The Gift of Easters Past (…and Present and Future!)

Most of us have probably heard of “The Ghost of Christmas Past” from Dicken’s classic book, A Christmas Carol, and it’s in that spirit that I address the topic of past Easters in my life, although they’re more giftly than ghostly!                                           Easter was sweet but quiet this year. We enjoyed a lovely sunrise service centered around celebrating the resurrection of Christ and the incredible wonder of God’s delight in showing us mercy, but for the first time in forever, there were no colored Easter eggs or the fun of watching children have an Easter egg hunt, & I found myself feeling rather sad. What did you do yesterday? Did you have a happy or rather lonesome Easter?  To cheer myself up, I searched through my photos, relived some of the joys of Easters past (such as last year was with Jon’s family in Spokane, Washington), and wrote a few haikus to share with you from Easters past with Mike’s family. I hope these photos put a smile on your face and perhaps bring to mind happy Easters from your own Easters past.

On EasterResurrection Morn:   Dress up; worship; fellowship,   Hunt for Easter eggs.

On the Inevitable Messiness of Little ChildrenWhy is it each day  That after breakfast’s over  I need to bathe again?

On Asian Delights (Which also Delight Americans!)Ice cream, popsicles,  Cotton-candy stickiness…  Sometimes life is sweet.
(Yes, even if it’s “Green Tea Ice Cream.”)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love” (Micah 7:18, ESV).  God loves us all!! I hope that no matter what your Easter Day was like, you’re cheered by this wonderful gift of Easter present and future: Jesus! Please accept God’s gift of love to you in Jesus!If you live in some part of the world where you don’t have access to the Bible, you may not have read the resurrection story from the Book of John, chapter 20, in the Bible, so I wanted to share it with you:

 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Joy to You this Easter Day! He is Risen Indeed!

In honor of its being Resurrection Sunday, I’ve laid aside my usual post on the Song of Solomon and want to share some beautiful poetry written by the daughter of one of my friends. Lynette Garlets is the mother of four and in the midst of moving her family from Michigan to the Southeast. She wrote these poems first in her head while nursing her young children during the midnight hours of last Easter season. I hope you’ll be as enriched as I have been by reflecting on her meditations.

                                                       Mary’s Delivery

She carried a burden for nearly a year.
He carried his for thirty-three clear.

She traveled the days before her time.
His last walk was the Golgotha climb.

She labored for hours with groans and sweat.
His labor made the sky turn black.

She spilled her blood when her baby came.
He spilled it all, his race to reclaim.

She treasured these things and pondered on them.
His treasure was the rescue of men.

The cry, “It is finished, it is done!”
And Mary kissed her sleeping son.  (~Lynette Garlets)

                           Jesus 

His only crown was one of thorns.
His only throne a cross.
His palace–where they laid his bones.
His subjects all, he lost.

His naked body clothed my own.
His wounds healed all of me.
His flowing blood paid all my loan.
He won my loyalty.

So raise your flag of homage now.
Sing his song anew.
Love him and before Him bow.
He loved all of you.  (~Lynette Garlets)

(As it says in the Bible:) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth 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).

Resurrection

The woolly worm within its casket sleeps–
All dried and hardened, given up for dead;
All crushed and crowded in its narrow bed.
Like death he neither eats nor breathes nor creeps.
A secret there enclosed, its casement keeps,
A mystery so wondrous, it is said,
That in due time this coffin it will shed
To spread its wings of light, to heav’n it sweeps. (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)Can we accept this miracle divine
And justly give the glory to our God?
And then to learn the lesson of the sign–
The metamorphosis of Christ to laud.  If we believe the truth of only one,
Then our own transformation we have none.  (~Sonnet by Lynette Garlets)

And finally, a beautiful hymn written 150 years ago:Crown Him With Many Crowns

  1. Crown Him with many crowns,
    The Lamb upon His throne;
    Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
    All music but its own!
    Awake, my soul and sing
    Of Him Who died for thee,
    And hail Him as thy matchless King
    Through all eternity.
  2. Crown Him the Lord of love!
    Behold His hands and side—
    Rich wounds, yet visible above,
    In beauty glorified.
    No angel in the sky
    Can fully bear that sight,
    But downward bends His wond’ring eye
    At mysteries so bright.
  3. Crown Him the Lord of life!
    Who triumphed o’er the grave,
    Who rose victorious in the strife
    For those He came to save.
    His glories now we sing,
    Who died, and rose on high,
    Who died eternal life to bring,
    And lives that death may die.
  4. Crown Him the Lord of heav’n!
    One with the Father known,
    One with the Spirit through Him giv’n
    From yonder glorious throne,
    To Thee be endless praise,
    For Thou for us hast died;
    Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days
    Adored and magnified.

