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Posts tagged ‘cross’

Embrace 5 Ways to Keep Long-time Friends


Bob & Victor

Victor Salazar and Bob have stayed in touch for 50 years. How has that happened?

Victor was Bob’s wrestling student when Bob coached at Hillsdale High in San Mateo, CA. back in the 1970’s. Every year at Christmas, we exchanged Christmas cards. Victor let us know where he was each year – and his career took him to over 30 different countries! What a joy to have Vic come from Alabama to reconnect with us here in Montana this week!

I have had the fun of that kind of connection with former students, too. This is Ty Stiles and his wife with Bob & me. He was my kindergarten student in 1962! I named our first child, Ty. We never let Ty Stiles out of our sphere of contact. He was in my prayers daily. He came with his wife, Roxanne, from California to visit us a few years ago. About a year after his visit, sadly, Ty left this earth for is eternal home. My memories of him and his visit warm my heart every single day as I look at the cross he welded and sent to us shortly after his visit.

There’s no greater joy
Than to reconnect with friends
From long, long ago

Look up for your purpose!
Look up to the cross
Recall its loving meaning
Embrace those friendships

5 Ways to Keep Long-time Friends

  1. Pray lovingly for them daily.
  2. Be sure to keep them in your address book and write to them often (don’t just rely on social media)
  3. Pick up the phone and talk to them, emptying yourself into them… it’s an investment. Be loyal and be confidential.
  4. Let them know how much they mean to you, but don’t force the relationship. It has to be natural. Don’t insist that the relationship is forever reciprocal. Some friendships are meant to be seasonal… and the season may last years – but maybe not. You can’t control that.
  5. Be honest and transparent with them … let them see your warts. It shows you trust them not to hurt you… and you are trustworthy in return.

Embrace Long-time Friendships
Never let those precious folks go
Keep them forever in your heart
How long we’ll be here, we can’t know

Embrace Long-time Friends
My heart’s covered with footprints.
How about your heart?

See ya tomorrow (God willing)
Love,
JanBeek

Embrace Your Roots


When I hear the word “Roots,”
I think of the TV program
that captivated the nation
in 1977 when it first
was aired on ABC.

Roots is an American television miniseries based on Alex Haley‘s 1976 novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family. The series first aired on ABC in January 1977. Roots received 37 Primetime Emmy Award nominations and won nine. It also won a Golden Globe and a Peabody Award. It received unprecedented Nielsen ratings for the finale, which still holds a record as the third-highest-rated episode for any type of television series, and the second-most watched overall series finale in U.S. television history.[1][2] It was produced on a budget of $6.6 million.

If you are a genealogical buff, “Roots” conjures up images of family history … and maybe links to Ancestry.com.

When I see or hear the word “Roots,” I also think of this scripture:

Jeremiah 17:7-8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
“For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.

Roots
Buried deep
Connect to vine
Result in the branches
Mine

John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches:
He that abideth in Me, and I in him,
the same bringeth forth much fruit:
for without Me you can do nothing.”

My roots are planted deep in faith.

Rooted and Grounded
In the name of the Lord
Rooted and Grounded
By the Holy Ghost

If you want to go to Heaven
You have to be
Rooted and Grounded
In the Name of the Lord!


Embrace Your Roots –
Examine where they are grounded.
How do they stabilize you?
What comes to mind when you hear the word
ROOTS?

Thanks for visiting JanBeek

See ya tomorrow (God willing)


Embrace the Wind


Can’t embrace the wind!
Even if we think we would like to…
It can’t be contained!

Yesterday I delivered some paperwork to a friend
who is doing Bible Study with me once a week.
It was a quiet Saturday morning –
no wind (unusual for our windy valley).
My friend wasn’t home, so I left the papers
on her doorstep and texted her.
When she returned home,
the paperwork was long gone.
The wind had come up and blew
the packet to heaven only knows where!

Today’s sermon at the ZOOM meeting of
Madison Valley Presbyterian Church
here in Ennis, Montana
was titled, “The Wind Blows Where it Will.”

Inspired by the scripture:
John 3:1-17
(the story of Jesus & Nicodemus & the Holy Spirit)
here are my sermon notes
taken as I listened to
Rev. Steve Hundley
this morning:

The Wind Blows Where it Will

In the conversation between
Nicodemus and Jesus, two worlds collide.
One is worldly and the other is
Focused on where the Holy Spirit abides.

