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Christmas grace – a prayer

Our Father who is in Heaven,

Thank you for the promise You made and the promise You kept.

Your Spirit hovered, Your power overshadowed the womb of a young virgin called Mary, and she conceived.

A man named Joseph dreamed, obeyed, and took Mary as his wife, despite condeming stares of friends and family.

You orchestrated the trip to Bethlehem, the city of David, for this was your prophecy of old.

Your holy, sinless Offspring  was born.  They called Him Jesus, just as Your messenger pronounced.

Your expressed Yourself by a living, breathing Word that sounded like a baby’s cry.

This Word became flesh and blood and bone and sinew.

He lived with us in the dust and dirt, the muck and the mire of our humanity.

He was life and light and purity and love.  He pointed us to life eternal. He offered it to us all, anyone who will receive.

He showed us what you are like, the expression of Your essence.

He opened the way and invited us to come, into the Holiest Place of Your presence.

How precious did that Grace appear.

Thank you!

Amen

Christmas grace – about Hope

On a rainy day in December, the wren sings defiant at the dawning of day. I hear him and am glad for his song.

The holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas bring all the emotions. Sweet memories of days gone by brighten the corner where I am. Anniversaries and rembrances of other days can bring a tear. I feel things deeply. I carry burdens of friends and family along with my personal baggage. Sometimes it gets too heavy, and I remind myself that Jesus is the one who bears the weight of the world, not I.

I look for joy, peace, hope. I cling to the promises and hold them close to my heart. Are they not the gifts of this season? Are they not given to us by the Father of lights, who lavishes His grace on us without measure?

There have been days I fought for joy. Because joy is worth the struggle. I counted gifts with determination, sometimes writing the word, “I’m breathing in and breathing out.” It was all I could write. I set JOY before my eyes, hanging from window latches, resting on tables, reminders to battle on.

Christmas is joy, and cards in the mail reiterate the songs, their sparkly designs a visual rejoicing. I receive them and I mail them, thankful for people we call friends. They are gifts from the Living Lord.

And I know joy and sorrow are parallel tracks of a train.

There are lonely souls in crowds and broken bodies in hospital beds bearing the weight of heartache even while the world hangs ornaments and lights on a tree. The homeless in my home town shuffle toward a back alley on the cold night. People suffer while the music blasts “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.”

As I read the Advent scriptures, I am confronted with truth. Jesus came in the harsh reality of a people sad, sick, and scratching out a living. They were looking for consolation, the hope of Israel, a redeemer and savior to take away all the suffering and oppression.

Mary and Joseph felt the heaviness too. The babe bearing down in Mary’s womb. The responsibility bearing down on Joseph’s shoulders. Hurrying to Bethlehem, they hoped for a warm room with a bit privacy for the coming of a child.

Instead, there was a crowded city, houses full with no room for a pregnant woman needing a birthing place and a midwife. Maybe they wondered if they’d taken a wrong turn, wondered if they’d understood the angel’s message, wondered what in the world God was doing?

I have wondered the same.

In a night of deep slumber, I awaken to words spoken to my spirit, “Hope in God.” Through my sleepiness, I recall the verse and in the morning I turn to Psalm 42 and 43 where the composer repeats this: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

The Word is familiar, words I learned as a child, rehearsed in my growing, and cling to now. I encourage myself in the Lord like David, the sweet singer of Israel.

At the little thrift store I frequent, there on the top shelf, is the sign for sale in large letters, “HOPE.” I pick it up, hold it to me, purchase it, and set it before me as a reminder. It is an Ebenezer stone.

The hope written in the book of Hebrews is not a penny thrown in the wishing well. It is an anchor for my soul, a sure proclamation cast into the Holy of holies where Jesus, my High Priest, intercedes for me.

” . . . we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever . . . ” Hebrews 6:18-20 NIV

Hope is my memorial stone in this season. I set it and mark it and repeat it to myself. I cling to its message. Hope in God.

Luke tells us of an old man named Simeon, who went to the temple as was his custom, and he saw the common young couple with the newborn baby. He knew, felt the quickening of his spirit – this child was the promise, the Consolation of Israel. He took the infant Jesus in his arms and blessed the God who is our hope, whose promises are true and will come to us. He has come to us, He is with us – Immanuel

Though the night lengthens, though the heart is heavy, though the body weakens and trembles, though our prayers appear unanswered, there is a hope, an anchor. There is a Savior who came to us. He came for us.

