Lettuce

A couple of weeks ago Tony and I were asked to provide dinner for our young people at a church gathering.

I had a little flashback to my own youth and a time when we had all that energy…..

We had a youth director in our little church.  I was in high school.  He was a married man with a wife and some kids.  I think he had a furniture store or something.  The reason I don’t know more about him is because, well, he was euh, OLD!  like 35 or something!!

But he was always ‘around’ for us.  Every week he taught us an extremely boring Wednesday night Bible Study, and I can’t remember a single thing about it………except that during it, God spoke to me in a tangible way about giving my life to Full time Christian Service.  I did that in one of his Bible Studies at age 17.

Back to the present, as we cooked and slaved for the kids, we got more and more tired, and wanted to sit down but it was time to get to the business of dishing up to 50 smiling faces, oohing and awwing about “American Chili”.  I was smiling on the outside and accepting their heart felt thanks, but truth be known, all I could really think was that my feet hurt and my back was about to go out!

And then I remembered “Old” Emerson.  I remember once my girlfriend  and I came by his house unannounced with Tony in tow.  He lived in another state and was a virtual unknown, but he was visiting me and we felt that he was good enough to show off to a person that I considered important enough to be in on the adventure.

There was nothing in Emerson’s house to eat, his wife and kids were at a sports event or something, but the 4 of us gathered around the kitchen and talked and laughed for an hour, sharing a head of lettuce.

This man was no flash in the pan.  He had little to offer……..except himself.  And God used him mightily.

I think the next time they ask us to feed the teens, we will, even if we drag home and are bathed and in bed at nine!

What If?

Today is Pentecost Sunday.

And as we continue with the ‘report’ on our recent trip to the Holy Land, I’d like to take you now to the Upper Room.

Of course anyone within earshot of the Woods’ household can’t talk about that without recalling Tony’s latest discipleship course, Anagaion, which is Greek for “Upper Room” a word found in several verses in the Gospels and in the Book of Acts.

You’ll remember that’s where Jesus did some of His finest teaching, first during Passover and then, in the six weeks following the Resurrection and leading up to Pentecost.  What a significant place! Shared fellowship, shared worship, new teaching, culminating in one of the most unforgettable experiences ever: the coming of God’s Holy Spirit. It is in this place (also known as the Cynacle) that the personalities of many of the disciples were revealed: Peter’s denial, Thomas’ doubt, Judas’ betrayal.

So we had a chance to walk up to and through this holy place, and even though it’s gone through several “renovations” over the centuries, it’s impossible to enter without feeling the significance of the room. Christians are not alone, in fact, since the Cynacle is also considered sacred by both Muslims and Jews, but for different reasons.

As we gathered together in the somewhat smallish room, we realized at once that the acoustics are fantastic, making even a poor singer sound beautiful.  I wonder if that’s why the disciples were led to “sing a hymn” before they left the place that evening of the Last Supper. (Matthew 26:30)?

Then, in Acts, chapter 2, we see the disciples waiting as they had been commanded, when suddenly (verse 2), there was a sound like “the rush of a violent wind” followed by tongues of fire and a very audible time of worship that led those nearby to conclude that the guys were drunk (At 9:00 in the morning, no less)! But after an explanation by the Apostle Peter, many turned to Christ and more than three thousand were baptized as a result.

Standing in that room, remembering all that had happened there, we just couldn’t resist the temptation to sing, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost”. Immediately the whole room was filled with the sounds of the Doxology as everyone joined in. And apparently that’s okay with the caretakers of the Cynacle.

But there are two rules that are strictly enforced to all three religions who share the room.   No one is allowed to make any structural changes to the room, as that might give one religion a sense of more status.  The government of Israel is in charge of doing all maintenance.

We were told that breaking the second and even more important rule would result in our being evicted from the premise. That rule? While you can teach, sing or eat, no one, but No one, is allowed to pray.

We were not told exactly why this rule exists; only that it does.  I think it probably has something to do with the fact that the place is held in such reverence by all three World Religions, and somehow to pull in exhortations to a favored god might result in repercussions from the other two.

