A Little Glimpse

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, 

and I will give you rest.”    Matthew 11:28

Is this a bit of what it’s like for You, God?   We’re Your children, Your busy babies.  So very busy exploring, touching, tasting, rarely pausing for a bigger picture than what is immediately at hand.

But soon something happens that gets in our way, blocks or stops us from what we were after.  We get frustrated . . . mad. 

We start to cry.  Then wail.   All we can feel is our frustration at not getting what we wanted.

But, loving Father that You are, You pick us up, wrapping Your Arms around us, and hold us close.  We feel immobilized. . . blocked.  Stuck.   

In reality, we’re being held in Your Arms.   Arms of love.  Near to Your Heart.  Snatched away from what we’d set our eyes on.  Away from what we wanted.  It takes a while to begin to stop fighting.  We only see restraint.  A barrier.  Watching what we wanted going out of our sight…out of our reach.   We try to pull free.  Sometimes with a lot of crying.  

But You see an over-tired child of Yours.  A child You love, and know that a nap is needed.  We struggle against Your strong arms of love wrapped around us.  You are unrelenting.  And we complain . . . and cry.   

After a while, Your child’s complaints begin to quiet.  The struggle to be freed weakens, and we begin to relax in Your strong Arms.  The weary little head begins to rest on Your chest.  Near to Your heart.  

Peace comes.

And at last, sweet rest.  Sleep.   

And you smile.

Thank You, Father, for loving us enough to make us rest.

Removing the Stone

“Deeply moved again, Jesus went to the tomb.

It was a cave with a stone covering the entrance.

Jesus said, 

‘Take the stone away.’”

There was a dead person behind that stone…a dear friend.  Jesus cared deeply…He wept.  But He also saw life for the dead one lying behind that stone.  And He was the One who could bring life again.

I think we’ve all probably experienced a major stone in life.  We’ve gone through something that caused  a part of our heart to die.  We couldn’t fix it.  We couldn’t heal it ourselves.  So we sealed it up and pushed a big old stone in its way, so that we wouldn’t have to see it, or feel the pain again.  We had to move on with life, somehow.

But there is One who knew not only of the “death” we experienced, but grieved with us.  Although He could have stepped in and prevented it, or “fixed it” before it was too late, He didn’t.

He allowed it to play out in our lives.  And He grieved with us.

But, as in this story of the death of His friend Lazarus, it wasn’t the end of the story.  Although it seemed to be the end, seemed to be too late…it wasn’t.  He came.  He grieved along with those who had suffered such a great loss.  He spoke words of love, kindness, and understanding.  And He wept.

But then, He gave a directive to “move the stone” that stood between those who were grieving the death, and the death itself.  It couldn’t have been easy.  Those big old tomb stones weren’t meant to be moved.  They were meant to be a permanent seal to prevent anyone from passing into the place of death.  The idea of the dead one ever coming out was not even a thought.

We all have experienced “death” . . . whether of a loved one or of places in our own hearts that were too painful to bear.  In our attempts to protect ourselves from the loss, the pain, and the finality, we have sealed up that big old open wound with a stone that will be quite impossible for us to move on our own.  

There is only One who can command the stone to be moved.  Only One has the Love and Power to bring Life out of the decaying remains of Death.  Only One has Heaven’s Authority to regenerate a dead heart . . . and to create a new heart in the human life.  Only One can give a dead soul, new Life.  Hope.  Peace. And even Joy.  He experienced the sadness that makes us weep.  He experienced death itself.

Whatever “stone” has come to your heart is not too much for Him.  He may pull in others to help with moving that stone.  But He is right there, and is the One Who can bring new life that awaits on the other side of that stone.

That Shining Moment

“Mary said,

‘My soul praises the Lord’s greatness!

My spirit finds its joy in God, 

my Savior!’ ”

Luke 1:46-48

When you look at the spectrum of your own life, what would you say was your “shining moment?”  What was that moment in time when you had a sense that what you were experiencing was extraordinary . . . unexpected, meaningful . . . probably life-altering in some way?  You sensed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Perhaps it was a literal moment, or a season in your life.  

