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

 

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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

 

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

 

“I Would Take a Bullet For Her”

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Trenton’s wisdom is deep for such a young boy.  In describing his love for Lindsay, his sister, Trenton shared, “I would take a bullet for her.”  As he regained his composure after getting choked up, he added “She’s my best friend.  I would do anything for her.  My life would be nothing without her.”  These are not trite statements they emanate from his heart.

Lindsay has spinal muscular atrophy yet from her motorized chair she beams when she describes her older brother.  His example of love if followed would change the world!  Watch their story at https://youtu.be/9PM6uX4yGp4 and make sure to have Kleenex handy!

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MEDITATION ON 1 THESSALONIANS 4:9

1 Thessalonians 4:9—About brotherly love: You don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.

Jesus took a bullet for us in large spikes and wooden beams.  This ultimate sacrifice was God’s greatest lesson on love.  Before dying, Jesus’ daily sacrifice painted what brotherly love looks like.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).  If we are not periodically moved by His monumental devotion we are surely bewitched by the wrong things.

I would take a bullet for you.  My life was purchased by the blood of my Savior.  His love is what founds, fuels, and fires my ability to care.  Therefore it would be an honor to lay down my life as a brother for you.  It is an honor to serve you.  I identify with Paul, “I have become its servant [the church], according to God’s administration that was given to me for you, to make God’s message fully known” (Colossians 1:25).

Brotherly and sisterly love is the stuff of champions.   When you model love, you leave a stamp on lives that no soap can wash away.  Never tire of doing the simple acts of service to help others.  “I always thank my God when I mention you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and faith toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints” (Philemon 4,5).  Thanks for making a difference and for your willingness to take the bullet.  [1]

INSPIRATION FROM DOUG POLLOCK

Love is a commitment you make to act in someone else’s best interest.  True love can only be known by the actions that it prompts.—Doug Pollock in God Space

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[1] ©2015 Daniel York  ARR.  Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause.  If you would like to receive these devotionals go to http://www.firstcause.org and click on the “GET THE LATEST REVERATION FROM DANIEL YORK” box.  Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

The Story of All Things New

All Things New

“Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:5

This is the first time we have lived next door to farmland and I’ve grown to appreciate the barren fields of a farmer’s life. To be unabashedly honest, when we first moved here, I would drive by those fields and glance at them with a disinterested nod. Oddly, I’m beginning to see the beauty in those flat treeless fields with straight lines of plowed earth.

All Things New

We moved here mid summer during a scorching heat wave with record-breaking high temps that made Arizona seem a cool place to be. The farm lands looked depressed lined with dead dry stalks. Then fall arrived with a picture book view of splendorous colors surrounding the brown fields. My husband and I began to prepare ourselves for the biting chill of winter soon to arrive. There was great delight when the harsh gray days were brightened by the sparkling glare of white snow covering those acres of barren fields.

Finally, spring is here. Trees are beginning to bud, daffodils splash bright yellow and orange colors surrounding strong leafless oaks and front lawns are bursting new with the fresh green color of vibrant life. The colors remind me that the fields are waiting for harvest to come. It reminds me that what God has promised, will indeed come true, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)

I can’t wait for God to make all things new. For those barren fields to show new life, ready for the harvest. I can’t wait for God to make all things new in our lives, which can seem at times like a barren field. It is good to have our hearts turned and plowed. To feel the tug of the Holy Spirit groaning in our prayers; our efforts to grow are delayed by drought. Our hope is in the Lord, as we worship Him, to make all things new.

All Things New

I’ve been reading through the book of Ruth over and over again. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read this book and every time I finish reading it, I have a deep contented feeling, to inhale and exhale a deep hopeful sigh of relief and joy. In terms of storytelling, the story of Ruth begins with tragedy…pain, sadness, and bitterness yet it’s one of the most beautifully written love stories in the Bible that shows the providence of God; demonstrating his glory by way of his justice, kindness, and faithfulness to keep his promise, to make all things new.