    (Matthew Bridges, pub.1852
    v. 3 by Godfrey Thring, pub.1874
    copyright status: Public Domain)

Tangy Salad: Mozzarella Balls and Cherry Tomatoes

Sometimes simple is as good as it gets, and if you’re looking for a quick and healthy side or snack, few are easier to make, yummier, or more nutritious:

1 pound mozzarella cheese balls (or cube your own)
1 pound cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar (can be left out, but it really adds)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (great vinegar is key, so get the best you can)
2 tablespoons olive oil (second key, so ditto; if you can afford it, get first press)
1/2  teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2  teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon parley
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix altogether and let it rest for a few minutes before serving to blend the flavors. (Or, if  you’re starving, eat it ASAP! )

God “giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalm 136:25-26).

The Great Divide on Good Friday

You see the image often this time of year – three crosses in silhouette standing atop a small hill.  It’s a common image representing a most uncommon event and a critical truth.

Three men were crucified that day, two rebels or thieves and Jesus of Nazareth.  The rebels were lawbreakers.  They were convicted and being crucified for their crimes.  They had sinned too many times to count.

Jesus was sinless.  He was being crucified for claiming to be the Messiah and the son of God.

Religious leaders, people in authority, and countless others couldn’t believe it.  They thought the claim was blasphemy. Ignoring the miracles he had performed and despite fervently looking for and impatiently waiting for the promised Messiah who would redeem the Jewish people, most couldn’t or wouldn’t believe Jesus was the one.  If what he claimed couldn’t be true, it had to be blasphemy and he had to be crucified.   So, they nailed him to a cross and crucified him with the two thieves, one on his left, one on his right – a detail important enough to be described by all four writers of the Gospels.

Many in the crowd of onlookers shouted insults at Jesus and mocked him.  Even the two thieves taunted him.  In the midst of their own dying, they belittled the only one who could save them.

Then something happened.  One of the thieves noticed something.   There was something different about this Jesus dying next to him. He didn’t “take it like a man.”  He took it differently than the two thieves, differently from how you’d expect a normal human to take it.  He took it differently than the others who had been crucified — the soldiers noticed this.  One of them even said so. Despite being savagely flogged, torturously nailed to a cross, and struggling just to breathe – he still didn’t lash out.  He didn’t curse the soldiers or the crowd that mocked him. He didn’t respond insult for insult. He did something no one else did. He prayed for them — for their forgiveness. And he asked a friend standing nearby to take care of his mother. At a time when others being crucified would weep in sorrow or call out in defiance to the end, Jesus looked to the needs of others.

And it finally clicked – at least for one of the two thieves and one of the soldiers.  Maybe this Jesus really was different.  Maybe he was the Messiah.  Maybe he was who he claimed to be.

When the one thief sarcastically taunted Jesus again saying, “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us.”

The thief who now recognized something unique in Jesus rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what we deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Calling him by name he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Then Jesus, through all the pain and anguish he was suffering for the sins of others chose to look out for the needs of one more. He saved the thief also, saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

With that, Jesus forgave that thief of his sins, all his crimes, all his past as well.

The thief had finally recognized and acknowledged that Jesus was who he claimed — that he was Lord and God.

Jesus saved the thief.

Dying on a cross beside Jesus, legs and hands nailed to the tree, this thief couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t do anything.  He couldn’t run to the temple, couldn’t sacrifice a lamb or a dove, couldn’t help care for the sick or the poor, couldn’t help little old ladies across the street. Literally and figuratively, he couldn’t lift a single finger to save himself or earn his salvation. Jesus saved him all the same.  Mercifully saved him by grace.

The other thief – bitter, defiant and spiritually blind — died a thief and a sinner.

Three crosses on a hill.  The sinner thief on one side, the saved thief on the other, and Jesus in between separating the two.  Fitting and profound.  As clear an image as you can imagine.  Jesus is the great divide. Graphically and spiritually, Jesus separates the saved from the lost.  His grace is sufficient.

And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!’”  (Mark 15: 39).

He then brought them [Paul and Silas] out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’  They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’” (Acts 16: 30-31).

(This post was written by Dr. Larry Hembroff, a fellow member of our Blue Water Writers’ Group as well as a lifelong friend. Thank you, Larry!)