Mary’s words erupted from her deepest place when she realized that the Messiah was coming, and that she would be the one to literally bring Him into this world.  Her words were an echo of another ancient mother, Hannah, who had also experienced a miraculous pregnancy and birth, that of the great prophet, Samuel.  

Mary and Hannah had been written into God’s Story as it has unfolded on this earth.  Their “shining moments” were specific to physically bringing two Divinely-appointed babies into the world.  Both sons’ lives  would impact their world and history itself.  

But what comes after the “shining moment” in life?  Do we try to hold on to it?  Make it last?

Mary’s life continued, with all of the realities of raising, caring for, teaching, and nurturing her son.  She was often there, but not in the spotlight.  Her quiet presence was noted many times.  Many significant moments she still shared with her Son, including His death, but those times were only an echo of her role of giving birth to Him.  From what we read of those events, she was a gentle presence.

How do you handle the after of your “Moment?”  Do you try to keep it alive?  Do you focus on what was?  Do you try to re-create it, or perhaps attempt to orchestrate a new Moment?

Or, can you let your “soul praise the Lord’s greatness,” not looking for personal recognition of how He has used your life?. . .  Can you let your “spirit find its joy in God, your Savior.”   Can His work and pleasure be enough reason to praise Him for what He’s done in and through you?  Or do you long for on-going praises from people?  Whatever He did through you was a way of showing Himself to others.  That kind of Revelation is what will stick with people, and hopefully inspire them to cooperate with God in however He chooses to use them.  Treasure your shining Moment…or Moments…but move forward praising Him, knowing His Ways are perfect, and He welcomes imperfect people to join Him along the way.

Better Than Laughter

“Sorrow is better than laughter,

Because a sad face is good for the heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:3

This is NOT my favorite verse!   I’d much prefer beginning my day with a happy verse that can set me on my way to a happy day of sunshine and little happy birds flitting and twittering in my garden.  It’s January, very cold (-10 F), and I will have to go out there soon.  Not only that, but the new COVID strain is at its height where I live.  

So, here is the verse with which I begin this day.  It is part of a long list of verses that have a similar message.  Honestly, I’d prefer to crawl back into my warm, comfy bed and sleep until April.

BUT, I know these words are absolutely true, whether I like them or not.  Sorrow has become a part of my life, especially in the past five years.  Its entrance was part of drastic changes to every aspect of the life I’d been living.  And it’s made me have to hold to God more tightly, see Him more clearly, and know Him more deeply.

Picture a garden that has produced a lot of vegetables over the years.  It’s been happy, and fruitful.  At a certain time, the gardener decides it is necessary to plow up all the ground, exposing the rich earth below the surface.  The surface ground needs to rest and mix with the rich, deeper soil for a season.  A plow with sharp blades begins cutting into the garden’s soil, churning up the richer soil below.  It’s turned upside-down, now exposed to the sunshine and rain (and snow!) that will become part of its new season.  

Does the churned-up soil freak out?   Try to get back to where it’s been?  Get mad at the gardener?   Run from the big blade?  

No.  Sorrow is the tool that moves the ground in a way that the seeds that are planted will grow stronger, richer, and more healthy to provide the nourishment for those who will be fed from its fruits.  The intentions and purposes behind the process of the Gardener are all good.  The sorrow and the pain of this part of the process will bring about all good things in their season.  

So wait . . . because good things are to come.

“Waiting”   

Simeon’s Moment

“Then Simeon took the Child in his arms and praised God by saying,

 ‘Now, Lord, You are allowing Your servant to leave in peace as You promised. 

My eyes have seen Your salvation, 

which You have prepared for all people to see. 

