Favorite Verse

Ephesians 3:14-19

For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and high and long and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

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What greater prayer can one have for their friends and loved ones than this? For this reason, this verse is a favorite of mine, and I often pray it for others. What is your favorite verse? Why do you love it?

Glimpses of His Glory

Early in the morning before the phone starts ringing and the demands of the day begin pressing all around, I love to curl up in my favorite glider rocker and just think. 

Pre-dawn darkness covers everything, but a soft light gradually steals into the room.  The house is quiet, not yet fully awake.  With my back to the lace-covered bay window, I gaze out the sliding glass window to the south. 

The branches of the mulberry trees arch toward earth, heavy with their fruit.  A bright red cardinal hops from one branch to another, calling to his mate.  A small, sky- blue birdhouse, its door flanked by two birch twigs, hangs from the mulberry tree.  A tiny wren flits about, and then dives into the miniature house. 

The potted plants on the patio steps provide a splash of color:  red, trailing geraniums, brilliant against the white pots.  Arching asparagus ferns reach toward the patio.  Bright yellow moss roses, a hint of red at their centers, peek from beneath the greenery. 

My cat Tigger prowls, seeking prey.  The birds chatter and chastise him, but they need not fear.  He is too fat to catch them.

As I sit, still and quiet, contemplating the early morning peace and the beauty of nature, I sense the presence of God.

 It is in this setting, when I sit quietly and let my mind wander, that I can hear God’s still, quiet voice speaking to me. 

In this calm, contemplative state, I open my heart to hear His voice.  In the quiet, before my mind races with obligations and responsibilities, I watch.  I listen.  He responds.  He makes His presence known. 

Some mornings I meditate on His greatness.  Other mornings I listen to worshipful music.  As the beautiful notes wash over my soul, and the words seep into my heart, they speak volumes of God’s power, majesty, and grandeur. 

When I open my Bible, God speaks to me through the written word.  Passages I may never have noticed before nearly jump off the page.  “Listen to My words,” God says to my heart.  “These words are my special message, just for you, just for today’s circumstances.” 

As I ponder the words, I feel Him in the room, His love washing over my entire being.  I cherish this time with God.

Too soon, it is time to scurry about and prepare for the busy day ahead.  I would love to take these special moments with me and live in this state forever, but I know I cannot.  Even though I wish I could, I am unable to have this lengthy quiet time on a daily basis.

 Too often, my quiet time with God is far too short.  But I realize that He does not intend for me to live entirely on the mountaintop experiences of His love; He wants me to spend time in the valleys.  For it is only in the valleys that I can share these experiences with others. 

It is only in the valleys that others can see God’s presence in me.  It is only in the valleys that I can learn and grow. 

So I go about my everyday tasks, longing for insight into more of God’s grandeur.  Someday I know I will see Him face to face; someday I will behold, in full, His glory; someday I will go to the mountaintop where I will bask in His presence for all eternity.

 In the meantime, I obediently walk in the valleys and try to stay content with occasional glimpses of His glory.

Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.

Lord of my life, thank you for the mountaintop experiences and for the walks in the valley.  In your wisdom, allow each experience to mold me into your image.

Early Spring

As I sit on the brown, lifeless grass, its crispy blades crunch and break beneath my weight. High atop this hill, I can see for miles in every direction, the surrounding gently rolling hills the same dun color as the grass where I sit.

Dotted along the tan hillsides, dark green cedars raise their pointed heads skyward. The peaked ends of two white farmhouses reveal man’s presence in this pristine world.

The breeze blows through the three-foot-high dried Bluestem grasses, bending and rustling them along its way. The cloudless sky stretches bright blue in every direction, a treat for eyes more accustomed to the gray, overcast skies of winter.

This peaceful setting soothes my harried soul. My heart slows from the frantic pace of the past week, its rhythm now more in tune with the occasional bird call and the soft rustling of the grass.

It’s appropriate, somehow. Just four days ago we buried my father-in-law. Yes, he was old and had lived a long, good life. But it’s still hard to say goodbye. And the caring, for years, the waiting for death to release his body has been difficult.

All the busy week of funeral plans and a house full of company have left my body tired, broken. Physically and emotionally drained.

The rustling grasses draw my focus back to where I sit. Right in front of me, so close I can reach out and touch its branches, sits a leafless plum bush.

At first glance it seems lifeless. Looking closer, however, I notice red in the branches, and small buds growing all along its notches. New life and growth will soon unfurl on this bush.

I examine my own life’s winter. Frequently leafless and bare this past winter, I spent much joy-sapping energy watching my father-in-law’s health slowly decline until finally, after 91 years on this earth, he breathed his last.

With a flurry of activity my family and I planned the funeral, prepared for guests, and buried Dad, high on a wind-swept hill much like this one.

But I know the life cycle continues. The plum bush will sprout new leaves and bear fruit, my body and soul will find rest and rejuvenation, and Dad, freed from his feeble earthly body, will live a glorious new life in heaven.

The peaceful scene in front of me is appropriate for this difficult time in life. Finally, after a long winter of life, my father-in-law has passed to the spring of his new life.

