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Redeeming the Season

By |2021-10-31T09:06:05-04:00October 31st, 2021|

Leisa wanted a way to redeem the season. So many of the autumn decorations she saw seemed to celebrate death, sometimes in gruesome and macabre ways.  

Determined to counter the darkness in some small way, Leisa began to write things she was grateful for with a permanent marker on a large pumpkin. “Sunshine” was the first item. Soon visitors were adding to her list. Some entries were whimsical: “doodling,” for instance. Others were practical: “a warm house”; “a working car.” Still others were poignant, like the name of a departed loved one. A chain of gratitude began to wind its way around the pumpkin.

Psalm 104 offers a litany of praise to God for things we easily overlook. “[God] makes springs pour water into the ravines,” sang the poet (v. 10). “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate” (v. 14). Even the night is seen as good and fitting. “You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl” (v. 20). But then, “The sun rises. . . . People go out to their work, to their labor until evening” (vv. 22–23). For all these things, the psalmist concluded, “I will sing praise to my God as long as I live” (v. 33).

In a world that doesn’t know how to deal with death, even the smallest offering of praise to our Creator can become a shining contrast of hope.

With Us in the Valley

By |2021-10-07T14:51:07-04:00October 5th, 2021|

As Hannah Wilberforce (aunt of British abolitionist William Wilberforce) lay dying, she wrote a letter in which she mentioned hearing about the death of a fellow believer in Jesus: “Happy is the dear man who is gone to glory, now in the presence of Jesus, whom unseen he loved. My heart seemed to jump for joy.” Then she described her own situation: “Myself, better and worse; Jesus, as good as ever.”

Her words make me think of Psalm 23, where David writes, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley [the valley of the shadow of death], I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (v. 4). Those words leap from the page because it is there, in the middle of the valley of the shadow of death, where David’s description of God turns deeply personal. He moves from talking about God in the beginning of the psalm—“the Lord is my shepherd” (v. 1)—to talking to Him: “for you are with me” (v. 4, italics added).

How reassuring it is to know that Almighty God who “brought forth the whole world” (90:2) is so compassionate that He walks with us through even the most difficult places. Whether our situation turns better or worse, we can turn to our Shepherd, Savior, and Friend and find Him “as good as ever.” So good that death itself is vanquished, and we will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (23:6).

Taken In

By |2021-05-14T09:06:03-04:00May 14th, 2021|

My old dog sits by my side and stares off into space. A penny for her thoughts. One thing I know she isn’t thinking about is dying, because dogs don’t “understand.” They don’t think about future things. But we do. No matter our age or health or wealth, we at some point think about dying. That’s because we, unlike beasts, have “understanding,” according to Psalm 49:20. We know that we will die, and there’s nothing we can do about it. “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them” (v. 7). No one has enough money to buy himself or herself out of the grave.

 

But there is a way out of the finality of death: “God will redeem me from the realm of the dead,” insists the psalmist. "He will surely take me to himself” (v. 15) (literally, “He will take me in”). Robert Frost said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. ” God has redeemed us from death through His Son, "who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (1 Timothy 2:6). Thus Jesus promised that when our time comes, He will greet us and take us in (John 14:3).

When my time comes, Jesus, who gave to God the price of my life, will welcome me into His Father's house with open arms.

You’ll See Her Again

By |2020-10-06T09:05:07-04:00October 6th, 2020|

The room was dim and silent as I pulled a chair close to Jacquie’s bed. Before a three-year battle with cancer, my friend had been a vibrant person. I could still picture her laughing—eyes full of life, her face lit with a smile. Now she was quiet and still, and I was visiting her in a special care facility.

Not knowing what to say, I decided to read some Scripture. I pulled my Bible out of my purse and turned to a reference in 1 Corinthians and began to read.

After the visit and an emotional time in the seclusion of my parked car, a thought came to mind that slowed my tears: You’ll see her again. Caught up in sadness, I had forgotten that death is only temporary for believers (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). I knew I’d see Jacquie again because both of us had trusted in Jesus’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sin (vv.3-4). When Jesus came back to life after his crucifixion, death lost its ultimate power to separate believers from each other and from God. After we die, we’ll live again in heaven with God and all of our spiritual brothers and sisters—forever.

Because Jesus is alive today, Christians have hope in times of loss and sorrow. Death has been swallowed up in the victory of the cross (v. 54).

What Comes Next?

By |2020-04-03T13:55:46-04:00April 3rd, 2020|

On the night of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King gave his final speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” In it, he hints that he believed he might not live long. He said, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land...

The Last Word

By |2019-09-11T13:56:18-04:00September 5th, 2019|

Her name was Saralyn, and I sort of had a crush on her back in our school days. She had the most wonderful laugh. I’m not sure whether she knew about my crush, but I suspect she did. After graduation I lost track of her. Our lives went in different directions as lives often do. I keep up with my graduating class in some online forums, and I was intensely sad when I heard that Saralyn died...

The Great Awakening

By |2018-12-14T15:23:34-05:00December 18th, 2018|

I have a treasured memory of gatherings with family friends when our boys were small. The adults would talk into the night; our children, weary with play would curl up on a couch or chair and fall asleep. When it was time to leave, I would gather our boys into my arms, carry them to the car, lay them in the back seat, and take them home. When we arrived, I would pick them up again, tuck them into their beds, kiss them goodnight, and turn out the light. In the morning they would awaken—at home.

Look and Be Quiet

By |2018-03-22T09:29:09-04:00March 28th, 2018|

In the song “Look at Him,” Mexican composer Rubén Sotelo describes Jesus at the cross. He invites us to look at Jesus and be quiet, because there is really nothing to say before the type of love Jesus demonstrated at the cross. By faith we can imagine the scene described in the Gospels. We can imagine the cross and the blood, the nails, and the pain...

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