He is a light that will reveal salvation to the nations 

and bring glory to Your people Israel.’ ”

Luke 2:28-32

One of the most treasured pieces of art on my wall is a picture of old Simeon, the priest in the Temple who held the tiny newborn named Jesus in his arms as he spoke the ancient words of dedication to God of God’s own Son.  It was the first picture on the wall of my little cottage home, and has the place of honor.

Why does it speak to my soul so deeply?   

Maybe it’s seeing the aged, weathered old man holding the tiny little baby boy, tears of unspeakable joy flowing down his cheeks as he recognizes Who this Baby is;


Maybe it’s the tiny, black-haired infant snuggled against the heart beating inside this old Man of God’s chest . . . he had been waiting his entire life with the impossible Hope of seeing his Messiah with his own eyes.  He could never have imagined holding Him in his arms;

Maybe it’s the subtle outline of the continents of the world woven within the fabric of the old priest’s robe…as the whole world continues to wait, largely without the awareness of what . . . WHO . . . they are waiting for;

Maybe it’s the deep awareness that this Baby Boy had come in the most fragile human state . . . for the sake of the whole world, for all of Time;

Or is it the gratitude that wells up in this old heart of mine for drawing my heart to His when I was just a small girl. 

With the deepest gratitude, I know the One for Whom I wait.  Now it’s just a matter of when I will see His Face, and run into His Arms.

The Gate

Jesus emphasized, 

“I can guarantee this truth: 

I am the gate for the sheep.”   

John 10:7, 9-10

When you have sheep, you KNOW that you’d better have a good gate.  And a good fence.   And a really good pair of running boots.  

When my son and daughter-in-law decided that they wanted to raise a flock of sheep, I was thrilled.  I’d always been fascinated with all the references to sheep in the Bible, and had studied the passages about sheep / shepherds  more than any other single topic.  I read books about it, taught Bible Studies on the subject, and felt a strong connection to the stories of both sheep and shepherds throughout my life.  

But I had never lived with sheep.   That fact has changed.

We chose the breed of sheep we wanted . . . “Baby-Doll” . . . and went to check out a local flock, hoping to buy 2 or 3.   A deal was struck, and a delivery date set.  As the date drew near, the seller decided to include the rest of her small flock . . . 4 ewes.  The day before the delivery, we learned from the seller that her one ram had apparently been visiting the ladies each weekend while the owner went to church. . . they were all now expecting lambs.   And it wasn’t long until those little lambs began appearing.

What alerted us to the arrivals in the middle of the night, was a phone call from our neighbor, who had awakened to the sound of coyotes howling in our field.   A lamb had been born, and rejected by it’s mother.  The cry of the little lamb had drawn almost 20 coyotes in the night, encircling the small pen in our field.  Their eyes glowing, they began howling and closing in on the tiny, bleating cry of the rejected lamb.  My son hurried out in the dark to the small shelter where the tiny, rejected lamb was crying.  Looking at the glowing eyes of the hungry coyotes closing in on the shelter was chilling.  A rifle in one arm and the tiny lamb in the other, he brought the fragile little black lamb to our house, where she stayed for several weeks until she could join the ever-growing flock of now 17 sheep.

We had not been prepared for the almost daily additions of tiny lambs.  The glowing eyes and chilling howls of the predators would have been the doom of the lambs if it weren’t for the “Gate” of my son’s presence with our small flock out in the field that night.   Not only did the sheep need that Gate to secure them safely inside the shelter, but the predators encircling the little flock had to be kept out.  The defenseless ewes and lambs would have surely been devoured.

Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, stands between us and the Enemy of our Souls who  prowls about us in the shadows of night. Jesus stands as the Gate of our souls. The fact of the matter is that our only true defense is our Good Shepherd, no matter how hard we work to create our own sense of safety.   That is His promise to us, His sheep.   

“I  Lub You”

My little 3-year-old Thaddeus often comes for a “‘nuggle” with these words.  He can’t say his “v’s” yet. Nor “S’s”.  We ‘big people’ would tend to want him to practice his “v’s” and “s’s”,  but I honestly wouldn’t want him to change a thing right now.  It’s his unique way of expressing his heart to me…for me.

