Good Friday was a good Friday indeed! For the last couple of years our family has joined with members of other churches in our community for a walk down Main Street. We take turns carrying a big wooden cross, singing hymns, stopping along the way to pray for businesses and places of importance in our community.
It’s a time when denominational lines are crossed. Methodists, Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, non-denominationalists come together to remember and thank Jesus for His great sacrifice. The focus is on Jesus and our community.
As I followed the cross, watched people take turns carrying it, listened to the happy chatting and the singing around me, and joined in prayer for our town and our neighbors, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with love and peace. When Jesus walked the earth, He lived in community. He created community. He loves community.
Through His suffering and great sacrifice on the cross He became The Way for us to have community and relationship with Him and The Father. When He went to Heaven, He gave us the Holy Spirit as a guide, a helper, to have community with Him. And He left us with a whole community of other believers and followers of Jesus to work together in Kingdom work and provide encouragement for each other.
This is the community I witnessed yesterday and one I have experienced in my own life. When my burdens have been too much to bear, my sisters and brothers have held me up in prayer and have come alongside me with truth and encouragement. When prayers have been answered, they have celebrated and thanked God with me. When others have crosses of pain, regret, loneliness, suffering and grief, the community of Christ should come alongside to help each bear their crosses. Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” And when prayers have been answered and hope and love reigns in a situation, we need to be celebrating and praising God together.
Together, in our town, the community and body of Christ are praying and celebrating. We are praying for the peace, love, and the hope that comes from Jesus to shine through us so brightly that others will want to join in community with Him. We are celebrating hope, the blessings, and answers of prayers that chains have been broken and the lost that have been found.
I am eternally grateful to Jesus for what He has done for me. And I am incredibly thankful I live in a place where churches can come together and we can express our views openly. I know that others around the world do not have this “luxury” and for them and other communities of believers I am praying for safety and strength. Happy Easter weekend! Peace and grace be with you!
There we were in one of the germiest, grimiest places to be-a public restroom. The three of us, heads huddled together, looked down into the bowl of the toilet. I could see it. In my attempts to protect my children from the germy seat with layers of toilet paper, my favorite earring had slipped from my ear and splashed into the “pool of germs.” Fortunately, it had not gone down into the abyss but instead lay sparkling, mocking me from the depths of the “clear” water.
Ummm…. now what? Should I stick my hand in the water and get it? NO!! No, I could not bring myself to do it. Maybe I could fish it out with something but then I realized my purse was outside with a friend. Deciding I really needed to have my purse, if not for some gadget at least for some comfort, I sent my oldest daughter to get it for me.
As I waited, I opened the door of the stall. I felt a little loss, needed some sympathy, and possibly some help from my fellow bathroom compadres. And on a more practical level, I wanted to make sure no one flushed the toilet. Then all hope would be gone.
I tried to make eye contact with the women who came through the door. I stated my plight loudly enough for most to hear. Some women ignored me but many women curiously andwith empathetically peeked into the bowl, shaking their heads as they left, and agreeing it was a bad situation.
And then there was Linda. Oh, Linda!
Linda was different. She heard my appeal for help. She listened to my situation and decided to do something about it. Without giving it much thought, Linda rolled up her sleeve and heroically reached deep into the toilet waters retrieving my earring. She carried it over to the sink and scrubbed her hands and scrubbed my earring. Then she carefully dried my earring and handed it to me with care and the instructions to CAREFULLY and THOROUGHLY sanitize my earring before I wore it again. (That will NOT be a problem, Linda! I promise!) I thanked her over and over again but she just smiled and said it was really no big deal. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal to Linda BUT it was big deal to me!
You know, I cannot help but think of what it would be like if we were all a little more like Linda. I am not saying we need to stick our bare hands into germy public toilet bowls. (Although, carrying plastic dish gloves in our purses may come in handy one day.) What I am saying is this, what if we went along our schedules and agendas with the readiness to be interrupted? What if we tuned our hearing and focused our sight on the cries for help from people around us? What would it look like to join people in their messiness?
There are a lot of people who are stuck in messy and unhealthy situations. We often worry we don’t have what it takes to help and so we ignore or walk on by. While we cannot pull people out of their situations or fix things for them, we can come around them and let them know they are not alone. We can care for them by providing a listening ear, a smiling face, a hand on the shoulder. We can join them in their messiness by not judging them and “wash” them over with prayer, friendship and love. And then we can “wrap” them in a big hug.
