seeing only Him – part 2

“He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  Luke 24:35

The two on the road to Emmaus traveled seven miles with the Lord Jesus, heard Him explain the prophesies about the Messiah, sat across the table from Him in their own home… and didn’t recognize Him.  But in a key moment in time, as He broke bread and blessed it, their eyes were opened!

It has been said that in breaking the bread and offering it to them, the Lord Jesus may have exposed the nail prints in His hands, helping them to realize Who He was.  Scripture doesn’t give us those specific details, but I believe it is entirely possible that they saw the marks of the sacrificed Savior that could belong to no one else!

I am sure that He expounded God’s word through the prophets in a way that no one else could have done either.  I have no doubt that the impact of His very presence would have been like no other.  But somehow, the Lord Jesus used the simple act of breaking bread to open their eyes, to help them see only HIM.

This thought has caused me to take another look at the Lord’s Supper, a simple feast established by the Lord Jesus with His disciples just prior to His arrest, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.  He asked them to remember Him.  “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show the Lord’s death until He comes.”  I Corinthians 11:25

Eating bread and drinking wine happened every day.  It was as essential as breathing.  The Savior wanted His disciples to think of Him in that way.  As often as they broke bread to eat, lifted the cup to drink, He wanted them to remember what He sacrificed for them, what He accomplished for them, and that He was alive and returned to glory, but still present with them… always.

I recently read an interesting thought about the Lord’s Supper:

“According to marriage customs of first-century Jews, when a man decided whom he’d chosen to marry, his father would pour a cup of wine and pass it down to his son.  The son would then turn to the young woman he loved, and with all the solemnity of an oath before Almighty YHWH Himself, the young man would hold out the cup of wine to the woman and ask for her hand in marriage.  He would ask with these words: “This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer you.” … a marriage proposal with the words Jesus used the night He instituted the Lord’s Supper: “This is the new covenant in My blood, which I offer to you.” … In other words, Jesus says to you with this cup, “I love you.  I want you.  I covenant Myself to you.  I commit to you.  This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which I offer to you.  Do you love Me?  Will you covenant yourself to Me?”” ~ Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way (Zondervan, 2016), pages 42, 44.

I sat there with the book in my hand and my mouth gaping open.  The Son took the cup the Father gave Him.  He drank it.  He drained the cup of judgment against sin and offered only the cup of remembrance.  In this precious feast, could He be saying, “with all that I am, with all that I have, with My own most precious, only-ever-sinless life’s blood, I pledge an irrevocable covenant to love and care and provide and eternally redeem you?”  Could He be saying, “I chose you – at ultimate cost, for ever and for always to be Mine – do you choose Me in return?”

The Lord Jesus knew that the disciples were already mourning as they anticipated that He would no longer be with them.  He knew that their world was about to turn upside down – for all the right reasons – but be tumultuous nonetheless!  And He kept it simple.  Bread and wine.  As often as they ate the bread and drank the wine, He wanted to draw them back to Himself.

When the world got crazy, when the facts were dizzying and emotions ran high, the Lord Jesus wanted those very simple tokens to draw them back to Him.  He wanted them to remember Him, remember Whose they were, remember what He had accomplished for them, remember that He was always present and always in control.

It would always come back to the cross.

It was only in His perfect sacrifice that they would find peace.  He was the only One Who could procure it for them!  Remembering that the work was FINISHED was the only thing that would bring PEACE.

With every broken piece of bread, they could remember that their Savior was broken for them so that they could be whole.  With every sip of the cup they could remember that their Savior drank it all for them so they could be His.

That day in their home in Emmaus, their guest became their Host.  As often as they followed the Lord’s request to keep His feast, the Lord’s Supper, He would be their Host, inviting them to His table.  His provisions would always be sweet and abundant.  He invited them to come and feast, remember and rest, and go away refreshed – renewed in their hearts as they spent time rejoicing in Who He is and what He had done for them!

In the Lord’s prayer, recorded in John 17, He made it clear that His desires for His disciples included all believers for all time.  His invitation to them is still His invitation to us.  He asks us, too, to gather at His table, respond to His covenant of redemption, provision and love, to remember Him.