But I find the unspoken question most telling: What might happen if people prayed there?

Now, I’m not gathering support for an international prayer team to go storm the place, because in fact I have no doubt that a lot of silent prayers have gone up from the confines of that room, in spite of what the rules say. I know mine did.

But the question is relevant on this special Sunday, and it’s one I want to leave with you, wherever you happen to be today:

What might happen if people prayed here?  What might happen if people prayed anywhere?

Hoping ya’ll have a great and exciting Sunday!

Marsha

Where do we turn?

This morning I was reading a passage from John’s Gospel, 6:67.

If you’re familiar with that, you’ll remember that Jesus and the disciples had just crossed over the Sea of Galilee (with Jesus walking part of the way, I might add), and landed at Capernaum. This was the home of Peter and his family, and it looks like Jesus stayed there often during His three-year ministry.   You might recall that Jesus cursed the city, along with Chorazin and Bethsaida for their refusal to accept His message. We visited there recently and I can tell you, except for some ruins of the synagogue, and a monument built over Peter’s house, the city’s gone.   Chorazin is in ruins and no one’s even quite sure where Bethsaida is today. What Jesus says… happens.

Anyway, here’s the verse I was talking about:  He had just been explaining to the crowds about the cost of discipleship and many people had turned away, deciding to not follow Him anymore. That had to be discouraging, even to the Son of God, so here’s what He says, beginning with John 6:67,

So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’”

When I read that this morning, I flashed back to a cold day in February, 1992 when our son Trevor lay dying. In a hospital corridor where I’d stepped out for a breather, I growled under my breath at God, “Lord, if you let Trevor die, I won’t believe in You anymore!”

Before the words were even out of my mouth I had to laugh at myself, even though it wasn’t very funny at all. Because immediately I sensed God’s voice, loud and clear, coming from the depths of my heart. The words sounded something like, “Oh great, so you lose your son AND your God! That’ll really help.”

This is why Peter’s words resonate so well with me.  “Lord, to whom would we go?  You have the words that give eternal life.” It just seems so sad, and yet so frequent in our lives that, when things seem at their darkest, we start throwing things overboard, often starting with those things we need the most.

This week we’re dealing with some health-related conundrums with our extended family.  It’s frustrating when we don’t have any easy answers; and it’s tempting to start casting around for alternatives to the things we need the most, like prayer. There’s a world of advice out there, and some of it might be good. But we’ve got to remember Whose we are, and run all those things past Him first. “To whom would we go?” Indeed.

Jesus has the “words that give eternal life”, after all is said and done. We DO appreciate your prayers, and we DO take great joy in knowing that it’s all still very much in His Hands.

Cheerio!  And don’t forget Who’s in control!

PS,  In God’s sovereignty, He DID let Trevor die, and we DID survive, only because we KNEW He had us all, then and now, in His Heart.

Marsha

Think on These Things

This morning at church, Tony spoke from Philippians 4:8, and that took me back to I time I heard my Daddy quote it in a way I’ll never forget.

So, my Daddy was a scientist. As with most cerebral people, it goes without saying that he was a quiet man by nature.  True to his job, he didn’t deal with emotions very much, but he carried a slide rule in his pocket (you younger folks may have to Google that) and he could whip out an impossible calculation without any effort at all.

That’s not to say he didn’t love and cherish me.  Somehow I got that, but I knew also that he wasn’t the one to run to for the cuddles or the ooh’s and ahh’s.

So imagine my surprise one day when I overheard him teaching a Sunday School class (not sure if Google will help you here).  I was about 8 or 9 and our church’s sanctuary … yes, it was a “sanctuary” back then and not an auditorium; but I won’t go there … anyway, at precisely 9:45, before the 10:30 Worship, it became the Sunday School for the entire church, children and adults alike, thanks to a few well-placed fabric dividers. We couldn’t see each other, but with a little “selective listening”, you could certainly hear everything.

So let’s ‘flash back’ a bit.  The reason I was sitting in this ‘Sunday School’ class in Evergreen, Colorado was that, even though I was being raised in a Christian home, my Daddy had a past.

