ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.28.2017

The Display of His Splendor

I need a 12-step plan.

For my addiction.

To gardening.

It’s not something that plagues me all year long, but right now, in the springtime, I cannot pass a nursery or a garden center without stopping. There might be a plant that I missed! A climbing vine I’ve not tried! And I don’t care if it is raining and 57 degrees outside; I can’t wait to start digging! The garden newbies may be small and unremarkable right now, but just wait. In a few weeks, they’ll be spectacular.

I can’t help but think that’s how God looks at us. We’re all works in progress, but he has a vision. He knows what we’ll look like, in time. We may appear small or weak or even broken right now, but in his capable hands all that will change. We’ll become “oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

So let’s make that our Friday prayer, trusting the Master Gardener to come in and shape something beautiful in our life, or in the life of someone we love:

Heavenly Father,

Work in _____’s life. May _____ become like a mighty oak, a planting for the display of your splendor. (Isaiah 61:3)

Amen.


ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.25.2017

The Courage to Serve

I’ve been poking around in The Book of Common Prayer (which, if you don’t already know, has prayers for just about everything, from unemployment to the care of children to how we spend our free time), and there’s a line in the wrap-up to Holy Communion that goes like this:  Send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart…

I’ve probably prayed that one 500 times. It’s a wonderful, uplifting way to walk out of church and “go forth into the world” – even if the only place you go forth to is the grocery store.

Maybe it takes 499 times for a prayer to sink in. Or maybe (more likely) it takes a particular sermon. Either way, asking God for “strength and courage” took on new meaning for me this Easter. Our minister, Andy Buchanan, gave a talk during Holy Week where he said that the whole foot-washing thing was a nasty business (so much so that you could not even command a Jewish slave to do that for you), and that when Jesus did the remarkable – the unthinkable! – and washed the disciples’ feet, it set the stage for a dramatic perspective shift. No longer was it enough to simply “do unto others” (as in, treating other people the way that you want to be treated); now, Jesus upped the ante: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)

Let’s be honest. Most of us get the Golden Rule. Most of us (even if we don’t really follow through) would say it is a good idea to do things for other people that we would want them to do for us: Say thank you. Don’t gossip. Save some of that cake for your husband.

Nowhere, though, would washing somebody’s feet show up on my list. Having grown up in churches where it’s actually a thing, I have been on both sides of the basin – I have washed, and I’ve been washed – and truthfully? I think the whole process is a little bit awkward. It is too intimate, too potentially embarrassing (it’s not like we all have fresh pedicures), and too out-of-my-strike-zone.

Much easier, I think, to just take somebody a meal.

Which is, I think, the whole point. When Jesus gives us a “new command” about how we are to love other people (and accompanies it with a demonstration of the most humble and unappealing service) we have to do a little gut check. I mean, I like to think I would obey Christ (that I would “love as he loved”) but would I? Would I love and serve other people even if it meant getting too close? Going out of my comfort zone? Doing something that is inconvenient…messy…or hard?

I don’t know. I doubt it. Which is why, when I prayed that post-Communion prayer for the 500th time on Easter Sunday, the idea that I could ask God for “strength and courage” came as a blessed relief. If I am going to go forth into the world and serve God “with gladness and singleness of heart” in the awkward or difficult places, I am going to need some divine help.

Because again, let’s be honest. When you get up and go forth after church, you never know who you’ll see at the grocery. Chances are, they don’t want their feet washed. But you can bet that they want to be loved.

 


ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.21.2017

The Grasp of God’s Love

We missed having our daughter, Virginia, home for Easter. She lives in New York City and couldn’t make the trip, but we did get to enjoy some FaceTime with her on Sunday. She called us during an afternoon walk.

As I looked beyond her face and saw the bustling city, with all of its people and traffic and noise, I couldn’t help but wonder: Did anyone know it was Easter? Were people thinking about the Big News of the day? Did they care that He is Risen?

“I don’t know,” Virginia said. “But I kind of doubt it. Like, it looks pretty much like any other day in New York.”

I don’t know why, but that hit me. All of these people, walking around, going about their business, seemingly oblivious to the depth of God’s sacrifice…the height of his resurrection power…and the immeasurable breadth of his love. How could they not know?

And then I felt God whisper something gentle to my heart. “Jodie,” he said, “You don’t really know, either. You have not even begun to grasp the full extent of my love.”