He welcomes us to come aside from the craziness of life and the world spinning around us, to re-center ourselves around those simple tokens, to remember Whose we are.  When even Scripture fails to penetrate our view and we still struggle to make sense of it all, He offers Himself!  He speaks to us faithfully and lovingly each time, “I choose you – do you choose Me in return?”  He knows those reminders will steady us, that opportunity to renew our own commitment to Him will infuse us with a fresh desire to draw closer to Him.  The more we treasure that time, the more we open our hearts to receive more from Him, the more of Himself He will reveal, the deeper our love for Him will grow.

As often as we eat the bread and drink the wine, we will show the Lord’s death – His ultimate-cost offering to love and redeem and provide for us – and He will be made known to us in an ever deepening way!

It will always come back to the cross.  We will see the marks of Calvary.  We will see His outstretched hands and hear His voice.  Our hearts will be touched and won again and again by the sacrificial love of our Savior.

Maybe the Lord’s Supper is not just what He asks of us, but something He longs to give to us – all that He is and all that He has.  He longs for us to rejoice in Who He is and what He has accomplished for us – to have eyes only for Him!  And perhaps there is little that delights the heart of the Father more than to hear our precious thoughts of His dear Son.  His favor to us as we leave each time will be PEACE.

He will be made known to us in the breaking of the bread.

 

Amidst us our Beloved stands, and bids us view His pierced hands,

Points to the wounded feet and side, blest emblems of the Crucified.

 What food luxurious loads the board, when at His table sits the Lord!

The wine how rich, the bread how sweet, when Jesus deigns the guests to meet!

 If now, with eyes defiled and dim, we see the signs but see not Him,

O may His love the scales displace and bid us see Him face to face!

 Thou glorious Bridegroom of our hearts, Thy present smile a heaven imparts!

Oh, lift the veil, if veil there be, let every saint Thy beauties see!

– Charles H. Spurgeon, 1866 –

Read more here! – Luke 24 – Luke 22:19-20 – John 17 – I Corinthians 11:23-26

seeing only Him 2

 

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seeing only Him – part 1

Emotionally drained and perplexed, they started the 7-mile trek home from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Two men, equally dismayed by the events of the past few days, rehearsed the details, wrestling it out together.  Making no sense of it only heightened their frustration and their discussion turned to arguing.  Absorbed in their intense conversation, they were unaware of a third man who walked up next to them.

He interrupted to ask what they were talking about so passionately.  They were shocked to imagine that anyone could have been in that region and NOT known what was going on!  The events in the city had turned their world upside down.  How could anyone be so unaware?!  Despite their surprise, they explained that JESUS of Nazareth had been handed over by their own chief priests and crucified!

They were devastated because they had hoped that He would redeem Israel.  But now He was dead.  And then some women from their group went to His tomb and found it empty!  When they reported their discovery, several of the men went also and confirmed that His body was not there.  They just couldn’t put the pieces of this unbelievable weekend together.  They thought they had seen the hand of God begin to move and work in wondrous ways, but now they just didn’t get it.  They couldn’t make sense of His plans or purposes.

They just didn’t see it.

The third man just shook his head.  He sadly said, “Don’t you see?  Don’t you remember all that the prophets have spoken?”  As they journeyed along that dusty road together, this man explained God’s plans and purposes from the beginning.  He walked them through the prophesies about Israel’s Messiah (in truth, the Savior of the world!), explaining how all of these perplexing and frightening events were exactly according to plan!

Before they knew it, seven miles were behind them and they were home!  Their companion motioned as if he would travel further, but they urged him to stay with them.  It was late and he must be tired… and they really wanted to hear more!!  As they rested inside and prepared an evening meal, their guest became their host, breaking the bread and offering a blessing.  In that moment, their eyes were opened and they knew that this Man was JESUS!  And then in a blink of an eye, He vanished.

They couldn’t believe it!  How could they not know it was JESUS, their Savior, their Messiah, walking beside them, opening God’s Word to them!?  Weren’t their hearts “burning within them,” “ablaze” and thrilled to hear Him make the prophesies clear to them?  How did they not recognize His voice?  He was in their home, speaking to them face to face – how did they not recognize Him?

They just didn’t see Him.

Scripture tells us that their eyes were blinded so they would not recognize the Savior.  I wonder why?  Maybe if they had known Him right away, they would have been too overjoyed to slow down and listen to God’s Word being opened and explained.  Emotion may have swept them away, causing them to miss the priceless opportunity to grasp truth – truth explained by the Lord Himself!

