Monday, April 30, 2007

A void

You MIGHT consider when you read that title that I am speaking of the void left in my heart due to dad's death. And, you're right - there is an incredible void. However ...

I am in INTERNET HELL! Dad only has AOL dialup at the house. Grrrreat. The other night I could get nowhere. I finally gave up. I was awfully glad to get home Sunday evening. I desperately needed to access the internet - and even more, I needed my diet mountain dew. Neither were offered in surplus to me here in Webster City, Iowa.

My husband thinks it is hilarious, because Iowa is one of the most 'wired' states in the union (per capita). There is so much fiber optic cable in this state, it is incredible. But, not to my dad's house. Max and Phil (Priscilla's son) went looking for a possible 'open' wireless network. And would you believe that in dad's neighborhood there was no such thing? In fact, there weren't even any encrypted networks! I went next door (because they were so gracious and would have offered us anything) and asked if they had high speed internet access. They didn't have ANY access. Yikes. How do people live like this? {giggle}

Priscilla's other son, Dave searched out a wireless hot spot in town and found a great little location. We're here now. 2nd Street Emporium. This is truly the greatest place I've ever been in! It's a small town 'fancy' restaurant. I'm eating a homemade tuna salad croissant. AND, typing my blog. Ahhh, life is good.

The family is starting to come to terms with the fact that we have a lot of decisions to make and a lot of stuff to clean up. Dad was the worst kind of packrat. We are finding so much junk that he saved. He took a lot of medication. He has saved every little paper bag from the drug store. Flattened them out and stored them in a box. We found a box labeled 'empty pill bottles'. Oh yes, that's what they were. In the garage we discovered several large boxes filled with empty ice cream (5 qt - Dad loved his ice cream) containers, potato salad containers. Several boxes of these! Every piece of mail that he ever received has been filed. Not for the last few years, but for MANY years back. He threw nothing away. Some of it is really cool stuff.

We found a 1956 tour guide to New York City - beautifully illustrated. There's another tour guide from 1955 - Washington, DC. There's a 1960's street map of Des Moines. (this is just the beginning folks!). So, as I'm purging the garbage, I'm loving the treasures. We have discovered copies of all of our grades through high school and college. There are multitudes of papers that he has collected over the years - showing his pride in his children. It's amazing. We are finding pictures and memorabilia from his life with our mom and even his life as a young man before he was married. What a treasure trove!

Dad labeled everything. He filed everything. He was obsessive about order and organization. I will try to take some photographs tomorrow of his 'cubbyhole'. It's a small space in the basement. His big ole desk, a 4-drawer file, 2 flat drawer files (stacked on top of each other) and bookshelves completely filled. Behind the chair is a small bathroom - shelves line the walls - we have discovered at least 50-75 pairs of glasses! All labeled as to when they were used and packed nicely away in zip lock bags. (Yes, please laugh out loud).

The best part? Behind this little bathroom is an entrance to a crawl space under the kitchen (split level home). In this crawl space is more junk. Dad spent many months during their first years in this home building shelves. They're simply planks sitting on top of cinder blocks. And they're filled with more junk. My grandmother died in the early 90s and we have discovered her cancelled checks in there! (Now ... laugh out loud!)

However there is beauty in all of this. As we have been looking for the financial information so that we can turn things over to Priscilla and her sons, Dad's organization and 'saving' skills are a blessing. We have everything at our fingertips. Honestly, we have more than we will ever need. I have all of his tax forms (plus all of his documentation that went to the CPA) for the last 20 years. But, there is enough there to find the data that we will need to ensure Priscilla is taken care of. That was his only concern.

Now, as I'm finding this information, I'm also finding all of the bulletins and newsletters from his many years in the pastorate. HAH! I'm finding notes and schedules for youth retreats (from the 70s) and everything else he did. There are indepth files on everything he ever researched or read. Do you want to know about cults? I have a lot of information. How about apologetics? Oh ... he has it.

Tomorrow we get serious about the purge and the saving. Carol bought a large box of trash bags ... we'll see what happens.

Thank you for the prayers and support. The other thing that I was glad to be home for - if even for just a few hours - was to be surrounded by people who loved me again. I'm in Priscilla's home and among her friends. These people adored my father and some of that rubs off on me, but not much. I discovered that it was difficult to grieve in those circumstances. I moved into 'grown-up' mode quite easily. But, when I got home and encountered people who felt for me and for my immediate family, the tears easily flowed.

Ok ... it's 8:30 - I have to drive out to the cabin for the night. My sis and brother are already there. We'll be up late tonight.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Fisher of Men

I'm home for a short period of time. Whew! I needed to have my own world around me for a bit. It's been a weird weekend and I'm not sure the week is going to get any less weird.

First, the gory details.
Dad (age 73) and his brother John (age 78) love to fish together. Generally their brother Art (age 80) comes up to Dad's cabin to spend a week with them and they all have a great time. Art had carpal tunnel surgery last week and he missed the trip. The two boys had spent the week at our cabin on the Boone River. There's no telephone, you have to drive a couple of miles to get high enough for a cell phone to work, so they hide out and have fun.

Thursday evening they were to meet Priscilla (Dad's second wife) for dinner at 5:30. They would call her when they were coming in to town (Webster City, Iowa). They didn't call, but remember, these are avid fishermen ... and if the fishin's good ... However, by 8:00, she got a little concerned and drove out to the cabin. They weren't there and she waited awhile. Then, she came back into town, called some friends and they all went back to wait. The next morning, she still hadn't heard from them - drove back to the cabin and they hadn't shown up. She called 911 and the search began.

About 2:30 on Friday, the sheriff discovered Uncle John's truck and boat trailer at Brushy Creek - a reservoir lake. They let Priscilla know this and the prayers began. By 4:30 or so, they had discovered the bodies. We began getting phone calls and information - much of it quite sketchy.

So ... they went over a spillway ... 150 feet down at a 60 degree angle. The water was quite high because of the immense amount of rain that central Iowa has been receiving, and the current was quite fast.

A Ranger discovered Dad's body in the boat, He actually tied it to the steering wheel so that it wouldn't float away, and went looking for Uncle John. Uncle John had traveled (with a bad back and terrible knees) up a very steep embankment to look for help.

More gory details: Coroner's report
There was an autopsy because of the nature of the accident. Dad had a bad blow to the head which knocked him out and he then drowned. Uncle John died from bleeding in the heart - probably a heart attack. He made it up the embankment, walked for about 200 yards and collapsed.

John, Jr. came up today with his family and sister, Joy. They picked up the truck and trailer and then went to Brushy Creek. My brother, Jim was with them and walked the path that John took. For younger men, the accident would have absolutely been survivable. But, Dad was 73, weakened from Parkinson's Disease, more than likely bounced around the boat like a rubber ball. Uncle John walked through 47 degree water, was shocked from the accident and Dad's death, is 78 years old and could not hold up under the strain. It's simply a tragedy.