Jesus, the Hope of the world. He is my hope, my anchor and my sure foundation. I will stand on this.

Christmas grace – prepare Him room

It’s December and I’m not ready.

Recently, I spoke at a women’s event, and my words come back and preach to me. Receive Christmas instead of Do Christmas. With Thanksgiving barely a memory, I feel the approach of the next season rushing like a fast moving locomotive.

The holidays are a season of fullness: schedules, parties, shopping, decorating, food and on and on. Looking at my planner and my list, I feel overwhelmed with too much.  Likewise, the holidays can be filled with heartache, grief and uncertainty. The turning of the calendar page does not turn aside the burdens we carry with us.

With all the fullness of the days ahead, how do I make room for Christ? How do I make sure all the things, the good and the hard, don’t crowd out the Savior who came to fill me with Himself and give me the abundant life?

Here are some ideas I am speaking to myself.

Spend time in His presence daily. How can I reflect Jesus if I don’t talk to Him and don’t listen to His Words of Scripture? There might be something I desperately need to hear before the rush of the day begins, and I really must cast my cares on the One who cares for me.

Tap into the Holy Spirit’s power by reflecting that He is ever with me, guiding and teaching and showing me the way.

Sing and make melody in my heart. Tuning into the old carols of Christmas brings forth a song. I know those words, and they draw me in to the message of hope. Newer songs are just as joyful. Music has the power to turn my thoughts heavenward.

Determine to overlook potential offences. They are inevitable as people rush about, overworked, tired and frustrated. Scripture says, Love hardly notices when others do it wrong. Respond with patience instead of reacting with irritation.

Remember to be grateful. Giving thanks is not just for November. It’s a daily practice, reminding me how blessed I am.

Be generous with love and patience and kindness and gentleness, the delicious fruit of the Spirit that feeds any hungry heart.

I want the peace of Jesus Christ to fill my soul and be reflected in my countenance. I want His joy overflowing in my heart as I move through my days. I want to experience the wonder of God coming to us, to be like us, and to walk with us in all the places.

This will not happen by accident. I must decide to seek Him for the desires of my heart. If the people I interact with each day are to see Jesus in me – whether they be the shopkeepers, the drivers on the road, the teen at McDonald’s drive-through, my neighbors and family, and my own Sweet William – I must give Christ place in me. Daily. On purpose. I make this a prayer.

Let every heart prepare Him room.

Christmas grace

Tuesday grace – a grateful heart

As the To-Do’s swirl in my head and are reviewed in my bullet journal, I add to and I check off. This is my week to make Thanksgiving happen at the Wright House.

I can set the tables, bring out extra chairs, cook food and light candles, but can I make thanksgiving happen in a heart?

Only in mine.

I take paper and pen and begin to count my blessings, one by one. They are many, because God has been especially good to me. Yet, the memories linger of last year when sickness grabbed Sweet William and me, and we missed my favorite family meal. Covid spread from one to another, until one of us was taken from this earth, and we were left wanting and wondering what in the world had happened. Grief settled on us like a thundercloud.

I think of it all this early morning, as I sit in my rocker and make my list.

I think of others in my circle of people, missing one at the table of grace this year. Somehow, we will muster the determination to make the special recipes and bring ourselves, with a heart of thanks that we can be together once more, while remembering there is one less plate to set. And I feel the longing deep inside me.

It will be different this year at our house and at houses of friends and family, here and across the miles.

I needed a Psalm of Thanksgiving, and I turn to chapter 34. I begins with “I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” It is less of a command and more an encouragement from a fellow sojourner who knew his own share of heartache.

As I read the highlighted and marked verses, they are anciently familiar and like fresh warm bread at the same time. “I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.” I am not alone.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.” This promise – that the Lord hears me – I cling to it as a life preserver. I am heard, I am known, I am loved. I am part of His plan.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry.” Tiny bottles grace the window sills of the upstairs dormer windows, sparkling in the sunlight, a reminder that my tears are noticed by the Living God. How is it that I am important to the Almighty? I don’t understand it, but I believe.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I’ve turned to this verse often through the years. It is my own comfort and comfort to share with others needing an assurance of Immanuel – God with us.

