Service That Demands A Reason

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It’s not long after children learn to speak that they begin asking questions. I think the favorite of all time is ‘why’. It’s natural for them to wonder why birds fly, why trees are called trees and why they can’t stand in shopping carts. They desire to understand their world; and reasons help them make sense of things. We’re the same way.

I ask myself the ‘why question’ at times when it comes to my faith and service. Much of what we are called to do by faith doesn’t make sense when we walk by sight. A re-visiting of Jesus’ story puts things back into perspective and service makes sense for me once again. I hope this re-telling of His story will do that for you as well.

A Sacrificial Death

crucified-cross-578217_960_720-pixabayThe day was long and dismal; the haters many. Evil enjoyed its finest hour as the Savior of the World hung dying on a cross. Darkness seized the day. Mockers shouted blasphemous cruelty at the One who came to seek and save that which was lost. While gamblers parted His garments, the Son-of-Man made provision for His mother and gave eternal hope to a dying thief.

The moment had come. Death took his best shot. With three short words, “It Is Finished”, Jesus commended His Spirit into the hands of His Father and Life breathed His last. The earth shook. The rocks were split. The thick veil of the temple was rent; torn from top to bottom by hands far greater than the ones that nailed His Son to the tree. His mother was grieved, his disciples fearful and confused as the Hope of Nations was laid in a borrowed tomb. Was there ever so palpable a darkness?

Hope Resurrected

empty-cave-1642215_960_720-pixabay-crerative-commonsIt was the third day. Morning came and the last vestige of night rolled away with the stone. The Son of God rose with power, conquering the very death that once slew Him. Women came to anoint His body for a proper burial but He wasn’t there. The tomb lay empty, housing nothing more than a linen napkin and the empty shell of grave cloths. Life and Light conquered death and darkness; and every hope once buried with Christ rose with Him. And so we live.

The Reason that Demands Our Service

Every bit of brutality Jesus endured on the cross was payment for a debt He didn’t owe. The debt was ours. Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. This wasn’t something that just happened. It was for this very reason He came into the world. Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” He chose this!

We serve Him because He is worthy. We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19.  His death is our payment.His resurrection is our hope. His word is our message. His love is our proof and His promise is our future.sunrise-1460243_960_720-pixabay-creative-commons 1 Corinthians 2:9 But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” We serve Him so that others may know; until the last battle, on the last day. And then, in peace we will serve Him still.

How About You

Still asking yourself the ‘why question’? Wondering if this Jesus is really all that He’s professed to be? You’re in good company. One of His disciples had the same question. John 1:46 And Nathanael said to him “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” And so I extend the invitation to you.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Pictures: Compliments of Pixabay Creative Commons CC0.

 

 

 

Comfortable Crosses

Sunshine Cross 923890_960_720PixabayMost all of us have been there before. You know, that place where your ‘should-have-been’ and your ‘wish-it-was’ doesn’t line up with your ‘how-it-is’. It’s not a fun place to be but there I was. I didn’t say anything, at least not out loud but the statement was made all the same. “Lord, I don’t know how to be anymore.” I wasn’t looking for an answer. I didn’t ask a question. Silent but sure the answer came, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32. What was I to do with that?

I had the rebuttals (both witty and whiny), the wherefores and the reasons. They were good ones too. I know. I worked hard on them, mulling them over and refining them like polished silver. ‘It’s-not fair’ and ‘I shouldn’t have to’ seemed pretty good. After all, I wasn’t at fault in the matter. The problem was my excuses didn’t line up with my calling.

Comfortable Crosses

Cross Necklace1330677_960_720PixabayI sat alone, thinking after prayer meeting one morning. My mind wandered a bit until my eye caught the cross over the baptistery. It’s a simple cross; sanded, stained and varnished to match the rest of the wood in the church. It lends a respectful nod to the cross of long ago but lacks the rugged, brutal character of the one on which our Savior died.

While I stray near the borders  of the comfort zone of my faith, I’m not so keen to sacrifice for others or to bestow upon them the grace that was so freely given to me. To be honest, I’m better acquainted with a shiny cross around my neck than a rugged one behind my back.