We often try to shrink our God
Into something we can understand.
But, we can’t fit God’s image
Into something in this earthly land.

The dilemma we face is that
We can’t think of God beyond
Our own human capacity.
That’s why it’s hard to respond.

John paints a picture of Nicodemus
As a man of great knowledge.
“Rabbi, we know…” he says,
Addressing Jesus with a nudge.

Nicodemus thinks he has God
Sized up and understood.
He’s sure he knows how He fits
Into this world… Oh, that we could!

Nicodemus tries to rope Jesus
Into the narrow realm of “We know…”
But every attempt fails.
Jesus is a mystery – a wind that’ll blow.

It blows beyond our knowing.
The Spirit blows beyond our capacity
To understand with our finite minds.
Does that surprise you and me?

We all have questions about the hereafter.
No one can refute the image we hold,
For our God’s life-giving grace
Is bigger than can ever be told.

The wind of the Spirit blows
Into darkness and brings light.
But we cannot see clearly
What God makes possible in His sight.

This scripture asks Nicodemus
To let the Spirit carry him to
A place beyond his imagination.
It asks the same expansion of you!

“Rabbi, we know…”
Ah, such assumptions!

John 3: 1-17

3:1 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[a]
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”[d]
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[e] 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,[f] 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”[g]
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Can’t embrace the wind!
Even if we think we would like to…
It can’t be contained!

Let’s try to embrace
The beauty of God’s Spirit
As it blows in us!

That’s a Bob Goff quote.
His Spirit is Love personified.
His book is “Love Does.”
Do you know it?

And how about this oldie but goodie?
Blowin’ in the Wind…
Questions Nicodemus might have asked Jesus:

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.
And with Easter upon us,
the answer was hangin’ on a cross.
Praise God, He is risen indeed!

The wind of the Spirit blows
Into darkness and brings light.

The Wind Blows Where it Will

Thanks for visiting JanBeek today.
May the Wind of the Spirit
Blow Light into your darkness today.

See ya tomorrow.

Embrace Obedience


Obedience
First listen
Learn to absorb
Take it all in
Heed

We all know what it means to be obedient, right? Listen, absorb, heed…
Did you hear any of these expressions when you were growing up?

“If you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about!”

“Why?? Because I said so, that’s why!”

Photo by Joshua Santos on Pexels.com

“Yours is not to question why. Yours is just to do or die!”

Photo by Nelly Aran on Pexels.com

Where did those images of obedience come from? Certainly not from a Loving Father.

Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”Luke 11:28


“If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
Isaiah 48:18

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com


“If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land”
Isaiah 1:19

Photo by Trang Doan on Pexels.com


“And we are witnesses of these things;
and so is the Holy Spirit,
whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
Acts 5:32

Who or What to Obey?

Obedience
Differs with
Who you obey
Make it “The Word”
God

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com


Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22

To heed God’s Word
Is better than honey
Better than palaces
Better than money

To heed God’s voice
As He whispers in your ear
Is to hear His angels speaking
And to cherish what you hear

Obedience to the teachings
Of wise men and women, too
Is the road successful people
Travel daily. How about you?

Are you tuning in to wisdom
Are you listening really well?
If so, then your obedience
Will show – others will tell.

They’ll tell of your goodness.
They’ll see what brings you peace
And they’ll want to have a share
In the joy that will not cease.


“But this is what I commanded them, saying,
‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God,
and you will be My people;
and you will walk in all the way
which I command you,
that it may be well with you.’
Jeremiah 7:23

When we live in obedience,
We can sing with the best of them:
It is well with my soul –
And we can can pray for the rest of them!

Embrace Obedience!
Easter is coming… when we set aside time
To thank our God for sending the Perfect Example
Of what Obedience – even to the cross – looks like.

Praise God!
Hear – Heed -Obey!

Jesus – simple, yet complex

Thanks for visiting JanBeek today.
I pray my Embrace series is encouraging you.
See ya tomorrow.

Embrace Grace


Photo by Jacob Kelvin.J on Pexels.com

My hands are dirty –
And my heart is soiled, too.
Time for spring cleaning!

This season of Lent is a time for cleaning –
Cleaning out our hearts in preparation
For the arrival of Easter when we can
Embrace God’s grace through Jesus’ sacrifice.