There is a famine in the land. The barren fields have gone through the seasons of waiting for a harvest…a season of new things that will not come. There will be no harvest until there is a change in the people’s heart to love God and desire to honor him more than anything else. So much time goes by and the barren fields become parched, cracked and dead from lack of rain. This harsh reality and existence takes the lives of three men. The wives of these men, Ruth, her sister-in-law, Orpah and her mother-in-law, Naomi, have become widowed.

What begins as a heartbreaking story ends as a fairy tale of living happily ever after, only this is not a fairy tale, although I imagine that Ruth had hopes that her dreams of a knight in shining armor would come true. Finally, there is celebration and delight in worshiping the one true God. The rains came.

God causes the rain to pour down and the place where barren fields once were are now rich with all things new. Eventually, Ruth and her mother-in-law travel back to the place where God has deliberately shown that He is in control.

Through the providence of God, Ruth meets her “knight in shining armor” by way of a brave and courteous announcement of her presence. God has been designing this introduction for many years already. I love the fact that God writes a magnificent love story! While reading this awesome story, I pray to become more like Ruth. To live my life story in anticipation of God making all things new. I appreciate Ruth’s bravery to glean from the harvest that God has caused to grow. She is bold and self-confident and trusts a wiser and older woman, Naomi, to coach her. I value her humbleness in listening to wise counsel.

As the story of Ruth unfolds, we read that she left her home for a greater purpose. Even though Ruth had no idea what was before her, she packed up and moved because she believed God had called her to something greater…the “something greater” was to worship God alone. Ruth met her beloved kinsman redeemer, her knight in shining armor while gleaning from the harvest that occurred after a dry season of barren drought. God rescued her by providing a “knight in shining armor”…a redeemer! I  love this picture of God’s ultimate kindness and grace towards us.

This causes me to ponder…

I place myself into the story of Ruth. I am rescued.

When the fields are barren, this is the time to worship God.

When I glean from the fields, this is the time to worship God.

The story of Ruth begins with barren fields and ends with rich crops of grain and a bountiful harvest. A love lost and a love found. She ventures by faith to meet her kind redeemer and through God’s providence becomes linked, in a very significant way, to the genealogy of Christ.

This is me. This is us. We are, by God’s providence, linked to Christ. We are living every day experiencing God making all things new.

All Things New

The Flight of the Butterfly

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.

In order to live, a butterfly must fight its way out of the cocoon on its own. It is only through this struggle that it gains the strength in its body to move its wings and fly.

Life is like a butterfly – You go through changes before you become something beautiful.

The following are photos of one particular butterfly I spotted while vacationing last year at the Broadmoor Hotel and Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While the views of the beautiful resort are breathtaking in grandeur, I found myself captivated with following one particular butterfly gracefully move, carefree from one hanging pot of Impatiens to another.

So many hanging pots of flowers and so little time for a butterfly to taste the sweetness.

I wondered how long this beautiful fluttering of wings would last.

“You can only chase a butterfly for so long.”
― Jane Yolen, Prince Across the Water

Once upon a time, we had a Golden Retriever puppy. The cutest little puppy ever! Finding the right name for the newest member of our family was very important yet none of us could agree on the right name…until that day while in our backyard, our puppy began chasing a butterfly. The dog was running and jumping and zigging and zagging chasing the butterfly all about. That’s it! We had a name for our best friend to be. We named him, Chase.

I chuckled considering that I was running (not so much jumping) but definitely zigging and zagging to chase after this butterfly! Finally, it stopped for refreshment…I was ready for some, too.

Well, I must endure the presence of two or three caterpillars if I wish to become acquainted with the butterflies ~The Little Prince

This butterfly has certainly done its fair share of work! Flitting from one landing pad to the next, searching for the best nectar.

“…butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life.  And everyone deserves a little sunshine. ” ~Jeffrey Glassberg

We should bask in the sunshine of God’s grace and goodness. We should notice God’s power through the tenacious strength of a butterfly. Count the moments you have each day to experience the Lord’s presence, to be strengthened by his grace. For the more your heart is strengthened by grace the more it will beat for God’s glory.

These photos are borrowed from my photo blog, Remember the Year, a scrapbook and journal of visual memories. I hope you will visit there soon. http://photolog365.wordpress.com