A Poem for Maundy Thursday: “Be Still”

As we grow older, it’s easy to become discouraged over unmet goals and broken dreams. Where did the time go? How is it that our sand castles washed away? What really matters to us during our life on earth? What will happen to us after we die? What will remain of the legacy we hoped to pass on? Maundy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter Sunday…a special time to reflect on the ways we have failed in the past year—often despite our best intentions—and our need for restoration and renewal. In many churches, it is a time for practicing foot washing, following the example of Christ, who washed the dust off his disciples’ feet. Today, I hope you take time to reflect on your year and find contentment both in knowing that God will be exalted in the earth and that believers will remain.

Be still: “Be content.” Be still: “Continue to be.”

“Be Still”

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen,
I will be exalted in the earth”
(Psalm 46:10).

Earth.
Time.
Life.
Me.

Earth spins.
Times fly.
Grass greens.
I try.

New earth quakes,
Time to mourn.
Springtime buds,
I’m reborn.

Now earth shakes
Time brings change.
Grass grows tall,
I arrange.

The world turns,
As time goes by;
The flowers bloom,
And so do I.

The world slows,
And seasons change.
The flowers fade.
I rearrange.

The earth stands still;
But seasons pass.
Though life distills,
My heart is glass.

The earth grows old.
This too shall pass.
Dreams drop like rain
On dying grass.

Still earth remains,
Though time stands still.
The grass is gone,
But I am still.

(Kathryn W. Armstrong, April 07, 2017)

 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28).

(P.S.—If you’d like to attend a Maundy Thursday service and live near Grand Rapids, we’re having one at Calvary Church (on the Beltline) at 7:00 pm.)

 

God is Like…

This is a forward from my cousin, Jim, and I have no clue where it originated, but it really made me smile, so I’m passing it along. If any of you know who the teacher is, please let me know so I can give proper credit! Thanks.

A fifth grade teacher in a Christian school asked her class to look at TV commercials and see if they could use them in 20 ways to communicate ideas about God.

Here are some of the results:

God is like
BAYER ASPIRIN
He
works miracles.
God is like
A FORD
He’s
got a better idea.
God is like
COKE
He’s
the real thing.
God is like
HALLMARK CARDS
He
cares enough to send His very best.
God is like
TIDE
He
gets the stains out others leave behind.
God is like
GENERAL ELECTRIC
He
brings good things to life.
God is like
WALMART
He
has everything.
God is like
ALKA-SELTZER
Try
Him, you’ll like Him!
God is like.
SCOTCH TAPE
You
can’t see Him, but you know He’s there.
God is like
DELTA
He’s
ready when you are.
God is like
ALLSTATE
You’re
in good hands with Him.
God is like
VO-5 Hair Spray
He holds through all kinds of weather.
God is like
DIAL SOAP
Aren’t
you glad you have Him? Don’t you wish everybody did?
God is like
The
U.S. POST OFFICE
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet nor ice will keep Him from
His appointed destination.
God is like
Chevrolet
He’s
the heartbeat of America.
God is like
Maxwell House
Good to the very last drop.
God is like
B
o u n t y
He is the quicker picker upper, can handle the tough jobs,
And He won’t fall apart on you.
God is like
The Energizer Bunny
He keeps going, going, and going.

Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:2-4, ESV).

 

 

Closed Doors

Carri and I used to be in the same small group (years ago), and she’s been writing poetry even longer (since she was twelve)! I hope some day she will publish a book of her poems, but in the meantime, she’s letting me share this evocative  poem about grief with you.


Title:  “Closed Doors”
Author: Carri Casserino
Date: 02/12/16

Grief came and sat next to me a time ago,
The death was hurtful and unexpected.
I sought God’s face in the midst of my pain,
And He looked at me, “Seek my way,” he said.So, I stumble around seeking answers,
And what I see are open doors.
Why? Is it not finished?, What are the reasons?
Will there ever be peace, hope and not war?As time moves along, I find I can close one door,
And then another, as I find an end to the thing
I do for you, my loved one, my heart.
Each closed door is progress to my grief vanishing.
So, as I find ways to say good-bye, I can close a door,
And this closing puts away my pain.
Surely there is peace somewhere, there is purpose,
As I look to God’s face for the end to my heart’s rain.But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him”  (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

(Carri allowed me to use the photo of herself and the radiant sunset. The rest are pictures I took last spring at Clos Luce Manor [french home of Leonardo da Vinci in his latter years] in the Loire River Valley of France.)