Today’s sermon on our ZOOM worship service
Was titled, “Holy Ground” as our pastor,
Steve Hundley, recounted his trip to
The Holy Land back about 20 years ago.

My feet are dirty –
And my heart is soiled, too.
Time for spring cleaning!

Holy Ground

What was it like to be able
To walk in the footsteps of Jesus?
What was it like to stand
On Holy Ground? Spiritually renewing?

I was expecting each site to be charged
With such power that holy goose bumps
Popped up all over my body.
But I was a bit disappointed.

It was hard to feel the grace of the risen Christ
In this historically preserved place.
How do you feel Jesus breaking bread
When all you’re seeing is the top of a rock?

It’s important to protect these sites,
But looking through plexiglass makes it
Hard to feel the reality of Jesus.
The garden tomb remains open, though.

It’s helpful to see without obstacles
That distort the original places.
We have our own expectations of
What we’ll feel imagining holy faces.

Jesus and the money changers
Were there on the temple floor
Where I stood on that visit.
But I couldn’t feel Jesus’ anger.

I wondered if maybe those men
Were in fact offering a service.
He told them they could tear it down
And He’d rebuild it in three days.

They didn’t know He was referring
To His body, not the building.
Buildings are not what we worship.
We worship God’s nature in spirit and in Truth.

We are often tied to the
Rites and rituals to define us.
But our traditions must not
Rise above the Christ we adore.

It is not the place that matters.
It is the love in our hearts
That counts when we join together
In worship… thanking God for His grace.

Thank You, God, for Jesus, for Easter,
For the meaning of the cross,
And for the sacrifice of Your Son’s life
So we might EMBRACE GRACE.

The HOPE of EASTER
Is in the grace of the cross.
Let’s engage in some spring cleaning
In preparation to stand on that Holy Ground…
At the threshold of our eternal cleansing.

Embrace Grace.

AMEN

Thanks for visiting JanBeek today.
See ya tomorrow.
I’m headed to do some spring cleaning!

Embrace Focus


Do you focus easily?
Do you see things with clarity?
Do you hear with understanding?
Do you embrace the concept of focus?

Today’s sermon at Madison Valley Presbyterian Church
focused on the cross… but not just any old cross …
the cross of Christ, the one on which He died for us.
The one we are to pick up and carry.
Here are the notes I took
as I focused and listened to
Rev. Steve Hundley preach on the subject:
“The Cross of Christ”

The disciples heard Jesus say,
“Take up your cross and follow me.”
Matthew 16:24-26 says,
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, 
“If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 
25 For whoever would save his life[a] will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 
26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world
and forfeits his soul?
Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

What does it mean today to believe
And to accept Jesus – take His cross?
We’d like Jesus to be specific.
Would carrying it be like an albatross?
He said “Take up YOUR cross.
But, not ANY cross… What’s the difference?
My cross can be quite worldly.
Do I carry it with reverence?

The world we live in is full
Of crosses in every size and form.
How do we know we’re carrying
The one meant for us when we were born?
The cross that brings healing
And restoration to our world
Is the one Jesus asks us to carry,
Not the cross of destruction hurled.

A cross of love and reconciliation
Can be used and turned to mean
Violence or passivity, both can
Represent abuse and pain. Don’t lean
On a fatalistic cross – or else
You’ll find despair and even death.
Instead, pick up Christ’s cross.
It’ll bring peace to your last breath.


The Bible reassures us that
Pain and suffering will be ours;
But God will meet us where we are.
We’ll receive the peace He showers
On us when we take His cross
And follow Him and His voice.
Let’s FOCUS on God’s saving promise.
Take up His True Cross. It’s your choice!

Amen

Photo by mali maeder on Pexels.com
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Photo by u266b u266a on Pexels.com
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com
Photo by William Mattey on Pexels.com

Thank you for sharing our worship service notes
and one of our hymns with me today.
I hope you are able to find church family
with whom to worship in these pandemic days.

If you’d like to join our ZOOM service next Sunday, send me your e-mail
and I’ll forward the ZOOM invitation, bulletin and song sheet to you.

That’s me up there taking this picture with Bob beside me!
ZOOM with us. We’re an informal bunch!
Share, drink your coffee, ask questions…
FOCUS on the message

Thanks for visiting with JanBeek today.
Have a beautiful Sunday afternoon/evening.
See ya tomorrow.

