Scars

Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. Acts 9:1-2

Acts 9 provides us with the story of Saul’s conversion. It’s a pretty dramatic retelling. Not all of us have a dramatic conversion story to tell, and that’s okay, because that means not all of us carry around lasting scars associated with our past lives and personal denial of our Lord. Paul had scars as a result of what Saul did—lots of them. They would stay with him for the remainder of his life, and they would remind him every day to stay close to His Lord, to lean in to Jesus, to testify of His love, and to look for opportunities to prove himself worthy of the calling he’d received from his redeemer.

Scars can be a blessing when they tell the story of a life changed.

When we are in Christ we are new creations. Let me say that again.

We are NEW creations!

What does that look like? In my mind, that transformation looks like Jesus standing in front of a black board that is my life. He’s got a ginormous cross-shaped eraser in his hand, and he’s going to work erasing all the missteps, mishaps, mistakes, and downright refusals-to-go-along that I was so “into” in my previous life. He’s making sure that the only vestige of them that still exists are those stored in my memory banks.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Are you dealing with scars today that remind you of your past?  How has understanding God’s grace given you freedom from recriminations related to your past?

 

Do You Identify with Christ?

As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.

And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3-6

I find it interesting that Jesus in his conversation with Saul on the road to Damascus says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

Why would the Lord say such a thing? Jesus was gone by this time. He’d left this world prior to Saul’s blinding. He’d gone to prepare a place for his church. How could Saul possibly be persecuting Christ, when He was no longer available for Saul to beat?

Here is a truth that only the church understands: When we are in Jesus, He is in us.

Because we are Christ’s brothers and sisters, bought at a price and paid for with his blood, indwelt by His Holy Spirit and at work in the world at his behest, Jesus takes personally any harm done to us.

ANY harm!

From His perspective and in every way, Saul’s actions against the church were personal assaults on Jesus and worthy of offense. Not only did they cause offense, they also created an opportunity for Christ to use his divine powers to act in miraculous ways.

He did so on our behalf.

Our world is changing rapidly and because it is, we must change, too.

We will.

What we won’t do, can never do, must never change or falter in is our devotion to Jesus and our firm belief that he identifies with us.

We are His church, His Bride, His redeemed, His own.

If you are Christian, I hope you understand the special place you hold in Jesus’ heart today.

He loves You! He cares about You. He will defend You!

YOU!!!

The Lord of glory loves You!

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Give Hope

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Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.  If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth, and if a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. Ecclesiastes 11: 1-3, 5

Encourage one another… 1 Thess 5:11

Cast your bread…give a portion…empty yourself…fall freely.

In all these recommendations to the people and elements of the earth God says, Give. It’s good advice! When we give, we become those agents of love and nurture that God meant for us to be. In the garden, God gave Adam and Eve life, hoping they would give Him friendship and the honor that is due a life giver.

In Egypt, where life was hard and hard labor plentiful, God gave Moses.

He gave promises.

He gave a plan.

He gave treasure.

He gave sweet relief.

He gave freedom.

Today, God keeps giving.

He gives life, and hope, and grace, and forgiveness. Why then should we keep these things to ourselves, hide them in our bosom and refuse to share them with others. Oh, Christian, it should not be.

Today, think of those things that you can freely give. Things that will come back to you when you cast them into God’s world:

Things like affirmation, appreciation, and assurance.

Things like love, guidance, forgiveness, and repentance.

Things like joy, hope, and laughter.

Give mercy and nurture generosity and gentleness. And don’t forget to give God glory, and honor by talking about Him in celebratory ways to your friends and family–always, always, always pointing them back to Jesus as Savior and Guide.

Give all that you can to all that you can, so that in all ways they will be better able to see Jesus in You!

The greatest gift we give to the world is Jesus. Hallelujah, what a Savior!!!

What can you freely give to the world today? When has someone giving freely to you made all the difference in how you viewed God?

Summer Nuptials–Sherry and Michael

We attended the first wedding of the summer this past weekend.

Sherry and Michael got hitched on Saturday, June 20th.  Sherry had been counting down the days on FaceBook, convincing us all that she was pretty excited about the her upcoming marriage.  I was, too, because we were going to travel out for the wedding.  I’m not sure what all Michael was doing before the wedding, other than buying a new bike, cleaning house, and getting fitted for a new pair of jeans.  The theme for the wedding was Blue Jeans and Board Games, and I have to say that the groom looked pretty dapper in his new BLUE jeans, something he says he has not worn in years.

