NaPoWriMo – Day 1 – Contemplations on “The Last Supper”

THE LAST SUPPER - LEONARDO DA VINCI

This piece is part of my involvement with NaPoWriMo.  The site suggested a prompt for the very early hours of April 1st, aimed at those poets who live in countries where the day began many hours before it did for the hostess of the site.  I liked that prompt, so I decided to use it for my poem even though I live in the midwestern U. S., and April 1st came much later for me than it did for most of the world.

This particular prompt was to write an ekphrastic poem — a piece inspired by or about a work of art. It was a real challenge for me, and I enjoyed every minute of working on it.

You can check out the rules and jump into the fun here:  NaPoWriMo (The National Poetry Month challenge to write a poem every day for the 30 days of April).


Contemplations on Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Behold the blessed, holy convocation,
Preserved for us to ponder as we gaze.
In transient elements, the artist painted
Eternal substance; impartations that amaze.
We look upon the faces art has captured
As loved disciples try to understand
The Master’s words; He speaks of sacrifices
And of His blood and body freely given for man.

Their eyes – so full of love, yet consternation,
Trying to grasp full meaning of this meal.
All other Passovers remembered history,
But now the sacrifice sits here with them, so real.

In colors both subdued and yet alive,
The artist welcomes me to come join in
Our Lord’s last supper and His revelation:
He’ll now go forth to pay the price for all my sin.

~~~

~~~

Patrick: Servant of Jesus Christ

ST.PATRICK2. - EXTRA BRIGHT - creditsSo why make a fuss over some guy named Patrick, who was a minister in Ireland 16 centuries ago? What’s the big deal?

Well, the “big deal” has absolutely nothing to do with shamrocks, green beer, and leprechauns. It does have to do with the fact that this one man, with a heart full of love for Jesus Christ and His creation, led at least 70,000 people into a saving faith in Jesus Christ during his brief 30 years of ministry. And he did so using no tools of communication other than the spoken and written word. That fact, my friends, is WORTH celebrating.

When March 17th dawns again this year, millions of people will be wearing green and celebrating in honor of St. Patrick, but I hope that those of us who have a genuine relationship with Jesus will focus our attention – not on the scores of legends that have grown up around that name – but on the truly miraculous, anointed life of the REAL St. Patrick of Ireland.

The Word of God says, “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed.” When a man who was taken into slavery by heathen tribes manages to find the living God, escape to freedom, and return years later, at the risk of his own life, to spiritually set his former captors free by the power of the Gospel, we see the truth of that scripture. In a work written around 450 A.D. and called simply Confession, the man honored by most of the world as the patron saint of Ireland tells his own story of his intimate encounter with God and his evangelism of an entire nation. What I’m sharing in this article comes from that work written by his own hand.

Born in England in the late fourth century, Patrick was the son of a British nobleman, who also served as the deacon of the village church. In spite of that fact, Patrick did not grow up knowing God. At the age of sixteen, he was captured by pirates who frequently roamed the coastal areas and captured large numbers of young people in order to sell them as slaves. He says of that experience: “I was at that time about sixteen years of age. I did not, indeed, know the true God, and I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people . . . . There the Lord opened my mind to an awareness of my unbelief, in order that, even so late, I might remember my transgressions and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God. And he watched over me before I knew him . . . and he protected me and consoled me as a father would his son.”

IRISH PASTURES

IN THE STEPS OF KING DAVID

Patrick was sold to a pagan chieftan-king in Ireland. Most of the Irish tribes at that time were so pagan that they sacrificed their children to idols, and many were cannibalistic. They had never heard of Jesus Christ. Patrick was cruelly mistreated during the six years he was held prisoner and forced to serve as the king’s herdsman. But like his spiritual ancestor, another young herdsman who came to know God intimately while spending days and nights in the fields and on the mountain caring for the family’s livestock, so it was with Patrick. He describes the experience in these words:

“But after I reached Ireland I used to pasture the flock each day, and I used to pray many times a day. More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase, and my spirit was moved so that in a day [I said] . . . up to a hundred prayers, and in the night a like number. Besides I used to stay out in the forests and on the mountain, and I would wake up before daylight to pray in the snow, in icy coldness, in rain, and I used to feel neither ill nor any slothfulness, because, as I now see, the Spirit was burning in me at that time.”

After six years, while sleeping one night, Patrick heard the voice of God tell him that it was time for him to escape, and the Lord proceeded to give him directions to a ship harbored almost 200 miles away. “I turned about and fled . . . and I came, by the power of God, who directed my route to advantage, until I reached that ship.” Patrick tried to bargain with the captain to take him on board with the promise to see that he was paid at the end of the voyage, but the captain adamantly refused. Patrick turned away, and as he walked back toward the hut where he had been staying, he prayed, confessing his confidence in God’s faithfulness. Before he had gone many more steps, one of the men called him back to the ship and told him the captain had changed his mind. Patrick recorded, “I . . . hoped that they would come to faith in Jesus Christ, because they were barbarians.”