P.S. – Here is another version of “Were You There?”
Soooo Beautiful!!

Embrace Hope


My Favorite Student

Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites.
Right?

Ty, Roxanne (Merri), Jan & Bob

See that young man on the left up there?
His name is Ty.
He is my favorite!

(Well, in honesty… don’t be dismayed
if you’re one of my students….
I have lots of favorites, OK?
But Ty… well, read on!)


Ty was my kindergarten student in 1962-3.
Every day when he stepped off the school bus,
the girls all stopped what they were doing.
“Hi Ty!” they would swoon.
Yes, even kindergarten girls
recognize a sweetheart when they see one!

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

And every day when it was time to go home,
the girls all waved to Ty,
“Bye, Ty!”
they would swoon.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I was a newlywed.
It was my second year of teaching.
I decided if I had a boy someday,
I would name him Ty.
And I did!

Here’s my Ty with his little sister, DeAna.

Ah yes, my Ty is a sweetheart, just like his namesake!

See the sweetness sparkle?
Both Tys are a little older now!

So why the HOPE title?

Yesterday I heard the devastating news
that my favorite student, Ty,
has been diagnosed
with Stage 4 cancer.
It has metastasized.
He needs our prayers.
My heart is heavy,
but I am a believer…
and HOPE
is what believers do,
right?

Day before yesterday I posted this scripture:

“For I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord,
“Plans to prosper you
and not to harm you.
Plans to give you hope
and a future.”

Jeremiah 20:11

I know God has Ty tucked into the palm of His hand,
just as He holds our world in His hand.

I know God is watching over Ty and his treatment process.
But, won’t you add your prayers to mine?
“Dear Lord, please give healing to Ty.”

I wrote about Ty when he came to visit us
here in Montana a couple of years ago.
Here is the blog link:
https://janbeek.blog/2019/05/25/gift-from-the-heart/

A Gift from the Heart

After Ty & Roxanne left, they sent us a thank you gift for our hospitality. He created this cross for us. It hangs on my dining room wall as a constant reminder of my special student, Ty Stiles.

Notice the three bars?
Ty said they represent the Trinity.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Please Heal Ty!!

Embrace Hope

“May the God of Hope
fill you with all joy and peace
as you trust in Him.”

Romans 15:13

The reign of Christ,
both present and in the future,
is our foundation of Hope.

Take Peace

“And in despair I bowed my head
‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will toward men.

Then peeled the bells more loud and deep –
God is not dead, nor doeth He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail –
With peace on earth, good will toward men.”

Embrace Peace.
Embrace Love.
Embrace Joy.
Embrace Prayer.
Embrace Hope.

See ya tomorrow.

Thanks for visiting
and praying with
JanBeek

Is Your Cross Too Heavy?


Photo by Vitu00f3ria Santos on Pexels.com

Thank you, Vitu Santos for this wonderful photo.
It speaks volumes to me…
and it exhibits to me
the message of today’s sermon…

Today’s sermon notes

At the Madison Valley Presbyterian Church in Ennis, MT today,
Rev. Steve Hundley delivered his sermon titled, “Is Your Cross Too Heavy?”
The Lord prompted me to take my sermon notes in the shape of a cross.
The photo of the cross sermon above is the result of that effort.

Photo by Mauriciooliveira109 on Pexels.com

To illustrate his point – that we need to give Jesus our burdens,
lighten our load, and live in joy, Rev. Steve used this story:

“It’s hard for an egg to become a bird,
but it would be harder for a bird
to fly while still in the egg.”

Let go the egg…
and FLY!
Give Jesus your burdens
and follow Him
with JOY,
not because you HAVE to,
but because you
WANT to.

Photo by Joshua Abner on Pexels.com

God bless you
with the JOY
of
Life Given Away
because you WANT to!

Thank you, Ty, for this beautiful image.

Have a Happy Labor Day weekend.
See ya tomorrow.
Love,
JanBeek

Believe and Be Joyful


Thanks to Pastor Steve Hundley
and our music minister, Fran McNiell,
for the prayers, stories, and sermon,
and the music for today’s worship service.