Here he is in a dark picture looking handsome in his wedding duds.  His bride is at the top of the steps as this picture is being taken and he knows it will only be moments now until she is his wife. Look at that face!

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The lady in the pink lei next to Michael is Pastor Lea, spiritual leader of East Grove Methodist Church.  I liked her the moment I met her, and I can totally understand why they love her so much.  Their church had finished up their VBS on Friday night, with the closing program scheduled for the day after the wedding, so the couple fashioned a blue jean wedding on the beach.  No problem.

So. Much. Fun.

We love that Sherry and Michael kept the service down-home and comfortable when they were planning their wedding.  They are caring people.  They don’t fuss. They don’t fume.  They hug and smile and go with the flow, and just enjoy each others company and we love that about them.

I grabbed a few shots of the church while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

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Don’t you love the stain glass windows found in old churches? We don’t have any of these in our modern sanctuary, and I miss them.  Awesome pieces of art!

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A lighted cross in the sanctuary. We don’t have one of these at our church, either.

IHS: In His Service.  Reminds us of our mission.  How appropriate for a wedding, where we are called to serve that other faithfully.  It changes us, this service we freely give, which is what I think Jesus had in mind when he created the church.

Transformation is the name of the game, both in our faith and in our families.   

A tapestry that caught my eye.

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The Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter, of course.

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Drew and Joe gave their mom away…

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I didn’t take many pictures during the ceremony, so not much to share on that account.  Having no flash bar and being so far away from the couple, they would not have turned out well, anyway, so on to the reception.

The tables, showed off the theme: Blue Jeans and Board Games.

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The center pieces were fashioned out of Coke glasses and had game pieces inside along with the flowers.  Fuzzy dice filled with candy and pockets from blue jeans graced each place seating.

Cute! Creative! So like Sherry!

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Wedding guests were invited to partake of reception cupcakes with gaming cards as toppers.

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The wedding cake, don’t ya know, was sporting the King and Queen of hearts. Perfect!

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Cake up the nose, anyone?

It didn’t happen, although this picture looks like it might have been on someone’s mind. ;)

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As you can see, Sherry had to crank her neck back to reach Michael with his piece of cake. The man is a giant, re: T.A.L.L.

Disclaimer: No ears, eyes, hair, noses, or chins were injured during the filming of this reception.

I’m telling you, Sherry’s hubby is tall.

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See what I mean?

I wanted to get a few shots outside, hoping the natural light would help capture a better picture.  I asked the couple to be kooky, so we did the old foot kick thing.  Sherry was bare foot, which only added to the fun.

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And, of course, we had to capture a smooch.

Thank you, for inviting us to your wedding, Michael and Sherry.  We loved sharing this special time in your relationship with you, and we look forward to the many years of wedded bliss we know you guys are going to be enjoying with one another.

Michael: You fit!  Welcome to the family!! Next time you have the bike out, head our way.  When you’re in the neighborhood, bring your beautiful bride over to the house and we’ll rustle up some grub, and swing in the pavilion, and catch up.

We love you guys!!! 

Things to do while you wait out a Dragnet

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On our way back from NWPA this past weekend, we got caught in a dragnet on I86, above Hornell.  NYS police were diverting traffic in an effort to capture the escaped convicts that have eluded capture for more than a week.  We were sitting in traffic some time, slowly crawling along, wishing we had avoided the major highways and byways that lead into NY, when we saw a deer leaping and running full-bore alongside the fenced section of the highway.  That, and a caravan of speeding cruisers, were the coolest part of our dragnet experience.

Trying to see the positive side of being caught up in a dragnet, I came up with these suggestions for…

What we might have done while waiting in a dragnet:

1.  Played a slow game of “I Spy” with others in the car in line.

2.  Searched out an alternate route with our GPS, and done a U-turn off the highway. Not all that helpful, since there was another dragnet on the west bound lane at the same time we were headed east. Still, I bet things would have gotten “interesting” quickly, had we done this. A a daring escape from the wait line would have been exciting, no doubt, but probably also bullet filled.

