Sunday, April 28, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "The Necessity of the Relationship"

When Chuck died five months ago, several dozen women showed up at a local coffee shop the next day to love and support me.  They placed their strong arms around my burdened shoulders and they mixed their tears with mine  They clinked coffee mugs as they toasted funny stories about Chuck and they stood together while they signed their names to a piece of paper around a long table of girlfriends....a piece of paper with a sign-up sheet to take Liz to the Ark Encounter, a life-size replica of Noah's Ark, in the do what she and Chuck had never been able to do.

You see, Chuck and I had tried for three years to get to the Ark...but each time, "life" happened that prevented us from getting there.  As we tried once again to visit the Ark this past October, we found ourselves halfway there...somewhere between Memphis and Nashville...when he became ill for the last time.  We were forced to turn around and head back home.  Two weeks later, he was gone.  

As I've toured this incredible Ark in Kentucky with these 13 amazing friends instead of my husband this week, I have discovered a rare love between women.  Not just for me....but for each other.  It reminds me of the 12 men and Jesus who traveled together for several years learning about the value in the relationship...the necessity of the relationship....much like I have discovered with each of these women.  

I have also discovered as I walked through the doors of this Ark, that Jesus truly has been my Ark.  My place of safety and rescue from the impending storm, just as it was for Noah and his family. He is the invisible force...the place we put our Trust and Faith in when our lifeboat capsizes...when life doesn't turn out like we expected or death knocks on our front door.  

And sometimes it takes a confident step of Faith to walk through the tall open gopher-wood doors of the Ark to find Him standing there, offering you safety from the storms of this life...peace from the chaos of this world...and to hear Him you and to me"Blessed are those who have not seen....and yet have come to believe."  

My friend, walk through that large open door to your Ark of safety...Jesus; it's your only protection from the storms that are coming. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: "There Is A Story That Survives Fire"

"Now is our chance to CHOOSE the right side.
God is holding back to give us that chance.
It won't last forever.
We must take it or leave it."
C.S. Lewis

When the steeple finally fell from a burning Notre Dame this Holy Week, it was like 3:00 pm, two-thousand-years-ago on Good Friday once again.  I could almost hear the words, "It Is Finished" as it fell in slow motion and the skies grew dark from the heavy smoke and eerie sadness.  The choir of voices from behind the police one of the least spiritual cities in the world...could be heard singing the words to Ava Maria.  At the same time, my atheist friend sends me an email, "Say a prayer for me when you attend Easter service, Liz."  But to "who" I ask... if you don't believe in God?

The Friday He died...the day that changed the world...when the curtain in the temple was miraculously and lovingly ripped from top to bottom and opened the door to Salvation for you and I, oh, to have lived in that time and witnessed what happened that day!  Where would I have been in that crowd, I ask myself?   

Would I have been one of those in the group that yelled "Crucify Him", or would I have been one who bowed my head when I heard Jesus cry out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing?

Would I have denied Him like Peter or would I have run and hidden like the other disciples? 
So where would you have been in that crowd?  Would you have had your arm around Mary as she watched her Son being stripped and beaten, then forced to carry his own heavy cross?  Would you have stared...or looked the nails were hammered into His wrists and feet?   

It's a fear of mine...not knowing where I would have stood in the crowd that Friday.

And today is Easter....a day we remember to stay rooted in His story...because His-story has to become OUR story.  And the words that should burn through our soul every-single-day should be "How am I spending His blood?"  

Sunday, April 14, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: Jesus, Have Mercy On Me

Time is more week before the curtain is torn...the sky grows dark...and our Savior cries, "It Is Finished".  

It was about this time some 2000 years ago that Jesus and His followers were approaching the city of Jericho just before heading to Jerusalem for the final time.  As they walked along the dirt road with the city in sight ahead of them, they passed a discouraged, but hopeful, blind man.  He yelled out over the noise of the crowd, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

People scolded him for being so loud and annoying....disregarding him as not being important enough to speak to Jesus.  But through the many voices talking, Jesus heard his cries.  He stopped, asked to have the blind man brought to Him, and proceeded to ask him a "Well, duh" question.  "What do you want Me to do for you?" Jesus asks him.

"Lord, I want to see," was his reply.  And Jesus said to him, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you."

"Of course he wants to see", we say as we sit in our armchairs reading this story.  Why would Jesus ask him such an obvious question?  Could it be that Jesus just needed him to be specific?  Maybe.  But it's hard for me to read this story without wondering what my answer would be if Jesus asked this question of me.  "Liz, what do you want Me to do for you?".  Whoa....suddenly the question becomes less obvious.

I "hope" my answer would be the same as the blind mans.  "Lord, I want to SEE".  Not through the lens of my eyes, but through the lens of my heart and soul.  And I hope Jesus' response would be, "Receive your sight, Liz; your faith has healed you."

You see, Jesus is constantly asking this question of each of us.  "What do you want Me to do for you, (place your name here)?"

How will you respond?

Sunday, April 7, 2019

GROWING SEEDS: Grace Covers Sin

April 7, 2019

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. 
But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 
1 John 2:1

For two hours most every Sunday afternoon since January, I have spent it sitting next to a cute little pre-teen in our church's Confirmation Class (i.e., Baptismal-type class for those who aren't Methodist).  They are learning about the importance of Relationship between God and us...who God is (and isn't)....and how Grace covers Sin.

This past Sunday, they were asked to write out the word "SIN" in their own unique way all over a page in their study book..  I watched as my little mentee used squiggly lines to write out in her own artistic way, "SIN", all over her page with a light-colored pen.  They were then instructed to use a dark colored pen and write the word "Grace" on top of and to cover the sin words.  

As I watched her creative mind and hand working together to complete this project, it reminded me of an example I heard by Guest Speaker, Josh Hood, at our last week's Wednesday night service of The Stand.  He explained Sin and Grace this way:

Imagine you are sitting at a kitchen table with a filthy dirty plate in front of you.  The filth on the plate is your sins, your transgressions, your wrong-doings.  Now, imagine God sitting directly across the table from you with a clean white plate in front of Him.  This spotless plate represents His grace.  When we ask God to forgive us of our sins, it's as if He replaces His squeaky clean plate with our dirty filthy plate.  He swaps them right there in front of you on the table.  He takes your soiled and unclean plate full of sins and, in return, hands you His immaculately dirt-free plate.   

It was a beautiful visual of how undeserving I am that he would switch my sins for His forgiveness.  I've heard Grace explained as God moving heaven and earth to save sinners who could not lift a finger to save themselves.  That would describe you and me.

May the grace He has given you today, yesterday and tomorrow, be the grace you share with others.

Amazing Grace!  How sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!