But I have to wonder, too… did they not see God’s plan AND did they not see the Savior because neither appeared the way they expected?  Their idea of redemption simply didn’t look the way they thought it would!  They tried to wrestle out the details, but would they, on their own, have gone back to God’s Word to sort it out?  Did they follow Jesus’ teaching and example and pray, asking God to help them understand?  Did they allow their minds to drift back to other experiences with Jesus that may have shed some light?

Similar questions and similar lessons had come the night the disciples were alone in a boat on a stormy sea.  Jesus instructed them to go on without Him, right into the path of a storm.  He knowingly sent them there.  And when He came to them, walking on the waves, they froze in fear, believing He was a ghost!  Even then, they didn’t see that He was allowing them to face their own limitations, to face a storm they couldn’t control.  In that place, they needed to discover new things about Who He really is!  They needed to know that in the middle of the storm He would be there… and He would always be in control.  They didn’t recognize Him or His rescue because it was coming in a way they never expected.

Would the terrifying events of the past days have been less terrifying if they stopped to think that He might have been preparing them that night in the boat.  Could He have been trying to help them see that the one thing that terrified them the most was actually their Savior coming to rescue them?

What He explained to them on that road to Emmaus was that all of those terrifying events happened just as the prophets said they would, because that was exactly how their Savior was redeeming Israel!  He knowingly led all of them into the storm of that weekend, knowingly walked obediently through it all, so He could rescue them!  It was the only way they could truly know Him, be eternally saved by Him, be reconciled to God and granted access to the Father and to eternity with Him.

The cross was their only salvation.

Their joy may have been delayed, just as Jesus said it would be.  “The world will rejoice, but you will mourn.  But your mourning will be turned to joy when you see Me again.” ~ John 16:20, 22.  But with new clarity and a burst of joyous energy, they left home in the dark of night and quickly covered the seven miles back to Jerusalem.  They couldn’t keep all of this to themselves!  They rushed back to the rest of the disciples to tell them, “We have seen the Lord!”

Still breathless from relaying all that had happened in the past few hours, suddenly, JESUS Himself stood among them!  “Peace to you!” He said.  And just like He had comforted them that night on the stormy sea, again He said, “It is I.  Do not be afraid.”  Again He explained that everything written would be fulfilled.  He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  And He challenged them, “now you are witnesses of these things – go into all the world and proclaim the good news!”

From that point on, the same disciples who had been hidden away behind locked doors in fear became bold witnesses for Jesus!  They shifted their eyes from the frightening storm of circumstances around them to see only Him!  Just like on the mount of transfiguration, “they lifted their eyes and saw no one, only JESUS. … when they looked around they no longer saw anyone with them, they saw only JESUS.”  ~ Matthew 17:8, Mark 9:8

Seeing Him helps us to see the Father and to see the eternal plans and purposes of God.  Seeing only Him helps us to look beyond any distractions  or overwhelming circumstances and keep our eyes fixed on the only One that matters.

What is preventing me today from really seeing and knowing the Lord Jesus and God’s true plans moving and working all around me?  What distracts me?  What overwhelms me?  What engulfs me in fear because I have forgotten all the things He has already told me, taught me, and revealed to me about Who He really is?  What prior experiences might He be using to prepare me for a new challenge?  Do I remember to look back to the only reliable source, His Word, to help me sort it out?  Do I reach out in prayer to ask for His help to understand?

“Lord, open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in your Word.  ~ Open the eyes of my heart, that it may be flooded with light that I may understand the confident hope You have given me!”  ~ Psalm 119:18 & Ephesians 1:18

I pray that He will remove any blind spots.

I pray that He will help me to understand.

I pray that He will help me to see HIM, to notice HIM, to recognize His voice and to see His powerful hand sovereignly in control of it all.

I pray that He will give me boldness, like His disciples, to share His good news of salvation with others!

“If now, with eyes defiled and dim, we see the signs but see not Him

Oh, may His love the scales displace, and bid us see Him face to face!”

 – Charles H. Spurgeon, 1866 –

 

Read more here! – Luke 24 – Matthew 14:22-33 – Matthew 17:1-8

seeing only Him

“May His beauty rest upon me

As I seek the lost to win,

And may they forget the channel,

SEEING ONLY HIM.”

– Kate B. Wilkinson –

proud to call him my brother

The surprise had been underfoot for months.  My brother and his best friend, Mark, were both turning 40. That was reason enough for all of us who grew up together to make our way back home to Philly to help them celebrate.

