Archive for March, 2013

Easter is Everywhere

The Herald-News
March 27, 2013

“I am the resurrection and the life;
he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”
Jesus Christ

Easter is everywhere.

I’ll let you in on a secret: as a pastor I had a short list of people I loved to visit. Eleanor was one of them. Widows like her have a special place in Scripture and with God. She went into the presence of God last week with the promise of a new resurrection body soon. Easter is everywhere.

Last night a special friend texted to tell me her grandmother’s illness had ended and she had passed away. It was an honor for her to want me to know. Easter is everywhere.

Another dear friend announced a few days ago she has a relative who is running out of earthly options with their illness, and is pursuing experimental medical treatment in another state. Easter is everywhere.

Daily, the miracle of media brings images of unexpected tragedies. Easter is everywhere.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead will probably be retold in many pulpits this Easter Sunday. The promise of resurrection life is well-known in the narrative (quoted above). In context Jesus says a startling thing when confronted by His disciples: “…and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there [to heal Lazarus], so that you may believe.” Glad? Believe what? In Jesus and resurrection. What a piercing consolation when loved ones who know Christ are suffering or die. Easter is everywhere.

The “gospel” is “the power of God for salvation,” and is designated “of first importance” by the Apostle Paul. It has two essential realities there in 1 Corinthians 15: Christ died for our sins and He rose from the dead on the third day. His cross-death is proven by His burial; His resurrection by His appearances. We talk a ton about the cross—and should. Yet the resurrection is of first importance, too. Easter is everywhere.

Scripture outlines thirteen historical post-resurrection appearances before hundreds of people. Easter is everywhere.

And last, one more appearance. A lifelong friend in Oregon has an adult son with serious cancer. Jay is quite the humorist and calls his tumor “Sloth.” Sloth may return. Jay blogs, “And, let me say again, this news does nothing to change the important realities in my life that I hold dear and know to be true. That Christ is real, that Christ IS ALIVE, that Christ will prevail. I smile as I write that.”

Easter is everywhere. Will we believe—and smile?

Far Above Jewels

The Herald News
March 13, 2012

“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.” Proverbs 31:10

I recently posted a mushy comment: “Every day is Valentine’s Day with Cheryl.” It is true and the whole year feels this way—maybe because we are intentionally celebrating our fortieth anniversary all year. United on St. Patrick’s Day, 1973, we are doing special things not only this week but throughout the year, including a worship/concert this week and a cruise later. We are grateful and hopeful at forty, and don’t want to miss this milestone—or assume another one is God’s will for us.

Effie, a terrific writer and smarty mouth friend replied to my post: “That’s sweet, but I’m curious: when you say things like this to her, do you get a mushy, heart-felt response back, or does she raise her eyebrows and say, “‘What did you do this time?’” I’ll admit Cheryl does have a certain look when I say or do boyish things. Don’t tell Effie.

Seriously, I am getting mushier; Cheryl is getting wiser. The rhythm of our mock-teasing and real admiration for each other is quite a dance. I don’t think newlyweds can imagine the sheer delight we have in each other’s presence, or the secure and safe place of forty years together in a committed union. Nor can newbies know the give and take and growth and patience and unbridled joy all wrapped together in a gift we exchange back and forth daily.

I think Cheryl and I are now most appreciating the spiritual dimension and center to our relationship. Followers of Christ are portrayed as His bride; He is our Bridegroom. God chose marriage to illustrate Christ’s love for us. For example, when we are apart overnight, we don’t moan (much). We pray—and Cheryl’s are some of the sweetest prayers ever.

Cheryl and I were in a store last week and I, noticing a band on the clerk’s left hand, asked her how long she had been married. Being an impetuous braggart, before she could answer I gloated it is our 40th anniversary this year. Without thinking, the twenty-something gal blurted out, “Oh, I’m not married. Marriage is for whimps.” I wonder: this lovely, personable young lady that can turn heads everyday has no idea what she is saying. Whimps? Maybe someday she’ll know the glorious marathon of grit, sacrifice, bliss, change, and God it demands to grow in oneness. Cheryl and I have our second wind and we’re loving it. Pray for Amberlee.

Clarence and Marylou are with Christ now. Even after six decades of marriage Clarence always talked about Marylou as his bride. I like that. Clarence is my hero. Like him, I am incredibly honored with one woman, one life together immersed in the riches and jewels of Christ.

“An excellent wife, who can find?” I did! And so can everyone—married or single—when wedded to Jesus Christ. Are you?

Merely Happy?

February 27, 2013

“As he passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.
And His disciples asked Him, Rabbi, who sinned…Jesus answered,
“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents;
but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
John 9:1-3

On my first Sunday on church staff in our county an energetic, sparkling lady shorter that even short me came up and said, “ I prayed you’d be the one (new staff)—I just knew you were God’s choice for us.” Confession: I think I brushed it off as a nice thing to say. I was so wrong.

Every church should have a Pat. You want Pat to pray for you. Pat is a fervent, constant prayer and Pat walks with God.

“I wanted to expand on our talk Sunday about being happy and cheerful…” she recently wrote in a letter to me. She quoted Beverly Sills, the great singer, “I’m not happy. I’m cheerful, there’s a difference. A happy person has no cares at all but a cheerful person has cares but has learned how to deal with them.”

Pat lives with constant pain and the way she deals with it in a word is, Jesus. She will honestly tell you how she is when asked, but she doesn’t end with the pain. In her letter she wrote, “God is blessing me so much I can hardly contain myself. In the midst of pain comes a deep sense of God’s love which He showers on me in a variety of ways. I trust you are experiencing that great love.” Now, to know Pat you would know she lives this way because she is immersed in Scripture, prayer, and service—entrusting herself to God in everything.

When I called Pat to get permission to write about her I asked for an update about her involvement with the youth ministry. Did I mention she’s retired but she meets with the youth each Wednesday night? She maintains and responds to a prayer card system—and has for thirteen or fourteen years. She’s on her third or fourth youth pastor now. She did admit the kids prefer to text requests these days. So she bought a phone just for that purpose.

Suffering has a way of becoming our master. It shapes us, controls us, consumes us. It makes us trust strange gods. John Piper, in his book, Don’t Waste Your Cancer, points to the goodness and greater purposes in suffering and says, “We waste our cancer if we seek comfort from our odds rather than from God.” Pat expresses appreciation for medical tests and help, but her words are praise to God. Worship not worry; wonder at a merciful Father not whining. God is at work in her “…so that the works of God might be displayed…”

When it is my turn to suffer for God, I want Pat to pray for me.

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