Saturday, March 26, 2016

He is Risen!

"The Empty Tomb" at Guido Gardens in Metter, GA
Jesus Is Buried
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.
Mark 15: 42-47, New Living Translation

Jesus Is Risen
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

"Don't be alarmed," he said. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"
Mark 16:1-7, New Living Translation





Friday, March 25, 2016

The Cross

Photograph taken at Guido Gardens in Metter, GA
As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world's interest in me has also died.
~Paul (Galatians 6:14, New Living Translation)




Thursday, March 24, 2016

Not Forgotten By God



Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
~Jesus, in
Luke 12:5-7














Monday, March 21, 2016

Sprouts

Happy Spring!


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For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

~Isaiah 61:11, ESV






Friday, March 11, 2016

Pleas from the Heart

One Sunday morning, our congregation sang, “Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart,” a wonderful hymn written by George Croly in London in 1854. I didn’t recall ever having heard it before, but I sang along as best I could. Later, I searched the Internet and found not only the words but also audio recordings of it on several sites, including this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymKxTkrRNBA

The words of that hymn form a beautiful prayer. For example, the writer asks:
  • Wean my heart from earth…
  • Make me love Thee as I ought to love…
  • Take away the dimness of my soul…

My heart cries out for them, too. It also echoes the pleas found in verse 4:

Teach me to feel that Thou are always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
[Teach me] to check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unceasing prayer.


Dear Reader, do you feel a need to ask God for these things, too? 

Guido Gardens in Metter, Georgia



Monday, March 7, 2016

Through the Window

As Nanny (my 95-year-old mother-in-law) sat in her recliner and stared out the windows in her den, she said softly, “A window just helps people.”

“Yes, it does. We can watch what’s going on outside.”

From her “blue chair,” a blue recliner with a motorized lift under it, she could watch for the mail lady, watch her neighbor remove and then build a new, large deck (all by herself!), watch a young couple move out of their house across the street and a new family move in, watch people in the neighborhood take their daily walks along the sidewalks, watch school buses and other vehicles go by… Although she was no longer able to take daily strolls or work in her yard, she stayed “connected” to the outside world from her “blue chair,” which was her favorite place in the entire house.

I have a favorite place in my house, too: the sofa in the sunroom. Since I don’t have a street view, as Nanny does, I watch birds (and squirrels!) at the bird feeders on the deck. I frequently see deer grazing on clover. I watch fawns running in happy circles. I see tall pine trees and assorted hardwoods, which are beautiful in all seasons. But, if I go to a window on another side of my house, the view changes.

While reflecting on the different things that can be seen through a window, I came across this quote:
Each of us is looking out at life from a different window in the same house.

Indeed, our life, as well as our environment, looks different for each of us, depending on what we see through the windows of our souls.

 
View from inside the Waterside Chapel in Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina

Sunday, March 6, 2016

When Flesh and Heart Shall Fail

Today, Sunday, March 6, 2016, is the 34th anniversary of my Daddy’s death. I've thought often about him today and even more so when our congregation sang Amazing Grace. The fifth verse gave me special comfort because I knew Daddy had believed the truth it contains and that he is now experiencing the reality of the words written by John Newton in 1779:

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The Bible verifies the truth of those words. For example, Revelation 21:4, New Living Translation, says:

[God] will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.

Even though I’ll always miss Daddy and feel sad that he has passed from this life, I rejoice in knowing that, by God’s grace, Daddy no longer feels any sadness or suffering—only joy and peace! And I also rejoice in knowing that same grace will bring those blessings to me when my flesh and heart shall fail.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

The LORD Is Near...

Taken at Woody Pond in the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Townsend, Georgia (near Darien)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Savor the Simple Pleasures!

As I write this, my mother-in-law is scheduled to move to a nursing home today. I feel incredibly sad for her and for our family, for she has been like a second mother to me for over 50 years. I wonder how she feels as she prepares to leave her home and go to an unfamiliar place.  I wonder how I will feel if I’m ever in that situation.

As I sat at the breakfast table this morning, I noticed this quote on the cover of the March 7, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated: “There’s no way I’m not gonna have fun. I never fail to savor it.” Feeling drawn to know more about that, I turned to p. 30 to read the article Rick Reilly had written after interviewing Steph Curry who plays for the Golden State Warriors.