Most of all, we can help people find resources, hope and the One who defeated death. After death has been defeated, is there anything Jesus can’t do? Remember, Jesus met people in the messiest places, surrounded by the germiest people and He was their hope and new life. When we come before Him with our messes or better yet, when we come before Him together with our messes, we can expect that Jesus has the power to save, to rescue, and make ways for people when there seems to be no other ways possible.
For those of us who are followers of Jesus, we are called to walk in His ways and with His Spirit upon us we are called to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, recovery of the slight to the blind, and set those who are oppressed free. (Luke 4:18-19) Most of all we are called to have faith and LOVE! (1 John 3:23-24) I think love starts with listening and looking for those in need.
So Linda, wherever you are, THANK YOU AGAIN! Thank you so much for your kindness.
And thank you Jesus, for allowing me these unusual, uncomfortable, and hilarious situations I often find myself in. What I learn from these “opportunities,” I hope will always be for your glory and your Kingdom work. ❤
PS Please note that this picture is a reenactment in a thoroughly cleaned and sanitized toilet. I wish I had snapped a picture during the unfortuante event but it was the last thing on my mind. LOL
I scratched the letters B-A-B-Y on a young, green pumpkin and then quickly hid it among the tall grass and tangled, prickly vine. The word would grow as the pumpkin grew. My hands instinctively rubbed my belly as if to warm the life growing in body. I looked towards the bright, blue sky and with a smile mouthed a word of thanks.
A baby, my prayers had been answered. Counting the months, I calculated when I would be “safely” past the first trimester and when it would be “safe” to announce our news. I had it all planned. Our new addition would be adorably announced on social media with a glorious, orange pumpkin full-grown from our own garden. Three pumpkins in a row, one inscribed with the word “baby,” all lined up on the porch step. One pumpkin for each of my children. How perfectly-pinteresty it all would be!
I couldn’t wait to tell my other two children, our family, and our church but I was cautiously optimistic. God had shined his face upon me and had taken away the pain of an early miscarriage. A miscarriage I had experienced only a few short months before. I was relieved nothing was wrong with me but was it really safe to say anything? What if this baby was taken from me too? Doubts and fears flooded my happy heart and I decided to commit to silence.
The silence seemed to be the correct discipline. Only a short week later, my fears became a reality and I lost my baby in a second miscarriage. Angry, hurt, and confused, I walked to the garden with tears streaming down my face, ripped the young, green pumpkin from its life source and threw it as hard as I could into the neighboring woods. It smashed open where it landed. My actions did not make me feel better, it made me feel worse. I felt abandoned, forgotten, and lonely. My faithful prayers had not been heard. If God was so close, why did he feel so far away? And why couldn’t I hear Him? Was he just silent to everyone or just to me? As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hear a thing. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word…..
It had been four hundred years. Four hundred years of silence since anyone had heard anything from God. Not a peep, not a whisper, not a word.
New religious sects had developed during the Inter-Testamental period (the time between the Old and New Testament.) These groups added many rules and requirements to the law of God and this gave way to avoidance and passive views of religious life.
Politically, Rome was a dominating and an oppressive authority. The Roman Empire was so large, land had been divided and placed in the overseeing hands of the Herods. These men’s lives were filled with political intrigue, murder, violence, sexual immorality, deceit, and hatred. 1 Times were dangerous and uncertain. Hope was waning in the deafening silence.
God was about to break in. His silence was about to be shattered.
In Luke 1:5, we are introduced to a priest named, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth.“Both of them righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.” (Luke 1:6)
With a life devoted to faithful service, one might think it would have meant a blessed life. But Elizabeth was barren and having no children in those days would have been humiliating and disgraceful. The Jewish Rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, “A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.” 2 We can only imagine the whispers behind her back and the longing for a baby in her heart.
Divine interventions come at God’s timing, not ours. When the time came for Zechariah’s division of priests to be on duty, Zechariah was chosen by lot to go into the inner temple of the Lord (Luke 1:10.) This would have been a huge deal and a great honor. There were no less than 20,000 priests altogether and about 1,000 priests per division.3 Zechariah had just won the holy lottery.
On the day of his service, Zechariah stood by the alter, praying his life-long prayer for a child, burning incense, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him (verse 11.) Startled and gripped with fear (who wouldn’t be?) the angel responded, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to name him John.” (verse 13)
“Your son will be a joy and delight to many (verse 14,) one who will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah to ready a people prepared for the Lord. (verse 17.)” Zechariah’s response to the angel’s news was one of question and doubt (can you blame him?) and the consequence of his disbelief was silence. He was unable to speak (and some say unable to hear- Luke 1:62) until the day his son was born.
Elizabeth, became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months (Luke 1: 24.) We are granted insight into her heart with a response of praise. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” (verse 25)
A baby. A miracle baby was coming. A baby who would make way for another miracle baby. Against all odds, this was really happening….