I pray for my people, the ones on a list and the ones who come to mind throughout the day. They are many. I know the Heavenly Father is aware of each need and how He plans to use it to grow us into who we are meant to be, how it will bring Him glory, how we will eventually see beauty rise from the ashes, how we will share the testimony of God’s grace and goodness.

My circumstances might not change, though I want them to or I pray for something else. But trusting in a good God is the beginning of turning my heart from questions and despair to joy and thanksgiving. His thoughts are higher than mine. I cannot comprehend the greater purpose in what He does. But I can run into the Father’s arms, let Him catch my tears, and hear His words of assurance, “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.”

We approach the season of Advent, looking forward with anticipation to the Nativity of Christ at Christmas time. He came as the Light of the world. He came to dispel the shadows and walk with us into the unknown and the unanswered.

“In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus told His friends, “but take heart. I have overcome the world.”

Jesus is the Overcoming One and Only, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. I desperately need the never-ending wellspring of His mercy and grace. His indwelling Holy Spirit helps me walk with courage in this world. His presence is promised to me. That is what I need most.

There is hope in a shadowed world. He is the Light at the end of my tunnel. I will give thanks to the Lord. He has been especially good to me.

Thanksgiving grace.

Monday grace

As the temperatures suddenly turn from unusually warm autumn days to our first light snow, I sense the coming holiday season. If I am not careful, anxiety can blow in like a cold wind.

We are hosting Thanksgiving at the Wright House this year, Sweet William and I. It’s my very first year. Expectations of perfection can kill the joy of anticipation.

As an only child, I am continually thankful for my cousins and extended family. When I was a child, we went to my aunt and uncle’s house because they had more room for us to spread out. As life changed, the way it always does, we moved our Thanksgiving dinner to my cousin’s house, where it became a two-day event. She and her husband loved having people gather in their home, and they were such welcoming hosts. Their house became party central through the years, with any event an opportunity for food, family, friends, and good times.

But she died last December.

Our family struggled to make a decision about our November gathering this year. Then a couple of weeks ago, Sweet William and I were suddenly on the same wave length, and the decision was made. Now lists run through my head, are spoken into my Notes app on my cell, and eventually land in my bullet journal. My head swirls.

There is much to do before I begin to even think about grocery shopping or preparing food.  While we often have people around our table for food and conversation, a group the size of my family and the menu items we prepare take additional planning.

Recently I visited in a beautifully decorated home with wide open spaces, a coffee bar and room to spread out. I enjoyed the lovely atmosphere and hospitable ambiance. When I came back to our humble abode and began to look around at all the old things clustered in its rooms, I began to compare. Dissatisfaction started to sneak into my heart.

During fifty years of marriage, we have gathered things and been happy to live among them. But we don’t have a newly remodeled kitchen, an open concept floor plan or the latest trending decor minimally sitting on a few surfaces.

Comparison kills joy. I once heard someone say, you can compare or you can connect, but you cannot do both.

There’s truth in that statement. When I compare with another’s home, clothes, ministry, or gifts, it begins to divides us. We cannot connect as friends. When I look with eyes of envy, I miss the blessings of my own life. How can I cheer and encourage you when I’m secretly measuring myself as if it is a competition?  

As I sat in my quiet place this early morning, praying and thinking of what lies ahead of me in the coming weeks, a thought emerged. What I want for this home is the presence and peace that come from Jesus Christ. And that will only be available if His presence and peace reside in me. A house is just brick and mortar, wood and shingles. People who abide in them create the atmosphere of love, acceptance, and welcome. And that is what I want to give my family as they open the door and say, “We’re here.”

This week, I will be making my annual Thanksgiving List, a ritual that has become important and necessary for me. I need to remember all the good in my life, the multiplied blessings coming from the Heavenly Father’s gracious hand, because I can be forgetful. I will be thankful for this sturdy house, for chairs and tables where my loved ones can sit and eat and laugh and love. We will be warm and well fed. And we will be together.