Ahhh ... the joy.
But, in all of this, and I've said it before, these men were doing what they loved and they were together having fun as brothers. A friend told me today that she had received an email from dad several weeks ago: "Lord ... I'll give up 10 years of my life, if I don't have to die in a nursing home." That scared him more than anything! He loved being outdoors. He loved the water. He loved fishing. He loved his family. He hated being weak and he would have hated having people care for him 24/7. God answered a prayer that he had prayed daily.

My dad's life
People loved my dad. You might think I'm overstating or making more of him than I should. I'm not. He was a very unique person. When he met you, Dad made sure that you knew he had all the time in the world to get to know you. He expended himself on you. And ... he never forgot you.

He was generous. Oh my, he was generous ... with his time, his love, his knowledge, his money. We have discovered that he donated to at least 20 different charities as well as tithed to his church. But, every one of his neighbors came over this weekend. Why? Because Dad gave of himself to them. Not as much as he got weaker, but when he moved into that neighborhood in 1995, he began caring for these people. One neighbor was concerned that a 'preacher' was moving in next door and wouldn't be any fun. She came over yesterday with soup, because she loved him so much.

He used to get up very early - before anyone else was stirring and fire up the snowblower after a snowstorm. Now, he not only plowed the sidewalks, but would clean the driveways of all of his neighbors before they were up. Not once or twice, but as often as he could. He planted tomatoes and all of the neighbors knew that when he was harvesting them, he would show up at their door with a box full for them. Not one or two tomatoes, but a dozen or so - or as many as they could use.
His bible study group adores him, the youth in the church fell in love with him, though he stopped leading youth groups in 1984. He loved having the kids out to the cabin for retreats or afternoons. He would spend days cleaning up and preparing for them out there. And now? The kids are begging to be allowed to go out and help us by mowing and cleaning up the meadows. They know how much time he spent doing that work.

All of this was happening in a church that he didn't even pastor ... but, in reality ... he pastored every person he ever came in contact with.

I've heard from cousins and friends from former churches. They're destroyed. Dad's first altar call in Sigourney saved a woman's life - she was headed down a dark path of destruction and found her way to the altar when Dad listened to God's voice telling him to just open the altar. A friend of Carol's called to tell her that Dad changed her life ... in confirmation. He taught her about the love of God. And you know what? What he taught, he lived. A cousin called me today to tell me another story about Dad. The stories are innumerable. This man touched lives I will never know about.

Fishing was one of Dad's greatest joys. You know, he never went evangelizing or 'fishing' for men. But, that's what he was ... by the very nature of his being. If you knew him, before long, you knew God. Dad would ensure your entrance into the kingdom and you might not even know what hit you. Other times, he wasn't afraid to hit you over the head with that fishing pole because he didn't want to lose you in that kingdom.

There is so much to tell about this man. I have some hilarious stories from this last weekend as I've been going through his stuff. But, I'll save that for another post.

I look forward to the stories from Dad's friends, family and parishioners. I know what they'll tell me, though. Their lives have been changed for the better by this man. He rescued them from the pit of hell by telling them about Jesus, or he simply shared everything he had with them. All of it, though, pointed to the Lord that he loved.

You see, I know that as he was bouncing around and before he was hit on the head, the last words of my father were, "Thank you Jesus." Those were the last words before he fell asleep and the first words when he woke up.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My father is gone...

My father died today. I'm heading out to deal with his wife and all of the things that need to be handled. He and his brother, John were on a lake (Brushy Creek) near Webster City fishing yesterday. They didn't comprehend the depth of the water and went over a spillway. I don't have all of the details, but somehow Uncle John tied my father (who had Parkinson's Disease) to the steering wheel and took off into the woods to go get help. He made it about 100 yards, passed out and died from exposure. They found them this afternoon.

Dad's in heaven. I know that ... and I'm great with that. It's going to be hard - people loved my father and their pain is going to continually wash over me. But, I loved my dad and I'm thankful for his life. Fishing was his greatest joy.

Please keep his wife, Priscilla in your prayers. My sister, Carol, my brother Jim and I will be there to care for her as much as we can. She has cared for him for the last 20 years as his Parkinson's progressed and this is going to be difficult for her. We do covet prayers ... and thank you.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


This has been an interesting day. It's been a good day. It doesn't take much for me to be reminded of God's power and glory and I'm thankful for all of those reminders.

I went to Brandon Purintun's Confirmation this morning. I could go on and on about how terrific it was that this young man was being confirmed into the church, but this blog is about me, right? [hehe]. No really ... this time it is about me. Just another in a long list of learning experiences that I have to go through.

The spectacular thing about this Confirmation was that it was at Gretna UMC. For those of you who know me well, you know that when I left that church in 2002 it was extremely painful. I had (have) a lot of friends there, but circumstances blew my world apart and I had to leave. A terrible relationship with an explosive pastor and a poor start to a relationship with another pastor made it difficult to maintain any type of personal ministry. So, I was gone.

After some time to heal, I ended up at Faith-Westwood. God is good. All the time.

Last summer, I took Soul Seekers (FW's high school choir) back to Gretna UMC for a pre-tour concert. Brandon's dad, Doug, mentioned that hell must have finally frozen over for me to be back in that place. Funny as it was, while hell didn't freeze, my heart was beginning to thaw. I had managed to build up a lot of protective walls around my heart regarding that place. A few friends were able to keep communicating with me, but I was gone. I had spent every single Sunday leaving that church in tears. My husband was so angry that I kept returning for more pain, he could barely function when we had to go out there. When we left, we left for good. No more pain, no more anger.

So, several months ago, Amy asked if I would come out for Brandon's Confirmation. There was no hesitation. Of course I would! I'd do anything for those kids. And it wasn't about me. It was about being a part of Brandon's family. So, I set it all aside, knowing that I had plenty of friends and Amy's family would be all around me. No big deal.

I drove in a driving rainstorm, got out of the car with rain pouring down on me. I just laughed. Of course it was pouring! Why not? If it had been a month ago, it would have been a blizzard. My relationship with that church was stormy. I think God was laughing with me.

I walked in and began seeing people that I recognized. It's been nearly 5 years, but not much has changed. I saw Amy's family and sat down in a pew with her daughter Rachael, who loves me because I'm Aunt Diane. Whew! I was in with relatively little agony. I relaxed and began looking around. People smiled at me, some old friends stopped up to chat with me, I got a few hugs and a few strange looks as others tried to remember why they knew me!

Worship began. As it came time for the greeting, Pastor Mark, who knows me a little bit, came rushing down the aisle to hug and welcome me. That was it! I was fine! All of the trouble that had occurred between me and a previous pastor was erased by that single hug. I was welcome in the church that had practically begged me to leave (not necessarily true, but my feelings were pretty raw when I did leave). Worship was terrific. I was able to connect with God in a place that had laid me out. God never left - I did. The Confirmation ceremony was beautiful.

After worship, I encountered a lot more people - all of whom were glad to see me back. Ok ... not all of them. There were a few that looked at me to figure out who I was, and when the realization hit them, they were stuck. They had already made eye contact and had to say 'hello'. I just giggled. I have enough 'evil' in my heart, that I enjoyed that a lot. Others completely ignored me. That made me giggle as well.

