Lenten Meditation: a Word of Family Affection

Lenten Meditation:  a Word of Family Affection

Dear woman, behold your son...behold your mother. (John 19:26)

Jesus has a special love for His own. As we've already seen with His forgiving and saving attitude in the midst of excruciating agony, His concern was not with His own suffering.  Rather His attention was next drawn to His precious loved ones at the foot of His cross, His mother and His beloved disciple John.

What agony Jesus must have seen on Mary's face.

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It's all about LOVE!

It's all about LOVE!

Let all that you do be done in love.  Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But we know it’s often very hard.

In fact, Paul's words in verse 9 nail it on the head, don't they:

...there are many adversaries...

That's right!  Enemies, opposition, struggles!  All against loving...why?

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A Love Song to Jesus

A Love Song to Jesus

When my husband John and I were seniors at the University of Arizona, the Carpenters were at the top of the music charts.   We embraced them as our group who sang our songs as we were "a-courting."  Their mellow sound and rich melodies fed our romantic feelings toward each other and toward life in general. At our wedding, we danced to, you may have guessed it, "We've Only Just Begun." Lyrics like "White lace and promises, a kiss for luck and we're on our way" made it the perfect song to start out a new marriage...or so we thought.

But as the years have rolled by and reality and maturity have set in, so has the realization that the romantic expectations of youth are so unrealistic and can only truly be fulfilled by an Almighty God.

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Speaking the Truth in Love ... Worth the Risk

Speaking the Truth in Love ... Worth the Risk

speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ… Ephesians 4: 15-16 NLT

It is risky to speak the truth. In personal relationships it is particularly risky. Most people don‘t want to hear it if it means that they may be disagreed with or opposed or worse yet, wrong. It’s easier to pretend everything is ok or to put up walls that keep people out and maybe even confuse the real issues. …

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Another Love Song...

Another Love Song...

I've been thinking about the true love that we all crave in our heart of hearts. It's a love that we only get glimpses of in this life in this broken world.

So here's another love song (remember the last post?)...one that we usually connect romantically and emotionally to that favorite someone. But again, truly...if we listen to the words...can we really sing it to another human being? I suspect that if I really honestly sing a song like this one to someone on this earth, then I would probably be making that someone a "god" in my life.

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Loving and Being Loved

A few years ago on Valentines Day, I ran to Kroger to pick up a few needed items.  As I got out of my car in the parking lot and walked across the lot to enter the store, I saw a man leaving, carrying a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers!   For some reason, it moved me to tears. Here was a middle-aged, short, stocky guy...not handsome at all....not romantic looking or attractive in any way.  And yet, I realized he was incredibly blessed because he LOVES someone.

Maybe she's a wife, a sweetheart, a daughter, a mother...but he has SOMEONE to love.

And maybe she loves HIM in return!

Love is a gift...both sides of love -- loving and being loved.

If you love someone today...let him/her know!  If you are loved by someone today...be thankful!

Above all, dear friend, know that you are loved by your God...be thankful and let HIM know!

We love because He first loved us! 1 John 4:19

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

I love this poem.  I discovered in the form of a picture book when my kids were young.  Now I use it printed out with several Hershey Hugs and a real hug!  Give it a try!

Hugs by Ron Stopkoski

It's wondrous what a hug can do. A hug can cheer you when you're blue A hug can say, "I love you so," Or, "Gee, I hate to see you go."

A hug is, "Welcome back again," And, "Great to see you!  Where have you been?" A hug can soothe a small child's pain And bring a rainbow after rain.

The hug! There's just no doubt about it! We scarcely could survive with out it! A hug delights and warms and charms. It must be why God gave us arms.

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers, Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers. And chances are your favorite aunts Love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them. Puppies love them. Heads of state are not above them. A hug can break the language barrier And make your travels so much merrier.

No need to fret about your store of 'em; The more you give the more there's more of  'em. So stretch those arms without delay And GIVE SOMEONE A HUG TODAY!!!!

 

 

For those who have lost "their valentines"

Thinking of you this week, dear grieving ones.  Are you one of them? -- you've lost the "love of your life," a treasured loved one, a precious friend. I've been listening to this song... and thinking of you!  May the Lord's comfort be yours in abundance today!