Okay then. That was kind of an eye-opener, and it’s really stuck with me this week. I want to know more of God’s love. I want to take hold of it. And I want my children, my husband, and my friends to grasp it, too.

Which is why I am borrowing some words first written by the Apostle Paul as the basis for today’s Friday Prayer. And if that’s where your heart is today – if you are longing for more of God’s love – I invite you to join me. Pray this one for yourself, for someone you love, or (if you’re feeling like you want to go big) for every single person in New York City.

Heavenly Father…

I pray that _____, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that _____ may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)

Amen

 


ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.19.2017

And the Winners Are…

I love Easter traditions. One of ours is to drag The (Very Heavy) Egg out to the street on Saturday night, under the cover of darkness…

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…and then take a family pic the next day (an exercise that almost always involves stopping traffic and checking around the ankles for stray poison ivy!):
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And speaking of Easter traditions…thanks so much to everyone who posted a comment on last week’s Easter Basket Giveaway. I LOVED hearing your stories and reading about all the ways that you celebrate our Risen Lord!

Congratulations to Laura in Charlottesville, Virginia, who won the One Word Cards from author Susan Alexander Yates and artist Christy Yates (who, coincidentally, is also from C’ville)!

And to Emily in Leesburg, Virginia and Sally in Winston-Salem, NC, who each received a copy of the new book, Unshaken. Sally, lots of readers told me how much they liked your story about setting your alarm for 1:45 a.m., dragging your blanket-wrapped kids out of bed and onto the front porch, and listening for the sounds of the Moravian Band and their 1.5 minute-long rendition of “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” That took top honors in the unofficial “favorite memories” contest!

And finally, a shout out to Cindy in Chesapeake, Virginia, a next-door neighbor to Virginia Beach, who got her teenagers up for the sunrise service at the beach – after they’d been out super late the night before at a Youth Group event! Double points for the parenting effort we all know that took! Cindy won the limited edition Scripture Prayer Cards that were lovingly created by the gals at Sisters Ink. (You can’t buy the cards, but you can contact the Sisters for wedding invitations, exquisite stationery, and more!)

Many thanks…lots of love…and He is Risen Indeed!


ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.14.2017

A Good Friday Prayer

For God so loved

You know the verse. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

But here’s another nugget, one that brings John 3:16 into a little sharper focus: Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:7-8)

I’m letting these verses – the one so familiar, the other so sobering – make camp in my heart. Taken together, they’re giving shape to our Good Friday prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Thank you.

Amen


ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.11.2017

The Road to the Cross

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Holy Week. The week before Easter. The week when Jesus knew that “the time had come for him to leave this world” (John 13:1), and that the road ahead – the road to the cross – would be filled with unspeakable pain. What was he thinking?

Do you ever wonder about that?

I do.

Being fully God, Jesus knew exactly what was about to happen. He’d be insulted, rejected, and abandoned – both by the Jewish leaders (many of whom believed in him but who were too scared to admit it, since they “loved praise from men more than praise from God”) and by his closest friends. (John 12:42)

He would suffer indescribable torment. The press of the thorns…the sting of the whip…the pain of the nails…the struggle to breathe.

And he would know the heartache of watching his mother watch him die – and of being unable, in that moment, to wipe the tears from her eyes.

So what was he thinking, on the road to the cross?

I can’t begin to imagine, but Scripture gives us some clues. Jesus says that his heart is “troubled” and that the idea of backing out has at least presented itself. He confides in his friends, telling them that he is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” And he prays, asking God if there is any way to take a pass…but then, ultimately, choosing God’s will over his own. (John 12:27, Matthew 26:38, Matthew 26:39)

Clearly, the road wasn’t easy. It was agonizing. So how did he do it? How did he – being fully man – get past the fear and the worry and the sorrow that stood in his path?

Here again, the Bible offers some answers. Reading through the gospels and Paul’s letters, we see a man inspired by obedience, trust, humility, and love. And, in addition to these internal motivators, Hebrews 12:2 reveals an external driver: Future joy. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,” the writer says, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross…” 

Future joy.