Call of the Cross

Jesus addressed a group of His followers, explaining the demands of service.  Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. The call of the cross is ‘life by a thousand deaths’. It’s the daily laying aside of our rights and privileges for the sake of others. It’s getting us out of the way so they can see Him. That’s not easy.

If anyone had the right to demand His rights, it was Jesus. He could have cried unfair. He could have saved Himself. He did neither. Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do you not know that I have power to crucify you, and power to release you?” John 19:10. Pilate couldn’t take His life and he didn’t have to. Jesus said, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:18. Our pardon was the plan of the Father. Our payment was the price of His Son. Our privilege is to take up the cross and follow.

How About You

Do you struggle with this as I do? Do you wonder how to get past the natural tendency to want to strike back? We must look beyond the pleasure of retaliation to the place of restoration. Jesus gave us the example. He made the pathway clear. We just need to walk in it; and we do that by faith. You’ll be amazed to witness this uncomfortable cross bring comfort and peace.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Pictures taken from Pixabay Creative Commons CCO

Permanently Erased

pencil-1277094_960_720 PixabayYou can almost smell it in the air. It should have its own season. Yep, it’s back-to-school time. While I don’t have a pony in this race back-to-school, I have perused the supply aisle at least once this summer. Why? For the love of school supplies and the memories they evoke. New pencils & pens, rulers & notebook paper. Love it, love it, love it! Protractors & compasses; not just for geometry. I could make flowers and measure angles & circumferences. Okay, so I wasn’t a math whiz. All those supplies in my well-appointed binder made this organization-loving heart of mine sing.

My Eraser

I possess some perfectionist tendencies that were evident in grade school, making one particular supply a must have. My eraser. It started the year as a clean, pink rubber parallelogram and ended a small, dirty and rounder shadow of its former self. There were other erasers, cuter & fancier ones to be sure but they either smeared the pencil lead  over the paper or worked a hole in it. This one was different. It lifted the penciled errors onto itself, leaving dirty rubber shards on my desk. When the task was completed; the shards, the last vestige of my mistakes, were brushed onto the floor and swept away, never to be seen again. To this day I must have a pink eraser.

Permanently Erased

An encounter with a holy God left me with a bit of a problem. He wasn’t interested in myeraser-316446_960_720 Pixabay (2) perfectionist tendencies. He demanded perfection. My failures are many and grievous.  Good deeds and sacrifices could cover my them but could never take them away.

Jesus stepped in and, like that eraser took my sin upon Himself. 1 Peter 2:24  who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. With that one perfect sacrifice, my sins (like shards) were wiped away; never to be seen again. Psalm 103:12  As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. I still mess up and to this day I find myself in need of a Savior. I’m grateful for this standing offer: 1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

How About You

Do you long for a clean slate, wishing parts of your past could be erased? Do you hesitate to go to God, fearing your sins long-since-forgiven will be thrown back in your face? Take heart dear friend.  Jeremiah 31:34  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  The rebellious people of God were given this promise if they would return to Him. It’s there for you as well. So, how about it?

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Pictures from Pixabay Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

The Author’s Critique

Cynthia Ruchti headshot 2016My first encounter with the author was brief and interesting. I spent little more than a few minutes mingling with other conferees when Cynthia approached the group. She was warmly greeted and seemed to be known by most. I introduced myself, expecting a cursory nice-to-meet-you. Instead, she was friendly and welcoming; stating how glad she was to meet ‘me’ and how much she looked forward to our time together. It was a far cry from the pseudo-smile this newbie expected to receive.

When she left, one of the writers told me that Cynthia liked my work. I insisted that was ridiculous and that she had no way of knowing that. I was told she wouldn’t have acted that way if she didn’t like me. She would’ve shaken my hand and moved on.