God Is Love

All we hold is frail and brief Patched together by belief The pattern only partially Revealed for us to see What are tears but seeds we sow? In fields unseen such harvest grow Whose joys will one day overflow The measure of our grief

REFRAIN If God is love Then love we trust Is strong enough to hold our sorrow If God is love He carries us We will not fear what comes tomorrow Love will heal us For God is love

Then suffering's no enemy And poverty, no poverty And death our greatest victory When swallowed up in life

REFRAIN

Though sorrow surge at every step Yet goodness is assured For none that harms or troubles here Will speak the final word Love speaks the final word

REFRAIN

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pt6z67UA04o']

Two Truths to Count on in Trials

shepherd
shepherd

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my unchangeables:

GOD IS GOODThe LORD is good...

I AM LOVED...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with hislies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion:

reflections on Christ - crucifixion
reflections on Christ - crucifixion

"How could this be happening to my children!?  What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?"

And I struggled on...for a long time!  Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

tapestry, front & back
tapestry, front & back

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

house
house

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues."

In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have been loved by God.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV


Two Truths to Count on in Trials

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8 PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my unchangeables:

GOD IS GOOD The LORD is good...

I AM LOVED ...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with his lies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion:

"How could this be happening to my children!?  What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?"

And I struggled on...for a long time!  Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues."

In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have been loved by God.

Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnetYx_9450']

 

Prayer when I can't sleep...Laying aside my hindrances at the feet of my Savior

night
night

Up in the middle of the night.  All is quiet...except my mind!  All the dark traps of the day, the hindrances to living my life, obstacles to "running my lap in the race of faith," prey upon me...uglinesses like:

She hates me! Her friends hate me too!

I'm overwhelmed.  I can't do it! I'm going to fail!

I'm so depressed.  I think I may go over the edge!

I might as well be invisible...no one understands!

Why is she jealous of me...I'm not trying to compete, just live my life!

Then the prayer, that I've known since childhood, rises up from within:

lit candle
lit candle

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;Where there is injury, pardon;Where there is doubt, faith;Where there is despair, hope;Where there is darkness, light;Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekTo be consoled as to console,To be understood as to understand,To be loved as to love;For it is in giving that we receive;It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. [prayer of St Francis of Assisi]

Yes, Lord!

I am renewed afresh to let You be You in and through me in this world!  Amen.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. (author unknown*)

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

[*Several people are associated with this proverbial saying, notably John F. Kennedy. It was first spoken in public by Peter Benenson, the English lawyer and founder of Amnesty International, at a Human Rights Day ceremony on 10th December 1961. The candle circled by barbed wire has since become the society's emblem.]

Lenten Meditation: a Word of Family Affection

Dear woman, behold your son...behold your mother.  John 19:26 Jesus has a special love for His own.

As we've already seen with His forgiving and saving attitude in the midst of excruciating agony, His concern was not with His own suffering.  Rather His attention was next drawn to His precious loved ones at the foot of His cross, His mother and His beloved disciple John.

What agony Jesus must have seen on Mary's face. Calvin Miller describes the scene well:

Beneath the tree stood the grieving mother of the heretic.  She was a woman whose face was rimmed by little wisps of silver hair that protruded defiantly from under her mantle; occasionally she trembled with uncontrollable spasms of despair.  Before the tree a young fisherman gazed in blurred glances at his dying friend; his broad arm cradled the head of the convict's mother.  But he was unable to console her.  The man on the cross was her son... Miller, Once Upon a Tree

This was her little boy...her precious son that she nursed and rocked and raised to be a man to fulfill God's plan.  Yes, she had warning of suffering ahead...remember Simeon's prophecy when the baby was presented in the Temple?

This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword [romphia] will pierce your very soul. Luke 2:34 NLT

Little did Mary know all this sword would entail.  According to Miller, romphia (Greek) was a huge Persian sword that literally skewers its victims in pain.   Jesus Himself knew all this and yet submitted to the Father's plan.

But now He would care for His suffering mama by entrusting her to the man He knew would care for her as his own.

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home. John 19:26-27 NLT

Years later the apostle Paul would write to Timothy, his beloved son in the faith:

Michelangelo's Pieta

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8

But this begs the question...where were Jesus' brothers?  Surely, this first-born Son could have entrusted His mother to one of his brothers, James or Jude, or perhaps another close relative.

There was obviously something more going on here...something that includes you and me.

