How do we know?

Many years ago, before I became a Christian, I went to an Easter Service. I remember when it came time for communion, a thought came to me, “I’m going to walk out of here the same person I was when I came in.” and I knew it was true. I also knew, for some reason, that I should not go forward to take communion, so I didn’t.

It still seems strange to me. I grew up going to church on Easter and on various other occasions, was confirmed in the Episcopal Church, but for some reason, that Easter, I knew I wasn’t a Christian. I knew I was going to walk out that door and nothing in my life would have changed.

Fast forward several years and all that changed. God began a work in me and even though you probably couldn’t see it clearly on the outside, I knew there was something different that went beyond the hope I felt after.

Side note – I was very depressed, life was overwhelming, I wanted to die. I didn’t want to go to heaven, I didn’t want to go to hell, I just wanted to not exist, to not feel anymore. As I lay in my bed, I said to God, I need help, I know this is wrong, please help me and He did. I woke up the next morning, rolled over in bed, looked out the window and thought “it’s a new day” and for the first time in I don’t know how long I felt hope, life changing hope.

But there was more.

There was love, there was belonging, it was like being born anew. I remember my stepmom giving me a necklace with a cross as a welcome home present and I knew, like the prodigal son, I had come home to my real home, my eternal home and life would never be the same.

Never the same and yet the same. Pain still exists, I get hurt, I’ve endured hardships, I’ve failed, I’ve felt broken and yet it has changed.

I know my Creator, He calls me by name, and I am His, forever I will walk in His goodness, His mercy, His grace. He is my redeemer and He holds my heart. I am loved and I love in return.

beach with waves rolling in

On Easter, I celebrate this reality – my Redeemer lives. I know He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death and bringing life. I know my eternal Savior loves me, He died for me, He gave His life, He became a man to give His life, so that I could be Redeemed.

How do I know? I know through study, I know through His word, I know through hearing His Word proclaimed… But how do I really know? I know because everything in me tells me it’s true. I know because I am not the same person I was that day long ago, I was born again of the Spirit, and my heart knows it is true.

6 Proofs of Christ’s Resurrection

For further reading on how we know, you can read 6 Proofs of Christ’s Resurrection written by one of my favorite teachers, Steve Brown. He begins, “How can we possibly believe in the actual resurrection of Christ? How do we know it even happened at all? The implications, either way, are earth shattering.” I highly recommend reading the full article.

You Must Be Born Again – John 3:1-21 (NIV)

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with Him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Good Friday

As we continue to remember, think about, the events leading up to Easter we come to Good Friday. Good Friday, the Friday before Easter, is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Why Good?

Good because it is a part of the fulfillment of God’s plan for redemption. It is the day that Jesus died on the cross, but not only did He die, He took on our sins and bore the penalty for our actions. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Following are some of the events from Good Friday starting from what happened after Jesus was arrested in the Garden.

Black and white tree

Peter’s Denial – Luke 22:54-62

Then they seized Him (Jesus) and led Him away, bringing Him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with Him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

And a little later someone else saw Him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”

And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Jesus goes before Pilate – Luke 23:1-25

Pilate questions Jesus and finds no guilt

Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” vs 4

But the crowds didn’t care…

But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas” a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrections started in the city and for murder. vs 18-19

Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify Him!” vs 20-21

A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has He done? I have found in Him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release Him.” vs 22

But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that He should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. vs 23

So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will. vs 24-25

Jesus Mocked – Matthew 27:27-31

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the praetorium, and they gathered the whole battalion before Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe upon Him, and plaiting a crown of thorns they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand. And kneeling before Him they mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spat upon Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head.

And when they had mocked Him, they stripped Him of the robe, and put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.

Jesus Crucified – Mark 15:22-26

And they brought Him to the place called Gol’gotha (which means the place of a skull). And they offered Him wine mingled with myrrh; but He did not take it. And they crucified Him, and divided His garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take.

It was the third hour, when they crucified Him. The inscription of the charge against Him read, “The King of the Jews.”

Two Robbers Crucified with Jesus – Luke 23:39-43

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” And He (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Darkness covered the land – Matthew 27:45

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.