After reaching land, on the coast of France, the ship’s crew journeyed for twenty-eight days through uninhabited country, running out of food and suffering from extreme hunger. One of the shipmen began to taunt Patrick about his message that his God was “great and all-powerful,” asking why he couldn’t pray for them so that they wouldn’t have to perish from hunger. St. Patrick described his response in these words: “I said to them confidently ‘Be converted by faith with all your heart to my Lord God, because nothing is impossible for him, so that today he will send food for you on your road, until you be sated, because everywhere he abounds.’” He goes on to add, “Behold, a herd of swine appeared on the road before our eyes, and [the men] slew many of them and remained there for two nights, full of their meat and well restored. After this they gave the utmost thanks to God, and I was esteemed in their eyes, and from that day they had food abundantly.”

ROCK OF CASHEL

IN THE PATTERN OF ST. PAUL

A few years later, he managed to return to Britain, and recognizing all he’d been through, his family begged him not to leave them again. But God had other plans. Like the Macedonian call that came to Paul in the night, so the lost souls of the Irish people called out to Patrick. “There, in a vision of the night, I saw a man coming as if from Ireland with innumerable letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the beginning of the letter: ‘The Voice of the Irish,’ and as I was reading . . . I seemed at that moment to hear the voice of those who were beside the forest of Foclut which is near the western sea, and they were crying as if with one voice: ‘We beg you, holy youth, that you shall come and shall walk again among us.’ And I was stung intensely in my heart so that I could read no more, and thus I awoke.”

Patrick then relates two different occasions when he was aware of speech and prayer going on inside of him while he was sleeping. Both of these experiences convinced him even more that he was being called by God to go back to Ireland. Describing one event, he records the following:

“I saw Him praying within me, and I was, as it were, inside my own body, and I heard Him above me – that is above my inner self. He was praying powerfully with sighs. And in the course of this I was astonished and wondering, and I pondered who it could be who was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer it was revealed to me that it was the Spirit.” Another time he said, “ . . . I heard and could not understand, except at the end of the speech it was represented thus: ‘He who gave his life for you, he it is who speaks within you.’ . . . I remembered the Apostle’s words: ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we know not how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for utterance.’”

Patrick made the decision to go before the church authorities and ask them to send him to Ireland. Some of his elders brought up the sins of his past, before he had known the Lord personally. Others reminded him that he would surely lose his life if he went back among the cannibalistic pagans, and thus would be going as a martyr. But none of those arguments discouraged him, and he finally won their blessing to go as a missionary to the people who had enslaved him and treated him so inhumanely.

His actual work there began around 430 A.D. At that time the Druid priests regularly performed animal and human sacrifices to idols, and numerous forms of black magic and occult rituals were a part of the normal life of the people. Patrick was literally walking into a haven of deep-seated witchcraft and demonic strongholds. He had intended to go first to the king who had enslaved him, purchase his own freedom from that king, and then tell him of Jesus and His love. However, when the king heard that Patrick was coming to try to convert him, he gathered all of his goods within his house and set fire to everything, including himself, so that he would not be tempted to believe in Patrick’s God. Patrick arrived at the home in time to see the smoke still rising from the self-created funeral pyre, and he was shattered at the power of the devil to bring a man to do such a thing in order to keep him from knowing the true God.

Patrick relates a number of episodes of attack on his person by demonic spirits, as well as by the pagan kings and Druid priests. He prayed daily against these forces of darkness and used every spiritual weapon at his command to break them. But he was never afraid of them. “I fear none of these things” he wrote at one time, “because of the promises of heaven. I have cast myself into the hands of God Almighty who rules everywhere.”

GREEN MOUNTAIN

IN THE SHADOW OF ELIJAH

The major turning point in this confrontation between the powers of hell and the powers of heaven came when Patrick decided to confront the most powerful king and his evil priests at the king’s own stronghold – Tara. The place was full of kings, nobles, soldiers and Druid priests, who were celebrating an important pagan feast which happened to coincide with Easter that year. On the eve of the feast, the high king was supposed to light the first bonfire — before any other fire was lit anywhere in the land. However, Patrick had camped out on a plain in full view of the castle on the hill at Tara, and he lit a huge fire in honor of Jesus Christ and His resurrection, before the king could light the ceremonial fire to worship his idol.