Does our Father in Heaven have similar thoughts about our flawed but sincere expressions of our love for Him?  Does He require  well-enunciated, dignified words when we address Him as His child?

I think not.

OVERFLOW

“You received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live as Christ’s people. 

Sink your roots in him and build on him. 

Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, 

and overflow with thanksgiving.”      Col. 2:6-7

Can you remember an experience where something (or someone) ‘overflowed’ on you?  Maybe it was a good overflow . . . maybe it was a bad overflow.  Maybe you have overflowed at times.  Maybe you were able to enjoy the overflow.  Maybe you had to scramble to stop an overflow from creating damage (like when your upstairs overflowing tub starts creating a new design on your kitchen ceiling, only to find out that your kids thought it would be fun to cover up the overflow valve on the tub so they could scuba dive.)

Choosing to open our hearts to Christ Jesus begins a process that is meant to involve “overflow.” 

  • It begins with the personal choice to receive Him into my life. 
  • Then come the choices to live as His Own…as His person;
  • Sinking my “roots” into Him…going deeper by intention leads to
  • Building stronger . . . making Him your life’s solid Foundation;
  • He, with others along the way, teaches us things we did not know,
  • By which our faith is strengthened.
  • Then from that new Life growing within us comes a deep sense of gratitude…thanksgiving …. 
  • …To the One Who has Loved first.

I was 3 years old when I began to learn that Jesus loved me, and I opened my heart to Him.  That’s when it began for me, this life journey that has been filled with both the very good and the very bad.  I am so grateful that I had a foundational knowledge of the One Who loved me and has been with me throughout my whole life.  The words of this verse describe a life-long journey, with an outcome desperately needed by this world.

My hope and prayer is that those streams that have overflowed out of my life have left behind a touch of Jesus’ Presence. 

JUMP IN!

Part 2

John 21:15-19

‘After they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than the other disciples do?”

Peter answered Him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.”

Jesus asked him again, a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus told him,  “Take care of my sheep.”

Jesus asked him a third time,  “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter felt sad because Jesus had asked him a third time, “Do you love me?”   So Peter said to him, “Lord, you know everything.  You know that I love you.”

Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep.

Was Peter remembering (was it only a week ago?), sitting at that warming fire outside the place where Jesus was being questioned…beaten…tortured… and his three denials of even knowing Him?  Three questions.  Three lies.  And now, three questions.  And three heartfelt true responses.  A second chance. . .

Then Jesus described some of Peter’s future, including Peter’s death.

(:19) “ After saying this, Jesus told Peter, ‘Follow me!’”

There was no condemnation of Peter’s  failures toward Jesus.  Forgiveness was extended, and another chance was being offered.  Jesus gave Peter an honest glimpse into the future as a true follower of His.  Peter had seen the reality of what it cost Jesus to be fully surrendered to God, and what it would cost him.

The fisherman was going to become a shepherd.  A fisherman does not have to give up his life for the fish.  He just focuses on catching them.  And eating them.  And counting them.  But a shepherd . . . that’s 24/7 and requires  tremendous, thankless dedication, watchfulness, and care.   Within that care comes laying down one’s own life.

Jesus had told Peter, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on you will catch people instead of fish.”

The fisherman did become a shepherd.  His powerful message carried throughout nations then, and continues now.  It did cost Peter everything…even death on a cross.

And this “Ewe” is so very grateful.

 

 JUMP IN!

Note:  The following event took place soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, with flashbacks of three years earlier.

 PART 1

“Later, by the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. 

This is what happened: 

Simon Peter, Thomas and Nathanael, Zebedee’s sons,

and two other disciples of Jesus were together.

Simon Peter said to the others,

‘I’m going fishing.’”