During the war, he, the oldest of 4 boys to a widowed mother, went off to do his duty. As per his personality, he carried a lot of burden and responsibility both for himself and the family, and now for his country.   As he left that night, he commissioned his next younger brother to “watch over” his fiancée in his absence.

Now you’ve probably watched enough television soap operas to guess what happened.  When Daddy came home after faithfully serving his country, he was met by his brother, and his brother’s new wife;……the same girl who, when Daddy  left home, had been his fiancée.

Fortunately, he didn’t even have to unpack his duffel bag before he headed out that same night, heading thousands of miles away to finally arrive in Colorado.

Years passed, he married, and I came along.  That Sunday morning in Evergreen, through the divider curtain, I heard my quiet and reserved Daddy say this:

“When I came to Colorado, I had murder on my mind.  Sometimes I would be so consumed with anger I didn’t know what to do, but then I came across this passage in the Bible, Philippians 4:8.” Then I heard the flutter of Bibles in the circle as he began to read the Scripture.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

And then he concluded, “Whenever my anger would rise up, I’d force myself to think of my daughter Marsha”  (I would have only been a baby back then, because when he was now telling this, he and his brother and the whole family had finally been reconciled).

Even these years later it’s hard to really describe how those few words impacted my life.  To hear my dearly loved father, whom to my knowledge had never even voiced out loud that he loved me, say THIS about me.  To be described as ‘pure, lovely and praiseworthy’ made me want to honor that trust and dedicate my life to stretching beyond myself to live up to be what he thought of me.

Tony concluded this morning by reminding everyone that this is not rocket science, even though if it had been, my Daddy probably could have understood it sooner than he did. The command in that Scripture is not to weigh it, filter it, measure it or write a thesis about it. It’s simply to THINK about it. And when we do that, we’ll be better people for it.
Isn’t it amazing what the power of words can accomplish?  Isn’t it amazing what YOU can do with a few words, well-placed. Think about it.

I think about you and your wonderful qualities that you have as I’m writing this.  It makes me happy.

Marsha

Ticking the Boxes

So yesterday we had our Australian Elections.  Ever since we became citizens many years ago (we kept our USA citizenship as well), we have been required to vote. It’s not an option in this country unless you want to pay a hefty fine along with a good reason you didn’t vote.  I actually think this is a good idea. It makes you put your vote where your mouth is, and insures that we do indeed get the government we deserve.

Anyway, we’ve been voting for about 20 years now, and I still can’t really figure it out.  All I can really understand is that I must vote LIBERAL.

Liberal in Australian-speak means “Conservative”.  The other significant party is called “Labor” and it’s the equivalent of that party in the States whose platform centers around its dislike of Trump and tearing down things like family values, freedom of (not from) religion and gender issues that I won’t go into here.

So we went to the polls.  I often have a flashback to our days in Zambia from 1973-75 when they had just begun open and free elections.  I still remember the ballot.  A good part of the country was still illiterate, so pictures told the story. One was a picture of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda next to a box where you could make your mark, and the other was of a snarling hyena.

We couldn’t vote, of course, but we did celebrate when Kaunda was elected by a landslide. He was a committed Christian, Baptist pastor, and worked hard to bring the nation into a stable, productive government, in spite of the 70+ different tribes that make up the country.  I shudder to think what might have happened if the hyena had won.

But back to Australia, after signing in yesterday, we were presented with two papers.  One had about 15 names on it and was (I’m not exaggerating) about a yard long.  On it you had to list your first EIGHT party choices, in order of preference.  The other one had an equal number and you only had to pick SIX.  I frantically looked for “Liberal” anything, and found a couple of names with liberal in them, but wasn’t too sure.  By the time I got down to my 6th and 8th selection I was deliberating between parties like “Stop Global Warming Now”, “Legalize Marijuana”, and believe it or not, there was even a ‘Pirate Party’ (I’m not making this up). At least there was no hyena on the ballot.