The king was enraged, and he armed twenty-seven chariots with his soldiers, priests and a crowd of other guests, and drove to Patrick’s camp. As one of the two most powerful Druid priests began to insult Patrick and His God, Patrick called on God audibly to cause the evil priest to be brought to death immediately. Before everyone present, an unseen force lifted the priest off the ground and then sent him crashing back down, shattering his skull. The king then called for his soldiers to seize Patrick, but that godly man stood and spoke a word from the Psalms, “May God arise and His enemies be scattered!” Immediately, darkness covered the area, and confusion set in. Soldiers attacked one another, horses ran away, and chariots were smashed. The following morning, Easter Sunday, Patrick and five of his companions entered the king’s castle. The king’s personal priest still tried to hold out against Patrick, but the confrontation ended in the fiery death of that priest, as a result of which, the king finally admitted his defeat and knelt before the man of God.

This auspicious beginning to Patrick’s ministry gained him an enormous reputation. But because the land was divided among numerous small, warring kingdoms, Patrick found that each realm had to be won over individually and taken for the kingdom of God. He often approached the kings bearing valuable gifts and money in order to gain an audience with them. Then he would tell them about Jesus and his salvation. If a king gave his blessing, Patrick was permitted to preach throughout that realm. The Druid priests and unsaved kings continued to fight him fiercely, but the Lord blessed Patrick’s faith and obedience.

Records show that during the thirty years of his ministry, St. Patrick led at least 70,000 people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He established hundreds of churches, and in less than a hundred years from the beginning of his work, the nation of Ireland had become predominantly Christian and was sending out its own missionaries to other lands. Patrick went to be with his Lord on March 17, most likely in the year 460 A.D.

IRISH CHURCH.JPG - ed

FROM GENERATION TO GENERATION

As we approach the day that marks the yearly celebration of St. Patrick and his life, perhaps it would be good to consider this truth: In every generation, God has his David’s, His Elijah’s, His St. Paul’s, and His St. Patrick’s. All He requires to be able to raise them up in our generation is for each of us to do two things: get close enough to Him to hear His voice clearly and then obey Him instantly, regardless of the cost. St. Patrick has said it well:

“Therefore be amazed, you great and small who fear God . . . . Who was it summoned me, a fool, from the midst of those who appear wise and learned in the law and powerful in rhetoric and in all things? Me, truly wretched in this world, He inspired before others that I could be – if I would – such a one who, with fear and reverence . . . faithfully, without complaint, would come to the people to whom the love of Christ brought me and gave me in my lifetime. . . . Accordingly, therefore, to the measure of one’s faith in the Trinity, one should proceed without holding back from danger to make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, to spread God’s name everywhere with confidence and without fear . . . .”

(Photos of Pastures, Ben Bulben and Rock of Cashel: Jon at pdphoto.com)

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Now My Heart Must Sing

I’ve been going through some troubling situations lately and found myself feeling pretty low as a result. But in a time of prayer this morning, the Lord graciously reminded me of a poem He had given me almost two years ago. That poem was the record of another time in my life – many, many years ago – when things seemed very hard and very dark. But at that time, through means of a dream, the Lord showed me that I had nothing to worry about, and that He had worked everything out for me. So this morning, after being reminded of that poem, I sat down and read it again. It encouraged and cheered me so much that I decided perhaps I should share it on here again in case a few of my readers could use that same kind of encouragement today.

WILLOW TREE - credits

NOW MY HEART MUST SING

 

I woke to face another day,
No glad expectancy,
For heavy disappointments were all
Weighing down on me.

The day before had been so filled
With unsupportive words,
With problems piled four levels high
and everywhere closed doors.

The friends I’d counted on were not:
They came and went like rain:
All so enwrapped in their own lives
They couldn’t feel my pain.

It was just like so many days,
All running wearily,
So sad, with disappointments too,
All weighing down on me.

And though I knew I would survive,
That didn’t soothe my heart,
For sorrow deep and troubles too
Brought a longing to depart.

But then to Jesus I did run;
I saw it in a dream:
I stood below a gentle hill,
All carpeted in green.

When I looked up and saw Him there,
He stood beneath a tree,
And waited, smiling patiently;
He’d been expecting me.

I ran but didn’t feel the strain;
He grabbed me in His arms;
He wrapped them hard around me; held me
Strongly, safe and warm.

I’d never felt so light and free;
Engulfed with joy and rest;
No problem lingered to be weighed;
All I could feel was blessed.

And all the disappointments, though
So heavy they had been,
Took flight, and sadness too was gone,
Ev’ry conflict, ev’ry pain.

All threats and fears and torments sore,
All guilt, defeat, and shame –
In love so glowing and so strong,
All were dissolved away.

Then suddenly I saw a truth –
It caught me by surprise –
That Jesus’ joy exceeded mine;
I saw it in His eyes.

I’d known He would accept me, that
He’d made a place for me,
But never had I even guessed
How happy He would be.

He was so thrilled to have me there;
He laughed so loud and strong,
That all things not of joy and life
Just vanished in joy’s song.