Perhaps a year or so before...

...as Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” Matthew 12:46-50 NLT

So by entrusting His mother to His beloved disciple and friend, Jesus was "creating a new family based not on kinship to one another [blood relationship] but solely through their relationship to him."*  Although his brothers were related by blood, they had not yet become related in the Spirit through faith in Him, God's Son and Savior of the world.

And that brings us back to us believers...those of us who are related to Him by faith.  We are His family...children of the same Father:

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

Jesus the God-Man is our Brother, and we are his brothers and sisters:

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers … For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest. Hebrews 2:10, 11, 17

And Jesus cares for His own with a special love and care:

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested...So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 2:18; 4:16 NLT

We also belong to one another...brothers and sisters in our Father's and Brother's family.

On the night before He died, Jesus gave us the new commandment, Love one another as I have loved you...

Why? because then the world will know you are my disciples. Why?  because the world will hate you. Why? because in this world you will have trouble.

So we will need each other!

Love each other with brotherly affection, and delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:10

Dear brothers and sisters, ...who is it in your human family that needs your affection and attention? ...who is it in the family of God that needs your brotherly (Or sisterly) affection and attention?

Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone--especially to those in the family of faith.  Gal 6:10

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Bible Students:

Go back to the night before Jesus died (John 13-17). Mark every time that Jesus says love with a red heart. Who is loving whom? Now do this for the epistle of First John. Did you notice that LOVE is John's emphasis? No wonder...He's the disciple Jesus loved.

You may also like this post:  "Love's Abiding Harvest"

The New Testament is filled with "_________________ one another verses." Click here and read through all of them, including the Scriptures. Which ones jump out to you and why? Is God telling you to do something about it...attitude or action-wise?

You may also like this post:"It Takes a Village..."

Activity:

In the center of a piece of paper, write your name.  Around your name, write the names of all the other persons that you consider part of your family.  Those closest to you might be written close to your name, those further away may be written a greater distance from your name. *

Now do the same with your "spiritual family"...fellow believers in your life, whether in your church body, Bible study, family, neighbors, etc.

Then answer the closing questions above...

Dear brothers and sisters, ...who is it in your human family that needs your affection and attention? ...who is it in the family of God that needs your brotherly (Or sisterly) affection and attention?

For those who have lost "their valentines"

broken heart
broken heart

Thinking of you this week, dear grieving ones.  Are you one of them? -- you've lost the "love of your life," a treasured loved one, a precious friend. I've been listening to this song... and thinking of you!  May the Lord's comfort be yours in abundance today!

God Is Love

All we hold is frail and briefPatched together by beliefThe pattern only partiallyRevealed for us to seeWhat are tears but seeds we sow?In fields unseen such harvest growWhose joys will one day overflowThe measure of our grief

REFRAINIf God is loveThen love we trustIs strong enough to hold our sorrowIf God is loveHe carries us We will not fear what comes tomorrowLove will heal usFor God is love

Then suffering's no enemyAnd poverty, no povertyAnd death our greatest victoryWhen swallowed up in life

REFRAIN

Though sorrow surge at every stepYet goodness is assuredFor none that harms or troubles hereWill speak the final wordLove speaks the final word

REFRAIN


Loving and Being Loved

A few years ago on Valentines Day, I ran to Kroger to pick up a few needed items.  As I got out of my car in the parking lot and walked across the lot to enter the store, I saw a man leaving, carrying a beautiful bouquet of fresh flowers!   For some reason, it moved me to tears. Here was a middle-aged, short, stocky guy...not handsome at all....not romantic looking or attractive in any way.  And yet, I realized he was incredibly blessed because he LOVES someone.

Maybe she's a wife, a sweetheart, a daughter, a mother...but he has SOMEONE to love.

And maybe she loves HIM in return!

Love is a gift...both sides of love -- loving and being loved.

If you love someone today...let him/her know!  If you are loved by someone today...be thankful!

Above all, dear friend, know that you are loved by your God...be thankful and let HIM know!

We love because He first loved us! 1 John 4:19

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

I love this poem.  I discovered in the form of a picture book when my kids were young.  Now I use it with my adult ESOL & GED classes, printed out with several Hershey Hugs and a real hug!  Give it a try!

Hugs by Ron Stopkoski

It's wondrous what a hug can do. A hug can cheer you when you're blue A hug can say, "I love you so," Or, "Gee, I hate to see you go."

