Carried

Lately Al and I have been driving on Fridays. Not sure why, but maybe because three weeks ago, we bought a new car. So on April 5 we decided to take a road trip to our old stomping grounds in southern Indiana. There at Grandview Cemetery we decorated my parents’ grave vases with red roses from Dollar Tree.

Don’t fret! They would’ve approved the cost savings. Then we headed to Elnora’s Fairview Cemetery and blessed Al’s parents’ grave with bright orange and purple Dollar Tree specials. Again, his folks, who also grew up during the Great Depression, would have applauded our frugality.

This past Friday we headed west to Cox Plant Farm near Clayton, this time to spend money on real plants. On the way there, we listened to WGNR Moody Radio, specifically senior pastor Chris Brooks’ 1pm Equipped Radio segment featuring an interview with Dr. Rick Richardson, Professor of Evangelism and Leadership at Wheaton College.

Dr. Richardson said something hopefully I will never forget. Its truth is both radical and simple. “In all other religions, you need to climb a ladder to God. In Christianity, God sent Jesus down the ladder to carry us up.”

During this Holy Week, Christians all over the world will celebrate Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection that opened the door for everyone—regardless of nationality, social status, or skin color—to have eternal life with God. To confess that Jesus Christ is who he says he is, the Son of the living God, is to begin a fresh life of freedom, faith, and obedience.

What a blessing it is to know that the grave, even though embellished with Dollar Tree flowers, does not contain us!

 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”  John 3:16-17, HCSB

Best Yet

Last week my husband Al decided it was time to talk about my upcoming birthday. Thinking this meeting was going to be all about me, I was thrilled.

As we sat together at the kitchen table, a new reality trampled my expectations as he pulled out spreadsheets—never a good sign. Groaning, I immediately thought, “Oh no!  Budget adjustments for 2019.” Welcome to retirement world!

Instead my birthday tête-à-tête with my beloved delved into the amazing world of Medicare, where part and plan are not interchangeable. Supplements are not advantages and donut holes are not edible.

My first question: “Am I really going to be 65 this year?” Surely not!  I remember thinking my folks were old when they were in their mid-sixties. Father Time could not have thrown me into that future so quickly, could he?

In my mind, I’m mid-forties at the most. But I will admit that sometimes my body and mind don’t concur with that calculation—such as when I get out of bed in the morning and wonder how long it will take to straighten up and walk a straight line. Or when I walk into a room, look around, and wonder why I’m there. Or when I spend way too much time chasing down my phone. That little techie rascal plays hide-n-seek.

But wait a minute. I’m not complaining! I praise God that He has given me 65 years of a good life, a blessed life, in fact.  Born into a great family, being married to an amazing man, having healthy children and grandchildren. and a multitude of loving friends—I have no reason to complain. Ever!

The best part is that God sees my being 65 years old as just a blip in time. He made us to live forever.  All we need is to trust in Jesus Christ. After all, the Son of God conquered death on our behalf. Life everlasting is ours through Christ alone.

The best is yet to come.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV

In like a lamb, out like a lion! Even if reversed, the March weather proverb describes our year, one that began with my partial knee replacement. That transcribes as lots of rehab and taking it easy. My end goal was to hike Utah’s amazing national parks with no pain in September. That prayer came true!

But what you might not know is that I sent a book manuscript, one that had been in the works for almost a decade, to CrossLink Publishing the day before my surgery. My thought process? I figured if they rejected it, I’d still be on painkillers and wouldn’t care. Strangely enough, the same day I quit taking the meds, the publisher emailed he wanted the book.

During this time, our daughter announced she was pregnant. A few weeks later, our son and daughter-in-law shared their same surprising news. So the lion part of our year began when our second granddaughter was born September 1, the night before we hiked the Delicate Arch in Moab with only four hours sleep. Our son and his wife gave birth to our third granddaughter October 23. Fifty-three days and 1,470 miles apart, the two girls entered this world, raising our grandchild total to 3.

Three is definitely a good number! Trinity: Walk in Love, Forgiveness and Peace was locally released two weeks later, November 9. In a way, it, too, was a birth, a labor of love chronicling how God had revealed Himself to me over the past decade. Through nature, travel, deaths, weddings and births, God, in His magnificent fullness, revealed Himself by ministering to my family and me.

As another year closes, let’s take the time to reflect upon the One who loves us enough to be our Father, our Savior, and our Counselor.