And when I woke to this new day,
His laughter still did ring;
His arms still held me close and warm,
And now my heart must sing!

~~~

 

 

 

 

 

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In Need of Healing?

COMMUNION BREAD & WINE - RED FOR BLOG 2Just want to remind my readers about the “Healing From Jesus” blog. If you or a loved one is in need of physical or emotional healing, be sure to visit the site. You will find pages and pages of anointed teaching from God’s Word that will strengthen your faith and help you learn how to receive health from the Lord’s hand and from His Word. You will also find personal testimonies that will encourage you even further to trust the Lord for your health. You can visit “Healing From Jesus” at this link:
http://healingfromjesus.wordpress.com/

 

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In Answer to Questions Concerning My Personal Faith

Over the past couple of years I have been so privileged to meet and get to know many wonderful people through this blog. So many of you are from completely different cultures and have multiple interpretations of man’s spiritual destiny. I value each and every one of you, and I have been honored that you have inquired about my personal religious faith. Some of you have been asking me about what I believe concerning God and eternity. One of the best ways I can answer those questions is to re-post an article that I originally posted on one of my ministry blogs. The article gives the clearest explanation of what I believe concerning the human race’s situation with regard to it’s need of a God, a Savior, and a guarantee of a joyous eternity. So I am posting that same article here in the hope that it will help answer those folks who want to understand my faith more thoroughly.

CROSS - PLAIN, THICK - QUESTS.What Is This Thing Called ‘Salvation’?

“Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (Greek: new species); the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. … Therefore, we … beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

 

“What’s it all about? This “being saved”? This being “born again”? What’s it all about? I just don’t understand it. And I could never get my life straightened out enough and cleaned up enough to fit in with Jesus Christ anyway.”

Ever felt that way? Have you ever felt that you might really like to turn your life over to someone stronger and wiser, who could get it straightened out and make some real sense out of it – give it some lasting purpose and value? But you just don’t think you measure up to God’s standards enough to come to Him?

Well, the good news – shouted loud and strong – in the scripture passage above is that you do not have to measure up to God’s standards – or anyone else’s. You don’t even have to get one little thing about yourself or your life made right before you come to God.

That’s right. I mean what I said. And I can say it with absolute confidence, because God Himself said it first. And He said it over and over again. The passage at the top of this article is just one instance, but, to me, it is one of the most important of those instances. I have two other favorite passages like it in importance: Romans 5:6: “Christ died for the ungodly.” 1 Tim. 1:15: “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Now, of course, if you don’t think you need a savior – if you believe you are holy enough to live in the presence of the holy God of the universe, nose to nose, eye to eye, breathing the same air He breathes for all eternity, without being cleaned up at all – then I’m not talking to you. But if you realize that you are not on the level of that holy God – that you are not righteous and pure enough by your own merit to live with Him – then I am talking to you – and so is He!

The simple truth is that the work has already been done for you. Jesus did it all. He gave up the privileges of being on the throne of Heaven, came to this earth as a man, and lived a perfect life for you. Then God laid all of the sinful nature (to which you are heir) and all of the rebellion, disobedience, ugliness, and hatefulness of all the sin in the human race on Jesus (2 Cor. 5 21), and put all the punishment for that sin on Him as well. He bore it all for you, and after His death on your behalf, He came up out of the grave – also on your behalf – with eternal life and the right to bestow that new life on you. We have “been crucified with Christ,” (Gal. 2: 19-20) and “even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ … and raised us up with Him.” (Eph. 2:5-6).

But when we decide we’d like to have that salvation and that new relationship with our Creator, we often hold back because we feel powerless to separate ourselves from sin or the world’s way of life – or even from our own selfish nature. We feel powerless to make ourselves “worthy” of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Well, if you feel that way, rejoice! Because that means you know the truth: We are powerless! But that is okay. Because the work of saving us is His – and His alone! And it’s already been done.

That’s what our beginning scripture is telling us. When God raised Jesus from the dead, He raised Him up as the head of a body – which would be made up of believers – everyone who would believe in that finished work. That’s what the verse in Ephesians means when it says He “raised us up with Him.” And that’s what the passage in 2 Corinthians means when it says that God was – in Christ – reconciling the world to Himself. That word reconcile means to bring back into original or proper position and make the relationship right again. That’s what the Word says God was doing when He crucified Jesus Christ and raised Him up again and seated Him in power and authority forever. He was bringing “the world” back into right relationship with Himself.

Now look at the rest of that verse: “not counting their sins against them.” Who is the pronoun “their” referring to in this verse? The church? The “good” people? The people who call themselves Christians? NO! The only plural noun in that whole verse that the pronoun “their” can refer to is the word “world.” Do you get it? God was – in Christ – not counting the world’s sins against them any longer. God was – in Christ (only in Christ) – forgiving all the people in the whole world for every sin counted against them. Can you grasp that exciting truth? In the mind and heart of God, it is already done. In the mind and heart of God, all of your sins are already forgiven – in Christ!

You see, that’s why there is no other way to salvation and eternity with God. There is no other religion, dogma, or program that has inherent within it the forgiveness of all sin and the eternal life granted by God. That forgiveness and that life are only in Christ – because He’s the only one who paid the horrible price of suffering and separation from God that was complete enough and perfect enough to buy freedom for the whole human race.

So, your next question is probably going to be, “Well if it’s already done, then what is my part?” Our part is believing and receiving. Even before Jesus’ crucifixion, when His disciples asked Him, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus told them, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (John 6:28-29).

Now, I do need to explain that the word “believe” from the original language means much more than mental assent. It means “yielding or surrendering to and obeying.” To truly “believe” means that you give yourself to it completely. But that is the beauty of it all. We do not have to do the work of salvation. We just have to surrender to that work and let it produce its fruit in us. How do we surrender? We simply pour out our hearts to this great, loving Jesus, who has done all the work. We simply tell him in our own words that we know we need what He offers and gladly give Him control in our hearts and our lives. (That’s what it means to make Him our “Lord.”)

Once we totally surrender, Jesus comes to reign on the throne of our hearts. From that position, He can begin to clean up everything else about us that needs cleaning up. You need never fear. Once He has the position of authority, willingly given to him by you, He knows how – and is well able – to do the rest of the work.

So what about that term “born again”? Go back to our original verse: “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature (Greek: new species).” When Jesus Christ comes in, our real man – the spirit man — is literally born again. A brand new species (the God-man species of Jesus Christ) comes in and generates its life in our spirit. (You must remember that man was created by a spirit God and therefore is primarily a spirit-being, having a soul and living in a body). Therefore the Word tells us again and again the we are to be aware of the fact that we are now “children of God.” (Romans 8:16, 1 John 3:2).

Now all of this work is done – finished. In God’s heart and mind it’s a “done deal.” But remember: it is done ONLY IN CHRIST. Therefore, it is only when we make the decision to yield ourselves to Jesus Christ and receive Him into ourselves and our lives that we get the benefit of this finished work. Although it is done, if we choose not to access it, we get no results from it in our personal lives.

You might compare it to the process of getting data from the Internet. You know there is data out there covering the subject about which you need information. But that data will do you absolutely no good at all unless you sit down, turn on your computer, take yourself to that site, open up the channel, and deliberately download that information. So — you must open up yourself to Jesus Christ and all He has done for you, and by believing (yielding, surrendering) download every single bit of it. It’s all yours. It has your name on it. But you have to hit the download (I Believe) button to receive.

So what is salvation? It is the free gift of a loving Father who has paid the deepest, truest, most sacrificial price to restore His rebellious children to Himself. It is the free gift of the brother Jesus, who has given Himself in our place and paid the full price, receiving brand new life to pass on to each one of us. The work of salvation has absolutely nothing to do with us. Our only work is to believe what He has done and surrender to it.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17).