The best part? I got to meet some of the new people that are moving and shaking that church. How exciting! These are fabulous people who have taken on God's call to fill the church with His people, whether they are healthy or broken. I can build relationships with new friends, reconnect with old friends and be thankful for a period of time in my life that was a time of growth.

God's grace and mercy is always at work ... in His church and in the lives of His people. I'm thankful to be in His grace.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


Words are ephemeral. Words can be filled with meaning. Words can be meaningless. Words can hurt and destroy or words can build up and encourage. There's a lot of scripture given to discussing the proper use of words.

Have you ever taken the time to read any of the spam that comes through containing random words and phrases strung together. It's hilarious! Every once in awhile, I'll take a moment to read through one of them to see what comes up.

'yes; come tomorrow. but if i can't, don't grieve, rose. i'm no loss to anyone, and perhaps thing. then the sight of the bicycle boy struggling with jack, who on all-fours this time, with a new sort of tail and long ears. a 'yes; come tomorrow 'yes; come tomorrow this and that together, and taking various trifles into the account, and flowers for her nose. a stray sunbeam; the baby voice telling sweet, unintelligible stories a stray sunbeam; the baby voice telling sweet, unintelligible stories. the needs, virtues, and failings of those nearest us. love should friends shy little beth had made. and cut the bread and butter interests almost entirely,

Those words make absolutely no sense, but they want to! I want them to! So, I read them and try to create an interpretation in my mind. I try to force it to make sense. But, alas, I'm not sure who the bicycle boy with a new sort of tail and long ears might be. He's on all fours ... struggling with a jack. No ... try as I might, it makes no sense.

I wonder about how my words sound to God. Fortunately, God knows my heart well enough to listen past my words. When I talk to God I try to actually hold a conversation with Him. but, that requires more than words from me. It requires me to interpret my surroundings and concentrate on what is coing out of my mouth and frommy heart.

I listen to people pray aloud. I cringe. They aren't holding a conversation with God. They are simply presenting a litany of their thoughts before Him. There was an excellent article in Christianity Today "Father Weejus". Have you ever caught yourself saying those words to God? "Father, we just gather together to bring these needs before you. Father, we just believe that You can make all our dreams come true and heal our bodies and our souls ... " Oh, it goes on and on.

But, even as I write these words, I realize that God is listening to their hearts as well as their words. The only one being truly offended by this is probably me.

Prayer is a privilege. It is also something we take for granted. God gave us access to the throne, to the altar in the throneroom through our prayers. When we lift them before God as true cries from the heart, when we offer our adoration, praise and thanksgiving to God, when we cause our words to actually engage the Creator of the Universe rather than toss banter at Him because we like the sound of our own voice ... words become more than we can imagine.

God created the Word! He says "I am the Alpha and the Omega." He is the first letter of the alphabet, the last letter of the alphabet and every single letter in between. The Word was made flesh in Jesus Christ. God spoke creation into existence - not by waving a magic wand, but by speaking WORDS! God anointed Jesus with words. God gave us words in the form of the scriptures so that we could understand His heart.

What words will I speak today? How will I use the language that is a gift from God? How will I speak to Him and when will I listen for the words that come from Him?

Words are an interesting thing to consider.

My brain is rattling around

I have a million things I want to say today and when this happens to me, I generally become incomprehensible. You see, it's Saturday. The entire day is mine. I have no commitments, I have nothing that is on the schedule. I don't think that has happened in many months. I finished writing the Revelation study last week, so I don't have that pressing in the back of my mind.

This means that my brain is free to roam around and consider so many other ideas. Now, the other part of my reality is that my house is in disastrous shape. If you think I'm overstating, trust me, I'm not. So, as my brain is flying in a million different directions, I am also trying to struggle with how to regain control of my living space. And what am I doing right now? Sitting at my desk with my fingers on a keyboard.

My father would have something to say about that. He was never one for 'free time'. If we were simply sitting in a room that he entered, he would inquire as to what else we could be doing. If we were sitting in that same room with a book in our lap, we were safe. Reading was more than acceptable. Anything that was productive was acceptable, but laziness and frittering away time never was.

My mother on the other hand, was the exact opposite. She fully understood that 'laziness' was not something to be taken for granted. That sitting around with nothing occupying your time allowed the mind to roam and to explore. That allowed a person to be creative. To create something from nothing was her greatest joy. She was a sculptor, a potter, a painter, an author, a poet, a speaker, she even tried to write music. When dad would accuse her of being lazy, she would later produce an incredible piece of art.

They never really 'got' each other in this area. But, they loved each other through all of it. My sister is a lot like my father. She does not like to sit around. Her time is highly scheduled and she always feels like she needs to be doing something productive.

I feel like the dichotomy is always pressing at me. I keep myself very busy. I can be extremely 'task-oriented'. When a task is set before me, I accomplish it as quickly as possible so that it no longer is something in my consideration. I don't have to think about it anymore. Yet, my mind yearns for freedom. Whenever I can sit still without having to do anything, I grab the moment. I wish I had more.

Which brings me to today.

I have filled my last few months with many things outside the home. Max's inability to walk has caused us to revamp our lives. I don't get home in the evening most nights until 9:00 at the earliest - and we always spend a couple of hours wrapped up in conversation so that we can stay connected. When I am home early, we generally go out to eat with friends, and again, we come home very late. It's not an excuse, but it is the reason that my house is in terrible shape. I desperately need to de-trash the place, clean the kitchen, vacuum, clear the dining room table, go to the grocery store, the dry cleaners, the drug store, and I need to buy another trash can - people steal our trash container on a regular basis. It's obvious that they have no preference on design - they take them all!

But, my brain is moving like crazy and I want nothing more than to take a notebook and a few books, get in the car and drive away to a quiet place.

The sink is filled with hot water and dirty dishes, there is a trash bag beside me - nearly full. I've started the 'task' part of the day. You could tell me that I could do all of the tasks this morning and be done with them and then I would be free to allow my brain to roam. You see ... you're right ... but, that's how my father lived. And he never wrote a book, or painted a picture. He never wrote a song or sculpted a bust of his children. He was an amazing provider, but he was driven to work.

I don't know yet how I'm going to handle today.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A day in the life ...

You know, yesterday I was praying (well, I was chatting it up with God) about the incredible pain in the world and the fact that so many of his children choose the way of pain and suffering for no good reason.

I've been preparing a lesson on holiness. To be 'set apart', to be different from the crowd. John Wesley set the goal before us of sanctification - perfection. Some of the things that signify a 'sanctified' person: "no mixture of any contrary affections; all is peace and harmony. After being filled with love, there is no more interruption of it than of the beating of the heart."

Some of the things that signify one who is far from Christian perfection / holiness / sanctification: (from Wesley)

"All his holiness is mixed. He was humble, but not entirely; his humility was mixed with pride; he was meek, but his meekness was frequently interrupted by anger, or some uneasy or turbulent passion. His love of God was frequently damped by the love of some creature; the love o fhis neighbor by evil surmising, or some thought, if not temper, contrary to love. His will was not wholly melted down into the will of God: now and then nature rebelled, and he could not clearly say, 'Lord, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.'"

