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

 

The Confession | Sunday Respite 

Sunday Respite
Blessed Jesus, you offered us all your benedictions when you announced…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”
but we have been rich in pride.
“Blessed are those who mourn”
but we have not known much sorrow for our sin.
“Blessed are the meek”
but we are a stiff-necked people.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
but we are filled to the full with other things.
“Blessed are the merciful”
but we are harsh and impatient.
“Blessed are the pure in heart”
but we have impure hearts.
“Blessed are the peacemakers”
but we have not sought reconciliation.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness”
but our lives do not challenge the world.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you
and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me”
but we have hardly made it known that we are yours.

We plead with you to ask the Father to grant us forgiveness and give us the blessedness of your righteousness.

— Matthew 5:2-12 (ESV)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

40 Gifts of Lent  | Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis, IN

When Children Pray

The Prayer

“Where a people prays, there is the church; and where the church is, there is never loneliness.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This evening, my four year old granddaughter asked if she could say the prayer before our meal. As we held hands while she prayed, I was grasped by the sweetness and simplicity of Gods love and grace for her and our family. The faith of a child is rich and unencumbered by worries or unbelief. She set the bar high for some tired weary adults.

I’ve been reading the remarkable biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Mataxas. While reading today, I discovered the context of the above, well known quote. I was surprised that Bonhoeffer said this in response to the prayers of children. I was awed by this primarily because I have devoted most of my work life to children’s ministry and can relate to being grasped by God when children pray.

Bonhoeffer was about to leave Berlin and embark on a new mission as a vicar of a German congregation in Barcelona, Spain. He presided over his last children’s service at the Grunewald church and later wrote this account in his journal:

I spoke about the man with palsy and especially about the assertion that your sins are forgiven, and tried once more to disclose to the children the core of our gospel; they were attentive and perhaps a bit moved, for I spoke, I think, with some emotion. Then came the farewell … The congregational prayer has long sent shivers down my spine, and it did so incomparably more when the group of children, with whom I have spent two years, prayed for me. Where a people prays, there is the church, and where the church is, there is never loneliness. [1]

I am encouraged by the gift of prayer from my granddaughter and yes, even the children that I spend time each week in the beautiful place that is church. Where a people prays … there is never loneliness.

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40 Gifts of Lent | When Children Pray: Gift 8 | [1] Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, Eric Mataxas; Chapter 5.

The Increase of Faith

the faith 1

…“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 {NLT}

“Faith is a footbridge that you don’t know will hold you up over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out onto it.”
― Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

Let faith stride forth in giant power,
and love respond with energy in every act.
I often mourn the absence of my beloved Lord
whose smile makes earth a paradise,
whose voice is sweetest music,
whose presence gives all graces strength.
But by unbelief I often keep him outside my door.
Let faith give entrance that he may abide with me forever.

May I be made rich in its riches,
be strong in its power,
be happy in its joy,
abide in its sweetness,
feast on its preciousness,
draw vigor from its manna.
Lord, increase my faith.
― The Valley of Vision, Faith and the World

the faith

40 Gifts of Lent | The Increase of Faith: Gift 7

The Work of Art

The Artist
Create in me a pure heart, O God. Psalm 51:10

You are a masterpiece. A real work of art. Created in the image of God. How much better can it get? We take for granted how much the master artist loves us, the master creator of life and all that is good and right.

Does your soul long to move in unison with the rhythm of grace?  What do you do when the pain of your broken chaos stabs like a dagger? Face the fact today that you’ll never outgrow your need for grace, no matter how much you try on your own. [1]

The way to begin to celebrate the grace that God freely gives you every day is by admitting how much you need it.

I enjoy watching my grandchild paint colors on a blank canvas. Neither one of us knows exactly what the painting means, yet watching her add color to a colorless page brings a smile and contentment to treasure.

When your life is full of the hardest peace or the hardest contentment or the hardest joy, you need the master artist’s touch to create a work of art in your life. Think of yourself as a blank canvas and God is making all things new. You may not understand why the hard stuff is happening and you may not know for a while what his finished work in your life will look like. Just know that you are loved by the master artist.

So ask God for it!  Ask God to create his work of repentance and surrender in your life. To paint a new beginning … a new creation in Christ.

The work of art is God shaping a new beginning from the chaos of your life. Rest in his peace, his contentment, his joy. This is a beautiful gift.

“Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”  Psalm 51 {The Message}

Isla

This work of art was created in the midst of chaos

40 Gifts of Lent  |  [1] Paul Tripp, New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional

When Grace Intervenes Our Troubles

Psalm 50:15

“Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God says in Psalm 50:15. “I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.” God desires praise from our lives … but the only way fresh praise and glory will come is as we keep coming to him in times of need and difficulty. Then he will intervene to show himself strong on our behalf, and we will know that he has done it.

Are not we all prone to become over confident and think we can handle things just fine? But let some trouble come, and how quickly we sense our inadequacy.

For some reason we want to carry on by ourselves.

The devil is not terribly frightened of our human efforts and credentials. But he knows his kingdom is damaged when we begin to lift up our hearts to God. [1]

I’m asking God to come fill this place … my soul with more of him. The gift today is acknowledging my weakness and claiming my strength in Christ.

This is a song I’ve played a few times this morning. Here are the words and the music.

Fall Afresh | Jeremy Riddle | Album: The Loft Sessions |Bethel Music
Listen here: Fall Afresh | Bethel Music

Awaken my soul, come awake
To hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
And do as you did, at first

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow
To overflow

Awaken my soul, come awake
To worship with all your strength

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow

Come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade
Spirit come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade

Spirit of the living God come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul, pour in me to overflow
To overflow

The Weakness Gift 5

40 Gifts of Lent  | When Grace Intervenes our Troubles: Gift 5 | [1] Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala, page 57