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER

April 19, 2020

Opening Prayer

Risen Christ, the brightness of God’s glory and exact image of God’s Person, who death could not conquer nor tomb imprison, as You have shared our frailty in human flesh, help us to share Your immortality in the Spirit.  Let no shadow of the grave terrify us and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from You.  Reveal Yourself to us this day and all our days, as the First and the Last, the living One, our immortal Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Prayer of Confession:

We confess, O God, that we have not lived the past weeks in the faith of Easter.  We have been like the disciples, who saw life in terms of the suffering of the cross more than in the joy of resurrection.  Forgive our hopelessness in the face of our world’s response to the COVID 19 pandemic, these past few weeks, and help us to trust more fully that You are the Lord of our future.  Amen.

Assurance of Pardon:

As God raised Jesus from the dead, so God will lift us all from the graves of broken dreams.  God makes us whole again and send us forth to witness to His name.

A Children’s Message
for Adults, too! 

Steve’s message for the children today
tells of a boy carrying two buckets…
not just one, and not on a sandy beach like this one…
read on and see how his buckets and path differed from this!

Photo by Svetlana Parkhomenko on Pexels.com

(a true story)

When I was a boy, my mother would often send me down the road to Clyde’s cabin to help him with his laundry. Clyde lived in a log cabin he had built in the early nineteen-hundreds.  His cabin had no running water, only a well out back.  There was a creek out front less than a quarter mile from his front door.

Clyde had an old roller washing machine, a tub and an old scrub board.  It was my job to carry water from the creek to the cabin in two old milk pails.  I would fill the pails in the creek and make my way back to the cabin, pouring what water that didn’t spill or leak out of the buckets into the large tub.  Filling each bucket to the rim each trip, I would arrive with less than half a bucket of water.  At that rate, it would take me practically all day to supply enough water for Clyde’s washing and rinsing. 

Complaining about the amount of water that I was spilling over the top of the buckets, not to mention the water lost from holes in his dilapidated buckets, Clyde instructed me to place a small block of wood in the buckets.  He explained that the blocks of wood floating in the buckets would help water from splashing out the tops.  Though it helped a little, I continued to leak water from the holes the buckets.

On one trip from the creek to the cabin with water leaking down my legs and into my shoes, I had had about enough.  “Clyde,” I moaned, “When are you going to throw away these sorry buckets and buy new ones?  These dented old rust buckets are full of holes.”  Clyde just smiled his toothless grin and said, “Why boy, those are my special buckets.  I could never get rid of them.”  “But these sorry things are full of holes,” I whined. “And, it takes me twice the effort and double the trips back and forth from the creek, to fill your tubs.”

“Boy, take a look along that path leading down to the creek,” Clyde said.  “Do you see all those beautiful wildflowers, lining the path?  Every time you made the hard trip from the creek to the cabin, spilling water along the way, you were unknowingly watering God’s beautiful flowers for us to enjoy.”

Jesus’ followers found the path towards Easter to be really difficult.  Peter denied knowing Jesus, not once, but three times, though he vowed never to do so.  After that, he was so upset that he no longer considered himself worthy of being a disciple.  Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to watch her son suffer and die on the cross.  Mary Magdalene was not only upset by Jesus’ death, but was horrified to think that someone had stolen His body when she found the stone rolled away.

  I am sure that God could have found an easier path for them to follow than the way of the cross.  But, without the pain of the cross, there can be no Easter joy.  Without God coming into the world in the person of Jesus Christ and paying the price for our failures on the cross, we would not see, know, or enjoy the beauty of His love for us.

Prayer for Illumination:

            God of life, whose Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and draws us to Christ, send Your Spirit now to give us deeper insight, encouragement, faith and hope, through the proclamation of the Easter gospel.  Amen.

An Easter Message:                           “Through Locked Doors”

John 20:19-29

For centuries Christians celebrated Jesus’ resurrection the week following Easter with parties and picnics.  The week culminated with “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday”, a day of joy and laughter.  Churchgoers and pastors would play jokes on each other, tell silly jokes, and would sing and dance.  The custom was rooted in the notion of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine, St. Gregory of Nysa, and St. John Chrysostom that God had played a practical joke on the devil by raising Jesus from the dead.  Early theologians called it “the Easter Laugh”.  Later, it became known as “the Gospel as Divine Comedy.”

