Something Old Made New

I have always liked old things.  I treasure their history.   So I especially love old family things – my mother’s platform rocker, the cake plate that belonged to my mother-in-law, my dresser from childhood.  These things  have a story to tell and preserve pieces of the history of my family and my husband’s family.

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A year ago my son and his family were moving some old things out of the furnace room as they packed and prepared to move.  One of the things they pulled out was an old desk that had belonged to my mother-in-law.  My husband can’t remember a time the desk was not setting in the living room of the home he grew up in.  He estimated that the desk is 65-70 years old.  Our granddaughter examined the old desk and decided she wanted to keep it.  Since it was in bad shape, she and I hatched a plan to give it new a life for her new room in their new home.   We decided on some chalk paint and a coat of clear wax to protect the wood.  Miah picked out her colors  and new hardware for the drawers.  We worked together.  Both of us were pleased with the results.  I was thrilled that Great Grandmother’s desk has been preserved to serve a new generation in our family.

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Perhaps one of the reasons, I find refurbishing an old piece of furniture so satisfying is because it becomes a metaphor for the work Jesus Christ does in creation and in the lives of his followers.  He tells us in Revelation 21 that HE MAKES ALL THINGS NEW.   In her DVD study,  Here and Now… There and Then,  A Lecture Series on Revelation, Beth Moore quotes Dr. M.E. Boring, “God does not make all new things but all things new.”

I am so glad Jesus has made me new and preserved me to enjoy a wondrous, glorious future with him in Heaven.  I love him.

Happy Birthday, Miah!  I am glad God made you, and that Jesus made you new when you put your trust in him.  I love you.

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Autumn Expectation

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Mellow September is my favorite month of the year.  I look forward to warm days of brilliant color and cool nights, snuggled under a warm blanket with the windows open to fresh air.

This autumn I look forward to trips to see two of my sons and their families.  I can hardly wait to see them, to hug them, to hear their voices, and to see them smile.

As a follower of Jesus, autumn also finds me anticipating and looking forward to another visit – to a visit with the One who knows me best and loves me most, the One I love above all others – to a visit that never ends with my glorious Savior.

The apostle Paul teaches us in I Corinthians 15:51-52 and I Thessalonians 4:16-18 that a day is coming when Jesus will descend from Heaven and lift His followers up into the clouds to be with Him forever.  This coming event is called The Rapture.

In their book, The Feasts of the Lord, Kevin Howard and Marvin Rosenthal, write, “The Feast of Trumpets is next on Israel’s prophetic calendar.  Israel’s four springtime holidays (Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and the Feast of Weeks) were fulfilled in connection with the Messiah’s first coming.  Israel’s three autumn holidays (Feast of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles) will be fulfilled at His second coming.” (Page 112)  On page 29, one of the authors writes, “While I will not be dogmatic on this issue, I strongly believe that at the Feast of Trumpets, the church will be raptured and the Lord’s wrath will commence on earth.”

The Feast of Trumpets, also known as Rosh Hashanah, takes place on the first day of the the seventh month in the Hebrew calendar.   This falls sometime between mid September and mid October in our calendar.

Each autumn I wonder wistfully: Will this be the year? – Will my Lord take me up into the clouds to be with Him this Feast of Trumpets?

Recently, I have been listening again to the music of Chris Rice, in his old CD, Run the Earth, Watch the Sky.  My heart identifies with his lyrics in the song Smile: “Cause I just want to be with you;  I want this waiting to be over… And it helps to know the day is getting closer…til I don’t have to imagine, and I finally get to see you smile!”

I keep running the earth, watching the sky, especially the autumn sky, and praying with the Saints of all the ages, “Come, Lord Jesus.  Come Quickly!”

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Rebuilt and Replanted

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Earlier this summer, my husband and I celebrated our 45th Wedding Anniversary.   We were newlyweds in the early 1970’s,  an era enriched with the beautiful music preformed by Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard.   They told our story in We’ve Only Just Begun*:  “…White lace and promises.  A kiss for luck and we’re on our way.”  They expressed our dreams in For All We Know**:  “…We’ve got a lifetime to share.  So much to say…Let’s take a lifetime to say I knew you well…And love may grow for all we know.”