I stared at the positive sign. It was the fifth test, the fifth positive test. How could this be? The timing did not line up. There must be some mistake but how could five positive signs be wrong?
I had just come back from a four-day conference and retreat. I had been surrounded by Godly women, sat under the teaching of faithful people who had inspired and challenged me and my faith. I knew it was a special place and I had been there by divine intervention. I needed healing and restoration and I wanted not only to feel God but I wanted to hear from Him too.
It started as a peep, then a whisper, and then words. “Lay it down at my feet. Surrender your plans and your desires. In my time, not yours.” I did not fully understand but I faithfully made a decision to obey a voice I felt had long forgotten me. I surrendered it all-the fear, the control, my plans- and I left the conference full of peace and hope. I was not fully healed. I knew there would be more work to do, difficult times ahead but I was on a path of healing and God’s silence had been broken.
The blood test from the doctor came back positive, the first trimester came and went, I broke out of my own seclusion and silence and shared the news we were expecting a third baby. No pumpkins lined up but cute little shirts just as “Pinteresty.” This was really happening….
Nine months went by and when it was time deliver my son, he tore into this world through an unexpected C-section. The silence of our life was shattered by his colicky, incessant cries. His first year was challenging. I lived on a limited, allergy free diet and little, very little sleep. I struggling to hear any peep, whisper or word from God. Something was different this time though, I knew the silence did not mean avoidance or abandonment. I knew what I felt did not equate to what was true.
In a sense, the Lord used that time and my son as a way to prepare my heart for a deeper, more dependent, and richer life in faith with the Lord. My babies (the ones in heaven and ones on earth) created an atmosphere that has helped me remember the importance of repentance, dependence, and to stay the path of the Lord even when its hard, goes against all odds, and when it seems God is silent and far away.
Some of us may wish a message from God would come to us. We might feel like God has long forgotten us or his silence is sign he no longer cares. I would like to encourage us to hold on to hope. Listen in the silence for a peep, whisper, or word. Take heart in knowing God hears your prayers (even when we don’t feel like he does.) And be ready with a prepared heart for the Lord’s divine intervention and startling interruptions in our life.
- Swindoll, C. R. (1984). John the Baptizer: Bible study guide. Anaheim, CA: Insight for Living.
- Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
- Barclay, W. (1975). The Gospel of Luke. Philadelphia: Westminster Press
You will watch a generation of Christians-of Christians-set the Bible aside in an attempt to become more like Jesus. And stunningly it will sound completely plausible . This will be perhaps the cleverest of all the devil’s schemes in your generation. Sacrifice TRUTH for LOVE’s sake. And you will rise or fall based upon what whether you will sacrifice one for the other. Will you have the courage to live in the tension of both TRUTH and LOVE?
– Beth Moore
If we are going to be a generation of Jesus followers who follow Jesus well. A generation who keeps His commandments, live like Him, love like Him, then we are going to have to think like Him and KNOW Him well. We can sit under good teaching, read books by good and faithful people, and we can discuss things of faith with others BUT when it comes down to it, each of us, as individuals need to know how to distinguish between truth and lies (with discernment given by the Holy Spirit.)
The only way to get to know someone well is to spend time with them. To get to know Jesus, we need to go right to God’s word. Spend time in prayer and read scripture. Jesus wants us to seek Him, ask questions, believe in His words, rest at His feet, and experience His love as we learn to walk faithfully with Him.
Over the next months, our Sisterhood will be studying through a series on the gospel of Luke. We are going to focus on getting to know Jesus well- what he did, what he said, who he said it to, who he associated. My prayer is through our prayers and scripture readings, God would work on our hearts, help us become more like Jesus, and know both TRUTH and LOVE so that we can become faithful disciples and more willing servants of Him.
Below is a scripture reading plan for the Gospel of Luke. There are five scripture passages for each week. Grab your Bible, grab a journal, maybe a cup of coffee. I have developed a tool, using Luke as an acronym, to help in our study of the scriptures. As you pray and read through each of the scriptures, I hope you find what God has for you to discover.
Please join us (virtually) and in person at our Sisterhood gatherings on this journey to seek and believe in Jesus, Son of Man. I will be praying for you!
L- Look towards God in prayer ( Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9) Don’t go to the scriptures looking for your idea, go searching for his.