I am blessed beyond measure. I will give thanks in all things.

Monday grace.

Sunday grace – the body of Christ

 

How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1

Arriving home late afternoon yesterday, my body felt drained from a long day, but my heart had been filled. 

Sweet William and I attended the visitation and funeral of a long-time friend. Our lives intertwined with his family when we were teens, and while we’ve not frequented the same circles regularly, the friendship remained precious. He and his wife married the same year as us. Their first born arrived the same year as ours. She is an only child, like me. We were intermingled by in-laws, church community, and a long history of loving Jesus. 

His service was beautiful, touching, bringing tears to my eyes as three ministers spoke of his life, his joy, and his faith. I hummed the old songs along with the soloists. 

As anticipated, there were people from the home church where I basically grew up. I was only about 13 years old when I was first asked to play the organ for services, my knees literally knocking at times, the anxiety of wanting to play perfectly without really knowing what I was doing. Several people at the visitation reminded me I had played for their weddings five decades past. I smiled, remembering what a novice I was and what confidence they put in me for their momentous day.  

I saw many of the church family who grew up with me. It was there we matured into young adults, married and had babies. The year our son was born, it seemed there was a baby shower every three months. I reminisced about the spirit-filled services, the powerful sermons, the youth choir that grew into an adult choir because no one wanted to leave. I remember the difficult musical arrangements that forced me to practice and become a better musician. The hours of music Sweet William and I played to prepare and serve added to good years and good memories. 

These are the people who saw me, knew when I messed up, heard the words that should have been inside thoughts, and they still love me.  

We are the older generation now, the ones with grey/balding/dyed heads, wrinkled and sometimes a bit wobbly, talking about our surgeries and the pills we take each morning to get us moving. We have pictures of grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren on our cell phones. We have buried parents and siblings. We have known joy and grief.   

This is the church, the body of Christ, the family of God. It is imperfect and flawed because the people in it are imperfect and flawed, sinners who were saved by grace and are still learning to walk as faithful pilgims. We have lived and experienced life. We made mistakes, fell down and got up again, often with the aid of a fellow sojourner. We’ve grown wiser and deeper in our faith because we have seen God in the living and the dying, in the pain and in the celebration, in answered prayers and those we still wait and hope for. We know in Whom we believe as we wait for our imperfection to be made perfect one heavenly day by the grace of God. 

It seems the church is suffering from bad PR these days. No doubt, people have suffered at the hands of individual church people. That does not make the Church of Jesus Christ a sham or fake. It is made up of broken people, redeemed by the blood of Christ, walking by faith and limping our way Home.  

As I rested on this lazy Sunday afternoon, I began to clean up old text messages on my phone. The process stalled as I read texts from the ending of 2021, when Sweet William and I had covid, when my cousin died in December, when I fractured my ankle on Christmas Day. Contained in those typed missives were comforting words, promised prayers, and love that came through the key strokes. It was the church ministering to us and we were strengthened by their devotion and concern. 

Countless times the church has come to our aid, bringing food, helping with household tasks, visiting and praying, even cleaning refrigerators and an overgrown yard. The church I know is going about the Father’s work, being the hands and feet of Jesus to such as I, again and again. 

The church will one day bury me, as it did our friend yesterday, transferring his church membership to Heaven. They will bring food and their presence, sing the songs and speak the Word. They will offer comfort to family left to grieve and remember. They will be at my ending like they were at my earliest childhood. 

In His closing remarks to His disciples, Jesus prayed that they might be one as He and the Father are one. It is a lofty goal among all of us who are so different and opinionated and sometimes even a little contrary. But the love Jesus gives, the love that fills us and binds us together, will make the prayer a little more of a reality.  

On days like yesterday, we are one. 

Photo by pixels.com

Sunday graces

I wander the gardens, admiring the beauty of flowers blooming in spite of me. I’m a wanna-be gardener who sows with hope. Hope the plant will live and thrive though I don’t prepare the soil well or provide enough fertilizer. Hope that I won’t kill it by neglect or accidently chop it with the weed eater.

Photo by Lyndsey Craven

It’s June and summer peaks around the corner, while spring lingers like a ballerina doing a finale on stage. I applaud her. Much rain brings grass that cannot be contained by the lawn mower, as insects enjoy both flowers and weeds growing in the midst of Kentucky fescue.

