Sunday, April 16, 2017

Open wide...

This is one of my tulips. It doesn't look like what I always thought tulips are supposed to look like. Oh, it did at first. Perfect little pink blossom waving on a slender green stalk...but now it looks quite different. It is older, and the bloom is nearing its end, drooping a little...and I think it's looking a lot more like me.

When I was younger, I was concerned about how I looked to God. I wanted to be perfect, but in doing so, I was closed up pretty tight. Like those early blooms, I was protecting my heart, keeping it closed off from others so I couldn't be hurt. Keeping it closed off, even from God.

Now I'm a bit older. Hurts have already come and gone. No need to worry about appearance anymore...I'm pretty much open to the world as old and getting older by the minute. I am no longer perfect - as if I ever was. Only now, I've accepted my imperfections and I'm finally standing with arms and heart open wide. 

I recognize that time is not on my side. How is it said? "None of us are getting out of here alive." So I might as well spread out my wings and fly...or my petals and just be.

It's Easter, my friends. No matter if you have a new outfit for the day or if you're dressed in hand-me-down jeans, we can open wide and let God in. Receive what He has done for you. Live with arms and heart open wide.

Happy Easter.

John 10:10b (MSG)
I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Today is Good Friday. As a kid, I never could wrap my mind around how the day Jesus died on the cross could be called "good." I'm not sure I could do it as an adult either. How could anything "good" be found in that day?

Last week in Kids' Church, I taught the lesson on Palm Sunday and Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. As He entered the city, the people called out "Hosanna" which means "save us." I've taught this story many times but this time, it hit me that Jesus was there for Passover - and He had come as the sacrificial lamb. Somehow it struck me like never before. Just as He was born in a stable like the sacrificial lambs were born, He was going to the Passover as the lamb of God...a sacrifice on this day that would mark how God made a way for the Children of Israel to be spared death just before the Exodus. 

Once again, I started pondering something I've heard so many times - Jesus, who knew no sin, hung on the cross. He was not guilty... Then somewhere, I heard a shocking statement. Jesus was guilty - not with his own guilt, but with ours. Just as the lamb that was sacrificed "took on" the sins of the people, Jesus took on our sins that day. But how do you explain that to children? 

That's where the other part of our lesson came in. I wish I had thought of it, but I found it on another site. You can find the original lesson it comes from at this site: Helping kids understand Good Friday  Basically, I had my son, Levi, stand before the group to represent Jesus. In his words, "I don't look like Jesus," but he certainly looked more like Him that anyone else in the room. The lesson suggested this person wear a robe, but we couldn't find one that fit my son, so a really big red shirt would fit the bill. As it turned out, that red shirt was much more effective than any robe would have been.

As my son stood in the front of the room, the children noticed that his shirt had no spots, nothing. It was just red, like the blood of Jesus. Then they each took scraps of black construction paper and wrote one of their "sins" on it, something they had done wrong whether big or small. They came up and taped those black blotches to his shirt; before long it was covered! He then took the shirt and turned it wrong side out. The red completely covered all the sin. Like the thief on the cross that recognized Jesus for who He was, all those who gave their sin to Jesus had them covered by the blood of the lamb.

You know, I've done this lesson before and we put our sins on the cross, but this is the first time I've ever done it where I put them on a person that represented Jesus. Maybe it meant so much more to me because we used my own son as a prop...I'm certain if it had been left up to me, I'd never have allowed my son to carry all those sins of others to the cross. But there he stood, representing Jesus - covered with the "sins" of others. 

This made me look at things in a whole new light. When Jesus stumbled as He carried that cross up the hill, was it because it was so heavy, or because the sins that were now placed on Him were so heavy that the weight of them made it nearly impossible to walk? The one who was spotless was literally carrying what I had done all the way to the altar and then acted as the sacrifice that would cover them all.

I have heard the story of Jesus on the cross in so many ways, but for some reason, seeing those black blotches on that red shirt made me see things in a new light. Jesus was guilty when He hung on the cross - but the guilt was mine. He had taken it on so that I didn't have to. 

Only God could take the horror of that day and turn it into something "good." If He can do that on that day, surely He can take whatever comes my way and turn it to good, too. 

Thankful Good Friday and Easter, my friends. Like the thief on the cross that believed, our debt has been paid, and we are guilty no more.

Romans 8:28
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those called according to His purpose.

Isaiah 53:12 (emphasis mine)
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Hebrews 9:28
so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

1 Peter 2:24-25 (Message) (emphasis mine)
This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.
He never did one thing wrong,
Not once said anything amiss.
They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The color for Palm Sunday

I love it when I get to teach in Children's Church and I get one of those "I get it" moments. I'm not talking about the KIDS getting it - I'm talking about myself! 

The last time this happened, I was teaching around Christmas and it hit me why Jesus was born in a stable...that's where all sacrifices were born. (Mind blown!) Well, today was another one of those "mind blown" days.