This stuff really hit home today as I listened to the events unfolding at Virginia Tech. The shooter is one more individual that we as Christians failed to reach. We are so concerned with social justice and legislating morality. We are so worried about what people think of us and our families and our children. We spend so much time wrapped up in the pettiness of what a worship service looks like or how many dollars were spent on new choir robes or candles. All of these things help us avoid looking the world's true needs. We aren't telling people about the love of Jesus Christ.

This love is the one thing that can sanctify each human being. Pure, sacrificial love. A love that God sent down from heaven to rescue each of us. We are so self-centered and afraid - that we forget the purpose of living a Christian life - to perpetuate that life in others.

We lost one today. And from that loss, families of 32 others are feeling extreme pain and sorrow. If you believe that you are called by God to be more than a blip on the timeline of eternity, you have to believe that your pursuit of holiness leads you to share this love of Jesus with others. We can't hide it anymore! We can't be afraid that people will laugh at us or that they will quit talking to us.

Are you set apart? Is there nothing but love for God in your heart? I would love for you to be able to say this is true, but I know better. I live the same way as you do. I'm a terrible sinner and I fail at being a good transmitter of God's love. Even when I think that I'm doing well, I know that I'm failing.

Today, as you pray for the families and friends of those lost at Virginia Tech, please remember that you have a responsibility to the world as well. It might be that as you intercede in someone's life, you can save that life and be assured of their salvation. Don't let that pass you by!

Saturday, April 14, 2007


That word has come up more than I like this last week. But, for once, the change is not focused on me. However, it seems like an inordinate amount of my friends are facing some severe changes in their lives. I'm glad that I faced mine down last fall and winter. It seems like I need to be a bit more stable as these friends are dealing with all of their stuff.

1. A friend in Florida is trying to decipher God's plan for her life as her son has been told he can no longer attend school where he is because they no longer reside in that county. She knows that she wants to move to a completely different city, but is the timing right for that? Only God knows.

2. A friend in Lincoln just lost a position with a major Christian company. She knows that God has been calling her away from that position for quite some time, but what is next? Will the job that she has been praying about for nearly 1 year finally fall into place? Or is God calling her to be somewhere else.

3. A friend in Omaha is facing a complete change in her marriage. She will face singleness again and in the midst of that change will be dealing with much ugliness and pain. She is looking for a new job as well, but the solidity of that has yet to come into her life. What is God doing with her life?

4. My brother has 4 children and is trying to discern God's plan as these kids begin planning for major changes in their lives. His eldest son took the ACTs today, is at his first Prom tonight and begins his senior year in high school this fall ... changes are going to take place. Matt is also facing heart surgery this summer to repair a hole. His youngest daughter is adopted, has severe ramifications from fetal alcohol syndrome and they are trying to figure out what to do next with her - how all of this will impact her and the family.

5. Much less important in the lives of the world, but it was hilarious to me was a change that we are trying to implement in my workplace. There are those who resist any type of change and react quite negatively when faced with it. Verbal attacks and stalling are set into motion when change begins to happen.

6. Max has to begin making some decisions in the last period of his ankle recuperation as he looks for a new job. What does God have planned for him ... and for us?

7. A friend in Omaha with cancer has been dealing with life changes as she left the job that she loves and faces an uphill battle with this recurrence.

8. The staff at church is faced with the idea of a new director coming in that will be in supervision over all of us. While exciting, the concern of not knowing who it is or how they will handle that supervision is still there.

Let's just say that my prayers have been focused on 'change' this last week. I can't believe the incredible flux that my friends, family and myself have been in.

This afternoon Max and I were discussing the 'Christian world-view' and how we can not imagine life without the comfort of knowing that there is a God who is above all of the stress that we live with. We can rely on this God and can be comfortable in the fact that our Creator is greater than we are and knows where we are going and what will be happening to us.

How do you face getting up in the morning without that assurance? I can not imagine.

I'm so thankful for a God who does not change. With all of the craziness that I face, my God remains rock solid.

This is an amazing passage from the Psalms - Psalm 102:25-27

"In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discared. But you remain the same, and your years will never end."

From the beginning of time when God set this world in motion, to the end when He brings His kingdom to earth and allows us to experience the new heaven and the new earth ... God is the same. Our perceptions of Him may change throughout our lives, but this God ... the creator of all ... remains the same.

For this, I am grateful!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On my mind

Goodness! This morning as I was waking up and drifting off, I slipped into dreamland. I dreamt about an old boyfriend - Rick. I haven't thought of him in years. Before I got married, I would dream of him regularly - how he had come back into my life and we got to know each other again. My heart still maintained a memory of the love we shared.

Rick and I were together for 5 years, my first true, deep love. I was a senior in high school when we started dating and we were together all through my college years. He was a great guy. His mom didn't like me much. I could never figure that out. Every other mother in town prayed for their son to date the preacher's daughter - I didn't like any of them. But, for some reason, Rick's mom wasn't terribly comfortable with our relationship. Ok, maybe it had something to do with the fact that I was a year older than he was. Oh well ... sigh.

We broke up after I graduated from college - he was working in Minnesota, I was not even in Sigourney anymore (where we went to high school together). It was difficult and our time together had ceased. We saw each other only twice more after that - both of those meetings were difficult.

I realized this morning that I have been missing him all of these years. How do you have an intense five year relationship with someone and then walk away. I had been angry with him, sad because of the loss, but I have never been able to say "You were a big part of my life and I appreciate what you meant to me then."

Oh, I've moved way past where I was then. I know that God's plan for my married life has been fulfilled in Max. I don't want any of you to think that I'm yearning for a past relationship. Good heavens, no!

But, I want to know if he's ok. I want to know if he's happy. I want to know what he's doing and I want to know about his family. I don't know where he's living, I know nothing about him.

So, this morning as he was on my mind, I prayed for him. For his family, for any needs that he might have, for joy and peace in his heart. You see, I don't know if God put him on my heart his morning for that reason or what? I haven't been thinking about my past much more than I usually do and I really haven't been thinking about Rick. But there he was. So, dear Lord ... if He needs anything or is worried about anything today ... be near.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I'm thankful

Today I am thankful. I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that I slept well last night and I had very little that I was required to do today. The church staff had a meeting with a potential candidate for the Director of Ministries position. That was cool. He was cool. We'll see what happens. Of course, many of us were a little nervous about implementing a new position with a stranger that would be supervising us. But, again, I am so thankful that I work in a place where God's will is as important as ours. Sure, this new position will probably be strange for us, but at the same time ... we can grow from it. I am grateful for a God that is a Creator. That means that there will always be change and none of us will ever be stagnant.

Stasis is safe ... sometimes, but there is no way that stasis will bring growth.That makes me think of the parable of the talents. The servant who was given 5 talents, invested well and doubled the investment - as did the servant who was given 2 talents. But, the one that only received a single talent, buried it. Stasis. No growth, no change ... and in that comfortable position (so he thought) he lost everything. I don't ever want to be that type of a Christian.