In His Arms

Last night Al and I were watching Anderson Cooper on CNN’s 360 interview with Tia Coleman, the wife and mother of the family who drowned in the Duck Boat accident near Branson, Missouri. Her tears and agony filled the screen. She described that when the boat was pulled from the bottom of the lake, her husband Glenn was found embracing their three children.

Listening to her tearfully talk of her love for her husband, Cooper, with tears, could hardly respond. She had nine family members die in the accident. Compassionately he concluded the interview by telling Tia that all of America will be thinking of and praying for her.

In times of tragedy, prayer is our lifeline to God and to healing, isn’t it? Remember 9/11? The entire nation came together to pray. In tragedy, we cling to God. In easy times, not so much.

We need to pray for this family and all who were involved. Yes, the Colemans are grieving now and rightfully so because death is ugly, not at all what God intended when He created mankind. And God Almighty is grieving along with them. Through Jesus Christ, He has provided a glorious Plan B, one that rests on the fact Jesus Christ, as both God and man, overcame death, was resurrected, and lives forever in Heaven, now inviting us to follow him.

Even in her grief, Tia Coleman testifies hope. The pastor of the church she grew up in marveled at her strength during Saturday’s press conference: “She came forth as a witness. Every third or fourth word out of her mouth was giving glory to God, and that is where the rubber meets the road. In situations like that, you’ve got to have it down in your heart.” (Bishop Thomas E. Griffith as quoted by Justin L. Mack, Indianapolis Star, 7.23.18, p.6A)

The father of the Coleman family huddled his children—Reece (9), Evan (7), and Arya (1)—near his heart as they left this world to enter eternal life. Missed by those who loved them deeply, they live on in the arms of Jesus and will be reunited, together again someday.

 

An Eyewitness

In this era of fake news, history told by an eyewitness—someone who lived during a treacherous time—stimulates our minds and tugs at our hearts. Last week we experienced the 1930s and 1940s made relevant and alive when 97-year-old Walter Sommers shared his story. Al and I, along with our friends Anne and Larry, visited Terre Haute’s CANDLES Holocaust Museum where Walter is the docent on Wednesdays and Fridays (www.candlesholocaustmuseum.org).

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1920, Walter saw firsthand how Adolf Hitler rose to power. His parents witnessed their rights as citizens and business owners implode as the Nazis destroyed Jewish-owned businesses and homes November 9,1938, during the “Kristallnacht” or “Night of Broken Glass,” after which his father was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

According to Walter, Hitler had developed his hatred for Jews during his teen years when a few Jewish youth were accepted into a Vienna art school while he was denied admission. Even though young Adolf didn’t have a high school diploma, which the school required, he still despised his Jewish counterparts for being admitted. That hatred grew as he did.

A month after his father was imprisoned, he was released with the condition his family would sell their businesses to the government and leave Germany. And so they did in January 1939, sailing to America guarded by Nazis. Ironically a few years later Walter would serve in the U.S. Army’s 77th Infantry.

Besides learning more about Holocaust history, I came home with a broader principle. An eyewitness verifies truth. Hearsay can easily become fake news. Because he experienced it, Walter’s story painted the truth about Kristallnacht.

Truth can be verified when it’s lived.

I’m asking myself what that looks like when being a witness for Jesus Christ.

 “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 NLT

 

 

By the Blood

When my memory scrolls back to 1966, it isn’t just the Beach Boys’ mega-hit, Good Vibrations I hear. Growing up in an acapella church with sometimes intriguing four-part harmony, I remember many hymns—classics like The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace.

Yet the hymn that shouts back through the years is: Are You Washed in the Blood?—written by Elisha A. Hoffmann. Its refrain, “Are you washed (in my southern Indiana town pronounced ‘warshed’) in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

For a young girl, whose stomach still to this day turns over at the sight of blood, that song was troublesome. My Sunday school teachers had not explained Old Testament animal sacrifice. Perhaps that was best.

As I’ve matured and studied more, I realize how vital blood is to life. Physicians use blood tests to evaluate our health. A blood transfusion can restore life. When the Old Testament prophet Isaiah points to Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for our sins, he infers that blood heals: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5 NLT

If you’ve watched Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, perhaps you can still visualize the brutality of Jesus’ flogging and his beaten body nailed upon a wooden cross. And ask, “But why?”

The simple answer is unadulterated holiness and evil (sin) cannot be compatible. If we want a relationship with the Holy Father, we who sin (all of us miss the mark of perfection) must accept the human sacrifice of His Son as our redemption—the bridge between holiness and sin. Our reward? A resurrected life!

“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11, NLT