I learned that the quote on the cover had come from Curry, who said he knew how great it felt to win, after having spent four years before being on a winning team. He also said, “I know the league is so fluid. One trade, one bad free-agent signing, and it’s over. So there’s no way I’m not gonna have fun. I never fail to savor it” (p. 32).

A pot of homemade, nutritious soup simmering on my stove. Yum!
I realized how his determination to savor the good times is also crucial for you, Dear Reader, and me. Alas, we often take simple pleasures for granted, don’t we? For example, sleeping in our own bed, sitting in our favorite chair, eating favorite foods, enjoying looking out our own windows, caring for our personal needs, going and coming whenever we want to….


Such simple pleasures are easily overlooked; but once we lose them, we will realize how wonderful they were. So, let’s resolve to savor all of them—and, of course, to thank God for them! 


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Suffering and Sufficiency

In her excellent book, A Lamp Unto My Feet: The Bible’s Light for Your Daily Walk, author Elisabeth Elliot writes about a question someone asked her shortly after her husband Jim had been murdered by a native tribe in the jungles of Ecuador. The person asked a two-part question: (1) Was Elisabeth’s walk with the Lord close enough so that His love and presence were sufficient at all times—or (2) had she been overwhelmed by grief and sorrow as she dealt with the tragic loss of her beloved Jim.

Elisabeth gave a very wise—and truthful—reply. “My answer is yes to both questions. It is not an either-or matter” (Kindle location 498).

Elisabeth then recalls that the Apostle Paul had asked the Lord three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” God declined to do so, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Corinthians 12:9) or, as the J. B. Phillips Translation renders it, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.”

Likewise, when the time for Jesus’s crucifixion was imminent, He prayed, “Abba, Father, everything is possible for You. Please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet, I want Your will, not mine, to be done” (Mark 14:36). God did not spare His Own Beloved Son from an agonizing death on the cross, since Christ’s sufferings would result in a greater good.

In neither case, Elisabeth says, did God say no because those who cried out to Him were not close enough to Him. She concludes her answer to the question in the first paragraph above with these words: “There was human suffering and divine sufficiency. This is the story of our lives.”

Dear Reader, you and I can rest assured that God’s grace will always be sufficient for whatever we must go through. That has been His message, His promise, to believers throughout the centuries. We find this promise even in the Old Testament, which was written thousands of years ago. For example, God says through the prophet Isaiah, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you” (Isaiah 43:2).

Does God promise to spare us from suffering? No! But…He does promise to be with us when we go through whatever suffering He allows. And we can draw strength and comfort from that promise and from the knowledge that He is our God and that He loves us and will always sustain us and provide for us. 










Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Stripped Bare

I love the sight of a tree standing apart from others.  And when I can photograph not only that tree but also its reflection, that's even "more better," to borrow a phrase young children often use.

When I saw the tree* in this photo growing in the wetland at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in mid-February, I just had to make a photo of it. Perhaps other passersby didn't give that tree a second glance, but I did.
*There may be another tree in that cluster of trunks. I can't really tell for sure.

I think it's beautiful, even though the winter season has stripped away its greenery, exposing its basic structure and texture. My eyes delight in the many v-shapes formed as the tree grew and extended itself. And the reflection doubles my delight.

As I look at the photo I took of that tree, I think about how life often strips us down to "bare bones." When that happens, we may not feel beautiful any more, but if we allow suffering to make us rather than break us, we will exhibit a beautiful spirit.

That's the kind of beauty 1 Peter 3:3-4, NASB, prescribes for women:

And let not your adornment be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

Beauty, whether seen in trees or in people, is said to be in the eyes of the beholder. Thus, we do well to remember that God sees us very differently than we and/or others see us. For example, when God sent Samuel to anoint a king for Israel, Samuel thought he had found the right man when he saw Eliab, one of the sons of Jesse. But the LORD said to Samuel:

Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, NASB).


God sees us, stripped bare of outer trappings. He sees us as we truly are. Oh, may He delight in what He sees, and may our essence reflect Him who dwells within us.