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The Real Deal

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Gentle Reader,

There’s nothing like Easter.

After the horrible betrayal. After the mocking trials. After the bruises, the wounds, the spitting, the torture. After the crown of thorns. After the agony of the Cross. After it was finished. After the dreadful silence of the tomb.

Easter.

PAR-TAY!

I say that with all seriousness. If there is ever a day when Christians should celebrate with abandon, Easter is it. Jesus is alive! The Evil One is defeated! Death couldn’t claim Him! The grave couldn’t hold Him! He is wrapped not in moldy, decaying funeral rags, but in a glorified, perfect body. And yet a body that still bears the marks. Our names carved upon His hands.

God became flesh and made His dwelling among us.

I love seeing the little girls in their frilly dresses and the boys in their bright shirts. I love seeing extended family come together for church and a good meal. I love seeing the budding trees and new flowers. The sense of hope and promise hangs thick in the air.

A new season.

A new life.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I don’t understand how people live without Jesus. Looking at the state of the world, from wars to human trafficking to poverty to hunger, makes me cling to Him all the more. I am desperate for what only God can provide. On my own, I say and do stupid, stupid things. Selfish things. Mean things.

I am a sinner.

I need grace.

I need a miracle.

 

Jesus’ resurrection is that miracle. He takes all that ugliness, all that sin, and washes it in His blood. He sends His Spirit to live in me and make me into the person I was meant to be. No amount of self-help or positive thinking can do what He does. He pokes and prods at all the deep, secret, dark places. He brings things to the surface, things I want to keep buried, and teaches me how to look at them in His light. He teaches me how to walk the right path. He teaches me how to worship Him as the True and Forever Lord.

He teaches me how to be real.

And God? He’s the complete real deal. He is totally honest, totally Himself. He doesn’t have a messed-up side. He doesn’t try to manipulate or guilt-trip anyone. He just lays out the facts. He says, “This is Who I Am and this is how it is.” Then He lets us decide. Empty or whole. Heaven or Hell. New or old. Together or alone.

When Jesus left the tomb that glorious morning, the way was made clear for each of us. The great enemies of sin and death were slain by the only One Who could do it. We don’t have to live in the pit. We can cry out, “Jesus, save me!” And He will. He’ll reach in and pull us out. And we see the Great King with eyes that blaze with the fire of holiness. We are bathed in the beauty of His love and the fantastic mystery of mercy. Draped in the robes of His righteousness, we realize how small and shriveled we are, and how glowing and healthy we can become in Him. Because of Him.

We approach the Throne of the Holy One, welcomed as His beloved children.

Because of Jesus.

Because of Easter.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

 

 

 


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Fuzzy

This post originally appeared at the FEBC Gospel Blog. Normally I wouldn’t cross-post like this, but I think that this piece fits with our current series.

Gentle Reader,

He paws at my arm. Licks my fingers. Puts his head under my hand and jolts it from the keyboard.

His name is Fuzzy and he wants attention right now.

All my life I’ve been a dog lover. There’s never been an extended period of time when I haven’t had access to a furry bundle of drool and barks. I can connect a dog to most of the significant moments of life – Petey sat in the front yard the first time I rode the bus to school, Murphy trotted around my feet as I got ready for my wedding, Benny moved in with my husband and me shortly after we bought our first house. There is something so comforting about the presence of a dog.

But this dog? Fuzzy?

He’s a handful. And a half.

Fuzzy’s barely out of his puppy years, so he’s got all the energy in the world. He just needs to explore everything. And chew on things. And bark – a lot. And steal toys from his brothers. In general, he’s something of a nuisance. He just can’t help himself.

Then, at night, when I’ve just about had all I can take, he curls up next to me. Those sweet brown eyes look at me, full of trust and loyalty. It’s almost as if he knows that we’ve had a hard day together, and he’s promising that he’ll do better tomorrow. It gets me every time. He nudges my hand and I stroke his soft fur as we settle in for a good sleep.

Fuzzy’s combination of  mischievous behavior and sweet affection makes me think of something Jesus said:

“Do not be afraid, little flock.” – Luke 12:32a

Our Lord spoke these words within the context of what is termed in Matthew’s Gospel as the Sermon on the Mount. Thousands of people spread out before Him. Their worries and burdens, etched in lines on their faces, were clear to Him. Jesus understood how their lives were often a chore: work all day, pay the taxes, feed the kids, try to make the money stretch as far as it would go. He understood how the political seasons shifted without warning, catching the average person in sudden, dangerous winds. He knew that mothers went to sleep at night wondering if their children would still be alive in the morning. He knew that young men dreamed of striking out on their own. He knew that fathers begged for a little more time, a little bit of space.

Their experience was not so different from ours. Very little is within our ability to control. We worry about that. So much is outside of our control. We worry about that, too. Like Fuzzy, we run around aimlessly, trying to burn off the energy that comes from fear. We scratch at things. We push and shove. We have needs and they need to be met right now.

Jesus goes on:

“Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” – Luke 12:32b

There is great depth here, a depth that this space does not allow us to explore, but even the simplest reading of this statement can change our perspective. Only a king can give away a kingdom. At his disposal are vast riches, innumerable resources. From fields full of thriving grain, to busy metropolises of arts and culture, to quiet streams in the woods, everything ultimately belongs to the king. The length and breadth of his realm contains all the pieces of a contented, secure life.

Jesus says that the Father, the King, is happy to give us His kingdom. It’s as if the Lord invites us in and bids us to look around. To take whatever it is that we need in the moment. We don’t have to pry His hand open; it’s always extended to us. He lets us know that what He alone can give, He gives freely.

We can skip the chewing on things that won’t satisfy our hunger. We can skip the striving to get what other people have. We can skip the incessant barking, the attempt to let everyone and anyone know that we are angry or scared. God tells us to go straight for the peace. He calls us to curl up next to Him. He wants to provide for us. He’s happy to provide for us. He’ll never stop providing for us.

God’s amazing care doesn’t end there. When we do forget that His hand is open, when we do allow fear to rule us, when we do nip and run at others, He is faithful to draw us back to that place of peace. We can try to ignore. We can kick and scream about it. But the invitation is always there. No matter how hard the day has been, no matter how far we’ve gotten off the path, His hand is still outstretched. All we have to do is take.

And He’ll help us do better tomorrow.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2


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Volunteer

Gentle Reader,

What I’m about to share isn’t shared to garner sympathy, so please don’t offer it.

Tonight I’m going to attended a volunteer orientation at a women’s shelter. I have no idea what to expect. I can’t think of a single thing that I can do to help these women and their children. They are experiencing a part of life that has never touched me. The idea of waking up without a home, without stability, while among my greatest fears, isn’t something that I can truly comprehend. I worry that it’s…pretentious or condescending to go to this orientation. I worry that they’ll think I’m full of myself, full of my own righteousness.

For almost two years now, I’ve felt a tug on my heart to go out and be the hands and feet of Jesus in some way. To offer…something to those who can’t give me anything in return. My time is limited because of work schedules and energy levels. I really don’t have a clue what this is going to look like. But I think it’s time to stop stalling. Delayed obedience is just disobedience, after all.

Martha, Martha,

If there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. – Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV)

Go and do. Not because you have anything to offer. Not because you are better than anyone else. Not because you are afraid that you aren’t good enough.

Because God loves you.

Grace and peace along the way,

toujszda2

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