Our promises and dreams were godly, and we sought God’s blessing and invoked His help.  It is good we did.  For life happened.  Demands and stresses within and without took a toll on our marriage, which nearly failed.  (You can read our story by going to the book page of this website.)    We’ve had a lifetime to know each other well and see our love mature and grow because of the God we trusted.

“Then the Nations around you that remain will know that I , the Lord, have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate.  I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will do it.”   Ezekiel 36:36

In this, our 45th year of life together, Howard and I honor the God who rebuilt and replanted our marriage, the God  who spoke and did what He said He could do!

* written by Nicolas,Roger S./Williams, Paul H.

**  written by Bunch, John/Colbert, Joshua/Cordoba,Derick/Neptune, Cha

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Mothers, Daughters, and Life Lessons

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Earlier this year I took my granddaughter Anjela and her mother Adreza to see the movie Cinderella.  I was delighted on our way home to hear my daughter-in-law ask, “Anjela, what did Cinderella’s mother teach her?”

Anjela promptly replied, “Always be kind and courageous“.

Adreza spent a few moments reinforcing the importance of kindness and courage.  Then she asked, “What did Cinderella say to her step mother at the end of the movie?”

Anjela replied, “I forgive you.”

Adreza then emphasized  the virtue of having a forgiving spirit.

I applauded my daughter-in-law for capitalizing on an opportunity to teach.  What could have been just entrainment for Anjela, became a transformative experience.  It also became a memory of her mother as a woman who values kindness, courage, and forgiveness.

As Christians we filter all the messages we hear through the filter of our Biblical World View.  There is much we must throw out as incompatible with God’s truth.  How refreshing when the message we hear agrees with the truth we build our lives on.  Adreza was reiterating truths expressed in scripture:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  Colossians 3:12-13

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

As I reflected back on Cinderella and Adreza’s life lesson with Anjela,  I  remembered my mother and her lessons to me.  She taught me to be kind and respectful.  She role modeled those virtues and expected me to follow her example.

I used to complain about my broad shoulders.  She firmly retorted, “Life will be hard, and you will need those broad shoulders.”  Although she never directly told me to be strong,  I certainly internalized that expectation and the belief that I was equipped for that challenge.  My mother’s life was often hard;  I observed her courage and her strength.

I don’t remember my mother talking about forgiveness, but I have memories of her extending forgiveness to others, as her Lord had commanded her.

Hebrews 12 tells us we have a great cloud of witnesses who kept the faith and have gone before us into heaven.

“Mother, if you are watching, and I am confidant  you are, please know I am trying to be kind and courageous, and forgiving.  I want to make you proud.”

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Hungry Caterpillars and Transformation

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Our granddaughter Alyse has loved puzzles and Monarch Butterfies. When she was pre-school age, she liked to put together a floor puzzle of an illustration from the children’s book, The Hungry Caterpillar. I made happy memories of sitting on the floor with Alyse piecing that puzzle together.

The above photograph of Alyse was taken one Easter at her Grandma Doreen’s home. As you can see, she has a Monarch Butterfly perched on her finger. The Butterfly must have decided she was lovelier and sweeter than the nearby yellow hibiscus!

What do hungry caterpillars and butterflies have to do with Easter and Transformation? Hungry Caterpillars become beautiful butterflies by God’s design and plan. The crucified Christ becomes the Risen Lord on Easter morning to complete God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The Risen Lord transforms believers into New Creations. (See 2 Corinthians 5: 17)

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6, New American Standard Bible)

Like hungry caterpillars, Christians keep reading the Scriptures, day by day, year in, year out. It is their daily bread, and it satisfies them. This steady diet of God’s truth transforms their lives. Christ uses his words to make them new creations.

Sometimes a transformation in Christ can be very dramatic and sudden, like it was for Louie Zamperini, as I mentioned in my previous post. For most of us other believers, I think, the transformation is the slow, steady variety.