~~~

 

Repost: ‘My Dad – A Job Well Done’

Today is a sad day for me. My father passed away. But because he loved the Lord Jesus Christ with all of his heart and has served Him faithfully since he was 12 years old, he went right from our family’s presence into the presence of Jesus.  So although I am sad for me, I must rejoice exceedingly for him.

In honor of his life and his loving care of me, I am re-posting this article about my dad (originally posted on Father’s Day, 2012).  I hope it blesses you, my readers.

 

DAD & MEJust what is a father’s most important job? To love? To provide? To discipline? Certainly all of the above would qualify as part of his job description. But, ultimately, I believe a father’s most important responsibility is to show his children what the Father God is like. That responsibility involves telling his kids about God.

But telling isn’t enough. Kids learn more from what they experience than from what they hear. And when children are told that God is their “Father,” they naturally relate that “Father” to the only other “father” they have experience with – their flesh and blood daddy. I have been inordinately blessed by God’s gift to me of a father who didn’t just talk to me about my Heavenly Father, but who excelled in demonstrating God to me. And although my life of 64 years is full of one experience after another of my dad’s faithfulness to show me God, there are three specific experience that are indelibly embedded in my memory.

The Word tells us that God is a father who enjoys His kids. He enjoyed recreation with Adam and Eve in the Garden; He enjoyed parties when He was on earth in the person of Jesus; He was always instructing Israel to have a party in His presence; and He even says He rejoices over us with singing and dancing. My dad has always been able to get into the spirit of having fun with his kids. When I was very small, he bought me a train that had a real steam engine with sparks and smoke that billowed out as it ran around the track. He delighted in playing trains with me.