As His Mother Watched – John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing near, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Jesus Breathed His Last – Luke 23:37-39

And Jesus uttered a loud cry, and breathed His last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing Him, saw that He thus breathed His last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Blood and Water – a sure sign of death – John 19:34

But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Jesus placed in the tomb – John 19:38-42

After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave. So he came and took away His body.

Nicodemus also, who had at first come to Him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight.

They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.

Now in the place where He was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

The Tomb was Secured – Matthew 27:65-66

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the sepulchre secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

An old video, but a beautiful song.

Maundy Thursday

As Easter approaches, let us remember the events leading up to it. Today is known as Maundy Thursday.

What is Maundy Thursday?

Merriam-Webster gives us the following History and Etymology for the word Maundy:

Middle English maunde, from Old French mandé, from Latin mandatum command, order; from the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples after washing their feet at the Last Supper, “a new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another” (John 13:34 Authorized Version) https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/maundy

What is the significance of Maundy Thursday?

On the Thursday preceding His crucifixion, Jesus was in Jerusalem with His disciples for the Passover. That Thursday was the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread and they were going to eat the Passover together.

Following are some of the significant events that occurred during and right after the supper:

The Last Supper – Luke 22:7-16

Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”

“Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked.

He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.”

They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

Jesus washes the Disciples’ Feet – John 13:1-20

Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. vs 5

When He had washed their feet and put on His outer garments and resumed His place, He said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. vs 12-17

One will betray Jesus – John – 13:21-30

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” vs 21

Mandatum – Maundy: Jesus gives a new command – John 31-35

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” vs 34-35

Jesus foretells Peter’s Denial – John 36-38

Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied Me three times.” vs 38

Jesus speaks to His Disciples – John 14-16

Let not your hearts be trouble. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. vs 14:1-3

Jesus Prays – John 17

When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” vs 1-3

Jesus in the Garden – Luke 22:39-46

And He came out and went as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed Him. And when He came to the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done. And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him. And being in agony He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. vs 39-44

Jesus Betrayed and Arrested – John: 18:1-11

Now Judas, who betrayed Him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with His disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to Him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to the, “I Am He.” Judas, who betrayed Him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I Am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground. vs 2-6

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. vs 12

And led Him away…

Jerusalem, from the Mount of Olives

Advent 2018

And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. Nehemiah 8:12 ESV

Once again the Advent Season is upon us. Advent is a great time to reflect upon the true meaning of Christmas.

 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24

In the 8th chapter of Nehemiah, we read about how Ezra comes before the people to read from the book, from the Law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Not only did Ezra read, others taught so that the people would understand what was read.

Snow covered fence and church

To truly celebrate Christmas, we need to understand what it is all about.

Several years ago, I put together an Advent Booklet in the hope that it would help people prepare to celebrate Christmas in all its fullness and glory. If you’re looking for an Advent Devotional for this Christmas season, here’s a PDF version, Daily Scripture Readings for Advent, or you can get the epub version here:

Hoping everyone has a joyous Holiday Season celebrating the birth of our Savior! Merry Christmas!

Hope Fades to Darkness

Sometimes life gets overwhelming and I falter. My steps grow heavy, my eyes weary, hope fades to darkness and I am left in despair. Like waves endlessly pounding the shores, life overwhelms me and I begin to sink.

I say tomorrow, tomorrow – but tomorrow only brings more sorrow, more pain.

I say love, love, but alas it is love that causes the most pain.

In the past, I have written of loss at Easter – and again this Easter I’m overwhelmed with loss. But this Easter it’s different, more overwhelming, for this Easter I come to you, I write to you, about my loss… my loss of hope.

Someone by a frozen lake as day fades to darkness

Some days I dwell there, overwhelmed, drowning and I want to just let go. I see myself floating facedown in the water, so peaceful, just floating – no more pain, no more hurt and I long for that. I long for what I told God so many years ago I wanted – to no longer feel – to no longer hurt.

There was a time in my life when I thought my faith would mean everything around me would turn out for good, where love would prevail and right would reign supreme. I was wrong.