Fortunately, God was in control and Scott Morrison, a professing Christian, was re-elected in an overwhelming show of support that even Mr. Morrison called “a miracle”. This morning, he is recognized as the most powerful man in Australia… at least until the other party gains enough support to call for another election, something that happens frequently here. Please pray for him and his “Liberal Party”; pray that he will use his power for good, and that God will work through him to accomplish great things.

From Australian politics back to the country of Israel, I was impressed the other day when I came across the passage in Luke 19 about the events leading up to Palm Sunday.  Jesus rode into the city through the gate that Suleiman the Magnificent bricked up in 1541 to prevent the “prophesied coming of the Messiah”.  Too bad he didn’t get the message that it was already too late.  Anyway, in Luke chapter 19 verse 41, we read,

“As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it, and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace, but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.’”

It’s hard not to imagine that this is happening right here in both of our homes, the USA and Australia.  Sin just keeps creeping in and squeezing our freedoms, and I’m sure you know what I mean.  But so many do not know, because they don’t know Jesus.

While you’re praying for our leaders, please pray that God will Stay His Hand awhile longer. Pray for those whose ignorance is leading them to destruction, both on a personal and a national level. And for you, Dear Readers, hang on tight!

Til He returns,

Marsha

Faces

Good morning all,

Today it’s beginning to feel like Autumn here, but I refuse to put the heavy quilts on the bed yet.  As so many of you are experiencing early summer where you are, we here Down Under have to look forward to a nice winter. Australians have it all worked out to 4 three-month seasons and winter isn’t officially here till June 1st.  Fortunately our winters are like summers in some of the places you live, so we just have to put on a sweater and maybe some socks.

I got an interesting letter from an aging missionary a few weeks ago. It basically said, “I’m old and dying but wanted to say ‘good bye’ to you all before I go”. That’s certainly an attention grabber.

He went on to reminisce about his many years in Japan.  I began to well up with tears as he talked about all of the good and the bad times. And then he said this,

“For me the amazing love and power of the Japan Baptist Mission family began the first summer of 1952 at Mission Meeting in a hotel in Kyoto. The meeting ran for almost a week from Monday until Saturday morning. Friday evening, Marion Moorhead led the group of almost a hundred in a time of sharing and prayer. The sharing was deep and loving and trusting and kind. Finally, we all stood in a circle for the last prayer. After the ‘amen’, and the eyes were opened, Luther Copeland looked toward the whole crowd and voiced an expression.  He said,

‘During the prayer time I voiced what I was speaking to God at the time. I asked that He reveal Himself to me. Immediately He spoke to me saying, In all the faces around the circle, you see Me.

That was such a blessing and at the same time a shock that it has remained with me for the rest of my days and reminded me that we are part of God’s family and are brothers and sisters of each other.”

And the letter was signed, Ralph Calcote.

How often have you said to yourself, “I’ve seen the face of God in my friends”?  Isn’t the bond we have just beautiful? And wasn’t Ralph Calcote just wonderful to let us know how he has lived life and been grateful?  I got word this morning that he’s had a stroke and passed away peacefully. I am SO SO thankful that I also took the time to jot him a brief ‘thanks and goodbye’ letter.  I don’t know if he got it, but he’ll know about it soon enough. Along with his friend and brother in Christ, Luther Copeland, tonight they are together, seeing God face to Face, as are many others who stood in a circle and prayed together that night.

And then as if I needed yet another example, let me leave you with an experience I had this morning at church. I was complementing a lady about her pretty outfit, and she said, “Oh, I got this in the mail from my friend in England just this week.  She remembered it was my anniversary (even though her husband has been with the Lord for many years), and thinking I might be sad, she quickly made this blouse and mailed it to me!”

I told her again how beautiful it was, and she directed my attention to the lovely sweater she was also wearing and said, “The same friend also gave me this sweater many years ago.”  It too, was a perfect match to the beautiful salmon pink of the blouse.

Faces of God; all around us; opportunities for worship; chances to love and be loved.

Life is precious, take time to reflect on it……….. and show God to each other every day this week.