The plan was simple… meet my sisters and my Dad at the airport (and enjoy a fun and festive lunch at Max Brenner’s downtown!).  Surprise my brother Dave when we showed up at his son’s little league game that afternoon and keep a low profile until Mark and his family arrived the following day.

Until… I was cruising through the airport, on my way to find my sister’s arrival gate and ran right into… Mark!  There he was, right in front of me, handsome and larger than life in his pilot’s uniform, waiting for his final leg home to Pittsburgh.

“So what brings you to Philly?” he said with a smile.  My words fumbled as my mind raced for anything “normal” to say that wouldn’t tip him off.  “Uh… uh… just visiting friends,” I tried to say nonchalantly.  Ha!  I should have known he was having too much fun making me squirm!  Somehow I kept up some happy pleasantries and made my escape.  I was still breathless when I reached my sister, “you’ll NEVER believe who I just saw!!?!  If I just blew months of careful planning I will be so bummed!!”

We were on our way down the escalator to baggage claim when we got the call that he already knew about the surprise!  What a stinker!!!  If he had only said something, we could have kept him company until his next flight.  Nope.  Instead, those few minutes of embarrassing, but hilarious scrambling became fodder for his dry wit impersonations of me for years to come!

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ryan's game

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No one could imitate me better than Mark or bring out the belly laughs in all of us until our sides hurt.  He is the only one who could make me laugh at myself, help me not take myself so seriously, but somehow never hurt my feelings.  He has been my brother’s best friend since they were toddlers, and he has always been like a brother to me too!

Mark was my rock for every ski trip – giving me courage to survive expert mogul slopes I should have never even attempted – and offering a shoulder to lean on when falling asleep in the van on the ride home.  He was the one who would graciously come running to evict the latest trespassing cricket in our beach condo during summer vacations in the Outer Banks of NC.  Following Dave and Mark also helped me push beyond my own hesitations and boogie board with the best of them in 60-something degree ocean waters!  Mark was never sentimental or one to engage in deep conversation – but he would humor me when I wanted to chat or preserve the latest Kodak moment!

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A little over a month ago, Mark was the first one of us to take a brave, confident step from this world into our eternal home with our Savior, the Lord Jesus.  Dave said it best when he declared that cancer didn’t win that day – Grace did!  In the long 8 year battle, Mark often testified to the grace of God that saw him and his dear family through each day, each hurdle, and rejoiced in each blessing.  Amazing grace had brought him to that day, and Amazing Grace had carried him home!

As loved ones gathered to rejoice in a life well-lived for the Lord Jesus, we all found ourselves going back to one singular, defining moment in Mark’s life.  He was a teenager, struggling to understand the truth about God, about sin, and about the redemption Jesus freely offers that reconciles us to God.  Mark has always been a man of few words, so none of us knew what he was really thinking – we just carried a deep burden to pray that he would find peace in trusting Christ as his Savior.

Two well-known preachers had pitched a tent to hold a month of gospel meetings in the middle of the summer – to open God’s Word and proclaim the truth and good news of God’s salvation.  Most of the members of our little church attended every night.  On one of those nights, Mark stayed behind after the meeting to talk to the speakers.  The rest of us crammed into a little trailer beside the tent to pray for Him.  We poured out our hearts to the Lord, asking that He would reach Mark and make His truth clear to him in a way that he could receive it and rest in it.

The night stretched long and many wondered if we should not all be standing out there, making Mark feel uncomfortable and on-the-spot when he left the tent that night.  So we drifted to our cars and sat quietly in the dark… and prayed some more.  My brother Dave sat on the hood of our car and said emphatically, “I’m not leaving.”

To this day, the thrill that still dissolves most of us to tears is the memory of the sound of clapping.  Mark’s silhouette appeared in the light of the tent opening with raised hands, confidently proclaiming “I got it!”  He knew his sins were forgiven and his eternity was secure.  He had found peace.  Needless to say it was a night we will never forget!

Mark’s faith in Christ set the path for the rest of his life.  Especially in recent years, he devoted himself to reading God’s Word and getting to know the Savior who redeemed him.  He longed for others to know Him – to really know Him in an ever-deepening way!

Not long after Mark trusted Christ, I distinctly remember him joining the other men to kneel on small carpet squares on the basement floor in our church.  It was Sunday evening and they were burdened to pray for the gospel meeting that was about to take place.  That night was the first time I heard Mark call the Lord Jesus “precious.”  His words touched me deeply for several reasons.

As a teenager, Mark was a bit rough around the edges.  He wasn’t known to express his thoughts and definitely not his emotions.  Words like “tenderness” or “precious” would not have been used by or about Mark.  That just wasn’t him.  But now that his heart belonged to the Lord Jesus, we were beginning to see amazing changes taking place.  When it came to Christ, Mark wasn’t shy about showing his soft side!

Those words stopped me, too, because I wondered if I could say the same?  I had trusted Christ several years before, but could I say that my love for Him had deepened to the point that I would call Him “precious?”  Mark’s few words, spoken in prayer that night, reminded me that our salvation isn’t a business transaction.  Yes, the debt is paid, we are forgiven, sin is covered and we are redeemed.  But that is just the beginning of the story.  Our Savior desires a close, deeply personal relationship with us that is truly “precious!”  His tenderness toward us will always touch and soften our hearts and give us joy in expressing our appreciation for Him!

Mark’s life proved beyond any doubt that the Lord Jesus was precious to him.  He was a powerful example of what it looks like to bravely walk a path he would never choose for himself.  He simply trusted God.  He was thankful for each day, let the Lord use him however He chose to do so and left the end of the story up to Him!  Mark never lost his sense of humor and kept us chuckling with many of his updates.  But he never failed to give thanks to God and would say often that they were in the Lord’s hands – and that there was no better place to be!

“Help [us], O Lord my God, according to Your mercy… that [we] may know that this is Your hand, that You, O Lord, have done it.”  Psalm 109:26-27

Now Mark is in the Lord’s presence, face to face with Christ, our Savior – and there is absolutely no better place to be!

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Mark may have referred to me as his sleepy, weepy, freaked out by creepies “sister” (said in love, of course!).  We may not have had many serious conversations in all those years, but I will always be thankful for the chance to tell him how much I love him and I will always be proud to call him my brother!  I really can’t wait until we all get Home and can rejoice with our Savior together!

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together (Outer Banks road trip, 1990-ish)…

40th group

… again (40th birthdays, 2011)

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…. and again (McKeesport, 2017)

I Thessalonians 4:17 ~ Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will always be with the Lord.

… and again (one day in heaven’s glory!)

 

get growing!

I’m still making friends with the idea that a new year has begun.  It is 2017 already!  Like 2 months ago already!  And as days and weeks keep speeding right along, it happened… I turned another calendar page and I was staring at MARCH.  Okay.  Deep breath.  I may have needed a do-over for the new year at the beginning of February – which has just disappeared as well – but Okay, then.

My heavenly Father must have known I needed something to soften the blow.  So as I opened the mailbox that day, a tiny splurge was sitting there waiting for me – my very own copy of a spring issue of Better Homes and Gardens!  And just to make me smile a bit wider, the cover was splashed with brightly colored tulips!!!

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Scanning the cover I saw “Life in Color” on the spine – in bright, multi-colored neon letters, no less – and a bold charge to “Get GROWING!!!” across the front.  So, apparently it wasn’t just time for me to plant my feet in this new year, but to be growing!  [No pressure!!?!]  The letter from the editor on the first page was actually encouraging… and a bit enlightening:

“Paying attention to plants as they grow slows time and emphasizes the passing seasons, the weather, and the idiosyncrasies of nature.  You never know when it will throw you a curve.  That’s why some of the biggest control freaks I know (and I say that with love) are really into gardening.  I think they value a good tussle with Mother Nature because deep down they respect that they’ll never control her. … Gardening also pulls me away from the tensions of modern life.  Emails and texts demand instantaneous responses.  We all need a break… The rewards are subtly life-changing when you pick a bouquet of homegrown tulips or snip herbs from a window box for your morning eggs.”  [Stephen Orr, Editor in Chief, Better Homes and Gardens, March 2017 issue]

Of course, with all due respect, I believe it is the tussle with our Creator and our acknowledgement that He will always be in control that we value innately, but I heard what he was saying!  My longing for that “pause” button perked right up as I read his encouragement to choose a less modern, less electronic endeavor!  Stepping away from the tensions of modern life, picking a bouquet of any homegrown flower or snipping herbs for anything made in my kitchen all sounded delightful!!!