I don't always look forward to God bringing about change in my life. In fact, many times it just plain stresses me out. But, I do look forward to seeing what can happen with that change. I pray for that type of transformational change in our church. If change brings growth and stasis brings loss or death ... I certainly don't want to be a proponent of the status quo. Jesus messed with the status quo. He allowed himself to be crucified so that He could bring the world out of that stasis.

Tomorrow ... we celebrate the Resurrection. I am so thankful to be past this year's remembrance of the crucifixion. Oh, I know how important it is to my life, but I'm thankful to be a part of a church that celebrates the Resurrection ... new life ... change ... growth ...

I'm thankful for a God the has given me the Resurrection ... new life ... change ... growth.

Happy Easter!


There will be no big Holy Week blog today ... the week is over. The scriptures record only one thing between the Burial of Jesus and the Resurrection of Jesus.

Matthew 27:62-66 tells us that the chief priests were so frightened of Jesus, they went to Pilate and asked him to ensure the security of the tomb where Jesus' body lay (is it still there?). They were concerned that the disciples might steal the body. Pilate acquiesced one more time to this group of men and allowed them to post a guard at the tomb and put a seal on it.

I find that though these things are seemingly done by frightened little men, they ensured God's power would be proven when He did His thing!

This is probably why I am learning to react less and less when people do things to upset me. You see, I am learning (yes, I AM a slow learner, so this doesn't happen daily) that once God's plan is set into place, man cannot mess it up. Especially if we are praying about it regularly. So, when I think that individuals are screwing things up ... in the larger scheme of things ... they are only a small ripple.

The title of this blog is 'rested'. Ahhh ... the joy of rest. This week was a long week at work! There is a lot to do for a church staff during Holy Week. And we were doing it all. It was wonderful! I had a young man come in several days this week. Ben had the week off of school and his choice was to serve his church. That's pretty awesome.

Until ... {grin} I realized that meant that I had to supervise him! (hehehe) Did I come up with things he could do on the computer so that it would be a low threshold physically. Oh no ... I had a young man to do my bidding and it was time to rearrange the workroom / volunteer room. He hauled stuff to the dumpsters, he re-did all of the pew pads, he arranged the new brochure racks for me. But, the thing is ... I was planning on doing these things later ... not now. I had my butt run ragged by an 18 year old! "Diane, if you get this done, I can finish this project." "Diane, do you have the brochures done yet?" "Diane, come look at this and see if I have it done the way you'd like it to look."

Oh my goodness! He emptied one closet, three large metal cabinets, dragged those three cabinets around into useful locations, filled them so they would be properly used and did so much more!

By Friday night, though, I was exhausted. I worked with him on all of that and did everything I needed to do to get mailings out, bulletins printed, etc., etc. I completely messed up things on the mailings. Whoops! My brain was working too fast, and obviously was not working fully engaged.

I got home last night with takeout from The Greek Islands and I crashed. I fell asleep by 7:45 or so, woke up at 9:30 and posted my Holy Week blog. I was asleep again by 1:00 am, and with one short panicked interruption by a doggie who had to go outside badly at 6:00 am, I slept until 10:00 this morning! REST! I got amazing, wonderful rest.

My body barely moved last night. In fact, the joints in my toes were tired! I tell you that because I noticed that they hurt! (hehe). But, this morning, I feel great. Rest is so important and I am so thankful for my weekends so that I can bring my body back to normal after wild, exciting, fabulous weeks.

I wonder if the disciples rested after the crucifixion. Did they stay up late talking about everything that they had experienced. Were they reliving their memories of times with Jesus, or were they so exhausted from lack of sleep that they just crashed into their beds? Remember, most of them had gotten no sleep the night before either. I only hope that they had enough presence of mind to know that God was bigger than man's plans and could allow their hope to rest in the God of creation and the God of their fathers.

That's my hope for today. That we all know that God is bigger than our plans and our hope should rest in the God of creation and the God of our fathers!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Holy Week - Day 6

Good Friday ... I don't think so. But, since this is the day that Jesus responded to God's demand on His life so that we could know eternity ... it is a wonderful day for us. My response is only gratefulness.

Texts today come from Matthew 26:57-27:66, Mark 14:53-15:47, Luke 22:54-23:53, and John 18:13-19:42.

This day starts in the middle of the night. The detachment of soldiers brought Him first to Annas. Now ... Annas was the faither-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Annas had been high priest in AD 6, appointed by Quirinius. His rule as high priest brought the Jews under Roman rule. He was high priest for 10 years and his sons all served in the role. He was probably president of the Sanhedrin at the time, so Jesus was brought to him first. He questioned Jesus and then sent Him on to Caiaphas where Jesus faced His first trial of the day in front of the Sanhedrin.

During this time, Peter had been following the activities from a distance. He was noticed by a servant girl as he warmed himself by a fire in the courtyard of the high priest's home. When she asked about his alliance with Jesus, he disavowed any knowledge of the man. This happened twice more to the poor man. I guess once you get caught up in a lie, it's really difficult to get out of it. I certainly hope that no one looks down on Peter for this action. I think of the number of times that I have lived a life in the world without acknowledging Jesus as Lord ... ohhhhh ... I'm Peter. Peter had 3 years with His Lord ... I've had a lifetime. You would think I knew better.

Just as the rooster crowed following the third denial, Luke tells us that "The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter." Argh!!!! Oh ... that is painful.

Jesus is questioned by the High Priest in front of the Sanhedrin. The high priest called for Jesus to answer under oath, "Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus responded with "Yes, it is as you say." Now, for any of us who face down doubters regarding Christ's admission of divinity, the answer is plainly given here. No questions ... we're done!

Jesus was proclaimed a blasphemer, they spit on him slapped him and struck him ... these teachers and elders were no more than common thugs. Isn't it interesting that religious disagreements will bring even the most learned to their basest instincts. We lose all of our sensibilities!

Daybreak! And it's time to get this thing going. The whole assembly took Jesus to Pilate. When Pilate asked Jesus if He was king of the Jews ... Jesus answered 'yes' again! Pilate couldn't find anything wrong with Jesus, and didn't want to deal with Him. He discovered Jesus was from Galilee - and sent Him off to Herod. Herod questioned Jesus - Jesus refused to answer Him. Herod dressed Him in fine robes and sent Him back to Pilate.

Side Note: Luke tells us that after this point, Herod and Pilate became friends, though they never had been before. Hmmm ... Jesus was finally something they could have in common. Neither of them wanted to deal with it.

We know that Pilate washed His hands of the whole thing. Matthew tells us that Pilate's wife warned him to have nothing to do with Jesus - she was troubled by a dream. But, Pilate finds a loophole and releases Barrabbas when the crowds call for Jesus' crucifixion. Pilate had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified.

Matthew and Mark tell us that the soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus and weave a crown of thorns. Simon of Cyrene was called out to carry the cross for Jesus. They offered him wine - mixed with gall, they cast lots for His clothing. John tells us that the sign "This is Jesus, The King of the Jews" was written by Pilate and placed above Jesus. It was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek for everyone to read. When the chief priests protested, Pilate said "What I have written, I have written." John also relates the names of the women at the foot of the cross. And John tells us that Jesus asked him to care for His mother.