Early spring I wrapped tiny twinkle lights around posts on the back deck. They greet me in the pre-dawn morning, and I smile. Sweet William spotted a young dear near the edge of the little woods this week, and regularly we hear the jungle sounds of Pileated Woodpeckers whose young inhabit near us. Song of birds waking the day never fails to delight. It’s the little things, the simple gifts God gives to lighten the load of a world weighed down with heaviness and grief.

A friend just started chemo, another faces the anniversary of her husband’s death, and another just buried her son-in-law. I hear from my young companions dealing with anxiety, too much for those who should be savoring this adventurous time in their lives. Faces of family linger in my mind all day long, me breathing prayers to the Father who knows what they need. The world is not an easy place to live. Heartache and sorrow are nightly news and as close as the front porch.

This week I’m reading the Psalms. Again. They are my Go-To for all the emotions. Verses are marked in my Bible, dates written, and memories surface when I revisit this ancient hymn book.

Psalm 121 is my resting place this morning, familiar as my childhood. I regularly exercise these verses by memory. I recommit them to my heart today. The Holman Christian Standard version speaks beautifully.

I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

It is easy to look for help from other people and places. Friends, counselors, Google. It’s just as easy to wonder where the help is and when is it coming. Fact is, where can I go for what I need but to Jesus? He is the One who speaks Words of Life. He alone is Truth in changing values and ideologies.

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep.

Protector is such a beautiful description. When I turn off my light at bedtime, punch my pillow and pull up the quilt, I give myself permission to rest in peace, because my Protector does not close His eyes or become weary like me. He is watchful. He knows I am flesh, growing older, my earthly tent wearing a little thin. He was there at my beginning and is my promised Protector to the end. I need fear no evil.

The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side.
The sun will not strike you by day or the moon by night.

I am often thankful for this old house where Sweet William and I take refuge from storms, cold and burning heat. At bedtime, I double check doors and locks, yet I know it is the Father who is our Mighty Warrior of defense. “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” And I sing a familiar refrain, “under His wings I am safely abiding.”

The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

I know enough by living long, that trouble comes to all. We get hurt and we get sick. We suffer the blows of living in a broken world. So what do I do with these verses? I believe there is a spiritual harm from which I am protected when I am sheltered in the cross of Christ Jesus. Paul said it rightly, ” . . . we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

Renewed day by day. I am hoping in that promise, a sure expectation that God will do more than I can expect or imagine. He is good and He is strong. He will be with my coming and my going, from my beginning to my earthly ending, into the forever with Him. Hallelujah!

As I walked the yard yesterday, I see flowers growing in the rocks. I remember last year when a marigold pushed through the blacktop driveway and flourished with blooms and gladness. Seeds are scattered by the wind, and with determination of the Creator’s design, they sprout in spite of the harshness of their environment. I stand amazed and gaze at their resiliency.

Can I be the same? Can I go where the wind of the Spirit blows, bear fruit in a harsh place because the Creator of my Salvation calls it forth in me?

I believe it is possible, because the power in me is not my own making. The Holy Spirit lives and breathes, abides and speaks, teaches and guides always. He is the voice of Yahweh to me. Mostly He whispers. I have to listen carefully, push away the yelling and arguments of a culture that would drown out His tender voice.

When I rest the Scriptures in my lap in the morning, I posture myself to listen, open my heart to hear, quiet my soul of its own clamering and complaints. It takes purpose, planning, time. It is important, and I must do it. It takes priority over all other tasks in my day.

The Lord who brings forth food and flowers from the earth for my sustenance and joy, He who is the Word from the beginning, He who is guide and strength for my journey – He is my constant Companion, my Protector, the Keeper of my soul.

My help comes from the Lord.

Sunday grace.

It was a Good Friday, it was a Holy Friday

Good Friday.  Why do we call it good?  From all appearances, that day looked like anything but good.

The Passion of Christ

A false arrest in the wee hours of the morning.  Friends who ran in fear.  One denies he even knew Him.  One betrays Him for a pittance.

