More Hope Resurrection Sunday: Easter 2018

Easter

Photograph by Donna Harris

Dear God,

We are adopted by you into your forever grace and our lives are forever changed because you rescued us once and for all through your son, Jesus … yet you continue to rescue us again and again by making a way for us to escape and to break free from strongholds that want to devour and destroy the peace and joy that comes with being a child of the King.

How thankful I am that you are my heavenly father. How thankful I am to be named a child of God. You are so gracious and so very generous with lavishing your love upon your children. You love us unconditionally, inviting us to sit with you around your banquet table. We come filthy and wearing dirty clothes; and you wash the dirt from our feet and dress us in clean and pure garments of righteousness. You serve us bread that is broken by you and we eat of it until we are full and we drink of the living water you pour into our cup until it overflows.

I am reminded that our children are comforted by the unconditional love we give them. They are kept. We will never let go of them. How much more awesome it is to thank you, gracious God for never letting your children go … we are kept.

With a humble heart I praise and pray.

He is Risen 1

Photograph by Donna Harris of Lake Wylie, Charlotte, NC

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! His death is the death of death, and His resurrection is the resurrection of all things. He died for our sins and is raised for our justification. Oh, the wonder, marvel and gratitude that fills our hearts today. We are forgiven, we are beloved, and we are His!

Easter post 2015

Photograph by Donna Harris

“Getting found almost always means being lost for a while … Easter says that love is more powerful than death, bigger than the dark, bigger than cancer, bigger even than airport security lines.” ― Anne Lamott, Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace

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Photograph by Donna Harris

“Hello, sun in my face. Hello you who made the morning and spread it over the fields…Watch, now, how I start the day in happiness, in kindness.” ― Mary Oliver

An Easter morning painting  

Silent Saturday: Easter 2018

 

EasterWeekPrayer

Photograph by Donna Harris

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  (Revelation 5:11)

There was so much grief and sadness this Silent Saturday. So many fears and doubts. Questions unanswered … yet.

We’re not alone in not fully understanding God’s silence. The disciples had lost hope completely. They were confused and shocked by the silence of that Saturday. Their doubt caused them to abandon the cause completely and perhaps stop believing in what Jesus taught.

But despite the silence, Jesus promises that joy is coming. In our times of pain, grief, misunderstanding, and confusion… In our moments where we are left wallowing in the silence of God and unanswered prayers… When we are stuck in our Saturdays-the days following our darkest moments, we can hold on to this promise-one that Jesus gave his disciples some 2000 years ago: joy is coming. A joy that no one can take away. [1]

“I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. ” John 16:20-22

This is my prayer today … to praise Jesus Christ the Son of God—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Time is drawing near and God is making all things new, (Revelation 21:5) He will create a clean heart in me.  If I were to stand before Him and gaze into His holiness, in all of His glory, I would fall down dead. Yet God welcomes me to His throne and says, “Do not be afraid” (Revelation 1:17).

I repeat those four words, do not be afraid and I am overcome with worship and praise because I am held firmly in His tender grasp until the final moments of my life.

The silence of Saturday will soon be shattered with the shouts of Sunday: “The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!” Hallelujah, many times over.

Worthy is the Lamb

Photograph by Donna Harris. Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

[1] Margaret Feinberg

 

Maundy Thursday: Easter 2018

Help Others--Help Yourself

This is a repost of the original written in 2013. I thought it was important to share again this Maundy Thursday of Holy Week because Jesus is the supreme example of servanthood — Loving and Helping others. He served before he was served, he gave before he received, he listened before speaking, he showed compassion without boundaries.

Somebody once made the observation that the person who is wrapped up entirely in himself makes a very small package–and the package contains an unhappy person. Think about this: Have you ever known a genuinely happy, self-centered person?

Research indicates that those who consistently (help) show kindness to other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer. Students who performed five acts of kindness a day increased their happiness and providing emotional support to others significantly decreased the harmful health effects of certain kinds of stress.

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s about being helpful and showing kindness to other people.  As Luke records it, Jesus told this parable in the context of a teacher of the law who, “wanting to justify himself,” asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus confounds him by suggesting that God requires us to love our “neighbors” in a way that transcends ethnic boundaries.  (Luke 10:25-37) Sadly, we often fail to meet Jesus’ ideal of neighbor love.

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”  Philippians 2:3-4 (The Message) 

When helping people, find out what’s actually valuable to them. Make an effort to ask them where they need help, and keep that in mind when you see an opportunity. And there are many opportunities to help others. Just don’t make it all about you.

The more you make helping others all about you, the more disappointed, dry and weary you’ll become. And the more you understand that this is about Jesus, and his kingdom, and his crown, and his glory, the more freed up you are to help others. To love others.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:16-20 (NIV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

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“Family” Photograph by Donna Harris

The humility Jesus showed by disrobing to wash the disciples feet, was just a preview of the humiliation he would endure—being stripped naked, publicly shamed, and nailed to the cross… all for the washing of their hearts, and ours. What wondrous love is this, indeed—how wide, long, high, and deep (Eph. 3:14-19). “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NLT). Thank you, Lord, for loving us extravagantly, fully, wondrously. ―Scotty Smith, TGC

 

Tuesday of Holy Week: Easter 2018

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“My Father’s Garden” Watercolor painting of camellias by Donna Harris Art

Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; then you shall cry and he will say, “Here I am.” Isaiah 58:9

Your brokenness and sin are not something you can overcome so that you can walk with God. They are the occasions for you to cry out for the life of God in you to rescue you. Not God outside you, up in the sky somewhere. Christ in you, your only hope of glory. Let this sink in: Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from his moment-to-moment presence in your life. [1]

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is regardless of our circumstances, we get God, and he’ll be enough. On the day of trouble, we’ll cry out, and we will hear, “Here I am.” When marriage is difficult, and we cry out, we will hear, “Here I am.” On the day the doctor says, “Can you come in? We need to talk,” we will hear as we cry out to God, “Here I am.”