I’ve combed through the commentaries looking to flesh out, exactly, what that joy was. It seems like, for Jesus, the joy came in three parts:

The first is the idea of a mission accomplished. His teaching was revolutionary and his miracles amazing, but Jesus knew that the whole point of his life was the cross (“It was,” he says in John 12:27, “for this reason I came to this hour”). Fulfilling his purpose – the job that aligned with God’s master plan – gave him joy.

The second reason was the resurrection. Jesus knew (because he was God, and because of prophecies like the one in Psalm 16:9-11) that he would come out of the tomb alive, and that his experience would open the door to the everlasting joy of God’s presence – not just for himself, but for all who would call on his name.

And the third reason? The third reason is the one that makes me cry. The third reason Jesus stayed on the road to the cross (the main reason, in fact) is us. He did it for us. He did it, the Bible says, to keep us from falling and to present us before God’s glorious presence without fault and with great joy. (Jude 24)

Jesus wanted to be able to bring us to God. We are the reason he endured the cross. We are, I believe, what he was thinking about, as he made his way up that hill.

And this Holy Week, this Easter, I want us to think about that, too. Because we are God’s beloved – not just in the future, but right here and right now.

We are – you are – his joy.

 

 


ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.07.2017

Refresh and Be Refreshed

A generous person will prosper;whoever refreshes others will be refreshed

Well, hello there Spring! It’s refreshing to have you back!

And speaking of…

I love what the Bible says about refreshment: In a nutshell, we get what we give. So let’s look for ways to pour our time and talents into other people’s lives, sharing our resources to revive even the weariest heart. Let’s make this our Friday Prayer:

Heavenly Father,

Help me be alert to opportunities to exercise generosity. Let me refresh other people and, in turn, may I be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25)

Amen


ARCHIVES: April 2017


04.05.2017

An Easter Basket Giveaway…for Mama Bunny!

I love Easter.

I love the joyful songs (Christ the Lord is Risen To-Day-ay…Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-lay-ay-loo-oo-yah!), the fragrant lilies, and the occasional bonnet that shows up in church (particularly when the ‘Hoos are still in the hunt, like they were on Easter Sunday last year):

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I love dragging our big plywood egg out to the street late Saturday night (under the cover of darkness), and then waking up to the Good News Sunday morning:

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And I love stuffing Easter baskets. One year, we had 23 college kids stay with us for the weekend. Never have I been so grateful for the Dollar Tree and its affordable stash of plastic eggs, candy, and gifts. Because nothing says “Happy Easter” like a chocolate bunny, a new toothbrush, and a tattoo sleeve:

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This year, we won’t be welcoming any college students (other than Robbie, who says he mostly just wants to come home and sleep). Which is kind of a shame, cuz I have some basket upgrades in mind – upgrades that, truth be told, Mama Bunny will like even more than the kids:

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a free giveaway, so how about this? Post a comment on this blog – share a favorite Easter tradition, a prayer verse you like, or anything you want to wish others a Happy Easter – and you’ll be entered for a chance to win one of the treats in this basket (which, incidentally, would also make a great Mother’s Day gift). Here’s what we have:

Unshaken. This new book from Sally Burke and Cyndie Claypool de Neve (order your copy or download a free chapter here) outlines a four-step prayer process to help us keep our eyes on the Lord and pray with confidence, even when everything around us seems to be shaking.

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I love the real-life stories these gals use to illustrate their prayer principles. And, as a bonus, they offer cleverly designed pages that are meant to be copied and shared:

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One Word Cards. These beautiful 5×7″ cards pair the devotional musings of author Susan Alexander Yates with the stunning artwork of her daughter-in-law, Christy.

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The cards – which feature one key word, a relevant Bible verse, and a simple prayer – come in four different sets (click here to see the collection), along with a wooden easel you can use to display them:

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Scripture Prayers and Blessings. I created these little cards with help from the talented gals at Sisters Ink; they represent twelve of the best-loved Scripture prayers from my books. The marbled stock is scrumptiously thick and perfect for tucking into a child’s backpack, slipping into a note to a friend, or just keeping in your purse or car as a reminder to pray.

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So how about it? Post a comment, share a story, offer up one of your favorite prayers…and you’ll automatically be entered to win. And since there are three prizes in the basket, we’ll have three winners…so hop to it, friends! Get a little something for Mama Bunny this Easter!

And for those who think that what Mama Bunny might really want is a new tattoo, try these. I can’t vouch for the design or the quality, but hey. They’re removable.

You’re welcome.




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