About 3:00 pm, Jesus called out "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani". He gave up his spirit and it was over. The curtain in the temple was torn, the earth shook, tombs opened and people came back to life.

Evening was approaching and since this would be the Sabbath and it was during the Passover feast, the Jews didn't want these bodies hanging on the crosses. So, to ensure Jesus was dead, they pierced his side with a spear. There were plenty of people that stayed with Jesus from the beginning of the crucifixion until His burial, though they stayed at a distance.

You know, I think we deride them for their fear, but I think we have to be fully aware of the extreme persecution they were facing. If the Sanhedrin was angry enough at this man of God that they would execute Him, why would they not go after His followers next? These weren't great heroes, these were ordinary men who had just lost the person that was their link to God. They didn't have the power of the resurrection in their hearts yet.

Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin. He asked Pilate for the body and buried it with the help of Nicodemus. The words of John 19:40 are so tender. These two men, who were not among the twelve, but were touched by Jesus, cared for our Lords' body. "Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish customs."

Luke tells us that the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee, followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Matthew and Mark identify them as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They went home to prepare more spices and perfumes, but had to rest on the Sabbath.

Joseph rolled the rock into place. The day of darkness is nearly over.

Don't you wonder when the resurrection actually took place? When Jesus' body was gone from that tomb? Did He wait until Sunday morning? Did God leave the body there throughout the Sabbath?

We have no news of what happened the next day. I'm sure that since it was the Sabbath they didn't do much. I can only imagine the mourning that was occurring. Those were a couple of very dark days for Jesus' family, friends and disciples.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Week - Day 5

Are your plans for Easter dinner set into motion? I suspect they are. Today we see the preparation set into place for the Passover meal and we will get to the garden tonight, when the last thing that happens is that Jesus heals Malchus' ear.

Our texts from today come from Matthew 26:17-56, Mark 14:12-52, Luke 22:7-51 and John 13:1-18:13.

Matthew and Mark begin this by telling us that the disciples came to Jesus and asked where He would like them to make preparations for the Passover. Luke, on the other hand, says that Jesus sent Peter and John to deal with it. They couldn't just do it on their own, but had to ask where He wanted them to set it up.

Jesus always had a plan. "As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, and say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher asks, Where is the guest room, wher eI may eat the Passover with my disciples?' He will show you a large upper room, all furnished. Make preparations there."

I'm terribly curious about this. Had Jesus set it up before? Or did He have divine knowledge of a random guy walking around the city carrying a jar of water? Fortunately for all of us (and for the United Methodist Church when they wanted to establish the devotional guide "Upper Room"), the disciples found things just as Jesus had said.

We skip forward through the day and get to evening. Remember, this is a Jewish feast and these things start at sundown. Jesus and the twelve were reclining at the table, eating. There is a distinction that I think we miss sometimes. They are eating dinner. The traditional Passover meal, with all of its rituals was celebrated much the same then as it is now. Unleavened bread, fruits, nuts were all part of the meal. The Lord's Supper - or communion comes later in the evening for Jesus and His disciples. This passage actually speaks of both events.

John tells us that the evening meal was being served when Jesus got up, took of his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist. He then began to wash his disciples' feet. This event is nearly impossible for me to participate in. This level of servitude is amazing. And that it came from their leader? Wow. I think that if my pastor asked me to allow him to wash my feet, I'd run from the room - an emotional mess. Peter reacted much the same way. "NO!" But, Jesus persisted. And when he finished, he asked if they understood what He had done for them. He had taught them a lesson in serving others - by setting the example.

Luke is the only one that tells us of the dispute among the disciples over who would be the greatest. Isn't it amazing. Jesus keeps telling them that His time is short. But, all they can think of is themselves! But, this goes along with the words from John's gospel when Jesus teaches them that the greatest among them should be like the youngest - and that He (Jesus) is among them as one who serves. What a lesson that is that we need to learn ... servanthood ... true servanthood.

John 13:21. "Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, 'I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.'" As He was washing Judas' feet, He knew this was going to happen. Can you imagine? Matthew and John are the gospels that have Jesus identifying Judas during the evening.

It seems that this announcement of the betrayal happens during the consecration of the Lord's Supper. I wonder how much His disciples understood when He said, "Take, eat ... this is my body ... This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many." Oh my but we take these words for granted.

They sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives. Matthew and Mark tell us that they were on the Mount of Olives when Jesus predicted Peter would betray Him. Luke and John put the event in the Upper Room. Wherever the words occurred ... the reality would hit Peter in the face the next morning!

John's gospel goes into much greater detail regarding Jesus' evening with the disciples at the Upper Room. Chapters 14, 15, 16 and 17 contain a lot of words of Jesus. He had plenty to say to them. I'll let you read through them for content on your own, but He comforts them with words that are comforting to us. "I'm going to prepare a place for you. I will come back for you." "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He promises the HOly Spirit in John 14:16 "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of turth." John 14:23 "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him."

These are some of the amazing promises and words of Christ. We find the teaching of the vine and the branches in John 15. Jesus teaches that the world hates His disciples. John 16 begins with the words "All this I have told you so that you will not go astray." Then, in John 17, Jesus looked toward heaven and began to pray. He prayed for himself, for His disciples, and for all believers. I'm thankful for these prayers ... we have Jesus as an intercessor for us with the Father - He began that work when He was on earth - just before His crucifixion.

John gave us the prayer ... the other gospels tell us that the disciples fell asleep during that prayer. Poor guys! They had no idea the impact of the evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were just exhausted from traveling and Jesus' teaching. I'm certain they weren't sitting around while He had been teaching all week long. There was a lot to do in dealing with crowds the size of those in Jerusalem during Passover week. They were exhausted!

Jesus finally woke them up for good. "Rise! The hour is come! Here comes my betrayer!" We are told that Judas knew the place well and knew that Jesus would be there. Now, while the fact of the matter is that He betrayed our Lord, the little nugget I pulled from this was the Jesus prayed in this garden enough times for it to be habitual. No wonder the disciples went to sleep. They probably had no idea how long it was going to take Him to talk to His Father this time!

The betrayal was a kiss - a form of intimacy - a welcoming greeting. How awful ... to be betrayed like this by a man you spent three years teaching, loving and caring for. But, God's plan was in motion and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

The soldiers stepped forward to seize one man. They were carrying swords and clubs, to capture one man with 11 very frightened disciples. Peter had a sword though and lopped off the ear of Malchus. John gives him a name while Luke tells us that Jesus healed him. Mark tells us that everyone then deserted Jesus and fled.

If you read Mark's account, you will find the short story of the young man, who wore nothing but a linen garment, following Jesus. They seized him, he fled naked and left his garment behind. We're pretty sure that is Mark himself.

The evening is over. Jesus has loved His disciples this evening. He gave them the Lord's Supper, He washed their feet, He prayed for them ... and they ran away. I'm sad. The end is approaching at breakneck speed.