Accusations that fly in the face where slaps and spit follow.  Soldiers who had any compassion trained out of them, beating Him to near death.

Mocking words that contradict all He ever said.  A crowd jeering, crying out for death.  Religious leaders leading the rabble-rousers.  Political leaders afraid to do what is right.

A heavy, splintered cross laid on a back where the flesh was already torn away.  Crown of thorns piercing the brow with its poison.  A long and hard Via Dolorosa.  Golgotha in view.

Sound of nails in flesh and sinew.  Thud of crosses in deep holes.  Cries of pain and agony that only the crucified know.

A few lone followers, women and John, deep in the throes of grief and grasping for some understanding behind all this suffering and finality to a ministry that flourished only a week ago.

Alone. Forsaken. Separated.   Darkness. Earthquake. Storm. Death.

Sin exposed to the judgment of a Holy God.

Nothing of this day looked good.  This was a day gone horribly wrong.

Or was it?

“The King of the Jews” was written in three languages, a foretaste of the Gospel preached to all nations.

A thief on another cross entered into Paradise, giving us hope that salvation is still offered at the very last hour for those who believe.

Two secret disciples, Joseph of Arametha and Nicodemus, come out of hiding to do the right thing and acknowledge the One who came from God.

Forgiveness offered from a heart only understood by a loving Heavenly Father.

Words spoken from parched and bleeding lips that shout the victory battle cry, “It is finished!”

A veil torn in two so that all people will know they are welcomed into The Presence.

The penalty paid in full, judgment recompensed.

A Redeemer revealed

Blood of The Lamb poured out to take away the sin of the world.

The Plan, laid foundationally eons before by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, brought to completion.

And I see it.  And it is good!

Remembering the cross of Christ I recall my sins and His suffering.  My debt and His payment.  My hopelessness and His free gift.  My searching and His seeking love.  My past and now my future.

Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe. 
Sin had left a crimson stain.  He washed it white as snow.

Good Friday.  It was a good day – for me and for the world.

And remember, Sunday is on the way.

Reposted from 2013

Sunday grace

Sometimes I cannot get something out of my head. As I read the Gospel account of the Passover preparations, this thing stays with me.

Jesus sent Peter and John to look for a man carrying a water jar. He told them to ask him about the guest room and to follow him and make preparations for their Passover celebration.

There’s a lot going on here that would seem to be women’s work in first century Judea. Carrying water. Making a room ready. Preparing a Passover meal.

It was no small task to clean and cook. There were details the Jewish people knew from Scripture that needed to be exacting. There were traditions they had gathered around tables for hundreds of years, foods and added activities that helped the people to remember and provided a means to teach their children.

I wonder, did Peter and John have any help? Did they feel this was demeaning, this task of preparing a meal? Or did they feel special, being appointed for this assignment, because, well, they were the “important disciples?” I don’t know, but I’ve been considering these questions.

When I’m required to do lowly work, what are my first thoughts and attitude? If I’m asked to do something that will bring me public acclaim or at least a pat on the back, how do I respond, knowing it will surely be noticed? When the job is unseen, maybe even unappreciated, are my thoughts pure or disgruntled? Am I simply glad to serve or am I annoyed that I have to?

I don’t need to tell you the answer. My pride may be showing up more than what humility I think I possess. I’ve been faced with both kinds of responsibilities this week, and there’s been some heart examination going on.

In the upper room, with all preparations completed, dinner table discussion ensued among the twelve about who was the greatest. It was not their first time on this topic. And it was not the first time Jesus tried to explain and show them that the least in the kingdom will be the greatest. A little child is of utmost importance to Him, He told them, and should be to those who want to be a disciple. They were dull of hearing. Sometimes I am too.

Jesus took a towel and a basin, knelt before one man, removed a shoe and began to wash one dirty foot at a time, all the way around the table. They were shocked, dismayed. Peter protested. What kind of common posture was their Lord and Master taking, Him on the floor before the likes of them?

 “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.” –John 13:12-17 NLT

I wonder how often those men talked of that night and remembered the time their Savior washed their feet? I believe the message finally got through to them: after they saw their risen Lord, after they were filled with the Holy Spirit, after their eyes were opened to the plan God had been working out all along.