However, the thought of the resurrection as God’s practical joke on the devil and death is not something we tend to think about the Sunday following Easter.  Over the years, the tradition of “Bright Sunday” or “Holy Humor Sunday” has been lost.  That tradition has been replaced with what we have come to know as “Low Sunday.”  Compared to the highest feast day in the church year – Easter Sunday- the Sunday following is considered the lowest.  Why is that?

I don’t know.  Maybe the excitement of Easter Sunday fades so quickly because the church, over the years, has lost its hope in the power of the resurrection.  Maybe.  Or, perhaps it is because the stories of Easter and the resurrection have become so familiar to us that we have lost sight of the irony of life overcoming death, especially given the high death toll we are experiencing during this recent pandemic.  Well, maybe.

You have to admit that someone rising from the grave is a rather fantastic idea in our modern world.  For instance, when my son was in middle school, he came home one day after school to discover that our Brittany Spaniel was running around in the backyard with our neighbors’ pet rabbit in its mouth.  Chasing the dog, my son finally caught it and wrenched the rabbit from its jaws.  He quickly discovered, not only was the rabbit covered with mud and dog slobber, it was also dead as a door nail. 

Panicking, he scooped the rabbit up and ran into the house.  In the bathroom, he carefully washed the rabbit off, carefully brushed it out, and dried it with his mother’s hairdryer.  Stealthily, he crept back into the neighbors’ yard and quickly placed the dead rabbit back into its rabbit pen.  Arranging it just right, it was impossible to tell that the rabbit was dead.  Sneaking back to the house, my son retired to his room, promising himself not to tell anyone what had really happened.

Arriving home from my office, I was standing in the kitchen when I heard the blood curdling scream coming from my neighbor’s backyard.  Running out the house, I ran to the fence to see our neighbor’s wife staring with horror into the rabbit pin.  “What on earth has happened?” I called.  “THE RABBIT, IT DIED!” she screamed.  “It died?” I said inquiringly.  Turning to run back into her house, she screamed: “YES, IT DIED THREE DAYS AGO!  WE BURIED IT, BUT NOW IT IS BACK!  (Now this story may not be true, but you have to admit, be it rabbit or human, rising up from the grave is a fantastic notion in this day and time!)

Can you and I even fathom the shock of the disciples when Jesus appeared to them, passing through locked doors?  Sure, they had trudged behind Jesus through the entire Judean countryside.  Jesus’ purpose and teachings were hard to understand, even though He spoke of being the Christ—the Messiah—the Holy One of God, who is of the Father.

  But, all that must have seemed like a dream (or more like a nightmare) when Jesus was crucified, ending all hope.  The death of Jesus had slammed the door on their greatest hopes and dreams.  It was over.  It had been good while it lasted, but now the door was locked and nothing could bring Him back to life again, or so they thought.  They had buried Him three days before, AND NOW, HE WAS BACK!

Of course, the reaction to God’s practical joke on death was varied among Jesus’ followers.  While the “beloved disciple” may have believed without evidence except for an empty tomb, Mary Magdalene only believed because the Risen Christ called her by name.  The remaining disciples, excluding Thomas, believed only because their Risen Christ appears to them, granting peace to them, and showing them His hands and His side.  Yet, for Thomas, neither the word of his fellow disciples, nor the sight of the Risen Lord would be sufficient.  For Thomas said, “Unless I place my fingers into the nail holes, and stick my hand in His side, I will not believe.”

It would seem that true FAITH is not the same experience for everyone, not then, not now.  Neither is FAITH generated with the same kind and degree of evidence for each individual.  For some, FAITH is born and grows as quietly as a child sleeping on grandmother’s lap.  For others, FAITH is a lifetime of wrestling with the angel.  And, some cannot remember a time in their life when they didn’t believe, while others cannot remember anything else with their lives having been shattered and reshaped by their decision of FAITH.

No matter how FAITH came, or comes, to you and me, it would do us well to remember the words of Jesus who said: (and I paraphrase), “REMEMBER THIS, UNLESS YOU ACCEPT GOD’S KINGDOM IN THE SIMPLICITY OF A CHILD, YOU’LL NEVER GET IT.”  And like a child, what better way to celebrate God’s joke on death than with joy, laughter, singing, and dancing? Yet, what a shame it is, when the voice of doubters or the voice of those of us for whom FAITH has become the norm, even commonplace, drown out the true irony and wonder of the resurrection.