A hug is, "Welcome back again," And, "Great to see you!  Where have you been?" A hug can soothe a small child's pain And bring a rainbow after rain.

The hug! There's just no doubt about it! We scarcely could survive with out it! A hug delights and warms and charms. It must be why God gave us arms.

Hugs are great for fathers and mothers, Sweet for sisters, swell for brothers. And chances are your favorite aunts Love them more than potted plants.

Kittens crave them. Puppies love them. Heads of state are not above them. A hug can break the language barrier And make your travels so much merrier.

No need to fret about your store of 'em; The more you give the more there's more of  'em. So stretch those arms without delay And GIVE SOMEONE A HUG TODAY!!!!

 

 

43 YEARS with the Same Man {Reflections on an Enduring Marriage}*

wedding picture
wedding picture

"Forty years...to the same man?!"  So asked one of my ESL students, amazed! "How old ARE you?!" Retorted a GED student of mine, after learning of my 40 years of marriage.

Actually old enough to be married 43 years today!

Marriage for now 43 years hasn't always been easy to say the least.  (See another year's post for some specifics).  In fact, marriage is God's trick, according to one respected Christian author I follow.  If you achieve bliss, enjoy it because it will be fleeting.  Why?  Because marriage is less about making us happy and more about making us holy...and desperate for our Savior Jesus!

My husband John is a precious man.  I can hardly believe he has endured all these years with me, never wavering, always faithful and true, despite my "crustiness!"

In fact, in a recent conversation of ours, I likened myself to a character in the well-known short story, The Ransom of Red Chief.

The Ransom of Red Chief is a 1910 short story by O. Henry. It follows two men who kidnap and attempt to ransom a wealthy Alabaman's son; eventually, the men are driven to distraction by the boy and end up having to pay the boy's father to take him back.

At times I have been like that boy and have driven my poor husband to distraction.

But thankfully, John has kept me and I have kept him.  And we thank God for each other...despite, or maybe because of, our struggles.  Because as we have been saying in recent years,

Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
the last of life, for which the first was made.
Our times are in his hand who saith,

'A whole I planned, youth shows but half;

Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!'

Robert Browning

So on this our 43rd anniversary, I thank God and you, dear John Loyd, for all these years...of occasional bliss, growing friendship, challenging companionship, increasing oneness, and enduring sacrificial love.

O magnify the LORD with me,And let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:3 Our wedding verse November 27, 1971

HOLDING HANDS

One day, far away, you gently won my heart
And one night, by candlelight, we made a vow to never part
And then it seemed just like a dream
When wide eyed, side by side
We faced the future holding hands

Years fly, they hurry by, the simple times are gone
Bills due, a kid or two, a week can feel eight days long
By fading light, let's kiss goodnight
And then we trace God's daily grace
Thankful we're still holding hands

There's a hope that won't let go
There's a truth we know
God is holding us In His arms

Thoughts stray far away to all that lies ahead
In frail days when strength fades
Will we still mean all that we said?

Our love's secure, so rest assured
Come what may 'til that day

We'll walk forever holding hands
By God's grace 'til that day
We'll walk forever holding hands

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdX15209s6A[/youtube]

See John's response

*Last year's anniversary post...with the numbers changed :) Thank you, Lord, for another year together...by Your grace!  Amen!

The Surprise of Suffering

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through,as if something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 4:12 NLT

Well, surprised is an understatement when it comes to what we all experienced in our family when our then 20 year old son was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  Our Jeremy had always been athletic, healthy, happy, strong! How could this be happening to him? ...to us?

And as every mom, I began the usual Examining of the Mom Conscience:

How did I not protect him from this? I've been doing more than most in keeping our environment clean of toxic chemicals.

I should have been more perfect with our food.

Have I delved too deeply into alternative medicine?  Punishment?

And on and on...ad infinitum, ad nauseum... To the point of agony.

Then the precious words of our Lord,

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33 NLT

In Him, peace...on earth, trials and sorrows.

So the question is not Why me, why my son? but rather why NOT me, why not my son?

Over the succeeding months, as we walked out that terrible/glorious year, the Lord reminded me of what He had said through the apostle Paul,

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. 29 For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters... Romans 8:18-27 NLT

Did you notice all the groanings?  That's right, all creation, we believers (actually all humans also), and hold on...the HOLY SPIRIT...Eternal God, indwelling us, praying for us and in us according to the will of God...deep, deep! Oh glory!  What comfort!  Why?