The disciples and those under their teaching would write of servanthood, of doing as Christ had done.

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” –1 Peter 4:10 NLT

“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” — 1 John 3:18 NLT

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another.” –Romans 12:10 NLT

The early church’s lesson is my lesson to learn. To serve in love. To serve without complaining. To serve when no one is watching. To serve with a heart of joy. Because in serving I reflect the heart of Christ. He made the role of Servant a high calling.

Beth Moore says, “. . . we may have no idea as to the significance of the work God has called us to do.”

The work He calls us to do might be to speak before thousands. It could be to nurture a child’s heart. It could be in the public eye where many will notice. Or it might be an obscure room where we kneel down and wash another’s feet.

The work of Christ is worthy, no matter what He calls me to do. There is a blessing in store when I do whatever He asks. And so I pray:

Search me, O God my Savior, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious and self-centered thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You. Lead me in the path You took, the path of righteousness, the path of servanthood. I want to follow You by serving others.

Sunday grace.

Walking toward Passover

The moon tonight will be at her full. I’ve been watching it for days, early mornings as it illuminates still darkened rooms, anticipating. Recently I heard someone say he did not rise until the sun was up. I thought, “Oh, you don’t know what you are missing.” The pre-dawn is my favorite time of day. Perhaps it is my introverted self who enjoys the stillness, with only the flicker of gas logs and perking coffee while all else is quiet. My mind is at rest before an active day begins.

I notice the moon before I’m out of bed, shining through the blinds. It is a sign, a sign of the coming Passover celebration, only a month away. Because Passover always begins on a full-moon evening.

Passover tells the story of the nation of Israel being released from the bondage of Egypt. The traditional meal will be eaten as the events of the exodus are recounted in detail. It is a time of teaching the young, a time to remember past slavery, a time to give thanks for God’s deliverance, and a time to celebrate redemption with family and friends.

I love to think of and celebrate Passover for it has deep significance for me as a Christ follower. Jesus’ last meal with his friends in an upper room was the event of Passover. It was the occasion of Him giving them His last words of encouragement and instruction. It was there He told them to love one another just like He had loved them. That last dinner was a tender time of communion with those who had been with Him through victories and miracles and hopes for the coming kingdom of God.

During Passover, Jesus washed the dirty feet of a dozen men, took a towel and served them on His knees to their astonishment and protests. He was Lord and Master. How could He be doing this lowly, slave-like task? They could not grasp it as He told them they would be blessed if they did the same.

At the Passover table Jesus revealed that one would betray Him, stirring up confusion, suspicion, and self-doubt. Who could possibly do such a thing? And for what reason? Besides, these were able-bodied, strong men who would surround and protect their Teacher? No, that could not happen.

Jesus implored His friends to abide in Him, to dwell in, find their home and comfort in His presence and love like a branch receives life from the vine. Little did they realize that He would soon be taken forcefully from them, with the worst days of their lives on the heels of Jesus’ arrest. They would need a place to go, a shelter under the shadow of the Almighty, as their world reeled and shook with the events during a Passover weekend.

They did not understand, those faithful followers, men and women alike, what Jesus was about to accomplish. Though He tried to tell them on other occasions, they were dull of hearing, listening to their own thoughts of triumphing over their enemies, of securing an earthly kingdom where they would sit at Jesus’ left and right, ruling and reigning with Him. Victory and conquest, that is what they were expecting.

Instead, there would be soldiers, an arrest, a fleeing for their very lives. Denial and forsaking their Master. Darkness and chaos. A mock trial with rabble rousers calling for the release of a criminal instead of the innocent Lamb of God. They could not see Redemption sitting at the Passover table with them, truth unfolding before their eyes.

Before they left the upper room of this Passover finale, Jesus gave them unleavened bread and fruit of the vine, and He called it His body and His blood. He told them to eat and drink it. As they remembered their slavery and emancipation from Egypt, they were now to remember Him. They did not comprehend then, but later they would, and thereafter they would think of Jesus life and death, the salvation He provided, each time they ate and drink in His name.

It happened on a Passover. The Lamb of God slain for the sake of the world. His death would mean deliverance and freedom, the like they had never known.

It is time to remember and prepare for the celebration.