to gratitude giving thanks to God for it all!
adult children and in-loves who impress
gentle horse-size dogs
warm feelings of pride, love and joy for grandchildren
watching "The Bible" with family
an empty nest
an old faithful dog that graces our home
the love for each other that unites and sustains us
Today Ann Voskamp is writing about the Practice of Sacrifice over at her blog, A Holy Experience and she asks her readers to share their own journey with this practice. One recent memory stands out for me, so I am sharing that with all of you today.
Many years ago someone close to me had given us a third-generation oak dining room table that they did not want. For twenty years it became our gathering place for all family meals, and as the family grew we just put in another leaf and added another chair until it held us all. Then a few years ago, when our nest was almost empty, we bought another table and chairs and used the old oak table just for holiday get-togethers. I offered it back to the family member who gave it to us, but she declined at the time.
The newer table lost its luster quickly and brought with it no history, so the weathered oak table eventually took its rightful place back in our dining room where we enjoyed adding grandchildren to the list of those who gathered around it.
Then came the day when the person who gave me the table 28 years before asked for it back so her daughter could use it in her first apartment. I admit I had a number of feelings that came with the request, even though I had offered it to her myself 10 years earlier. All I could think about were the many warm memories embedded in its grooves, worn out finish, and weakened joints. I actually found myself going through a grieving process, and in nursing my anger, I became resentful.
Not long after the phone call and request, we planned a trip that would take us near the home of my "requester". As I sat in my recliner one morning praying, I heard God clearly say to me, "Take her the table". I quickly responded, "I am not taking her the table!" His gentle but firm reply? "Take her the table". I remember thinking, this is soooo not fair, but I knew in my heart it was right and that obedience to God was important for me in this situation. In some ways letting go and letting God became a practice of sacrifice as Ann named it over at A Holy Experience.
So arrangements were made and a week later we put the table in our van and gently brought it back to one of the original owners, where it could carry on in its purpose to be the center of a home where people gather to be nourished in soul and body. In it's transference, I surrendered not only the table but my negative feelings and chose instead to remember the joy we shared around it's smooth edges. I knew deep inside it wasn't the table that made the memories, it was the relationships of those who gathered there.
It was Joel's first call after ordination~ to a small town of 400 on the Northeast Montana prairie. The parsonage was across the street from one of the churches in the three-point parish, and we settled quickly into the ranch home with plenty of space for our family of six at the time.
We lived only one block off the main street and only a half block from the volunteer fire station. We had been there for only a short while when our first encounter with the nearby fire siren had us all up and out of bed in the middle of the night. As it screamed it's warning and call for volunteers across the town, we tried to calm our kids and assure them this would not happen very often. After all, how many fires can there be in a small town? Apparently quite a few! Besides the usual house and grass fires, one or two cars caught on fire in the winter including one of our own! Add to that the serious problem with someone in the town setting fires, and we grew to expect the siren and it's warning.
Joel soon surrendered to the siren's beckoning and decided to join the fire department as a volunteer. I think he helped fight a dozen fires during the three years we lived there. He became a great respecter of fire and the power it has to destroy everything in it's path.
Sirens were created to protect the people. Some forewarn us of what is coming, others to tell us something is happening. We know to heed these warnings or suffer the consequences.
So how about in the spiritual world? We know Satan prowls around like a hungry lion seeking whom he can devour.....which is not much different from a fire because we know that we are attacked (in body and soul ) by the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Wouldn't it be great if there was a loud siren going off to warn us of impending danger from the enemy? Unfortunately, he is often subtle and sneaky. He is the great deceiver!
God has given us tools to keep us on alert to the enemy's destructive ways. I expect, besides our conscious, it is the Holy Spirit that provides us with what we need, telling us right from wrong, giving us a sense of "danger" and directing us in God's Word. The Bible tells us we have many weapons to fight the enemy. The full armor of God, praise, speaking scripture, and prayer. These weapons are important for our journey through life, but I still wish a siren would go off when the enemy is going to attack! It would be so much easier wouldn't it, and yet, God has given us the living power of Jesus. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in us, and when we ask and we listen, those siren bells will become louder and louder. And most of the time, when the warnings come, we will not be jumping out of bed in the middle of the night either!
Grateful today for the still small voice inside that warns me of danger. Grateful for the voice behind that tells me whether to go to the right or to the left. Grateful for the knowledge that the devil roars like a lion, but has little he can do without our consent. Grateful for healing that comes in all forms.
Watching an evangelist speak, I heard him say, "You need to stop striving. and enter into a place of rest. Cease your labors, and trust Jesus more than self. See with eyes of faith." Once again my thoughts turned to resting and all that it means. Trust and Rest. My words to meditate on this year. Jesus is relentless in bringing them to mind for me. He is good that way.
When we are told to stop striving or cease our labors, it does not mean we move into a place of passivity. It means we focus on Jesus and trust Him more than we trust what we are seeing and feeling. We trust Jesus more than ourselves or others. We stand firm, believing in His promises. Such as, He will work all things out for good, He is the God who heals, and He will never leave us. Standing firm on the promises found in His Word, we are able to stay calm and centered in "knowing what we know".
When we see with our senses, we can become fearful or filled with doubt. Remember Peter getting out of the boat to walk on the water to Jesus? He was brave to step out of the boat, to take a risk when everything in the natural world was so unpredictable. The crashing waves, rain and wind were hard to ignore. He was doing well until he took His eyes off of Jesus. Getting out of the boat did not seem to stop the storm from raging around him, but it did stop the storm raging within him............until.............Until he took His eyes off of Jesus. When He looked away from His source of safety, he panicked and down he went.
There is much to be learned from this Biblical story. Like Peter, we need to keep our eyes upon Jesus during the storms that come into our lives, whether these are external storms or internal ones. We are instructed to take our thoughts captive, harness our emotions, and see with eyes of faith. Sounds easy, right? Well, of course not, but we are not alone in this pursuit. The Holy Spirit has been sent to help us, and Jesus never leaves us. Never.
Just how do we take our thoughts captive, harness our emotions, and see with eyes of faith? I expect it is different for everyone, but for me it starts with keeping my eyes upon Jesus, through prayer, praise and worship.......Then I attempt to counter-attack those negative thoughts with scripture, calm my emotions with His promises, and see with eyes of hope, resting in the knowledge of how much we are loved and cared for. Once again I want to share with you the chorus of an old hymn that can give us a sense of peace as we trust in the promise that Jesus is our Savior in the storms.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of this world will grow strangely dim