Spring is just beginning to display her green finery and her bright splashes of flowering beauty. But Spring has sprung early this year for the beloved father recently buried.

I look to the distant horizon, beyond the dried grass-covered hills, where the cars scurry, speeding off to some unknown destination and I’m grateful I know my father-in-law’s final destination.

The cars hurry. I sit, enjoying the quiet, enjoying the solitude. I am at peace.

Comforting God, my prayer is for those who are broken. Loss–of a loved one, a job, a relationship, a reputation–has them grieving, their souls filled with wintry darkness. I pray you will wrap Your arms of comfort around them. Let the buds of spring grow in their souls until they blossom once again with hope and joy in You.

Cleaning the Flower Beds

In the early morning fresh air, I cleaned the flower beds.  First, I tackled the tall purple coneflowers, whose seed heads had provided the birds with winter food.  With my handheld, small shears, I quickly cut.  Snip, snip, down they came. 

Next came the yarrow:  snip, snip, the old dried stalks were quickly removed.  From there I moved to the bee balm, then the snapdragons and the daisies.  Soon all the dead flower stalks from last summer were cut and removed.  Once the dead stalks were gone, the new growth underneath became more visible.  Over the next few days, all the tender new plants grew quickly, for they now received ample sunlight.

In the same way that I prune the dead stalks from my flower bed in the spring, I ask God to prune away the dead habits from my soul and make room for His Holy Spirit to grow and flourish.  I allow Him to take the shears to my independence and pride and cut them down, allowing God’s strength to grow from the roots of my weakness.  Snip, snip, down goes the pride.  Next, cut down time wasted in useless pursuits.  Snip, snip, get rid of the misused time and allow time for study of God’s holy word and quiet reflection of His greatness.  Next, prune a complaining spirit and a willingness to gossip.  Snip, snip, down go the negative words and thoughts, allowing God’s love for others to grow strong and vigorous in me.  In the last flower bed, a healthy crop of doubt and discouragement grows.  Snip snip, cut down the doubt and discouragement, allowing faith in my awesome God to grow to a mighty tree.

John 15:2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears not fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Oh God, author of wisdom and truth, prune away my dead branches.  Eliminate the old, useless vines so your new growth will flourish.

What About Saturday?

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We celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and, of course, Easter Sunday. But what about Saturday? What must it have been like for Jesus’ followers on the day after he was crucified? The day before His resurrection?

Scripture doesn’t reveal much about this time, but we do know that some of the disciples had gathered together. Here’s how I imagine the scene.

Grief and fear covered the room like a cloak pulled tightly on a bitter cold day. Small groups of men and women huddled together in the room.

Mary sat in a corner, surrounded by her friends. Her face, blotched from crying all night, reflected the depth of her sorrow. The once-bright eyes that had shone with life and love were swollen and puffy from her deep pain.

She stared emptily at her sandals, then sighed deeply and raised her head, noticing the friends  surrounding her, put their comforting arms around her, and sharing her grief.

“In God’s hands. He is in God’s hands now and out of pain.” The ladies surrounding her nodded in agreement. “Once the Sabbath is over,” she said, her hands clasped on her lap, “we must work. We will need to gather and prepare the spices for his…his…,” she stifled back her sobs and continued. “Spices for his body. We must get them ready. First thing in the morning, we must go and anoint my son’s body.”

The ladies huddled together in the corner of the large room, making their plans for the next day, the day we now call Easter Sunday.

In another part of the room, John sobbed openly. His brother James stood beside him, his large, weathered hand on his brother’s shoulder. “How could He be gone,” wailed John. “He was to rule, and we were to rule with him, beside him.”

Sobs bent him double. After a few moments, he straightened up and looked at his brother through his tear-reddened eyes. “I don’t understand. He spoke wisdom, He healed people.” He wiped the sleeve of his cloak across his nose. “He was to be our Messiah. And now He’s gone. Gone. All we dreamed of, gone.”

Several in the room looked furtively about them, startling at every sound. Fear controlled them. With any noise, they were sure that soldiers were coming. Their hearts raced, for they expected to be arrested and nailed to a cross. Trembling, they feared they would suffer the same horrible fate as their friend Jesus.

Over all the quiet talking and tears, Peter’s voice rang out. He smashed his fist on the wooden table. “Why?” he cried out. “Why did I deny him? I deserted him in his time of need!” He tore at his cloak in anguish. “If only I’d stood up for him. If only I’d fought for him! Perhaps he’d still be alive today.”

If only they had known what we know. If only they had listened to Jesus, who told them He would rise again. If only they had trusted him.

But aren’t we the same as Jesus’ early disciples? Don’t we worry and cry when things don’t go as we thought they would? We cry, we stay busy to forget our troubles, we long for what we thought would happen, we tremble in fear, we become angry at missed opportunities, we lack trust in our Savior.

He told us He would see to our every need. He promised us abundant life. He sent His spirit to live within us, to guide us and help us. Yet we worry. Yet we doubt. Yet, just like the disciples, we too are human.

Resurrected Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for understanding our fears and lack of faith. Thank you for your grace and forgiveness. Thank you for Easter Sunday.