Silent Saturday: Easter 2018

 

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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   

We Are Kept: A Prayer for Easter Sunday

Easter

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.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

“Because of your resurrection, we’re neither afraid to die, or to live; we’re not hapless vagabonds on earth, we’re hope-filled children of God. We’re no longer enslaved to our sins; we’re now wrapped in your righteousness.” ― Scotty Smith

“The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”  ― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

“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

“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

Easter post 2015

Snippets of Posts and Quotes | Take 4

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The Hardest Peace | Mundane Faithfulness

I often fail, I’m often found in weakness and brokenness, but through it all I am met- always met in love. This is not simply my story and journey with cancer. It is a book written to appeal to us all as we meet the bitter edges of life on this side of eternity. In the brokenness of our unmet expectations of life, will we look for Jesus and His abundant love? Or will we tumble into bitterness and anger that leave us utterly self focused and disappointed by the hard in our story each of us are asked to receive. —Kara Tippetts  http://www.mundanefaithfulness.com

On being healed of being a big deal | Deeper Story

I’m learning to take those moments, called “small humiliations”, as gifts.  http://deeperstory.com/on-being-healed-of-being-a-big-deal/  —

Don’t ever hide your joy | The Beautiful Due

There’ll be days when you’re on high beam joy. Shine on, unapologetically. But if you’re flesh and blood, there’ll be days when you dim your lights a little because you’re having a crappy day or you know someone else is having a crappy day. You can still shine on those days, its just a little dimmer and that’s perfectly alright, sometimes even quite inviting. —John Blase http://thebeautifuldue.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/lucky-2/

Study: Working moms’ stress levels linked to ‘mental labor’ | Fox News

“A reminder of the incredible stresses working moms try to manage. A reminder for grace.” http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/08/13/study-working-moms-stress-levels-linked-to-mental-labor/ —Fox News

 The Path Through Pain | Recovery Room

“Pause and consider: in a truthful moment, do you have areas of your life plague with unnerving, breath-quickening, near-crippling anxiety?”   http://deeperstory.com/recovery-room-the-path-through-pain/  —Seth Haines

For anyone who has ever felt alone | Journey Box Media

“With You (I Feel Again)” reflects on how easy it is to be lonely in a crowd. Set to the platinum hit single, “Feel Again” by OneRepublic. Best Video: http://journeyboxmedia.com/with-you  —journeyboxmedia.com

Poetic black and white watercolors | Bored Panda

Linger here. http://www.boredpanda.com/animals-children-black-and-white-watercolor-art-elicia-edijanto/

10 self-defeating thoughts that can wreck your workout | Today

Think of yourself as an inspiration story just waiting to happen. http://www.today.com/health/10-self-defeating-thoughts-can-wreck-your-workout-1D80342643  —today.com/health

Foggy and Fine Days | Barnstorming

The weather and my mood have little connection.I have my foggy and my fine days within me; my prosperity or misfortune has little to do with the matter. (Blaise Pascal) Being lost in the fog is never forever. The sun is always up there somewhere and all will be fine. —Emily Polis Gibson  https://briarcroft.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/foggy-and-fine-days/

Grace Changes Everything

the way you live

“Even though we are now in faith, the heart is always ready to boast itself before God and say, ‘After all, I have … lived so well and done so much that surely He will take this into account.’ We want to haggle with God to make Him regard our life, but it cannot be done. With men you may boast, ‘I have done the best I could…If anything is lacking, I will still try to make recompense,’ but when you come before God, leave all that boasting at home. Remember to appeal from justice into grace. But let anybody try this and he will see and experience how exceedingly hard and bitter a thing it is for I myself have been preaching and cultivating [grace] through reading and writing for almost twenty years and still feel the old clinging dirt of wanting to deal so with God that I may contribute something so that He will give me His grace in exchange for my holiness. I just cannot get it into my head that I should surrender myself completely to sheer grace, yet I know that this is what I should and must do.” – Martin Luther [1]

Grace Changes Everything

 

Snippets of Posts and Quotes: Take 3

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LOVE  IN  ACTION :

“The church needs to be the safest place on earth for children from hard places and for the families called to love and care for them.” —Michael Monroe

COMPASSION:

“We have a large and growing team of compassionate, respectful, Christ-following volunteers who love to see God work in the lives of those who learn differently.”  —Irving Bible Church special needs ministry

TRUE  MISSION:

“You cannot have true mission while ignoring the disabled! They too, are marred by sin, they too need to be told of the beauty of salvation, they too need to be our mission, they too are the church.” —Tim Challies   (http://www.challies.com/articles/the-disabilities-dilemma)

SUFFERING:

“I have thanked thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. Thou divine love, whose human path has been perfected through sufferings, teach me the glory of my cross and the value of my thorn.”  George Matheson

GRACE:

“The early church didn’t say, “Look what the world is coming to!” They said, “Look what has come into the world!”  —Carl F. Henry

CHARACTER:

“All of us have wondered at times why God doesn’t do more to fix our problems. But our human eyes often fail to see that God isn’t rushing to change our circumstances because he is concerned with a much more serious problem—our character. While you struggle with the woes of this world, God’s main occupation is preparing you for the world to come. The focus of what God is doing in your life takes place in you, not around you” — Andy Stanley

 IMMEASURABLE  VALUE:

“One of the topics we discussed frequently, as we journeyed from city to city, was the value of every human being. Not because of who we are, or what we do. But because of Whose we are, and what He has done for us. By endowing us with His image, God has imparted to us immeasurable value. As Professor Jerram Barrs from Covenant Seminary says, we should learn to look at every human being and say, “You are glorious!” We ought to see the goodness, truth and beauty of God in every person we meet. One way I like to think of the image of God is that it is like a mirror. We image God in the ways that we reflect the essence of His character through our God-given capacities. But the problem is this: because we live in a fallen/broken world, the mirror is cracked. We have cracked bodies, cracked spirits, cracked emotions, cracked minds, and cracked relationships. So here is the challenge: What will you and I focus on? Will we focus on the cracks? The brokenness? The marred aspects of the image? Or will we focus on the reflection—distorted as it may be?” — Stephanie O. Hubach  (http://specialneedsparenting.net/open-eyes/)

CHILDREN’S  MINISTRY:

“What the future of children’s ministry needs most for success is a return to an emphasis on the study of and teaching of the word of God, and less on making ministry easy for volunteers, attractive to families and processing large groups of children through fun environments. That hasn’t produced disciples who will walk  with Jesus for life. The future doesn’t need more technology – it needs deeper and better relationships. If technology can foster more connectivity or methods of relating, fantastic! But to often we look to the future as though it has some new things we need for success, when the truth is we already have everything we need.” — Karl Bastian