Tomorrow at noon I will be at a Good Friday service. Blackness and darkness will fall as the curtains rip and the earthquakes destroy. I'm not looking forward to it.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Holy Week - Day 4

It's Wednesday and we are in the middle of the countdown. The text today will come from the three Synoptic Gospels. The word 'synoptic' means 'Taking the same point of view. Relating to or being the first three gospels of the New Testament, which share content, style, and order of events and which differ largely from John.' (from Matthew, Mark, and Luke tend to carry much similar information - if there seem to be differences in them, it can generally be attributed to an extension of the story - or the fact that the story is told from a different perspective.

Matthew 24:1-26:16, Mark 13:1-14:11, Luke 21:5-22:6. John 13 opens with the Passover Feast - and we just aren't there yet. We'll get there tomorrow.

Have you ever pointed out the beauty of a scene, only to have your compatriots tell you all of the details of its structure and the negative things about it - the contractor overbilled, there was all kinds of corruption, they tore down a beautiful park to build the high rise, erosion is destroying the natural beauty. All of that. Well, Jesus was kind of a party pooper as we begin this lesson today. The disciples were all talking about the beauty of the temple. They pointed out the stones and the magnificence of it all. What was Jesus' response? "Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another, every one will be thrown down." My first thought would have been, "Ok ... He's not terribly interested in the scenery ... I'm going to shut up now."

Fortunately for us, the disciples pushed further. They finally got to the Mount of Olives (scholars call this the 'Olivet Discourse') and his disciples got him aside privately. "Lord when will this happen - and what will be the signs of the end of the age." Now, I'm never sure whether or not those 12 disciples really knew that they were talking to God's son all of the time. For heaven's sake, they lived with the man. Did He snore? Who knows ... but, they did! Today though, they got it. If anyone could tell them how the world was going to end - Jesus could.

What He did tell them was to always beware. Watch out that they aren't deceived by false Christ's. Wars and rumours of wars shouldn't alarm us. Famines and earthquakes in various places. These are the beginnings of the birthpangs. (These things are so familiar to us - and people are always trying to prophecy the end of time with every new natural disaster or war - but, these things have been part of the world since the time of Jesus - it's not that much different now). This is just the beginning.

The gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world ... and then the end will come. We still have some time. As small as the world is getting - the gospel hasn't gotten everywhere.

The abomination that causes desolation. Daniel speaks of this - and when He does, He is prophecying about Antiochus Epiphanes - a Greek ruler who would come in the future and destroy Jerusalem and slaughter many Jews. Jesus is talking about a future character as well. We meet this character in Revelation 13:14-17. The false prophet set up an image of the antichrist, breathed life into it so that it could speak and ordered all to worship the image.

When that happens, Jesus says, it is time to run to the mountains. Don't stop to take anything - just get out of Dodge.

Jesus is very specific in telling us that the day and hour is unknown. No one knows when this will happen - only God. But, we will recognize the day when it does come. The Son of Man will appear in the sky - He will appear in the coulds with power and great glory. We won't be surprised by His arrival.

What Jesus wants us to fully understand from this passage is that we need to be ready. Always! Matthew goes on to relate parables that Jesus used to explain this. The parable of the Ten Virgins and the parable of the Talents are told to teach us to be prepared.

The ten virgins went out to meet the bridegroom. Five were foolish and didn't take enough oil for their lamps. The five wise virgins took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom took his sweet time in arriving (duh ... he's a man ... he takes his time!) When he finally came near, the foolish virgins didn't have enough oil - they tried to get the five wise virgins to share, but no such luck. So ... of the foolish ones went to buy some oil - and during that time, the bridegroom arrived, the wedding banquet began and the door was shut. In other words - be prepared.

The man going on a journey gave his servants some cash - one got $5, another got $2 and another got $1 (talents). The first two put their money to work and doubled it, but the guy with the least amount of money buried it. The master was so pleased with the first two - he gave them a lot of responsibility. The last one? Lost the single dollar he had and was tossed out. In other words - if you live the life WELL that you have been given - much more will be given to you. Don't squander what God puts into your life.

Matthew then goes on with one last parable. I want to be a sheep. Because when the Son of Man comes on the cloud (Matthew 25:31), He starts separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep took care of the King's people who were hungry and thirsty and needed a place to stay or clothing, or care when they were sick, or a visit when they were in jail. Because, Jesus says, whatever you do for the least of them, you do for Him. Those goats on His left? Ummmm ... He says "get away from me - you are cursed. You did nothing for anyone except yourselves. And that means you did nothing for me."

If you are reading these passages, you will notice that Jesus is anointed in Bethany and we are told that the Passover is two days away. That means that all of these things have been happening - and it's probably still Tuesday. Jesus kept heading out to the Mount of Olives in the evenings to get away from the crowds. They were waiting for Him every morning at the temple.

The Chief Priests and the elders of the people began meeting in the palace of Caiaphas (kye-uh-phus), the High Priest (you know ... the guy who is supposed to go into the Holy of Holies?). They were plotting to arrest Jesus (Matthew says "in some sly way") and kill him. They were pretty clever though. They didn't want to do it during the Feast - because the people might riot. Ahhh ... politics ... they never change.

Jesus went to Bethany again - to another friend's house - Simon the Leper. While he was there, the woman dumped her alabaster jar of perfume on his head. What extravagant thing have you ever offered in sacrifice? Wow ... she really did it. The disciples got a little annoyed - they, of course, thought the money could have been used in a better way. Hmmm ... I recognize some people in that group! But, Jesus blessed her for her actions, and rebuked the disciples.

We're almost done today. But, one last thing has to happen. Judas left that little group of friends and went to the chief priests. Mark says that 'they were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.' Matthew, tells us that it was 30 silver coins (remember, Matthew was a tax collector - he would have watched the money), while Luke is the one that tells us that Satan entered Judas.

Each of the gospel writers tells us things from their own perspective. The entire story is what makes our scriptures so profound.

Come back tomorrow - it will be a long post, so be prepared! A lot of things happen, beginning with the Last Supper.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Holy Week - Day 3

Here we are ... moving through the week. And Jesus has a lot to say to anyone who will listen to Him. He spends quite a bit of time with His disciples. If you knew that you only had 4-5 days left with your students, and you had to teach them enough so that they could continue your work, would you be in a panic? I know I would be. But, Jesus patiently went through the information that He had for them. He answered their questions and prayed that they would understand everything He was telling them.

The information over the next two days blends together, so I'm going to make an arbitrary separation of the events. The last half of this information is Jesus' teaching on the last days so I'll talk about that tomorrow.

Since there is so much information to swallow, I will tell you up front that today I am reading Matthew 21:23-23:39, Mark 11:27-12:44, Luke 10:1-21:4 and John 12:20-50. I may not cite every single verse as we move through this. I'll apologize for that up front.

"John's baptism - was it from heaven or from me? Tell me!" Jesus' authority was being called into question by the chief priests and elders fo the people. "By whose authority are you doing these things?" they asked. "And who gave you this authority?"

Well, Jesus has the wisdom of God and turns it around on them. "If you can answer one question for me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things." They discussed it and realized that they couldn't answer His question and He refused to tell them any more information. All of the synoptic gospels tell the same story ... Jesus stopped them in their tracks. Did He win any points with them? I'm afraid not.