Oh, the wonders of God’s Creation! – caterpillars becoming Monarch Butterflies, granddaughters becoming beautiful young women, and believers being transformed into the likeness of Christ with ever increasing glory (2 Corinthians 4:18).

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A New Creation

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“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Can a person be so broken, that healing and wholeness seem hopeless – that ever knowing peace and true joy again is despaired of? Perhaps in the realm of the human, but in the realm of the Spirit of Christ, all things are possible. He is the one who proclaims that he makes all things NEW.

I recently read, Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. It is the story of Olympian runner Louie Zamperini whose life was broken by the ravages of war and the horrors of life in a Japanese prison camp. He survived and returned home, alive, but in reality dead to any meaningful life. He suffered from crippling, disabling flashbacks, nightmares, and alcoholism.

In 1949 Louie attended the Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles. Laura Hillenbrand documented his testimony of the morning after the crusade on page 376: “Resting in the shade and the stillness, Louie felt profound peace. When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him. He was not the worthless, broken, forsaken man that the Bird had striven to make him. In a single, silent moment, his rage, his fear, his humiliation, and helplessness had fallen away. That morning, he believed he was a new creation.” Ms. Hillenbrand documented that he never had another flashback or nightmare of his prison guard, the Bird, once again assaulting him.

I highly recommend reading this book. One cannot fully appreciate Louie’s transformation without comprehending the depths of his suffering.

You can make of Louie’s transformation what you will, but I see it as an apologetic of the truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17!

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With Gratitude

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Oh, Give Thanks To The Lord

Last Friday my husband saw his oncologist and reported having some mild pain in the same general area where pain in 2013 had been the alert which led to the diagnosis of lymphoma.  The doctor examined Howard carefully and reassured him that a recurrence of cancer was unlikely.  A CT scan was ordered for the coming Tuesday, just to be careful and certain.     

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.   His love endures forever.”  Psalm 136:1                                                                                

Tuesday morning Howard had his scan and returned home to wait for a call from the doctor.  Late in the afternoon, the phone rang.  As I listened to my husband’s tone of voice and gazed at his demeanor, I knew the news was good.  There was no sign of cancer.  His new discomfort was blamed on some moderate degenerative joint disease in his spine.

We are filled with relief and gratitude.  As I thank God for his enduring love this afternoon, I am reminded of the last verse of the old hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross*   –   “…Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”                                                                                                                               

 * arranged by Lowell Mason/Isaac Watts –  based on Gregorian Chant

 

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Hold Me

 

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“I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.”  Exodus 19:4

“You whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth….I have made you, and I will carry you.”  Isaiah 43: 3 and 4

My husband developed pain in his left hip last week.  Those of you who follow my blog, know that Howard had stage three lymphoma in 2013.  In light of his history, any little pain that might have been ignored, now has the capacity to arouse fear in both of us.  And we have been fearful as we await his routine three month check with the oncologist in a few days.

Last Sunday our Pastor was teaching from Exodus 34, teaching that the God of Moses seeks to be known, that he self-discloses.*  God said he is Hesed.  Some translations of Hesed are loving kindness, or steadfast love, or abounding in love. As Pastor Cody talked of trusting God’s love, he shared a story about his young daughter.  He asked her, “How do you know I love you.”  She replied, “Because you snuggle with me.”

How do I know that God extends his Hesed to me?  He snuggles with me.  He holds me.  He carries me.  He always has.  He always will.

In the quiet of worship, I decided it was a good week to really lean into my Daddy God, to let him hold me and calm me with his love.  As we drove home from church, in my mind, I kept hearing the words and music of the late Rich Mullins:  “Hold me Jesus.  I’m shaking like a leaf.  You have been my King of Glory.  Won’t you be my Prince of Peace?.”**

This morning during my quiet time with God, the words and music from Matt Maher came to mind: “I just want to be in your arms, moving ever closer to your heart.”***

Fears have been calmed.   Whatever lies ahead, all will be well, because of God’s Hesed.  I am being held.  My husband is being held.  We are in the everlasting arms of our Lord.