We use a curriculum in Kids' Church, but I often find a little something extra to add. Today's lesson featured the color red as a part of the lesson. Of course, the major point is that it stood for the blood of Jesus, but since it was Palm Sunday, I was having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around it. After all, shouldn't the color for the day be green? Palms....Green....makes sense, right?

Today's passage came from Luke 23 and focused on the two thieves on the crosses beside Jesus, but I couldn't get my mind off the fact that it's Palm Sunday! So, I decided to go back and look at the part where Jesus entered Jerusalem, Luke 22. That's when the lesson took a turn.

Earlier this week, one of my students asked why Easter is in March some years and in April on others. I mentioned that it had to do with Passover and discovered that many of my students had no idea what I meant. 

Just a quick refresher for anyone that has gotten a bit rusty on their Old Testament Bible accounts - Passover has to do with the account in Exodus when Moses went to Pharoah and told him that God said to let His people go. Pharoah, of course, was more than a bit stubborn and it took 7 plagues before he relented and released the Israelites to go into the Promised Land. The last plague was the worst - the first born in every household died, except for those who had followed God's directive to sacrifice a lamb and paint the blood of the sacrifice over the doors. The Israelites slept that final night as captives undisturbed. The angel of death "passed over" their dwellings. 

Exodus 12:12-14
“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.
“This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord—a lasting ordinance. "
So Easter is based on Passover. Why? Well, when Jesus entered into Jerusalem on what we now refer to as "Palm Sunday" it was because He was there to celebrate Passover.
According to a message by John Piper, "Our English word "hosanna" comes from a Greek word "hosanna" which comes from a Hebrew phrase hoshiya na.
And that Hebrew phrase is found one solitary place in the whole Old Testament, Psalm 118:25, where it means, "Save, please!" It is a cry to God for help." 
Let that sink in for a moment. Passover...which commemorated when God had heard the cries of His people and saved them with the blood of a lamb painted over the openings of their home so that the angel of death would pass over. Once again the people cried out to God for help...and Jesus came.
Palm Sunday - when the Passover "lamb" came into the city to be sacrificed so that all who believed in the power of the blood of that sacrifice would be saved. 
Just like that Sunday when I realized that Jesus was born where sacrifices were born, today I realized anew that when He rode into Jerusalem, He came as a sacrifice. 
So maybe the color for Palm Sunday is red after all. (Mind blown!)
Tomorrow I'll try to write about that thief and the rest of today's Kids' Church lesson.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Today is my 58th birthday and like most days, I woke up with a word/random thought on my mind. The word today was "comfortable".

I love being comfortable. I wear comfy clothes, eat comfort foods, have friends I'm really comfortable around...I'm pretty sure I would never make it on a make-over show because they would never be able to tear my comfortable shoes from me! In fact, if you look up 'comfortable' in the dictionary, you might find my picture. One benefit of getting older is that I'm finally "comfortable" in my own skin, despite its wrinkly appearance. Yep, comfortable is a pretty positive word.

But lately I've started seeing the word in a not so positive light. You see, as I get older, I find that once I get "comfortable," I don't want to move. I just don't want to put forth the effort. I just got "comfortable." In fact lately, I find that when I sit in my favorite chair after a long day at work and get comfortable I fall asleep! While it's still light outside!

It's not that I can't move - I just don't want to!

It's as if I'm becoming like one of those characters on Pirates of the Caribbean who slowly melds into the ship and becomes a part of the background...powerless to move. It takes REAL effort to pull away and stand. I don't think I've ever thought of getting older that way before...but those who cease to make the effort to move seem to simply sink into their chairs and fade into the background till they are unable to do anything else.

They simply get OLD! (That's such an ugly word.)

That's the thing about getting comfortable. It's so...comfortable! You don't want to do anything that takes you out of that "comfort zone"! And as I get older, I find that it seems to be harder and harder to get moving again once I get "comfortable."

I want to find ways to push myself to break out of the comfort zone. The working mission trip to Guatemala was one attempt to get out of my comfort zone and do something that didn't necessarily come naturally. I have to say, that was one of the best choices I've made in a while. I got out of my comfort zone and discovered I kind of LIKE being uncomfortable! What started as a challenge actually turned into something that fanned the flames inside me to DO something! My muscles hurt and I was tired and I felt ALIVE!

It is easy as we get older to feel like our time has passed. We look forward to retirement when we can finally just SIT...but maybe we've been looking at things all wrong. Maybe instead of retirement, it's supposed to be a time of re-fire-ment. Instead of striving to be comfortable, maybe we should be stretching ourselves to try new things, learn new things, take a chance and believe God for dreams we thought were long gone.

Yes, comfortable can be a good thing but sometimes we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. Maybe it's time to look at birthdays as another reminder that we're not finished yet. This is not the time to get "comfortable" in this world...after all, it's not our home.

Psalm 63:4New International Version (NIV)

 I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.

1 Peter 2:11The Message (MSG)

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul.