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Sunday Made All the Difference

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The disciples were in hiding. The most agonizing day in their lives happened three days ago on the eve of Passover.

It was a day like no other. When Jesus died, the ground shook, the sun was swallowed up in a furious black sky. It was said that the great curtain in the temple, some thirty feet high and four inches thick, was torn from top to bottom, a feat no man could do. Many said that even graves were opened and the dead were seen walking around. (Matthew 27:51-53)

The disciples were afraid that they too would be arrested, and most certainly put to death in the same manner as they had seen done to their Lord.

Surely they talked about Jesus. They spoke in hushed tones of the authority by which Jesus ministered to people in the three years that they had lived together with him. And the things they had seen! The Apostle John tells us that all the books in the world could not contain everything that he said and did. Most certainly, they talked of the raising of their friend Lazurus after he had been dead for three days. Someone may have wondered aloud why he could not save himself. As they discussed all the things they had heard him say and do, they all had to wonder what it had all meant.

Now that he was gone, where were they to go? What should they do? They couldn’t brave being out in the open by returning to their jobs, for they feared that would make them easier to find. Even their families were in jeopardy if they returned.

There was a pounding at the door. The disciples shrank back in fear. But it was only Mary. As she burst in the room, she seemed bewildered and agitated.

“The stone is rolled away, and the grave is empty! Someone has taken our Lord and I know not where they have laid him.”

Silence was shattered as the disciples leaped to their feet, speaking all at once. It may have gone something like this:

“Impossible! Who would do such a thing?”

“We are all together and we didn’t do it!”

“You are dreaming!”

“Your  grieving has made you crazy!”

But John and Peter looked at each other. Neither spoke. They broke into a run. Racing each other to the tomb, they found the answer they had been seeking. As they observed the empty grave clothes, they began to remember the things he had told him the last few weeks he was alive. The scriptures say they went away, marveling at what had happened.

For the next forty days, Jesus appeared to the disciples and to many others. With each appearing, a refrain began to appear; He is Risen! He went so far as to invite Thomas to touch his hands and side to prove that it was he.

At his last appearing, he gave them his final instructions, giving them purpose and a future. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28: 16-20 NIV)

As he rose from their sight, the stunning truth penetrated their souls. Nevermore alone! No more to fear! These final words gave them comfort and peace. They wondered no more what it was they should do with the rest of their lives.

The eleven who had hid themselves now spoke boldly. Those who had cringed in fear of death went to their own deaths proclaiming the gospel. Never again did they hide or turn away from speaking the truth.

It was a life-changing truth that could not be silenced.

And it has made all the difference.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

 

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Mother’s Day is a difficult time for me. My mom died in 2006 after a short hospitalization, and I still think of things I want to tell her.

Mom was the rock of our family. Our dad traveled four out of seven days a week when we were little, and she manned the fort while he was gone. She was courageous, strong, and able, never showing us how hard it was to raise the five of us alone while he was away. She became a Christian when my older sister was 4, and she became a strong woman of faith.

I have often thought how very hard it must have been to care for our household on her own, yet she never showed resentment, or asked that Dad take some of the load when he was home. On the contrary, when he was home she deferred to him and spoiled him with his favorite foods and a special hot sauna bath that she devised for him, serving him with her incredibly lovely smile.

Most people who knew this joyous woman would be surprised that she came from a dysfunctional childhood. Her parents divorced when she was seven, in 1936, so I can imagine how ashamed and bewildered she must have felt. Her mother moved 500 miles away to the north, leaving her and her little brother behind with their father. He and his mother and his maiden sister raised her in a wealthy, yet stern existence. She suffered abuse in the household growing up, yet she never spoke of it. She ran away when she was 17 to live with her mother’s sister up north. It was there she met my dad.

She loved books, and became a librarian so she could work among the stacks, breathing in the smell of the lovely old volumes, finding treasures she could take out and read later. One day after work, she climbed aboard a crowded bus. Standing there up front, looking for a seat in her unconscious beauty, she caught the eye of two service men seated on the bus. After a quick coin toss to see who would have to surrender his seat, one lucky fellow won the honor of sitting beside this gorgeous, shy brunette. On this ‘chance’ encounter, they struck up a long-distance relationship. Thus started a love affair that lasted a lifetime. That man became my father, and their love has surpassed even her death.

She wasn’t perfect, but with God’s help she did the best she knew how to do. She and my dad raised five rascals who all turned out to be strong, Christian people, all benefitting society.

I received from my dear mom so much. I love books. I love to get my hands dirty in the garden. I love being a mom, cooking and spoiling my husband and family. I especially love the outdoors, and life on the farm. Best of all, the older I get, people who knew my mom say I look just like my her. Those are sweet words.

With the approach of Mother’s Day this weekend, I really miss my mom. I want to send her a card, call her on the phone, hear her laugh and words of encouragement. I want to invite her to dinner and spend time together.  I want to look in her pale, green eyes and tell her what a wonderful mother she was to me. But it is not to be. The comfort that I have is that Jesus promised never to leave us, so I know that she is right  there with Him. I’ll just have to tell Him how much I love her and miss her, and ask Him in His infinite mercy to tell her and give her a hug for me. For now that will have to do.

So here’s to you, Mom. You were the best.

Emily June Morrison Ogden 1929-2006

An Unexpected Revelation

As a treat for working long hours this spring, my husband took me to Washington, D.C. We stayed at a lovely hotel, a mile from The Capitol. Each day we fortified ourselves for lots of walking with a great Continental breakfast and then headed for The Mall. We didn’t try to see everything, but we managed to see the high parts of each venue we entered. For instance, in the National Gallery of Art, we viewed only our favorites, the Renaissance painters, the Dutch Masters, the English landscape painters, and the French Impressionists.  We were  in D.C. just one full day and two half days, so we had to be judicious about our choices. By doing so, we were able to see The National Botanical Gardens, The Museum of Natural History, The National Gallery of Art, The Air and Space Museum, and The Museum of American History.

As we walked, we remarked about the prevalence of languages other than English that we heard all around us. It suddenly occurred to me that we live less than two hours away, and we have only been here once in thirty-three years, whereas tourists from all over the world had come at great cost to see our national treasure.

And, oh, how they enjoyed it! I stopped several times to take group shots so that the photographer could join the group, realizing that I am not often in our own trip shots, because I am our family’s picture historian. After the picture was taken and cameras were returned, the reward was deep smiles of joy when they looked at the image of themselves before a monument of their choice.

My husband and I decided then and there that we are going back. There is too much there that we have not seen that others have made great sacrifice to come to enjoy.

What must we do about Syria?

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I understand. We are tired of war. We are tired of loss. We’ve brought too many of our brightest young men and women home in coffins and wheelchairs. We’ve had enough. 

But what should we do about Syria?

I’ve heard many say that we want to worry about our schools, our children, crime and terrorism at home. What does the conflict in Syria have to do with America?

I know of a quote from a Baptist pastor from Liverpool in the late 19th century. Maybe you’ve heard it too. It’s been attributed to several people, President John F. Kennedy being one of them. 

“It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.”

We are a Christian nation, despite what President Obama would have us to believe. We were founded on Christian principles and we are in a battle everyday to keep it that way. 

We ourselves have suffered from acts of terrorism, in our own homeland, and believe me, we don’t want anymore of it.

Syria is a hotbed of extremists, as witnessed by the government of Syria’s treatment of her own people. These same extremists train others to carry out their ‘ideals’ all over the world.

So, should we be involved in sending military aid to Syria? 

I am glad that I do not have to decide. But one thing I am going to do. Pray.

How did Mary know?

The Wedding at Cana
 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there.Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons.Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”

Have you ever wondered at Mary’s instructions to the servants at this wedding? Look again: “Do whatever He tells you.” What occurred in Jesus’ earlier life that caused Mary to put her trust in her Son to provide for the hosts of this wedding? Could it be there was a day she watched from the window when Jesus picked up a little dead bird, and as he shed a little tear, breathed it back to life again? Maybe another day in their large and growing household when there was not enough to eat and suddenly there was? Or could it have been a night the family gathered to celebrate Passover where 4 glasses of wine were to be drunk by each member of the large family? Could Jesus have provided for Mary when her own provisions were meager? Could it be that Jesus performed these untold miracles within the private sanctuary of their own household?

Her statement that the hosts were out of wine was met by Jesus’ reply, “Woman, my time has not yet come.” In those days, weddings went on for days, and the reputation of the hosts depended on their provisions for the wedding guests. Mary did not hesitate to make her simple statement, “Do whatever He tells you.”

Do you notice Jesus, the Lord of the Universe, does not refuse His mother. He knows the purity of her heart, her desire that these friends of hers not be ashamed that they have run out of wine. So, as only He can do, He fulfills her wish by changing water into wine. Lavishly, abundantly, one hundred and twenty + gallons of wine!  And the icing on the cake is that the wine He provided was the best of the wedding.

I like to think she knew He wouldn’t fail her by experience. How else could she say with utter confidence,”Do whatever He tells you”?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Too soon

My neighbor died yesterday. She was thoughtful and pretty, and felt life deeply. So deeply, she sought escape in blinding drunkenness and the lure of prescription pain pills. Instead of surrendering her helplessness to God, she became even more helpless in the grip of alcohol and drug abuse.

I helped her in many ways. I was one of few friends. She and her family moved from a house on the corner of a neighborhood adjoining our land to the other side of me on a farm. I felt that God had moved her from one side of me to the other in order to save her from herself. She knew she could count on me in many instances. As she got more and more in trouble with the law, I called a dear recovering alcoholic to come talk to her, to show her there is a better life without alcohol. She began to consider AA, and eventually got a sponsor.  She attended meetings, but she told me she never spoke. All to no avail.

Last night I was tormented with thoughts of things left undone. For hours I saw her face before me as I thought of meals unshared, words unspoken, time not spent together. Then God began to whisper beneath the tumult of thoughts,” When she needed help, who did she call? When she died, who did her husband come to see? For whom did her son stop his truck in the middle of the road to receive a hug and a word of encouragement?”  I can take comfort in the fact that I let God use me the best ways I knew how. The truth that hurts is, not that I didn’t do enough, but that I cannot help her anymore. It’s over. 

They never saw this coming. No symptoms, no warning. She was not ready. The coroner said she died of a gastric hemorrhage, but that her body was so abused, a number of things would have taken her life, sooner, not later. She lay in her husband’s arms and bled to death in a matter of minutes.

She died unexpectedly, before her time. The fact is, we will all die, and most of us unexpectedly. 

Be ready. Don’t wait. Time is running out. Maybe yours.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Romans 10:9