John 21:1-3

Like any good fisherman, when life gets tough, ya’ jump in the old fishing boat.   It had been an extraordinary, emotional week for Peter and his buddies.   Betrayal, crucifixion, fear, hiding, burial, earthquake, resurrection, forgiveness, . . . Peter had even lopped the ear off of a Roman Guard, which Jesus immediately re-attached.

He just needed to go fishing.

The Sea of Galilee borders many regions.  The shoreline that bordered the big, non-Jewish (Roman/Gentile side) city of Tiberias was called “Sea of Tiberias”, but is still the same body of water known as the Sea of Galilee.  Did Peter head to that Gentile shoreline because it was less associated with the region where he had spent so much time with Jesus?  Too many memories?  Was the Jewish side too likely to pose a run-in with people who would recognize him as being one of Jesus’ inner circle?  Jesus’ crucifixion was still fresh in people’s minds.

We can only imagine the emotional and mental trauma that Jesus’ closest circle of friends had just lived through.  Peter, especially.  He was a “feel-er”….many times letting his heart overrule his head.  Turning to what was most comfortable for him…where he felt most competent – fishing on his lake – made total sense.

So, Jesus met him there.

  • He was waiting with a campfire and cooking a fresh fish breakfast including bread on the side;
  • He had given Peter a great tip of where the fish were biting (netted 153!);
  • He invited the group of guys to share some of their fresh catch with His breakfast spread.

True to form, as soon as Peter realized Who was talking to them from the shoreline, he threw on his coat and jumped into the water, leaving the details of the overflowing boat and fresh fish to his friends.  His priority was getting to Jesus.

Was Peter remembering His first meeting with Jesus…was it only three years ago?! It had been a similar long night of fishing with not one fish to show for it.  There had been a huge crowd of people on the shoreline following this Man…a Teacher…and since Peter’s boat was empty, the Teacher got in, without even asking!  He just shlepped right in and told Peter to back the boat up a bit.  Then He started talking.  And the whole crowd was listening!   Peter had no choice but to listen…he was caught in his own boat.  And besides, everyone was looking at them.  Peter had ended up walking away from it all…the fishing, his boat, life as he’d known it.  Jesus had drawn Peter in, even telling him that He would make him a “fisher of men.”  Peter was “hooked.”   For life.

When the rest of the guys had finished securing the boat and the 153 fish (only a true fisherman would count them out, and writeabout it),  they joined Jesus and Peter at the campfire.  Jesus took the bread . . . and gave it to them.  Then the fish.   Was Peter remembering the last meal they had shared…in that borrowed upper room?  Jesus had taken the Seder bread, broke it, and gave it to them to eat.  But that night He had added something strange:  “This is MY Body, broken for you.  Take.  Eat.  …Remember.”

Only a few hours later Jesus had been “tried”….tortured…. while Peter stayed in the shadows.  He had denied being “with” Jesus three times, saying “No”…. he didn’t know Him.  As the words of his third denial still hung in the night air, the sound of a rooster’s crow broke into the darkness, just as Jesus had said.  

In Jesus’ simple act of serving breakfast to His fishing friends, He was communicating directly to their hearts:

  • “Peace” was between His Heart and theirs;
  • “Forgiveness” for any of the hurtful failures weighing on them for all Jesus had gone through
  • Restored relationship between them.

As far as we know from the records of this story, they had not even verbalized their regrets.   But Jesus was looking at their hearts.

***********************************************

I remember the sick feeling in my stomach as a little girl, any time I had done something wrong.  I wanted to hide.  I wanted to fix it.  I let shame be a cloud hovering over me, not knowing how to get out from under it.   But through the years, I have come to experience the continued kindness of God’s forgiveness, as lived out in all the stories of Jesus.  I don’t head to a fishing boat….but it might be to my garden, or a drive, or shopping, art, or TV.   And though it should come as no surprise, Jesus shows up, acting as if nothing has happened. His undeserved kindness, His goodness, interrupts and draws me back into His Presence.  

May my heart “jump in” to Jesus’ Presence in my life, no matter why I have jumped into my “boat.”  

TO BE CONTINUED….