U– Read prayerfully and carefully to understand– Proverbs 2:1-3, “Call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
K– Keep and store commands within your heart– Proverbs 2:10-11,” For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant for your soul. Discretion will protect you and understanding will guard you.” Deuteronomy 11:18
E– Explore– What does this mean to me and my relationship to Jesus? How does it apply to my life? Where can this passage lead to me to deeper and new places with Jesus? (James 1:22, Ephesians 5:1-2)
Click link below to download plan….
The most wonderful time of the year is here. A time of anticipation, expectant waiting, and preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ birth. One of my family’s favorite ways to be reminded of the treasures and gifts of this season is reading along with Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping The Greatest Gift.
Last year, my girls and I crafted an ornament each day to correspond with the daily advent readings from the book. This post is the last in a series of ornament/craft ideas which I have created and collected. You can find the complete collection for Day 1-2, Day 3-4-5-6, Days 7-10, and Days 11-15 by clicking on the blue links.
There many ideas on the internet for Bible story crafts. Below are some of my original ideas, borrowed ideas, and ideas inspired by talented artists and bloggers. Credit for any borrowed idea is noted below the picture. If you decide to make and share one of my craft ideas, I would to love to see it. Tag me on Instagram or send me a link to your blog post.
Materials: card stock, markers, scissors, glue (hot glue), clothespin
I loved this craft idea from His Wondrous Work and thought “Why not turn it into an ornament?” I printed the templates on two pieces of colored card stock (one piece skin- tone and the other gray) and then carefully cut them out. The whale needs to be sticking out beyond the clothespin so Jonah can pop out without getting stuck. Make sure you line up the whale and Jonah on the clothespin before gluing the pieces down. I had to move the whale further up the clothespin in order to make the pieces fit properly.
Materials: can, black card stock, twine for wrapping around the can, sand, paper-piercing tool , glue
Wash and dry a small can (I used an Old El Paso Chilies can.) Wrap and glue twine around the outside. Create a cityscape with black card stock. It took me several trials to get the right size city to fit into the can. Once I had the correct size, I used a paper-piercing tool to created the windows and doors. Using sand and glue, I made desert at the bottom of the can. Then, I folded the bottom of the city so it would stand upright and glued the city to the sand.
For added effect, hang the ornament near a small tree light to add background light.
Materials: pipe cleaners, gems, hot glue
To make the crown, I followed the directions listed at the link below. After the crown had its basic shape, we “blinged-out” our crowns with faux pearls and gems.
Materials: toilet paper roll, silver paint, sharpie marker, gray card stock, Stampin’ Up Dimensionals.
Paint the toilet paper roll silver. While waiting for the paint to dry, cut out the top of watchtower from gray card stock paper. Once dry, draw bricks and a door on the tower with a Sharpie or black paint pen. Put Dimensionals around the top and wrap the tower paper over the Dimensionals and around to a close. This will give the paper a small lift and make the shapes have more depth. Hole punch and string to hang.
Materials: Chalkboard paper, silver glitter gel pens or paint markers.
At back-to-school time, I had bought a chalkboard banner from Target’s dollar spot. For this ornament, I cut apart the banner and used one of the circles to write on and decorate. Super easy and cute.
Here are other craft ideas for Zechariah and Elizabeth’s story.
Materials: sandal template printed on colored card stock (see link below); something to lace with (twine, small ribbon); hole punch.
For today’s reading and craft. I decided to focus on “Prepare the Way” rather than “Thunder in the Desert.” This adorable sandal craft template has easy directions to follow which are found at the link website below. The sandal is a bit large (it might fit a toddler) for what you might think of as a traditional sized ornament but in our house the bigger the better. 🙂 It is really cute and great for lacing and shoe tying practice.
Materials: 1 rounded clothespin, 3 regular size popsicle sticks, 2 half-popsicle sticks, half of a pipe cleaner for halo, 1 white feather for wings, paint, glitter
Paint the top of the rounded clothespin as a head with hair. (I made the angel one-sided so the side not seen does not have to be painted perfect.) Paint the bottom half of the clothespin white. Paint all the popsicle sticks white and sprinkle glitter over them while the paint is wet. Once the paint is dry, hot glue the two longer popsicle sticks on the back of the rounded clothespin. Glue them close together but slightly angled away from each other. Glue the third popsicle stick on top of the other two, directly in the middle. Glue one “wing” (half-sized popsicle stick) on at a time. Then take the feather and hot glue into place over both of the wings. Make a small ring for a halo. Glue in place.
Materials: card stock (glittery silver, gray for the saw; brown or wood colored for handle); handsaw template (see link below), scissors and glue
I saved the image of the saw pattern found from the website below and made it smaller in a word document. I made it so two templates could fit on my page. Then I traced each part of the saw, glued it together, and punched a hole for the string. The hardest part of this craft was tracing and cutting out the teeth on the saw blade.