But I think the events that stand out most clearly in my memory of a dad who was willing to come down to my level and have fun were the episodes in the grocery stores. My mom, dad, sister, and I always went grocery shopping as a family. That’s often a fun experience for kids, but my sister and I had the privilege of having a dad who wanted to add to our fun. So sometimes, if the store was not crowded, he would roll the shopping cart into a clear aisle, prop one foot on the bottom rung, push off with the other foot, and go flying down the aisle, grinning from ear to ear, all for the sake of bringing squeals of delight to two little girls. I’m sure others thought he was silly, but giving his girls such a treat was worth it to him. Those experiences left us convinced that dads loved to “play” with their kids, and they opened a door between God and me that made me sure I could enjoy Him just like I did my earthly dad.

The Word also tells us that God’s ears are always open to the cries of His children and that He is always present with them in trouble to deliver them. When I was a child, I was plagued by a lot of fears – most of them unnamed and foolish – but there nevertheless. God eventually got control of my life enough to deliver me from all fear, but in early years I often had serious trouble sleeping peacefully. Many nights I woke up sick, but I believe most of it was the result of fear. The cause didn’t matter, however. What mattered was that when I awoke and called for my parents, it was often my dad who immediately heard my cry and came to my side. Certainly my mom was equally loving and attentive, but for some reason my call usually woke my dad first. I have lost count of all the nights he patiently and lovingly gave up sleep to comfort and pray for me.

Once, even as a young adult still living at home, I became ill one night with alarming symptoms. I didn’t call for my parents, but my dad woke and heard me stirring around in the wee hours. He came to check on me and found me sitting in the living room, in the throes of, not only the symptoms themselves, but also the disabling fear brought on by those symptoms. He immediately suggested I make a bed on the living room sofa, gave me two aspirin, sat down in a big chair opposite the sofa, and started talking to me from God’s Word. He spoke God’s truth to me until he had talked me back into faith. He then continued to sit in that chair and promised me that he would sit there and pray until I was back to normal.

Within minutes I was sound asleep. I woke once some time later to see him still sitting in that chair praying. After that night I was totally delivered from that physical problem. But more importantly, my dad’s concrete example made me even more convinced that when my Heavenly Father said He’d be there for me, He’d really be there. I’ve never doubted it once since that night.

The Word also promises us that our Heavenly Father knows our needs and will provide for us liberally. My dad has worked hard ever since I’ve known him. He’s worked hard at earning money, at providing a peaceful and safe environment for our family, at serving the Kingdom of God, and at helping those less fortunate than himself. When growing up, I was aware that we were less than financially prosperous by the world’s standards, but we never felt that we wanted for any necessities. And, somehow, my parents’ efforts and sacrifices managed to provide a few extras as well.

One particular experience of provision during my early college years stands out. I was commuting to school at the time so still living under my dad’s roof. I got up one morning and walked into the kitchen, straight to the bread box, intent on making toast. The box was empty. Now, my dad generally left for work a little before the rest of us woke, and we had only one car at the time, so grocery shopping usually had to wait until he was home. When I saw the bread box empty, I thought, “Oh no! Now what can we do?” I wasn’t anxious to begin my day with a very long walk in the heat to the nearest store. Then suddenly, in the very next second, I thought, “Wait a minute! I know my dad. He would not have gone off with the car for the whole day and left all of us with no bread! I know he had to get us bread!” With that thought I began looking around, and turning to the other end of the kitchen, I saw a brand new loaf of bread in the middle of the table. Dad had been to the store to buy the loaf before he left for work.

That event may seem minor to many people, but at that point, God Himself spoke to my heart and said, “You see: In exactly the same way that you absolutely know without a doubt that your dad would not fail to provide even something as minor as bread, you can also know without a doubt that I will never fail to provide everything you need.” I have thought of this incident many times throughout my life. It has quickened my faith each time. And I have to wonder what my life would have been like if I had not had a dad I could trust so implicitly as my example.

Needless to say, I consider my dad worthy of being named “Father of the Year.” He will always be my winner. And whether he is ever awarded any earthly honors or not, there is an enormous reward awaiting him in Heaven for having exemplified so accurately that Holy Father to whom all creation will eventually bow its knee.