Oh! And Happy Mother’s Day!!

Marsha

Somethin’s Buzzin

A friend of mine said recently, “So this so called ‘Blog’ you do…….. it’s like a diary sort of thing, right?

A part of me wanted to be offended; after all, these weekly offerings are supposed to be history-changing gems of inspiration! But I’ll have to admit, in most ways he was right.  It’s just me and my observations. And who knows? Maybe I’m just talking to myself. This week, a friend is going to help me put a counter on the www.mywoods.net site to see if anyone is actually listening to me ramble on. If you do go have a look at the site, by the way, don’t bother with the “Comments” section; it’s been inundated by literally thousands of what’s called “bots” offering me everything from property in Florida to help with my itchy scalp. I’m really sorry if there are some genuine comments among the teeming hordes, but the way it’s set up now, I just delete them every few weeks without reading them.

But back to that part about “inspirational gems”, let me tell you about the new “addition” that came into our home this week. Later, I’ll get back to sharing about our recent trip to Israel.

Actually, it was more like 7000 additions, according to the breeder who set us up.   Yeah, we’re not talking about your traditional pets, those darling little furry creatures who sleep on your pillow,or maybe that stately equine that costs you more than your house or car but gives you a thrill when you gallop across the “Little House on the Prairie” meadows.

Our home, or at least the deck out back is now graced by a bee hive. But before you conjure up a picture of us in white hazmat suits armed with smoke pots, these particular bees are an Australian anomaly known as “Native Stingless Bees”.

The “girls” which most of them are, I’m told, have settled in nicely and have done everything by the text book. When we set them in place and removed the plug keeping them inside, they ventured out, flew backwards all around the hive to set their GPS coordinates, then headed off in all directions in search of flowers. Others stayed behind to do a little housecleaning, tossing out dirt, unwanted pollen and even occasionally, their dead.  Now we’re seeing the scouts come back with their little ‘saddle bags’ loaded with pollen, soon to be miraculously transformed into honey. The honey these native bees produce tastes different from the traditional stuff. There’s a slight wood flavor, and it’s definitely stronger. In fact, some folks refer to it as “medicinal honey” and they only produce at best a cup of honey a year, so I doubt if we get fat on the stuff!

We’ve put them right out on the deck where we enjoy eating, feeding the birds, visiting and “being retired”. After all, we think, if we’re going to have em, might as well enjoy them!  It was a little disconcerting at first since we (and by “we” I mean Tony) have a rather checkered and painful history with bees of all kinds. But we got over the fact that we were afraid of them and more than that, wanted to swat them because they looked like flies. Now we watch them and cluck over their little antics.

Today was the ultimate test; we pushed our grandkids right up close and said, “Don’t worry! They don’t sting!” then took a step back to see if that was really true.

And it was. The kids had a ball, watching them come and go, climbing over their fingers and doing their thing.

And what a thing it is! Isn’t God’s creation mind-boggling? Science can describe what we see happening in the lives of these tiny critters, but there comes a point when even the scientists have to step back, scratch their heads, and say, “I don’t know how they do it.”

The bee breeder has wisely strapped the hive shut so that we cannot interfere with them for a whole YEAR, giving them time to settle in. All we can do is imagine what’s going on inside in terms of hive building, queen management, care and feeding of about 300 babies born daily, food production, defense systems, etc.

When our year is up, and we know by weighing it that they’ve multiplied, we’ll split the box into two hives.  There’ll only be one queen still, but whichever side doesn’t have the queen will know they need another one and voila’, they’ll all get together and ‘feed one up’ so she’ll be the queen for about 10 years.  Isn’t this stuff just fascinating?  Hopefully after our winter (and their hibernation), I’ll have some stories to tell you.

God is good to us to let us share in the fun.  I hope you’ll remember that He knows everything that goes on in His universe, from a molecular level right up to you and me. And He not only knows; He has a personal interest in us.

I’m sure as you’re reading this you’re thinking of so many Bible verses but here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head,

Psalm 8:4-6,

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet”

… or how about Matthew 6:26,

“Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns–and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Have a good week, and rejoice in the fact that God is the Master, even over the small things.  Hope your Sunday will be as great as ours was.