Her Critique

We had 15 minutes scheduled for my critique in a room filled with tables and other critiques. She sought a quiet place where we could review my work privately while I encouraged myself to not cry or take the criticism personally. “Don’t worry about all the red marks” she said. The pages were littered with red marks. More self-talk. “Breathe just breathe.” I expected rejection. As Waters Gone By high res(1)Our 15 minute meeting turned into an hour as she instructed and encouraged me. She showed me what to remove, what corrections to make and how to paint pictures with words.  Cynthia went on to talk of beauty, possibility, potential and what she envisioned for the future. It was amazing.

I began reading her book in my doctor’s office. Though I received her instruction readily, it wasn’t until I read her work that I understood. Her words came to life in the pages of her book. I saw and felt things described but not stated. Reading the book helped me understand the author.

His Critique

Years ago, I heard about a God who loved me. While I believed that He loved everybody I didn’t understand His love to be personal. It couldn’t be. My list of offenses was lengthy and the crimes weighty. His words to me were encouraging and in a quiet place He spoke to me.  Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” Knowing myself as I did, I expected the worst from Him…rejection. His vantage point was as far different from mine as were His thoughts. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. I expected rejection. He offered hope and a future.

I later picked up His book. His words were life and wisdom and peace. The more I read, the more I understood myself, the world, and Him. He made sense.

How About You

Have you ever wondered if God really does love you? If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have done what He did for you. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Maybe you have difficulty understanding Him. May I suggest reading His book? It will help you understand The Author.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

A special thanks to Cynthia Ruchti for her words of help and encouragement and  the provision of these photos. You can visit her website, Cynthia Ruchti Hemmed in Hope at www.cynthiaruchti.com.

 

 

 

About Those Lemons

pink-lemonade-795029__180 Pixabay Creative Commons CC0Make lemonade. That’s the solution-part of the adage, ‘when life gives you lemons’. Those proverbial lemons refer to life’s trials; bumps that pop up on an otherwise pretty smooth road. Those trials take many forms, i.e. car problems, illness, trials of faith, etc. It could be ‘that one person’ that comes at just the right time with just ‘the wrong’ thing to say that sets your teeth on edge. In any case, the advice is the making of lemonade. In other words, make something good out of a bad situation.

Purposeful Trials

I searched ‘uses for lemons’ and found everything from recipes to remedies. It’s amazing how many wonderful things can come from such bitter fruit. Trials are much the same way. As bitter and uncomfortable as they can be, trials (like lemons) do serve a purpose. In the hand of God, they are as versatile and even needful in the making of a beautiful life as lemons can be in the hands of a culinary artist.

This past year has been a bit problematic for me and walking was not the carefree activity it had always been. I was able to hide the pain for quite a while until a knee injury sealed the deal and left me with a leg brace, crutches, surgery and a rather ‘lovely’ Quasimodo-esque posture and gate. Everything about me cried, “This woman is hurting and needs help.”  Doctor’s orders rendered me unable to drive for six weeks, leaving me completely dependent on other people. That in itself is trying for a self-reliant gal like me.

Knowing that God has a purpose in this and that good will come from it helps. It also helps to know that this is not only purposeful but temporary.  2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

Beauty in the PainLemon Wreath Ever Blooming Originals

I wanted so much to keep my struggles to myself. That wasn’t possible. My difficulty, in all its lemony glory, was out there for all to see. While I knew beauty would come sometime after the trial, I didn’t expect to find it in the midst. Help and gestures of kindness came from everywhere; family, friends, co-workers. Even strangers became my benefactors.

I may not know this side of heaven what God has planned for this but I know that He has something and it will beautiful.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.  God has not given me the ‘what’ or the ‘why’ in this but He has given me the ‘wow’. I have been surrounded by such love and beauty that, while I can’t count it all fun, I can count it all joy. I’ve also learned that it is not only important to let others see what God brings from our trials, it’s valuable to allow them see what He’s doing in them.

How About You

Are you in the midst of a tough situation? Health failing? Faith tested? Job on the line? God has not forgotten you. Please know that He’s got this, He is doing something and it will be beautiful.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Lemonade photo: Pixabay Creative Commons CC0

Wreath Photo used with permission: www.EverBloomingOriginals.com

Weighty Words

20160615_225338 (3)My heart is overflowing with a good theme.” So speaks the psalmist in Psalm 45:1. I was taken with this verse this morning, especially the very last line, My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Between those two lines the psalmist declares his recitation to be his “composition concerning the King.” I’m grateful when the Word gives me pause. Far too often I read through it without giving it due consideration. This time I felt it and was moved.