Our situation is not a surprise to our indwelling God.  In fact, the Son of God entered our groaning world and became a Groaning One along with us, so...

Our suffering is not a surprise to HIM...listen to His groaning the night before He died:

While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity... he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. Hebrews 5:7-10 MSG

And so no matter what we are going through, our Jesus, through His indwelling Spirit, groans it out with us.  And because He is God Almighty, He can take hold of us (Hebrews 2:16) when we run to Him in our darkness of darkness.  He's been through it all:

Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help [run to the cry of] us when we are being tested. Hebrews 2:17-18 NLT

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 4:15-16 NLT

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPXapfFfesA']

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To read about Jeremy, 15 years cancer free in 2013 by the grace of God, click here.

It's all about LOVE...it always is!

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. John 15:9

When I had finally come full circle to the harvest at the vineyard, my waking thought became a word from the Lord:  Abide in My love.

I visualized the Lord on His way to Gethsemane with his disciples.  He had just showed His love for them by washing their feet at supper and sharing His last loving instructions and encouragements before He went to the Cross.

Then Jesus and His beloved followers walked together through a vineyard: 

I am the vine...you are the branches....whoever abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing...Just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:5, 9-10

I couldn't get away from it...abide in My love! Then I realized,

it's all about love.  It always is!

Deep in every human heart is the desire to love and be loved.  And it is also deep in the heart of God....because GOD IS LOVE!

So a harvest of fruitfulness is all about abiding in HIS LOVE!

WHOSE LOVE?

The Father's love for the Son.

As the Father has loved me... John 15:9a

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. John 5:20a

The Son's love for the Father.

I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. John 14:31

I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

The Son's love for us.

...so have I loved you. Abide in my love. John 15:9b

...when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. John 13:1

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

WHAT KIND OF LOVE?

The kind of love Jesus is talking about is agape...God's love, unconditional and  sacrificial.  It's the kind that esteems another more highly than himself.  It's a love that can express a oneness of will and purpose, because it's not primarily "touchy-feely" but rather a choice of the will.  And it's hard to find on this earth.

It's the love that moved the Father to send the Son to the Cross on our behalf.  It's the love that motivated Jesus to always do as His Father commanded.  It's the love that moved the heart of the Son to sacrifice Himself for us.

And it's this very love in which we are to abide!

HOW DO WE ABIDE IN HIS LOVE?

Jesus gives us the answer:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. John 15:10

So Jesus calls us to the same obedient life He lived...not by trying hard to live it, but by living with His obedient life.  Let me explain...

Because of the abiding life union of branch in the Vine, the obedient life of the Son of God courses through our spiritual veins.  Will we live from that from that Obedient Life?  That's always the question, isn't it?

WHAT ARE HIS COMMANDS?

They are those written in chapter and verse in the Scriptures...and on our hearts.

They are also the little Holy Spirit nudges that tell us to say a kind word or refrain from saying an unkind word....to pick up the phone and check on a friend...to stop and help someone in need instead of going our merry way.  Because in the context of John 13-17, the new command of the Lord is to love one another as He has loved us.

Or it may mean to stay away from a certain relationship or terminate one because it is ungodly and destructive.

His word may also come saying, "Put aside your own agenda and spend some time with Me, feeding on my Word and abiding in My love."

WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?

  • I can experience friendship with God. Jesus said that He has called us friends.  But friendships can't be just one-sided.  That's true in human relationships, and it's true in friendship with the Lord.  Jesus tells us that when we obey Him, we are His friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  John 15:14
  • I can use His name with confidence in prayer to the Father. I can be a "name dropper" in the throne room of heaven :) If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you....whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.  John 15:7,16
  • I can be in on family secrets. This is the same perkthe Son has in relationship with the Father! No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.    John 15:15
  • I can bear fruit that remains. What I do and who I am can have eternal results because of my life union with Christ, abiding in His love. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples...I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide... John 15:8,16
  • I can experience exuberant joy :) These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.  John 15:11

Abide in His love, O beloved branch!

Because it's all about love...it always is!