Marsha

Wearing Your Faith

I began a couple of weeks ago sharing about some of the impressions we experienced from our recent visit to Israel. Those impressions were underscored today as news of the tragic synagogue shooting in southern California spread around the world. So so sad, and even more so as we remember all that these “Chosen People” have endured over the centuries. As Christians, we pray that God’s peace will be among them, and that through their grief, their hearts and minds might be turned to the Messiah they wait for even though He has already come.

Among the things we observed in Israel, one thing resonated especially in our hearts, and that is the traditions the Jewish people observe which make their faith “up close and personal”.

I’ve mentioned before that we stayed in the King David Hotel, the first time 35 years ago and then again on this trip. It was refreshing to see that the hotel has not changed in all that time. They still keep the old décor, doing only enough to keep it maintained without suggesting a “new look”.

Their policies haven’t changed either, insisting that, as an international hotel that has hosted kings and presidents from all over the world, they remain “Switzerland”; refusing to take political sides, no matter how strongly they may be felt. The hotel staff is a dramatic example, made up of Jews, Palestinians, Christians and Moslems, people who in normal circumstances might be considered mortal enemies, but inside the hotel walls they are meticulous fellow employees who seem to enjoy each other’s company.

In spite of their neutrality, however, the King David has not compromised its Jewish customs. If you happen to be there on the Sabbath, you’ll notice that the elevator moves automatically from floor to floor without passengers having to engage in the “work” of pressing a button. Coffee is still available from room service, but guests are reminded that it was made the day before and put into thermoses.

Another thing you’ll see both inside and outside the hotel are men wearing Teffilin or Phycateries tied onto their foreheads.  These are little black boxes with pieces of Scripture in them.  I wanted to take a picture, but frankly I was a little intimidated.

And the reason they do this comes from the Book of Exodus and then also in Deuteronomy. God tells the people,

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 6:6-8).

The other day, we went up to Brisbane to see our daughter and son-in-law’s new house that they’re building.  It makes us proud of their initiative and I suppose a little sad to know that they’ll join the ranks of other young ones with a lifetime of mortgage. But I guess that’s life, and I’m thrilled that they’re getting started on stability so young.

Anyway, to add to the excitement, our kids invited us, the parents and in-laws, to ‘Write these things on their hearts” and onto the bones of this new house.

Both Chris and Nicki were raised in Christian homes (one lovely and one crazy… take a guess), and they thought up the idea on their own. We were impressed, and honored to be a part.

It was a great day, walking through the newly-framed house, stopping in each room-to-be and writing appropriate verses of Scripture on the two-by-fours. I’m sure if you give it some thought, you can probably think of the verses we recorded, from the kitchen to the bedroom to the study and even the bathroom.

By now all those verses are hidden behind sheetrock and plaster never to come to light again until such time as the house is torn down. But we know they are there, and they serve as reminders that God’s truth is real and unchanging; whether you can see it or not.

Wasn’t God good to give us these admonitions to remember Him, to commit Him to each new endeavor, to teach our children and to THINK of Him as you ‘walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”?

I think the kids were smart not to try to tie these blessings on their heads, but they will certainly remember them as they walk thru their new home.

What can you do today to make your faith real and tangible? You could tie a Bible on your head, or tattoo a Scripture onto your arm, but I think there may be other ways that are just as effective. Let me know, okay?

Love ya,

Marsha

“I’ll Be Back”

He is Risen!

Happy Easter for all of you in the Northern Hemisphere!  For us down here, we’ve already celebrated Sunrise service on the beach, followed by countless folks being baptized in the surf, including 7 or 8 from our church!   My hat’s off to the those pastors who risk life and limb to wade out into the waves that threaten to take all the participants straight on to Heaven. It’s all in the timing.
After a brisk gathering on the sand (which by the way was blessed with no rain and a beautiful sunrise, in spite of the huge storms we’ve had all week, including most dreary forecasts for this morning), we made our way to church and a full house where we enjoyed great music, great preaching, and great chocolate!
Today I’ll keep this brief, since many of you are scurrying around with your own celebrations. But I just have to share a little tidbit I picked up when we were in Israel recently.

