Sunday, April 23, 2017

Loose Change

LINDA’S DAD WOULD PLAY A GAME with the kids and grandkids where he would rattle the loose change in pockets and would challenge the kids to guess how much. The one closest to the amount got the money held in his pockets. He would often give each one hints like, “too much” or “too little” in order to help them narrow down the amount, often to the penny. It was great fun and sometimes yielded a goodly amount of money.

This kind of change we all welcome. It’s change wherein we can assume a benefit. But too often in our lives the change which lays hidden is a frightful thing.  We don’t know what the outcome will be.  Will it be too much or too little? Will it bring growth or loss? That’s the way it is with change, there are just some things we do not know.

There are times when change happens all at once, the earthquake that can disrupt the whole of our lives. Sometimes it comes in incremental steps, getting us ready for new life, like the arrival of a child or grandchild. There are times that change just affects our preferences, like the style of music in a worship service, and there are times when the change affects our foundations, like the loss of a job or loved one. One thing is sure, just like grandpa’s pockets, change is inevitable.

Now, here’s the good news, in spite of all the change in our lives, our God does not change. The Holy Scriptures tell us, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change.” (James 1:17) And again, “I the LORD do not change.” (Malachi 3:16) And, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

If we have a powerful and loving God who does not change, neither does His love, grace and mercy. He is the One who promises never to leave us nor forsake us. I personally find comfort in King David’s words to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.” (1 Chronicles 28:20)

God, our God, will never fail us, no matter if the change is little or much. Maybe it’s better just to receive the change from His gracious and deep pockets and count it a blessing.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Sweet, Sweet Savor

ONE OF MY FAVORITE SMELLS is that of a baby that has just been bathed with Johnson’s Baby Shampoo. I love to hold the tiny one, put my nose to their little head and breathe deeply. It’s the aroma of clean, of newness. I love it.

On this Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the newness of life. The sweet savor that not only fills the air, but fills the heart as well. I wonder what aroma followed the women as they made their way to the tomb with spices in hand to finish the burial process of their Lord and friend, Jesus? Were their minds taken back to other anointings, other deaths? Would these aromas remain with them throughout the day, throughout their lives to remind them of this horrendous death?

As they enter the garden where the tomb was hewn, what early spring, dew-drenched smells invaded their senses?  Were they aware at all, too overcome by the grief of the day? One can only imagine.

But what change overwhelmed all of their senses when they arrived at the empty tomb? Questions. Fear. Doubt. Wonder. What fresh aroma greeted them, the aroma of life, of a world forever changed. The spices they carried no longer filled them with the dread of death, but now filled them with the newness of life. The fragrances they now possessed became a bouquet that would forever remind them of the miracle of a resurrected life.

What aroma draws you to life? Is it the smell of your favorite meal being prepared? Is the bouquet of scents that fills your head as you stroll through a rain-washed redwood forest? Or is it the clean head of a newly bathed baby? This year as you move through life, take time to savor the sweet aromas of life, and let them bring to you the reality of the Resurrection, the assurance of new life. For Jesus is risen and new life abounds offered to all who would believe and receive. Because Jesus lives we too can live and know life to it’s fullest. (John 10:10)

Believe! Receive! Breathe deeply! For He is risen! He is risen, indeed!

Monday, April 03, 2017

Spot-On

IF CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS, then the home I grew up in was near the throne room of God. Seriously, our home was in a constant state of being cleaned, not that it ever had time enough to get dirty! Whether it was dusting behind the couch in the living room, or combing the fringe on the rug in the dining room, or straightening the closets, we were always cleaning something. If not the house then on your person. Washing behind your ears, combing your hair or tucking in your shirt. Yup, God was pretty close by.

My mom had a plan and being spotless was on the top of the list. The only real problem was with me, I was anything but spotless. My mantra? “Outta sight, outta mind.” If you doubted that all you need do was check under my bed. Empty space was meant for collecting stuff, just check out my garage today!

I guess my mom and Jesus had something in common, they’re always cleaning up someone else’s problems.

Case in point. Remember one of Jesus’ last evenings with His disciples? (John 13) Jesus enters the room where the meal is to be served and instead of sitting down to be served, He strips down and takes the role of the servant and washes His disciple’s feet. He had the right just to sit down, maybe even to be lost in the contemplation of His coming death, but rather than think of self, he thought of others and their need to be clean. Of course with Jesus every act is a lesson for action. Jesus said to them, “You call Me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you,” (John 13:12-15)

The truth is we are all dirty, marked with that spot of sin that soon encompasses the whole of our being. It was for this reason that Jesus came, to remove that stain of sin, to wash us white as snow. As the prophet Isaiah records, “‘Come, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’” (Isaiah 1:18)

All the way to the Cross Jesus was at the work of cleaning up the messes of our lives. Whether those messes be a broken body or a broken spirit, Jesus was at the work of cleaning. And He still is at that work. The work of the spotless lamb of God sacrificing His precious, sinless life in order to bring us spotless before our heavenly Father. The work completed on the Cross still washes us clean today.

Years ago a good friend of mine penned a song that has stuck with me to this day,

Come on down to the river
Jesus is a-washin’ us up.
We all go down dirty in the sweet living water,
And we’re clean when we come back up.

Do you need that cleaning today? Come to Jesus and let Him wash you head to toe.

The Groaning Ginkgo

OUTSIDE OUR KITCHEN WINDOW we have a very nice ginkgo tree. We love the tree. In the late spring we relish it’s effervescent green leaves. The the summer we welcome the dappled shadows it throws upon the ground. In the fall our eyes are overwhelmed by the bright yellow leaves that seem to be dancing in sunlight. Even in the winter its barren branches draw us to gaze heavenward. But now, in the early spring we can almost hear it groaning as it pushes forth its leaves. I can hear it say, “Ugh this is hard work, but it’s what I am created to do, so push forth I must!”

The Christian life has its seasons as well, each one of them important to fulfilling that for which we are created. We have our summers full of life and our fall season that glimmers with the hope of the year to come. We have our winters, too. Times for rest and reflection. Then comes the spring, that time of new growth, a time of pushing once again, of straining from our core. It is at these times we can often wonder if it is worth it. After all, there is something comfortable about the restful sleep of winter. But, winter is not where we are called to live.

God has created us not for the winter. As purposeful as that time may be, He has called us for the fruit producing season of summer and fall; and spring is the process by which we get there. Even with all its groaning.

I don’t know what season you may find yourself in today, but remember God has called you to fruitfulness, to be found in the fullness for which we were created. So, bloom on dear friend, even if it takes a little grunting and groaning. Know that as you push through, once again living forth as God designed, you shall be a blessing to all, reflecting His glory.

So, let us grow!