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 1John 5:3

We love because He first loved us! 1John 4:19

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z5cgajl1Kg&feature=related[/youtube]

Here is a moving presentation of the Gospel of John.  About 8:50 minutes into this segment, you will see John 15.  Rest, enjoy, and abide in His love.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=888_X8G3Yf0&feature=watch_response_rev[/youtube]

Kaden studying
Kaden the student

A project for Bible students:  Go through the epistle of 1 John and notice how the Elder Apostle John, years after writing his gospel, uses the same words and concepts...but with more depth.  Look for love, abide, keep His commandments...any others?

Lord, I AM an instrument of Your peace...{a remake}

Lord,  Because I am your child and YOU indwell me, I AM an instrument of YOUR peace. Where there is hatred, YOU sow love in and through me; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to let YOU console others in and through me, To be understood as to let YOU understand others in and through me, To be loved as to let YOU love others in and through me;

For it is in giving that I receive from YOU; It is in pardoning that I am pardoned by YOU; It is in dying to my self-absorption that YOUR eternal, zoe life is borne in and through me.

[a remake of the prayer of St Francis of Assisi]

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The God who spoke light into existence, saying, “Let light shine from the darkness,” is the very One who sets our hearts ablaze to shed light on the knowledge of God’s glory revealed in the face of Jesus, the Anointed One. But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us. We are cracked and chipped from our afflictions on all sides, but we are not crushed by them. We are bewildered at times, but we do not give in to despair We are persecuted, but we have not been abandoned. We have been knocked down, but we are not destroyed. We always carry around in our bodies the reality of the brutal death and suffering of Jesus. As a result, His resurrection life rises and reveals its wondrous power in our bodies as well. For while we live, we are constantly handed over to death on account of Jesus so that His life may be revealed even in our mortal bodies of flesh. So death is constantly at work in us, but life is working in you. 2 Corinthians 4:6-12 VOICE

Prayer when you can't sleep...

night

night

Up in the middle of the night.  All is quiet...except my mind!  All the dark traps of the day prey upon me...uglinesses like:

She hates me! Her friends hate me too!

I'm overwhelmed.  I can't do it! I'm going to fail!

I'm so depressed.  I think I may go over the edge!

I might as well be invisible...no one understands!

Why is she jealous of me...I'm not trying to compete, just live my life!

Then the prayer, that I've known since childhood, rises up from within:

lit candle

lit candle

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.Where there is hatred, let me sow love;Where there is injury, pardon;Where there is doubt, faith;Where there is despair, hope;Where there is darkness, light;Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seekTo be consoled as to console,To be understood as to understand,To be loved as to love;For it is in giving that we receive;It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. [prayer of St Francis of Assisi]

Yes, Lord!

I am renewed afresh to let You be You in and through me in this world!  Amen.

It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. (author unknown*)

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 ESV

[*Several people are associated with this proverbial saying, notably John F. Kennedy. It was first spoken in public by Peter Benenson, the English lawyer and founder of Amnesty International, at a Human Rights Day ceremony on 10th December 1961. The candle circled by barbed wire has since become the society's emblem.]

The Rest of the Gospel: Poured Out (Chapter 23)

CHAPTER 23: POURED OUT Key Verse:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7 ESV

Key Question:

How is God's love manifested through us?

Read Chapter 23: Poured Out and answer the following:

1. What is the difference between God’s kind of love and human love?

2. How has God’s love come to us? What does this say about how we will live out His love?

3. In what ways does the flesh deceive us into thinking that fulfilling selfish desires will bring us life? What does God say will bring us life? What is God saying to you concerning this truth now?

4. Why is it vital for us to know that Jesus is our need-meeter?

5. How does seeing ourselves as God’s asset, not His liability, release us to be poured out for others?

6. How has God individually made you as His vessel, to manifest His life to others in ways different from other believers?

7. How do Dan’s comments about operating in your own world affect the way you think about Christ living through you? In what ways have you thought differently before? How did these different views affect your Christian life?

8. As He lives through you, what is Jesus most interested in? What does God have to say to you through this truth now?

9. What does it mean to be expendable for the kingdom? How was Jesus expendable? How does God want you to be expendable?

10. In the sense that Dan uses the word, what does it mean to be an intercessor on someone’s behalf? Is there someone Jesus wants to intercede for through you?

11. Reread the last paragraph of the chapter. Why is it so important that we know we are loved?