Remember the words of Matthew 28:2-6? “Suddenly there was a great earthquake because an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled aside the stone and sat on it.”  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but this is the only mention in the Bible of an angel “sitting”. After all, they would never sit in the Presence of God. And I think it’s yet another illustration of what has just happened in that empty tomb. The angel is sitting, and his message is, “He’s not here”.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, the angel went on to say to the women in verse 6,  “He is not here! He has been raised from the dead just as He said would happen.  Come see where His body was lying.”

Now, I learned in Israel about a Jewish tradition that I believe many of us today also practice without knowing where it came from.  We’re told that if they leave the table during mealtime, to run an errand or whatever, they FOLD their napkin so the host knows they’ll be back momentarily. In other words, “Don’t take my plate; I’m coming back.”

Can you see where this is going?

Jesus was already GONE before the stone was rolled away. Opening the tomb was not to let Him out, but to let us in, so that we could witness what had happened.    And just so there was no mistaking His intention, Jesus took the linen napkin that had covered His face… and neatly folded it.
Something to think about as we continue through this wonderful day.  He’s alive, and He’s coming back!

Marsha

As Those Who Have Hope

Good morning,

Today if you’ve checked your calendar, you’ll notice that it’s Palm Sunday.

As it turns out, Tony and I have just “Walked where Jesus walked” (or in the words of an exhausted lady in our tour group, we ran where Jesus walked), but the experience was definitely life changing, there’s no doubt about that.

In the course of our tour, we retraced the steps that Jesus must have taken as he entered the city that fateful Sunday when people laid down the palm leaves and their cloaks to welcome him into the city.

Of course it was an emotional experience for us, to think about that day, and the days to come that make up the entire ‘Holy Week’.  On Palm Sunday, His entrance was triumphant. He was their Messiah and they were pretty sure He was going drive out those Roman infidels and save them. And save us He did, although it didn’t really play out the way the crowds had hoped for at the moment.

But what an experience, to realize the MESSIAH came into the city, did everything that was necessary to fulfill prophecy and then died and was resurrected, with the promise of coming back someday!  I knew that, of course, but standing on the road where that week began brought it home to me with new eyes. And if that wasn’t enough, we continued into the city that day and stopped at the Western wall of the Temple, colloquially referred to as the “Wailing Wall”

And why is it called the “Wailing wall”, you ask?

Because this is the ONLY place where contemporary Jews can approach what’s left of their temple.  It’s maybe 100 feet long, divided between the men and women and that’s ABOUT it.  If a Jew wants to really pray, that’s the only place they can go.  They cannot offer sacrifices like they used to in the Old Testament, because that would require going to the one site designated by God, and which unfortunately for the Jew, is now occupied by the Muslim “Dome of the Rock”.

I think this is just SAD on so many levels.

The Jews do not recognize Jesus for Who He was, and so they continue to wait and pray and yearn for a “Messiah” to come and save them. They cannot worship the way their traditions and their Torah tells them to, so they have to resort to crowding into a small chunk of the remaining wall and try to voice their prayers there. The picture that is attached (if you’re getting this by email) spoke volumes to me.  You see a mother, her head bent in prayer while her child sat in the stroller.  On the back of the stroller, there hung a bag with a happy Mickey Mouse cartoon on it.

Most of you out there reading my blog know and have experienced, as we have, the love of a parent for their child. Part of that love is the HOPE for a future that is filled with life, opportunity, the peace of God, and maybe a bit of fun.

What tugged at my heartstrings that day was the sight of this young mother, tears in her eyes, her hands outstretched to the temple wall, praying as those who have no hope …. And her child looking on from a Disney-decorated stroller.

Thank you Lord for the hope that is ours because of Easter. May that hope and joy and peace reach out beyond borders and into the hearts of people everywhere.

Happy Easter!

Marsha