*You can listen to Pastor Cody Kargus’s sermon of 3/8/15  at www.maranthafree.com

** Hold Me Jesus by Rich Mullins

*** Letting Go by Matt Maher/Paul Moak

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Two Contrasting Images

As I continue my meditation on being conformed to the image of Christ (see my last two posts),  I ask, “What then do I mortify?”  –  “What constitutes my sinful nature?”.

In Colossians 3:5, Paul says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed which is idolatry.”  He further elaborates in the same chapter, verses 8-10.  “But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.  Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

Is it possible to follow Paul’s instructions in Colossians and still not fully reflect the image of Christ?  “Is there something more?”,  I ask.

In Philippians 2, as Paul calls us to humility, he reminds us that our Lord did not consider equality with God something to be grasped – that he made himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant, the likeness of man – he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.   Luke reports in his gospel in chapter 23:34 that while in his agony on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

To look like Jesus, to be conformed to his image in his death, means I must mortify my pride and my desire for revenge.  To reflect the image of the Savior I must surrender my will to the will of the Father, and I must forgive.

I recently watched the movie Philomena.  At the end of the movie there was a confrontation between Philomena and a nun that graphically illustrates how mortifying just the flesh alone will not result in conformity to our Lord Jesus.  The nun, who had put to death her sexual urges, held herself self-righteously above Philomena, who had been an unwed mother.   The nun lied without remorse and issued no apology for having prevented Philomena’s birth son from finding Philomena before his death. The confrontation between the two women ended with Philomena saying, “Well, I forgive you.”   The contrast between the two  women was stark.  The one woman looked like Jesus and the other one did not resemble him at all.

Dear Father,  I want to look like Jesus.  I want to be like him   Please help me mortify my pride and all desire for revenge.  Help me to forgive each time I am wounded.  Amen

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Conformed to The Image of Christ

 

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I continue to meditate on what it means to be conformed to the image of Christ, not the resurrected, glorified Jesus, but the crucified Jesus.

I read Romans 8 again and again to plumb the depths of its meaning, its truth.  “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” (Romans 8:5)

I have a choice every morning to set my mind on either the desires of the sinful nature or the desires of the Spirit of God.  I will live each day, one day at a time, according to how my mind is set.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory.” (Romans 8:16-17)

Sharing his sufferings is the prerequisite for sharing in his glory.  This is true whether I want it to be true or not.   Twenty-one Christians recently lived and died this reality.  They were conformed to the image of Christ in his death and today share his glory in his Father’s Kingdom.

Although all Christ followers are not called to martyrdom, they are all called to death.  Perhaps I am not called to give up my life for my faith in Christ, but each morning Jesus calls me to take up my cross and follow him. Paul tells me in Romans 8:12-14 that I have an obligation to put to death the sinful nature by the Spirit of God who lives in me.  Earlier in the same chapter, Paul reminds me that the Spirit of God raised Christ from the dead.  This same mighty power is available to me, actually lives inside me.

If twenty-one of my fellow brothers in Christ gave their lives up for the Jesus they loved, I can certainly, by the Spirit’s power at work within me, die countless daily deaths by setting my mind on the desires of God and saying no to my sinful desires and inclinations.  No to pride, jealousy. lust, anger and rage.  Yes to love, mercy, forgiveness and generosity.  No to my dreams.  Yes to God’s dreams.  No to rebellion.  Yes to surrender to the One who knows me best, loves me most, and gave himself to be my sin offering.

Holy Spirit, conform me to the image of Christ.  Let me be like him in his death. Remind me each morning to set my mind on the desires of God.  Give me power each day to say no to my sinful nature – to live as dead to that nature, to live as alive to the God who loves me, saying yes to Him again and again, hour by hour.  Enable me to do this out of my passion for the Lord Jesus.  Let me identify with him, in his death by dying in the flames of my love for him.  Let me do this to honor Christ and the twenty-one Coptic Christians who just gave their lives for him. Amen

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