Wars rage, inside and out. Child abuse, sex trafficking, murder, drugs, violence, children watching their parents OD… cancer, heart attacks, disease, accidents. Watching loved ones struggle, hurt, suffer – sometimes it feels as if I’m losing myself… Sometimes I feel so alone…

But… I know I am not alone

Revive us and we will call upon Thy name, O Lord God of hosts, restore us; Cause Thy face to shine upon us, and we will be saved. Psalm 81:18b-19

I think about the disciples

They followed Jesus, watched Him perform miracle after miracle, listened to Him teach, but then he was gone – crucified, dead, buried. They watched their hope die on a cross.

When He had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, He bowed His head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

But… On the third day

Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words. Luke 24:5b-8

And they remembered His words

Remembering His words and His works, remembering to dwell in His Presence, knowing that He called me by name and that I am His, knowing that the faith I have is a gift from God – not something I created, knowing that I have been adopted by the Creator of Heaven and Earth and He is my Father, knowing that He has promised to work all for good to those who love Him and are called by His name – As Maria advised… When I remember, when I simply remember my favorite things, then I don’t feel so bad.

Yes, there is reason to hope!

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 42:11

Every Line by NewSpring

  • Where would I be without You?
  • How could I could stand this storm alone?
  • Where would I be without You,
  • out here on my own?
  • Who would I have to hold me?
  • Who else can make these mountains move?
  • Where would I be, where would I be without You?
  • I close my eyes, ’cause faith is seeing for me.
  • I’m out of breath, but You are breathing for me.
  • I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory.
  • To Jesus be the glory.
  • Where would I be without You,
  • facing this fight I’d never choose?
  • Where would I be without You,
  • with nothing left to lose?
  • Who would I have to hold me?
  • Who else can make these mountains move?
  • Where would I be, where would I be without You?
  • Where would I be, where would I be without You?
  • I close my eyes, ’cause faith is seeing for me.
  • I’m out of breath, but You are breathing for me.
  • I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory!
  • My fight is gone, but You are fighting for me!
  • The battle won, I’m standing on Your victory!
  • I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory!
  • To Jesus be the glory!
  • Write me with your glory, Jesus,
  • every line Your story, Jesus,
  • Author of my faith.
  • Write me with your glory, Jesus,
  • every line Your story, Jesus,
  • Author of my faith.
  • Write me with your glory, Jesus,
  • every line Your story, Jesus,
  • Author of my faith!
  • Write me with your glory, Jesus,
  • every line Your story, Jesus,
  • Author of my faith.
  • I close my eyes, ’cause faith is seeing for me.
  • I’m out of breath, but You are breathing for me.
  • I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory!
  • My fight is gone, but You are fighting for me!
  • The battle won, I’m standing on Your victory!
  • I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory!
  • Write me with your glory, Jesus,
  • every line Your story, Jesus,
  • Author of my faith!
  • Write me with your glory, Jesus,
  • every line Your story, Jesus,
  • Author of my faith!
  • I close my eyes, ’cause faith is seeing for me.
  • I’m out of breath, but You are breathing for me.
  • I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory.
  • To Jesus be the glory.

Stepparents

For my stepmom’s birthday I thought it would be good to write a blog about unsung heroes – stepparents.

We hear so much negativity about stepparents that even the word sounds ominous. I was looking up some info about being a stepparent and, to tell the truth, it’s overwhelming. The whole thought of entering a child’s life, being put in the role of mom, but not really. I imagine there is not a clear cut right or wrong way of step-parenting, there are just too many dynamics involved, though you could probably find “experts” that will assure you they know best.

Stepparents come into what are often messy situations and many have to learn to parent in a torn environment.

For me, I was young when my parents divorced, the third child of four. A lot of what I remember from those days, months afterwards is darkness. First, we were taken away from our home and away from my dad. Then my dad re-married and we were taken away from my mom and introduced to a “new” mom. My dad had custody for the school year; my mom had us in the summers. I remember often being confused and wishing my mom and stepdad would move in next door, so I could have them all around all the time.

I remember being torn by guilt as I grew to love the woman my dad married and started thinking of her as a mom.

Family Photo Bush Gardens Florida

As an adult, looking back, I think about what it had to be like for her. She married a man with four children and instantly became responsible to parent them. If that happened today, you could read all kinds of advice on being a stepparent (not necessarily good advice, but advice non-the-less). But back then, I don’t think they had a lot of advice for how to instantly become a parent to four children.

What I’d like her to know today, on her birthday, is how much I love her and count on her. I would like her to know how I remember waking up from nightmares and she’d be there. How we’d go sit at the far end of the house, away from the bedrooms so we wouldn’t wake anyone, and she would listen to my dreams and offer comfort. Then we would talk, and she’d tell me stories or even play a game with me. Then I’d go back to bed and sleep comforted.

Later, I remember her sleeping on the floor next to me, as I slept on the couch after the suicide of a loved one. When I’d wake up in the night, she’d be right there, and we’d talk, and she’d comfort me, and I’d go back to sleep.

I remember sitting in Howard Johnson’s, drinking coffee and sharing stories of our faith, our life. I remember the things she taught me as a child, like how to sweep an entrance way, how to clean, and especially the times she would hold me on her lap and patiently teach my how to spell. I was a terrible speller. She made flash cards and would drill me. I remember not being able to spell beautiful and she said when you have a word like that just say it in your head the way it’s spelled, be-a-u-tiful. Amazing the things that stick in your mind as special – I still spell beautiful that way and it makes me think of her and what a beautiful, special person she has been to me throughout my life.

So mom, I want you to know, where I use the distinguishing phrase stepmom for you, it is a name of honor. You came into a home with four children (eventually 5 after you adopted another child) and chose to love us, and have continued to love us unconditionally, in our strengths and in our weaknesses, in our successes and in our failures and on this, your birthday, I want to say a heartfelt thank you. I love you.

Happy Advent

Happy Advent!

Many of us are getting ready for Christmas, decorating, shopping, baking, mailing out cards and gifts. Christmas has come to have a variety of meanings. To some it’s a special day to get together with family and friends, to some it’s a stressful time bringing up memories of bad relationships, to some it’s one of the loneliest times of the year, for others it’s a great opportunity to throw a party.

Old Family Christmas Photo

Some think of Santa and the magical times of childhood wonder. To others Santa’s a great way to make children behave. I actually heard a store clerk the other day telling a small toddler that had been crying that Santa didn’t like bad boys, didn’t bring gifts to them. And then we have the ever-popular elf on a shelf, always watching to make sure you’re behaving so Santa will know.

Some spend the holidays searching for the ‘perfect’ gift for their loved ones, for their family and for friends. Some enjoy the crowds, the music, the festivities, the holiday cheer that abounds all around. While others bemoan the lines, the crowds, the spending, the avarice and greed.

But to some of us, Christmas is more…

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~ Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

To some of us Christmas is so much more…

In the Old Testament, God commanded the Israelites to celebrate certain feast as times of remembrance of the things He had done for them. To a Christian, Christmas is one of those times to remember.

During the Christmas season, during Advent, we remember God’s promises, we remember the prophecies found in the Old Testament telling of the coming Messiah, the coming Savior. We remember Mary and Joseph; we remember Bethlehem and the Baby born there in the manger; we remember the Angels proclaiming to the Shepherds the good news, the birth of our Savior.

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” ~ Luke 2:10 & 11

May Christmas be so much more to you!

Daily scripture reading for Advent

Like a Bride

Like a bride waiting for her groom…

This weekend my niece is getting married. On the same day, my daughters’ Grampy is getting buried.

Like a bride waiting for her groom
We’ll be at Church ready for You
Every heart longing for our King
We sing “even so come”
Lord Jesus, come
Even so come
Lord Jesus, come

Love and hope, the anticipation, the bride waiting for her groom, longing to be one, to be united for and in life, anticipating the future. Surrounded by beauty, joy, and dancing the ceremony begins and ends as they enter life anew.

Love and hope, life and death, transition from the here to the future, from here to eternity – a wedding and a funeral. They seem so different and yet they are alike.

Love and hope, the bride waiting for her groom. The transition from life to life, the invitation The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Revelation 22: 17

I’ve recently been reading the Ragamuffin Gospel with my life group. The Chapter for this week was The Second Call. In it Brennan Manning talks about our invitation to the wedding banquet, such appropriate timing with the upcoming wedding and funeral.

Manning talks about seeing a group of people heading from a wedding to the reception, lining up to go into the door, looking “like they were going into a festive celebration.”

“But,” he says, “most of us stand outside the banquet door listening to the merriment and festivity inside, half hoping that there really is a banquet in there and that it’s the nature of the world to be in celebration. We’d like to go in and celebrate, but wow! What if it’s wrong?”

He continues:

“Why don’t a lot of us go in now? Because we know that inside it’s not a perfect banquet for the simple fact that we are still living between the cross and the resurrection. Christianity doesn’t deny the reality of suffering and evil. Remember after Jesus came down the mount of Transfiguration, he told his disciples that he was going up to Jerusalem – that he would be executed and that he would triumph over death. Jesus was not the least bit confident that he would be spared suffering. He knew that suffering was necessary. What he was confident of was vindication. Our hope, our acceptance of the invitation to the banquet, is not based on the idea that we are going to be free of pain and suffering. Rather it is based on the conviction that we will triumph over suffering.” Brennan Manning

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. Romans 8:28

I saw this Second Call that Brennan Manning spoke of in the life of my girls’ Grampy. I watched him become more caring, compassionate and loving. When he was diagnosed with cancer his concern was for his wife, he was at peace with staying (living) or going (dying). He had accepted the invitation. This Saturday those that knew him will be comforted to know he has joined the wedding feast of those who are no longer living in the in-between.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had vanished, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice proclaiming from the throne: ‘Now at last God has his dwelling among men! He will dwell among them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there shall be an end to death, and to mourning and crying and pain; for the old order has passed away!’ Revelation 21:1-4

Because of Easter

This year as Easter approaches one of my brothers is in the hospital fighting for his life (prayers appreciated). His battle reminds me of another Easter, many years ago, when my Grandad was on his journey home.

My Grandad

That Easter, so many years ago, I was a new Christian. About the same time I became a Christian, my Granddad got a sore throat that just wouldn’t go away. Eventually they diagnosed him – it was throat cancer. He’d been a smoker in his younger days, and even though he’d quit many years prior, the damage was done.

I remember thinking that I really didn’t know my Grandad very well at all and prayed for the opportunity to get to spend time with him before he died. As it turned out, my parents took my Grandad in to care for him and they asked if I could come by after work and help with his care. My prayer had been answered.

Coincidentally…. (if you believe anything is actually a coincidence), around this time the church I was attending co-hosted a healing service that was taking place at another church. My friends and I decided to go. As I was a new Christian, I didn’t have any idea what to expect or think.

We went in and took our seats and I ended up next to the aisle. The Pastor came out and started talking about what was going to happen during the service. He said, “I will call out illnesses that I believe God is telling me to pray over; if it relates to you come forward so we can pray for you.” He then said, “or if you know someone that fits the description, you may also come forward and we will pray for that person.”

As I sat there, I was holding a conversation with God in my head. I was thinking about my Grandad and his need. I said, “You know Lord I’m not going forward unless it’s really obvious that they are talking about Grandad.”

The Pastor started calling out illnesses and said, “There’s someone with an issue with his neck, like it’s swollen…” He said some more about it and I, again speaking in my head, only to God, said “No Lord, that’s not specific enough, he’s going to have to say Carl.” The Pastor hadn’t mentioned any names, but I wasn’t about to go forward unless I knew I was really supposed to.

There was a lady walking forward down the aisle near me and the Pastor told her to stop. He said to her, “Do you know a Carl?” She looked confused and said, “no.” He said, “Someone around you knows a Carl and he needs prayer. It’s Carl with a C not a K – I know a Carl with a K but it’s not him, it’s with a C. If you know someone named Carl and are sitting near her, come forward because he needs prayer.” I spoke to God, again in my head, and said “Okay God, now I believe he’s talking about Grandad.” And I went forward to get prayer for him.

The next day I was feeling very confused and kept thinking, “How am I going to tell my family about this.”

After work, I went over to my parent’s house. When I went inside I asked my stepmom ‘How’s Grandad?” She replied, “You won’t believe it, he wanted to go get his hair cut today. He hasn’t been out of bed in weeks and he wanted to go out and get a haircut, so I took him.”

I told her I believed it and said, “I have to tell you what happened last night” and proceeded to tell her. She told me that I needed to go tell him, and when I did so, he cried.