Thank you, Dad!  Happy Father’s Day!

~~~


Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge — Red and White

Cee’s challenge this week is the colors Red and White. I chose a photo of the front of a greeting card. I create greeting cards, and this particular design is from a set I created for a lady who takes her walk of faith very seriously, but has fun with it too. The cards are blank inside for personal notes, but the cover reflects a feminine take on “walking by faith.”

HIGH PLACES SHOES PIC - STRAIGHTENED

To participate in Cee’s challenge, visit her site:

http://www.ceephotography.com/2013/02/19/cees-fun-foto-challenge-the-colors-of-red-white-or-red-and-white-together/

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Arranged # 2

My church has a small room designated as a prayer chapel, where people can go specifically to pray during the week and on Sundays, before and during the services. This group of crosses was carefully chosen and “arranged” across one wall of the chapel to help those who enter the room focus on Jesus Christ and the power of His complete salvation.

Tribute To An “Ordinary” Poet

My mother was a beautiful woman, inside and out.  She was kind, generous, gracious, and hospitable to everyone she come into contact with. She loved people, and she saw “specialness” in very ordinary people and very ordinary events in life.  Then she celebrated that “specialness” in poetry.

Yes, my mother was a poet.  I don’t imagine anyone would call her work “world-shaking,” but it was a collection of words and emotions that gently lifted up the people and events in her “ordinary” life — and lifted up the God who had given all of them to her.

As I look at the clock on my computer screen, I see that we have just crossed into the “second day of spring,” and every spring I am reminded especially of two of my mother’s poems.  They are probably my favorites of all of her work.  Her book, Life Is Worth Living, includes poems on many subjects, and she even wrote a poem to me specifically at one point in her life. Each of those poems has its own unique place for its own unique reasons. But, somehow, for me, these two poems best represent my mother’s gifts for seeing “specialness” in small, everyday things. I’d like to share them with you.

NEW LIFE

Why the Crocus – a pretty little thing –
Should burst forth, the first sign of spring?

Though buried and dormant in snow and cold,
Will bear new blossoms, so bright and bold.

Of all the plants, like flowers and trees,
The Crocus is the first, the smallest of these;

A rainbow of colors, like one in the sky,
Yet so close to the earth. I wonder why
He chose the Crocus, so very, very small,
To show the world there is new life for all.

 

WISH I WERE A BUMBLEBEE

Now I’m safe high up in this tree.
Or could he be fooling me?
Gone away far too soon;
Hardly ever leaves ’till noon.

Oh, to bark or snarl or chase
Would take that grin off of his face.
Or if I were a bumblebee,
Bet that cat would be afraid of me!

One little wren don’t have a chance
When that arched back starts to prance.
But I will figure out how, some day,
To make him prance the other way.

Oh, for two horns – like a bull;
I’d show him just who had some pull.
Or if I were a bumblebee,
Bet that cat would be afraid of me!

Just like a snake in the grass,
Lie and wait for him to pass.
Or to buzz around his ears
Would show up some of his cat fears.

Oh, to sting him on the nose
Sure would keep him on his toes.
Yes, if I were a bumble bee,
That darn cat would be afraid of me!

 

Oh, to sting him on the nose
Sure would keep him on his toes.
Yes, if I were a bumblebee,
That darn cat would be afraid of me!

 

 

 

Poems: © 1979 Vera Faye Pavloff
Crocus Photo: © 2011 Brenda Calvert

Bird Photo: © 2011 Beautiful Free Pictures






Believe You Can!

You will see in this exceptional photo that the horse is literally flying over this double hurdle with a measurable amount of space to spare. A particularly difficult feat, and a beautiful sight to behold. I was inspired to see in this photo the meeting of a challenge in a quote from a woman named Dorothea Brande. She said: “Act as if it were impossible to fail.”

The beautiful horse in this picture believed he could fly over this hurdle with room to spare.  That is the only reason he is doing it successfully.  I found that looking at this picture and dwelling on it encouraged me to challenge myself to do the same, and I’m passing on that challenge. Whatever it is in your life that you need — or even want — to accomplish successfully, believe that you can do it.  See yourself doing it.  Throw your heart over the hurdles that look like they could hinder you.

A famous trapeze artist from two generations ago was training a new student who, one day, suddenly became filled with fear as he looked at the precarious perch where he had to perform.  He froze — couldn’t move a muscle — and began to gasp, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!”  The long-time veteran put his arm around the young man and said, “Yes, son, you can do it, and I will tell you how: throw your heart over the bar, and your body will follow.”  The Word of God backs up that premise with the truth from Proverbs 23:7, which says of man, “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

The horse in this picture had been trained by his master to jump over those hurdles successfully. He knew the thrill of doing so, and he knew the rewards of success. That training caused him to believe that he could make this jump with plenty of room to spare. Our God teaches us that we can “do all things through Christ who strengthens us” (Phil. 4:13), and that “with God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37). He also tells us that if a man has faith in God and shall “not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” (Mark 11:23). We too have been “trained,” by the Word of God, to accomplish what we set our hearts to do.

That horse threw his heart over those bars because he believed he could make that jump.  So he did.  He simply acted on what he believed and succeeded. Let his example stir you. When you go through a difficult situation in your life or you find yourself facing the challenge of doing something that looks a little too big or too high for you, go back and take a long look at this photo.  Meditate on it until the power of it has saturated your own soul. Then obey Dorothea Brande’s wise words:  “Act as if it were impossible to fail.”

