Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Surviving the Present

I know there are times it is too much for me to even think about redeeming the future; when today is just too overwhelming ~ I hope I can just survive the present. You know those kind of days.

You are or you have been the mother of small children and you do not have one.more.ounce of energy to offer. You have deadlines and responsibilities that seem to consume every brain cell. You are battered with images from your past that rob your joy. The memory of someone loved who has died opens that hole in your heart to allow all your strength to drain away. The future just looks hopeless.

I know there are times I just want to survive today. I cannot think about redeeming tomorrow.

I am thankful our Lord knew we would have days like this. Listen to his words in Matthew 6:34,

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

I am grateful for God's promises in Lamentations 3:19-24 when I encounter these times.

Remember my affliction and my wandering, the wormwood and bitterness. Surely my soul remembers and is bowed down within me. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."

How precious, how refreshing, what a hope-filled picture, as I face one of those kind of days, to know He is the great I AM, offering His lovingkindness and compassion, renewing my hope, and filling my portion.

I know I will have days where I do not have one.more.ounce of energy to offer; where it seems every brain cell is consumed with deadlines; where the brokenness of my past robs me of the joy here and now, my strength is simply draining away, and I feel hopeless.

When those days seem to find us without the energy, joy, strength and hope we need, may we dwell on the promise of His strength for today and His bright hope for tomorrow. As we wait on Him to renew us, restore us, fall a fresh on us ~ as we survive today ~ we ARE investing in the future that He promises to redeem in His perfect time.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Reflections

Easter stirs so many emotions for me. It seems my reflections are intricately woven with the events of Jesus' last week on earth.

As I approach Holy Week, I feel myself drawn to Gethsemane. It is a place of protest, you know, where Jesus went to ask the Father to let this cup of death pass from him. I have stood among the old olive trees in Gethsemane on a trip to Israel in 1997. The year before, I quite literally found myself begging God to let the cup of death pass over our family. I have laid a precious life in the lap of Abba Father and uttered the words,"Not my will but yours be done," as I learn to trust Him with the pain.

As I awake on Good Friday, I find myself identifying with the sorrow of Mary, whose son's life is slipping away as he hangs before her on the cross. And yet I find comfort in the words Jesus speaks to her in John 19:26, 27. He sees her tears, and looking down from the cross, he meets her in the form of her need, to fill the deep void created in her mother's heart.

When Jesus saw his mother
and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby,
he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!"
Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!"
And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

And then the hope of Easter comes upon me. I realize the power of the resurrection to bring a glorious reunion with those who have gone before. I recognize the promise of Jesus to his disciples as he taught them about his Kingdom that would be ushered in by his death. Jesus tells his disciples in John 16:22, 23 ~

You have sorrow now, but I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice,
and no one will take your joy from you.
In that day you will ask nothing of me.

My Easter reflections always take me back to a Garden in Jerusalem, where I stooped to enter an empty tomb. I praise Him for the promise of resurrection, the hope of reunion, and the Kingdom where he will . . .

. . . wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more,
neither shall there be mourning,
nor crying, nor pain anymore,
for the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4

Sunday, April 5, 2009

One Week to Live

Today is Palm Sunday. I remember from childhood the palm branches that adorned the sanctuary to signify the importance of Jesus' triumphal entry in our faith's historical record.

Many of us know the story well ~ the disciples get the donkey and tell the owner The Master has need of it, while the people of Jerusalem line the road to get a glimpse of Jesus as he enters Jerusalem as their King. Pastors across the nation today will probably use this text and historical context to focus our thoughts and lives upon OUR response to Jesus.

This year as I think about this first day of Holy Week, I find my thoughts on Jesus' response to the fact that he has only one week to live. As Jesus sends his disciples to get the colt, he knows he has one week to live. No disrespect intended toward the very King of Kings, but what might be on Jesus' Bucket List as he mounts that donkey and enters the city of David?

The movie The Bucket List suggests to its audience to think how we might redeem the last few days, weeks or months of our lives, if we knew when we would die. Following the lead from the movie, people have created extensive inventories as they envision projects to accomplish, places to see and people to meet, before they breathe their last breath.

In the last scene in the film The Bucket List, Carter Chambers expresses the transformation that has taken place in the life of Edward Cole. Both men spent their short time left on earth accomplishing many things important to them ~ traveling to places and meeting people. As the camera focuses on the mountain where Edward is buried, Carter says,
I know that when he died,
his eyes were closed and his heart was open.

In the account found in Scripture of this final week in Jesus' life on earth, I am struck by the fact that nothing he chooses to do that week has anything to do with his wants and desires. He does not travel to far off places. He does not seek out old friends to hang with. Rather, he moves confidently toward the cross, hoping to redeem the future for eternity as he teaches the crowds about the coming Kingdom and presses the religious leaders to recognize the Father who sent him.

As the Scripture account of Jesus' life pans from this joyous Triumphal Entry to the somber climb up the mount called Golgotha, it is quite clear that Jesus' eyes were open to God's purposes AND his heart was open to increasing the Kingdom for eternity.

I am challenged anew this Holy Week to not only respond to Jesus but respond like Jesus. I want to spend however many days, weeks, months or years I have left, glorifying God and peopling the Kingdom.

May our prayer this Palm Sunday be ~

God, open our eyes and our hearts to how we can redeem the future ~
with what time we have left on this Earth.

The Triumphal Entry by George and Diana Voyajolu, Iconographers, Kamena Vourla, Greece