I often fail to remember that my words are writing messages on the minds and hearts of others. Those messages impact their thoughts about my faith and my God. My tongue is indeed the pen of a ready writer and my life and pen speak with visibility the voice of my heart.

Weighty Words

Words, like bricks can be used either to increase the weight of another man’s burden or help shore up the crumbling walls of his life or faith. We must therefore “Let no corrupt word proceed out of our mouths*, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29.

Amy Carmichael, Irish missionary to India in the 1800s said, “A cup brimful of sweetness cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, no matter how suddenly it is jarred.” It behooves me then to pour into my mind and heart only that which is good and will pour out grace and truth to the building up of another.  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

How About You

Have you sensed a bitterness of your own soul? Do you (like me) find yourself dwelling on negative things? The incessant mud-slinging in the political arena and the dreadful reactions to national tragedies have certainly provided much fodder for negative thought and rumination. We daily live out the consequences of such negativity in our words, attitudes and behaviors. Whatever be the cause, we must choose to think higher. We must choose to think nobler. Why? “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9. We must have the mind of Christ.

The eyes and ire of a watching world are upon us. If they are to judge the validity of our faith and the goodness of our God by what they read in our lives, we must think well, carefully weigh our words and provide them a worthwhile read.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

https://www.biblegateway.com/

Look At The Fields

DaisiesHow can anyone call them weeds? We were out one evening deciding where to set up the garden and I saw the cutest little daisies. Without hesitation, my husband deemed them weeds. We didn’t agree on the garden location or the ‘flowers’ that evening.

A beautiful morning and some semblance of a plan provided another opportunity to plan out our garden. My breath was taken mid-sentence when I spotted a large patch of daisies. These lovelies, with their puffy yellow centers & slender white petals topping long green stems were a must-have for my kitchen island so hubby went to the shed for the clippers. Happy wife, happy life!

Grabbing a handful of these ‘non-weeds’ he cut them with all the tenderness of a battlefield soldier. When I asked that he be careful of the little ones he turned my attention to the field. In each direction I looked there were patches white with flowers ready to be picked. They wouldn’t be there for long though. Hay cutting time is approaching and all hope for any remaining daisies would soon vanish.

A Greater Harvest

My mind ran to another field. Jesus and His disciples went to Galilee by way of Samaria. The disciples went for food and Jesus remained there, seated by the well. Approaching the well to draw water, the Samaritan woman was shocked that Jesus spoke to her, even commenting that the Jews had no dealings with Samaritans. In that day the Jews saw the Samaritans as the off-scouring of the world…like human weeds.  Jesus continued His dialogue with her; revealing her story and talking with her about living water, true worship and the Messiah.

Daisy FieldThe disciples returned and though they said nothing, they too marveled that Jesus spoke with this woman. She ran into the village and told the men all what she heard saying,   John 4:29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Many in that city believed in Him. Jesus told His disciples John 4:35 “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! Jesus wasn’t referring to fields of flowers or crops. The field is the world and the harvest is people. Jesus broke through cultural barriers and the disciples learned a valuable lesson that would impact their future ministry. Just think, the disciples  could have missed the opportunity.

How About You

Have you allowed prejudice to keep you from being kind, showing compassion or sharing your faith with someone? Have you written someone off because of ‘how’ they were without ever seeing ‘who’ they were? Did you ever forego an opportunity thinking you’d do  it later, only to find that later never came? I can say yes to all of these. Maybe you (like me) need to pray a simple prayer: Lord help me see people as you see them and take the  opportunity to share your love with them.  And for the love of all that’s holy, help me never deem anyone unworthy of grace.

God bless you and keep you,

Roxanne

 Scripture taken from the New King James Version. ® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission. All rights reserved.