3.  Read a good book.

4.  Made up stories about the people in the vehicles ahead and behind us.  There were legion.

What we actually did:

1.  Shared scenarios about what might be going on at the other end of a line of cars and trucks waiting on the interstate. Seriously, we were backed up at least four miles, so we could not see what was going on ahead or behind us.

2.  Crooned along with the greats: Taylor, singing Blank Space, and Ed Sheeran with his, Thinking Out Loud.  Geniuses!  They really know how to rock it, good!

3.  Ate sweet cherries we bought when we made a pit stop before heading onto I86. Man, were they yummy!

4. Watched as the patty wagon and five NYSP cruisers whizzed by, wondering if they had, in fact, caught the escaped convicts in their dragnet.

What I wish we could have done:

1. Called ahead on our cell phones to tell the NYSP that we had no convicts in our car and could be diverted to the “pass-freely-by” lane afforded to those who have video on their phones and are able to do a sweep of the car, inside and out, and forward that clip to police.  I’m sure this technology will soon be available to honest, forthright, non-convict citizens of the USA.

2.  Purchased soft ice cream from a Mr. Softy trucks running alongside the median next to the dragnet line.  I’m sure it would have calmed jangled nerves to have a big ole chocolate and vanilla twist with sprinkles to enjoy while we were waiting in the hot sun.  Maybe a hot dog, too, or a shake.  You know, typical dragnet fare–nothing fancy.

3. Gone back in time, where we could have picked a different path and traveled by another route.

I know finding escaped convicts is important, but on Father’s Day? No fun!

I believe someone went to jail on Sunday as a result of the dragnet cops put out near Bellmont, NY,  but our car was too far back in the line to see anything go down.  The patty wagon was gone when we got to the front of the line, so we are guessing that someone with open warrants got caught up in the checkpoint and was summarily hauled off to jail.  They didn’t catch the escaped convicts that day, but they will.  There are only so many hidey-holes available in the NE, and I’m betting there will be more dragnets if they are not caught soon.

Unfortunate was the experience of one young lady whose vehicle overheated while waiting her turn to go through the checkpoint. She was so near the end of the line.  Tough luck for her.  We imagined her car had overheated, but she could have simply ran outta gas, which brings me to ponder:  If one runs out of gas at a police checkpoint, who pays for the tow to the nearest gas station?

Have you ever been caught up in a dragnet situation?  What did you do to pass the time while you waited for what seemed like forever to get on your way? 

000sunset he passed

He passed while fireflies sparkled through hedgerow fringe.

While morning glories rested.

While bees ceased their buzzing.

He passed while the bright night sky twinkled over NEPA.

While a night light painted warm patterns on gingerbread walls.

While raccoons foraged.

He passed while cardinals slept, joined by robins, humming birds, and crows.

While a wee one danced down damp and drafty farmhouse hallways on her way to our bed.

While cows lay under sheltering trees.

While the tractor collected dew.

He passed unexpectedly.

He passed quickly.

He passed, and we are numb.

Our lives will never be the same.

He passed on to be with his beloved.

He passed on before us, but will never be without us.

Our hearts are joined in love.

Love is eternal!

He passed and we are offended.

He wasn’t here long enough.

We weren’t ready.

We weep.

We refuse sleep.

We can’t eat.

He passed.

If you give a Bear a Bone

She’ll have breakfast in your bushes…

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She’ll put on a show.

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She’ll come to investigate a sound she heard by the back door.

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She’ll make you glad you’re on the inside of that door!

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She’ll strut her stuff.

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And when she is done, she’ll finish up and head out.

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What wild and wooly creatures have you seen in your backyard recently? 

Stay the Course

Its easy to get lost in all that is bad about this world.

Easy to isolate.

Easy to shut down.

Easy to refuse egress.

Remember: Even with its sham and drudgery, this greenhouse of sorts still grows good and grace-filled people.

As flower seeds still blossom into beautiful gardens, so there is hope that thrives in the darkest of places.

Keep looking for the good.

For surely, it is the open eye that shall perceive it…

…the open heart that shall possess it.

Be your own hero!

Share the Savior with those drowning.

Be Present today, and Stay The Course.

What’s pressing in on you today?  What do you need to be able to see the light?