On my way home, a voice in my head very clearly said, “Tell Tami I’m okay now.” And I knew he was going to die, but I also knew he was okay, okay in a far deeper way than the physical sense.

As Easter approached that year, my Grandad’s body started giving out – it wasn’t from the cancer, that had been cured. It was because his body was exhausted from the cancer treatments. It was time for him to go home.

Again, God’s timing was perfect. I was on vacation from my job the week leading up to Easter when my Grandad was admitted to the hospital. We set up an around the clock watch to sit with him, my shift was late at night.

One night as I was sitting with him, I heard him stop breathing and panicked and called out “Grandad.” He took a deep sighing breath. When I heard that, I knew I should have let him go, but I was scared. I called the nurse in and she said he wouldn’t make it through the night. I called my stepmom who came right over. After talking with the nurse, she told me to go tell my Dad.

I drove to their home, praying – “God if I should be there when Grandad dies, let that happen, but if you know I can’t handle it, then let him die before I get back.” I was afraid, I had never watched anyone die before and wasn’t sure if I was ready or able to do so.

When I got back to the hospital in the middle of the night, there were no parking places, so I had to park farther away. Then the thought came to me that I should get my stepmom and myself some coffee since it was probably going to be a long night. As I was walking down the hall to the room coffees in hand, my stepmom was walking out of the door – Grandad had just died.

Easter… Easter and the death of a loved one…

Because of Easter…

  • Because of Easter…
  • Because of Jesus, His death, His crucifixion, His taking on the penalty for our sins…
  • Because death could not hold Him since He was without sin…
  • Because Jesus overcame death and rose on the third day…
  • Because of the Resurrection…
  • We can say,
  • “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1Corinthians 15:55

My Grandad went home that night, no more pain and no more suffering all because of Easter. Not because of the bunnies and the eggs, but because of the truth behind the Holiday – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

My Granddad and brother Jamie fishing.

Eagles, Love, and Destruction

Recently I’ve been fascinated watching the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam live stream of little, well not so little anymore, E9. It was amazing watching the eagle parents care for the egg. Think about how fragile an egg is… The mom and dad would come and chomp down with their huge beak on the nest material next to the egg to keep the nest aerated, they would gently move the egg around, and would sit on it with their huge talons on either side of the tiny egg.

There were two eggs in the nest and they cared for both of them equally, but one of them never hatched. For a long time, long after any hope of the second egg hatching, the parents protected and sat on that egg. Eventually the egg was buried in the nest as the Eagles seemed to realize hope was gone for a second eaglet.

When E9, they don’t call them human names so as not to personalize them too much – I don’t think it works…, anyways, when E9 hatched he was this tiny little fluff. His parent would come to the nest with a fish, tear off bites and gently feed their baby. It was again, amazing to watch, huge talons, huge beaks, gently caring for their young one. They would sit over E9, large talons on each side of the baby and keep him warm and protected.

The moderators on the site explain a lot of Eagle behavior to the viewers through a chat. As the viewers worried about E9 not getting enough food, they would explain that hunting was hard work and sometimes food isn’t readily available. As E9 started to grow and move around the nest, the viewer worried about E9 falling out of the nest, they worried about what if something happens to the dad, and the moderators were there to teach them about Eagles.

Through watching and learning they grew to care for and love little E9 and his Mom and Dad.

Creation… Amazing Creation…

Colorful Bird

And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.”  So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. Genesis 1:20-23

Fall and Destruction…

When I watch little E9 and his parents caring for him, my mind sometimes goes to the cynical side. I think about child abuse, parent’s hurting those they should nurture and protect. I think about our disregard for God’s creation, our wanton killing of things that ‘bother us’ like the cyanide bombs placed around by the wildlife services to destroy ‘nuisance’ creatures. And I tend to get bitter and angry, then I think of Romans:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:18-25 

And Isaiah:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. Isaiah 11:6-9

Hope, Glorious Hope…

Ours is a future of Hope. God, our Creator came and walked among us. He created a beautiful world full of beauty and love, but it is fallen, death has become a way of life, and our hearts yearn for Christ’s return. We yearn for love and peace to prevail. We wait, but we don’t wait in vain.