Materials: white card stock, paper punches (circle and ovals), straw or raffia, brown paint
Cut the card stock into a circle. Paint hand with brown washable paint and stamp off toward the side of the circle. Add “hay” and make baby Jesus with the punched shapes. Add a cute, little face. 🙂
Materials: glittery gold scrapbook paper, fabric scrap
It’s Christmas! In consideration of Christmas day and all that comes with it, today’s craft is a very simple one. Cut a star out of the gold scrapbook paper and a red cross out of the fabric. Glue the cross on the star and hole punch.
I am a fixer. When something is broken, I want to fix it. Messy situations call to me like a sirens’ song to a ship. I want to jump in and help but sometimes I find myself frustrated and overwhelmed by the rocks of reality and the lack of my resources. Conflict makes me uncomfortable and angry disagreements make me uneasy. I wish the world could find a way to live in peace, love, and harmony, like pretty boats sailing on calm, happy seas at a beautiful sunset. (I know, I am a dreamer.)
There seems to be a lot a whole lot of broken lately. A lot of things that need fixing and many jagged rocks to be snared upon. From world wide issues to individual interactions and attitudes, I have been watching and listening, reading and thinking. I have been praying and I have been trying to explain and solve situations and circumstances that are completely out of my control. When I find myself tired and heading for the rocks of burden and frustration, I need to steer my ship in a different direction.
If I had unlimited resources and ultimate power, I would drill wells for clean water, make sure each person had a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs, shoes on their feet, and food in their bellies. I would find each orphan a home. If I had the power to take away all brokenness, fear, and the hurt, I would. I would cure cancer and all other diseases that destroy and take people away too soon. I would mend and heal broken relationships and anything else that cause physical pain, shattered lives, and futures that seem hopeless and scary.
But I do not have that power, I am not God (and a good thing too. I would royally mess things up.) I cannot see the whole span of time or His divine plan. I cannot see how God orchestrates divine interventions of people crossing paths and circumstances that allow people opportunities to grow in their faith and love. I cannot see the finest details or understand how harden hearts soften or how darkness turns to light through the smallest miracles and touches of love found in the most perilous of storms.
I am limited but I serve and love a unlimited God. When I start feeling overwhelmed and the need to fix things, or more accurately the need to control things, I am better off leaving those things in the hands of God and trusting in His divine purpose and plan. Trusting He will provide.
Yes, I can be the hands and feet of Jesus. I will still reach out, walk alongside, and love the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the widows, the orphans, and the lost. BUT I will not get overwhelmed trying fix the unlimited number of problems that exist or get frustrated with my lack of resources to fix them. God has ultimate control, the power, and all the resources necessary. He is watching and listening. God hears the cries of our earnest hearts. He hears and listens and because He listens, I can be calm, hear and listen too.
In the book of Malachi, chapter 3, Malachi points out different groups of people- the complainers and the believers. The complainers (Malachi 3:13-15) felt as though they were serving and not getting anywhere. They were grumpy, frustrated and could not see the rewards of their faithful service. In their eyes, their world was getting worse and they did not like not having the ultimate control to fix it.
The believers, the faithful remnant (Malachi 3:16-18,) found themselves surrounded by the same circumstances but they remained faithful to God by fearing the Lord and His plans. The believers met together to edify and encourage each other, to worship God. They held God high in awe. They did not try to control the situations, they did not complain, they spoke to each other about the Lord and His truths. God paid attention to them. He paid attention to their words and the way they served in gladness.
16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke with one another. The Lord paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the Lord and esteemed his name. 17 “They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. 18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
Malachi 3:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV)
When faced with situations that need repair, I can remember the faithful remnant and their example of servitude in gladness. When I feel helpless or overwhelmed, I can pray in full confidence knowing God hears my prayers and he remembers me. I can remember that I am a treasured possession, like a jewel, beautiful, unique and precious. I can recall my own sufferings, trials, and God’s faithfulness to me and use those past experiences to have compassion and help another person. I can surround myself with a cloud of joyful, glad witnesses who can speak truth and encouragement to me. And I can trust, I can trust that the Lord sees the horizon and all the storms in between. He has the resources necessary and in His strength and for His glory, He will provide.
Be encouraged! Keep sailing your ship forward, diverting the rocks and learning from the storms. Pick up those who have been shipwrecked, help where you can but do not be burdened. Trust that God has you in the right place at the right time, it will be He who gives you want you need and it will be God who completely restores those in need. Fill your sails with prayers and thanksgiving, and enjoy the views as the Lord gently guides you in the right direction through life.