The parable of the two sons is only told in Matthew. This is in direct response to the question posed by the Chief Priests. The father told his son to work in the vineyard ... the son refused, but changed his mind. He went to the second son, who acquiesed, but ended up not going. Jesus made sure that the chief priests recognized themselves in the second son, and compared them to tax collectors and prostitutes who, He said, would enter the Kingdom of God before they did. Hmmm ... more points He is winning.

The parable of the Tenants comes next in all the three synoptic gospels. You know the story. Those wicked tenants. They rented some land, the landowner sent servants to collect his fruit - they killed the servants, then they killed the next round of servants, and they finally killed the son. You know - those chief priests were morons! Jesus asked them, "When the landowner comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They immediately knew the answer. "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent the vineyard to other tenants."

Jesus declared that this was the meaning of the passage from Psalm 118:22-23, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone..." Yup, the chief priests and Pharisees knew that Jesus was talking about them. They wanted blood now ... but the crowd was still surrounding Jesus and the time wasn't right ... not yet.

Matthew alone tells the next story. The Parable of the Wedding banquet. The king prepares a wedding banquet for his son. Those who had been invited refused to come. He sent servants to those people twice! In fact, they killed the servants. So, the king sent his army to destroy the murderers and burned their city. (are you seeing prophecy here?) Since those who were invited didn't come, the king opened up the banquet to everyone ... both good and bad and the wedding hall was filled with guests. Jesus' final comment? "Many are invited, but few are chosen." The Jews were invited. Not once, but more than once. They were too busy to come into the kingdom of God. And you know ... for that I'm thankful. Because then, it was opened to all of us!

Paying taxes to Caesar. We all know the story. The Pharisees continued to try to trap Jesus. "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." You know, it says that they were amazed by His response. So they left him and went away. Luke tells us that they were silent. About time, eh?

The Sadduees Question - Marriage at the Resurrection? The Sadducees and the Pharisees made up the Sanhedrin - the ruling body of the Jews in Jerusalem. Now, the Sadducees believed there was no resurrection. So, it was their turn to try to trap Jesus. The woman marries brother after brother upon their death. Whose wife of the seven brothers will she be in heaven?

I love Jesus response to them. "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." Hmmm ... more points for Him! You can read the rest of this ... But, the crowds are continually amazed by Jesus. Even the teachers of the law responded with "Well said, teacher!" (from Luke)

Matthew and Mark give us the Greatest Commandment next. The Pharisees took it back up with Jesus after He silenced the Sadducees. Now ... an expert in the law asks which is the greatest commandment? I love our Lord. Because only He could do this ... only with the wisdom of His Father.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on those two commandments." If you want to see how Jesus was wrapping up the Ten Commandments, check out Exodus 20 for yourself! And ... Mark tells us that the Pharisee was completely impressed, responded well and Jesus said "You are not far from the kingdom of God" to that man. Wow ...

"Whose Son is the Christ?" Jesus was teaching and asked this question. "The teachers of the law say that the Christ (the Messiah) is the son of David. How is it that David, filled with the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.'" Jesus goes on to say, "David himself calls him Lord. How then can he be his son?"

I'll leave that for you to work out. But, Mark tells the crowd listened to Him with delight. Do you listen to Him with delight? After asking this question, Jesus threatened the Pharisees - who were the teachers of the Law. Check that out. It's in Mark and Luke following the question that was just posed by Jesus. In Matthew, however - it is the entire 23rd chapter. There are 7 woes spoken to the Phariseees and teachers of the law. HYPOCRITES! Whitewashed tombstones, snakes, brood of vipers ... that's a chapter to set you back in your chair.

The Widow's Mite. She gave from her heart - not from her excess. This is only found in Mark and Luke.

We finally hear from John today. John 12:20-36 tells the story of the Greeks that came to worship at the Feast. They found Philip, who went to Andrew and then went to Jesus. Jesus response to them is the prediction of His death.

Do you know that it is in this passage that we hear God's voice? Check it out. Jesus reminded them that He would only be with them a little time. And He told them to walk with the light - because the darkness would overtake them.

John 12:37-50 is Jesus' sermon on unbelief. Verse 37: Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still wouldn't believe in him. This was to fulfill Isaiah's prophecies from Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10.

Now ... I know you have been reading this post for awhile - but, PLEASE see this cool thing: John 12:41 "Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him." Did you read that? Oh ... Jesus was there, all through the Old Testament.

Jesus desperately wants the people to understand that their belief or unbelief in Him directly relates to their belief or unbelief in God. It's all about God with Jesus. Jesus came into the world as a light ... RUN to the light!

Alright - tomorrow, we will see what Jesus has to say about the end of the world.

Monday, April 02, 2007

God takes my breath away

I sent this as a thank you to the ladies of my Monday night study. God talks to me in the most amazing ways! They gave me a cash gift tonight as a thank you for presenting the Revelation study and as encouragement. Nothing I could have expected ... but, it wiped me out. Here's why!

Now, for the real thank you. I have to tell you that you (and God) really took me aback this evening when you gave me the incredible gift. You see, there’s more to the story and I was just barely putting it all together when I opened the card. So … here’s my story (like you don’t know that I always have one).

As we have been praying for the church and the congregation, one of the things last week that I was praying for was Commitment Sunday. I’m just beginning to learn the importance of tithing. Though I’ve grown up in the church, actually tithing was not part of my world. Mom and Dad did, and He always encouraged me to, but I resisted. This year, Max and I decided to begin tithing, even though he is without the promise of a job. I filled out my “Forecast of Giving” card, and placed it, along with the first ‘tithe’ check in the baskets yesterday at church.

Last night, as I was getting ready for work, I was writing checks out to pay bills and starting to really stress about finances again. We’re ok – please don’t worry about us. But, we’re still recouping after having me off work for 5 months and we’re dealing with disability (60%) pay for Max right now. It’s not just … smooth … Things are tight, but not awful. This morning as I was driving to work and was thinking about things I would do without this week … and how to time out the checks so that everything would hit the account correctly, I decided to get whiny and snotty with God. (I was yelling at Him) “So! I finally get on board with the whole tithing thing and now I’m going to struggle even more to make things good, eh? That’s how it works? I’ve been faithful in everything You’ve called me to do and I’m still stressed about finances?” Now, realize this was a split second conversation and as soon as it was out of my mouth, I felt awful. “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! I know that You are God and that You have everything in Your hands. I’m sorry!”

And, I went to work and promptly forgot about the conversation and all of my worries, because I do know that God takes care of everything. He gave me peace – even without knowing what was going to happen next.

Until tonight – when I opened the card … and there was an amazing gift from you all. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. As soon as I was alone in the car, I did both. Thank you for the financial gift, but more than that, you have to know that you all were an answer to a prayer that I sent to God. I didn’t ‘need’ it to happen in my world, but I guess that God wanted me to know that His faithfulness is greater than my whining and complaining.

And that only tells me that tithing is now a long-term part of my life! Whether or not God ever does this again, I don't care. My faithfulness will never outdo His faithfulness!