He will not abandon. He will not quit, and he will not cut out his children. He is ever present, ever chasing, ever hoping, ever putting his Holy Spirit’s power into us to sustain us and hold us up regardless of life’s circumstances. This is how he blesses those who are saturated in grace. He is present. He is enough. [2]

We bless you, Father, for the gift of Jesus—for his perfect life lived for us, and his judgment-exhausting death on the cross. Thank you for forgiving us, and for declaring us righteous in Christ, and for promising to finish your grace-full work of salvation in us. [3]

Isaiah 58:9

Photograph by Donna Harris 

[1] Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldridge, p. 207   [2] Matt Chandler, Grace Made Visible, Part 1 [3] Scotty Smith, The Convicting, Liberating, Transforming Work of God’s Grace, TGC   

Monday of Holy Week: Easter 2018

Near to God

A sculpture displayed at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Gastonia, NC  Photograph by Donna Harris

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. James 4:8

Dear Lord Jesus,

Just yesterday I was waving a palm branch high over my head…melodies we raised. I felt overwhelmed with the reality of your love and my soul was flooded with the bitter sweetness of you giving yourself…an extreme sacrifice for us. You took the judgment we deserve to give us the grace we could never earn.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

I pray now that we would not forget the yesterday of holding a branch of praise and singing hosanna’s to the King. Please help us to want more of you. Show us what it means to “draw near to you.”

Help us to love you for no other reason but for your own sake.

Still each morning and noon and in evening,
I will trust my Lord and bless his name.
Never seeking the gain but the Giver,
So I love him for nothing but for his own sake.*

Please do not hide your face from us when we forget the yesterday of waving the palm branch, worshipping you with abandon. Our lives can easily becomes an “all-about-me” existence. Help us to draw near to you and to make this day, all-about-you. Please God, constantly reveal the chasm of our separation from our unrepentant heart. Please fill us with hunger pangs to feast on your word. I pray to want nothing more than to draw near to you.

Grant us grace to slow our pace and quiet our hearts, that we might survey the wonders of your cross and greatness of your love.

Amen

Monday Holy Week 2018 1

“Draw Near” — Watercolor painting by Donna Harris Art of a sculpture displayed at Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens, Gastonia, NC

  • “For His on Sake” by Nathan Partain. Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

 

A Prayer for Palm Sunday 2018

palm sunday 2018

HOSANNA! Watercolor painting by Donna Harris

All glory laud and honor
To thee, Redeemer King
To whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosanna ring!
~”All Glory Laud and Honor”

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

Lord Jesus,

On this Palm Sunday morning, I’m overwhelmed with your humility, your sovereignty, and your generosity. I pray these shouts of hosannas will be filled with the sobering and gladdening news of the whole of this Easter Week. Lord, lead me into a transforming gaze of your cross, an overwhelming abundance of your grace and a longing for your kingdom.

As “Holy Week” begins, I ask you to fill these next seven days with much boasting in the cross. I pray that my heart would bubble over with exaltation for the hope, joy and salvation you generously give. You are the God who saves us from guilt and fear and hopelessness.

“Hosanna!” “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Hosanna in the highest!”

Amen

Palm Sunday 2018

Laugh at the Days to Come

Psalm 27:13

I want to laugh at the days to come. My prayer for this month is for laughter to fill our hearts and to believe that God is good and his plans for us are good. It is tempting to associate the good life with something physical, yet when the physical breaks, it’s hard to see the good in that.

I pray to remain confident of God’s goodness, even if I don’t get the things I have my heart set on. I admit being guilty of having a wrong assumption that because God is good he will give me the things I want. By God’s grace, he is freeing me from a limited and small understanding of what is good so I can experience the huge and satisfying good that he has planned for us.

This is God’s goodness to us today … he filled our hearts with laughter. He replaced our tears with smiles and refreshed our countenance with joy. By faith and hope, I believe that we shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! (Psalm 27:13) We will laugh at the days to come.

laugh at days to come

One of my greatest joys in this world is to sing with all my heart songs of our faith, of the Mighty Work and Victory of Jesus Christ for broken people. I especially like to do so in the face of all the suffering, pain, death, diagnoses, weakness, confusion, darkness and so, through faith, to lift up my heart to Him-who-is-my-Hope and laugh at the days to come. —Jason T. Dorsey, Lead Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

The Lord is my Joy by Nathan Partain

The Lord is my Joy, the Lord is my joy
When all that I have is lost, I find
The Lord is my Joy.

The Lord is my strength, the Lord is my strength,
When I am too weak to go on, I find
The Lord is my strength.

My all in all is he, My healing King
My Master tends to me, for him, my soul shall sing.

The Lord is my rock, the Lord is my rock,
When all I have faith in fails, I find
The Lord is my rock.

The Lord is my delight, the Lord is my delight,
Above all the joys of life, I find
The Lord is my delight.

My all in all is he, my breath, my song.
In him I have everything; to him, my soul belongs.

I wait, and wait upon you, To come for me in rescue.
Give strength, my heart is failing, yet still, my lips will praise you.

And with his wings he covers me, he keeps his watch when I’m asleep,
I offer all my thoughts and dreams, I give my savior everything.

You who gave your only son, I dare not doubt your steadfast love.
Come, I beg you take my life, if am yours then all is right.

My all in all is he, my dearest friend.
I put my trust in him; on him, my soul depends.

Psalm 46:11