When I think of the true joy and wonder of faith, I cannot help but remember a boy named Lonnie, years ago, in my 3rd grade classroom.  Lonnie’s parents had died in an automobile accident, so his grandparents were raising him.  I remember how we used to tease Lonnie mercilessly, because he would believe anything.  We’d say, “The school burned down, so we don’t have to go to school Monday.”  “Oh, boy!” he’d say.  You see, he’d believe it!

  “They are giving away free ice cream down at Mr. Kern’s grocery store.”  “FREE ICE CREAM?”  he’d squeal and off he’d go running.  “Lonnie, did you know that that Elvis is coming to our school?”  “HE IS REALLY?  WHOOPEE!”  Yep, that boy would believe anything! 

One day, Lonnie showed up at our little country church and came to our Sunday School class.  Our teacher, old Miss King, told Lonnie that: “God loves you and cares for You.  And God will come to you in Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead.”  And do you know, THAT KID BELIEVED IT!  HE ACTUALLY BELIEVED IT! 

Do you believe it?  Do we really believe it?  And, if we do, then where is our laughter?  Where is the singing and dancing?  Where is our uncontrollable joy?  Hmmm. 

Sing along! The words are so beautiful!

Pastoral Prayer:

Lord of the cross and the Empty Tomb, we worship You.  Though the pandemic rages on, You give us reason to hope.  We thank You that we are not alone even as the news of more Corona Virus cases and deaths dominate the headlines.  Though we are well-acquainted with death, dying and grief, we praise You that death has been vanquished and its spell broken.  And though our lives are still embroiled in sin, failure and inadequacy, thank You, O God, for giving our lives meaning, purpose and direction.

We confess that the more days we stay at home, the more likely it is that we may forget Your power and fall into despair.  Yet, today we remember and hope comes back. Though the darkness of the night brought doubt and disarray, in the light of this new day we bow our heads in worship.  Like Thomas, we desire to see the nail prints and touch the wound in Your side, but Your presence is enough, and we cry out, saying: “My Lord, and my God!”

Walk among us, Lord, and touch our troubled lives.  Give hope to the hopeless, strength to the faltering, love to the lonely, compassion and courage to those on the front line of this pandemic. We pray for health, hope, and help for those who have lost their incomes and/or health insurance in the midst of this ongoing lock down.  Let the radiance of Your resurrected presence shine upon them and us as it shone upon Your first disciples and make new persons of us all, as it did of them.

Transform us from frightened, hesitant, uncommitted followers into people of fire and steel who know what we believe and who will follow You no matter what the future holds.  Live in and through us.  Walk among us and teach us to walk with You.  For You alone have the words of eternal life, and You alone can call us into discipleship.  Lord of the cross and empty tomb, we praise You!  Bring healing and hope to our hurting world, for Your name’s sake, saying together, as One Church, One Body …”Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts (trespasses), as we forgive our debtors (those who trespass against us). And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

Charge:

Go into the world: dance, laugh, sing, and create.

Go into the world: risk, explore, discover, and love.

Go into the world: believe, hope, struggle, and remember.

Go into the world with the assurance

that God loves you and you are not alone.

Amen.

Blessing:

Go Now! for you cannot go where God is not.

Go with noble purpose,

and God will give meaning to Your days.

Go in love, for it alone endures.

Go in peace, for it is the gift of God

 to those whose hearts and minds

are in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Amen.

Have a Blessed and Joyful Sunday.

See ya tomorrow.


The Trinity


The Trinity – My Motivation

 

Looking around for motivation I see

A glorious cross looking back at me.

Its stem and crossbars represent

The trifold Diety – the trinity.

This unique symbol of my faith

Was a gift from a student dear to my heart.

He created it as a thank you to me last year —

That was nearly 50 years since we had our start.

He was my kindergarten student

When I began teaching in 1961;

And I was so enamored with him

That in 1965 I used his name for my son.

.

Now, some 50+ years later,

He and his wife came to visit us here

In Montana where we’ve retired.

His thank you cross keeps him here – ever near.

Do you have folks from your past

Who remain ever near in your heart?

If so, have you reached out to them lately?

Do it now! It’s never too late to start. .

Have a good night… And a wonderful weekend.

Tell me about someone who has remained near to your heart for as long as you can remember!

See ya tomorrow.

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