Love – Through the Eyes of Opie Taylor

In an episode of the uniquely popular TV program The Andy Griffith Show, an episode entitled “The Rivals,” Andy tries to help his son Opie come to terms with the troubling symptoms of being in the throes of first love. As they sit together in the living room, Opie opens the conversation: “Paw, when you like someone a whole lot, that means you love ’em, don’t it?”

It depends,” says Andy.

Well, when I’m with Karen, I get a lump in my throat, my ears ring, and my knees get all squiggly. Does that mean I’m in love?’

Either that or you’ve got a real bad case of the measles.”

Paw, if I marry Karen someday, her name becomes Taylor, don’t it?”

That’s right, and all your children become Taylors too.”

Children? … I don’t think we’d have any children, Paw. We already know enough kids to play with.”

And so – with childhood’s blurry vision of the details of this state called marriage — Opie easily dismisses one of the most important results of engaging in the deepest mysteries of the marriage covenant. Children are a very visible product of those mysteries.

But there are other products as well. Many of them are not so easily seen or identified, but they can be just as important and just as life-changing. There is a sense of fulfillment and a greater sense of wholeness. There’s a sense of security and oneness that melts away all the coldness of being alone. And there’s a new knowledge of self – an understanding of oneself on a new level. The man and woman who have previously been “their own person” have now, for the first time, realized that they are much more complex and much more capable of enjoying that complexity as a result of this new relationship and the new identity that results from it.

But all of this change is not easy. Nor is it simple. In fact, it is so complex that sometimes it’s weeks, or unfortunately even years, before one or both partners actually realize that they have become a part of a brand new whole and are no longer exactly the same persons they were before marriage.

That realization could be frightening if not seen through the plan of God. He, after all, is Love (1 John 4:8). He created this thing called marriage – and the sex that is an integral part of it. And guess what? He knows what He’s talking about. His plan is that each partner in this holy covenant relationship will find in the mate the answer to longings that have never been fulfilled; the key to opening doors in the soul that have never been unlocked; and the love that saturates and nurtures our unique gifts and abilities so that they mature and bring us to the highest and best we can be. In short, it’s this new person, conceived from the two, that is finally complete and whole in a way that nothing but a “covenant” marriage relationship can accomplish.

It is true that our mate cannot fill the place in us that is reserved for God Himself. And we will never be truly whole until He is at home in us, giving us all of Himself. But it is God Himself who has told us clearly, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him. … And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ … For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Gen. 2: 18, 22-24, NAS). God said of his “perfect” man that he needed a woman to be complete. And He created the woman to be so much a part of the man that she would have a need of him to be complete as well. Isn’t it interesting that this “need” of each other was created into us as part of our perfection? And this unique completeness that results is probably the one most powerful and thrilling product of a man and woman entering into and enjoying the blessed mysteries of God’s kind of marriage.

I know in this 21st century – especially in the hollowed political halls of this world — it is not considered “politically correct” to make such statements. But, thank God, there is still one Document that supersedes all the political attitudes and postures of every society on the face of the earth. It still supersedes every new “law” on the books that would try to make marriage something different from the commitment of one male and one female partner in covenant with each other and with the God who created them. Thank God that Document — The Word of God – The Holy Bible – still gives the human race the blessed, supernatural opportunity to experience total completeness through love – when they enter into it the way God Himself created it to be experienced.

Truly, a Valentine gift to be treasured forever.

Blessed Invasion

Most of my life I have been enthralled with the theme of Elizabeth Barrett’s poems that speak to Robert of how his love saved her from death.   Being a poet myself, I decided one day that I would like to re-affirm that theme in a piece of my own creation. The sonnet is not my personal forte (although I have written one or two over the years) so I have not tried to emulate that particular medium.  But I decided to try to express in my more comfortable style of verse what I believe is the substance of what Elizabeth and Robert experienced together, as well as what I believe to be the root source of that substance.

BLESSED INVASION

Invaded by pure Love, Death must submit,
And bow its ugly head and bend its knee.
As the target of a perfect marksman must take the hit,
So Death, in spite of struggling, had to set me free.
Though pressing down to close my coffin lid,
Death was thrust back by power: your love for me.

King Jesus led the way in warring thus.
He came with love so pure it pierced the gloom.
And taking on Himself the curse sin brought to us,
He opened up the way to enter our own tomb,
And facing Death, He said, “Your time is up.
My love strikes death to Death. Now Life will bloom.”

Even so, He seems to’ve passed His love to you,
And coming now upon me, frail and spent,
You have not wasted time in wondering what to do,
But instantly to my own lifeless heart you bent,
And kissed my lips with love as with sweet dew,
Dissolving Death. Now Life arises — permanent!

© Sandra Conner 2009

Photo: Jon, pdphoto.com