But honestly, there was an even greater reason for my smile widening as I flipped the pages of my new magazine.  One more time, the Lord knew just how to get my attention and bring His own Words to life!  You see, the very same day we discussed John 15 in Bible study – the chapter where Jesus is encouraging His disciples to understand His love and care for them, and their ability to thrive with His help, through a lesson from the garden!

In the final hours with His disciples, the Lord Jesus poured into them – loving service in the washing of their feet, intense teaching about His sacrificial death and resurrection, and commands that they would remember Him, love one another, and look to the Holy Spirit to help them understand and follow everything He was saying to them.  After their last supper together, He led them on a walk to a garden.

Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I imagine they may have walked through various gardens or vineyards on the way to the one garden spot that was familiar to them – a place where they retreated with Jesus often for quiet time together.  As they walked that path for the last time, Jesus used that garden setting to reassure them that their relationship with Him would continue – deepen and grow! – even when He was no longer with them.

John 15:1, 5-7, 16 ~ I am the true Vine. My Father is the Gardener… I am the Vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing… You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit that will last. 

Proverbs 11:30 ~ The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life. 

Psalm 1:1-3 ~ Oh, the joys of those who … delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit in each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do. 

Wow.  Without JESUS, detached from the Vine, I am nothing.  I am not just unproductive – I am dead!  Withered.  Shriveled like a raisin.  Barren.  Colorless.  Tossed aside.

But!  Jesus was reassuring His disciples that even after He had returned to the Father, remaining IN HIM was still an option!  He would always be with them and they could always choose to remain close to Him!  The same is true for me.  WITH JESUS, thriving as part of the Vine, I am alive, growing, and bearing fruit!  Instead of a picture of death, I am now part of a breathtaking garden!  Instead of only decay and colorless dust and grime, I can now offer truly beautiful and life-giving things to others.  As part of His garden, nourished by the true Vine, I can offer beauty, color, texture, refreshing shade, light that dances amidst the shadows, and quiet, peaceful rest!

Granted, as a branch on His vine, I will not grow in a straight line.  There will be unexpected curves and painful pruning, cleaning and tending.  But my Father, the Gardener longs to slow time for me, to captivate my heart and draw it away from the tensions of life.  As our teaching leader at Bible study put it, “through the Vine, the Father is replicating His Son in each of His branches.”  The growth process may not be easy – it requires knowing Who Jesus is and faithfully obeying what He has taught us – but transforming into the image of my Savior is absolutely worth any growing pains!

The Master Gardener will always shower me with loving care along that journey.  It may be as small as an unexpected magazine in the mail on a harried day or as big as making Himself real and nearer than ever before in my darkest moment.  He will always grab my attention with things that help His Words come alive.

As I listen to the nudges of His Spirit – sent to us by the Father at the Son’s request to help us remember and apply all that Jesus has taught us – and keep my nose in the Book and my knees on the floor, His nurturing work in me will be faithful.  It will be more than “subtly life-changing” to gather from His Word blossoms of truth for a beautiful bouquet or fresh herbs to season my food – new every day – as fresh as the morning, as sure as the sunrise!

As I remain in Him and He remains in me, I will not only be able to plant my feet in whatever calendar month I find myself, but I will be able to GET GROWING… in living color!

Read more here! – John 13-15 – Psalm 1 – Lamentations 3:22-23

remain in Me

in His perfect time

I get lost in his picture.  It instantly transports me to the front porch of the 3-story Empire Victorian home where David grew up in Cheyney, PA.  If I could step back in time, I imagine myself walking towards him, quietly taking my place at his side, slipping my arm inside his and catching his eye in a comfortable glance.  I can almost feel myself resting my head on his shoulder, settling into his embrace, soaking in a ray of warm sunshine or the touch of a gentle breeze.  David in his button-down Oxford and V-neck sweater, jeans and dock-siders… and even though his picture was taken in the fall, I imagine myself in my favorite white islet dress – the one I wore for senior dinner and graduation.

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We were both seniors in high school, both living in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  I attended a big public high school northwest of the city.  He attended a small private Christian school on the southwest side.  Our church picnic every June was on the grounds of that same Christian school, so I knew his campus well.  One of my closest friends from church was a member of his graduating class of about 50.  Through her introduction I met and dated one of David’s friends for two years, went to their senior dinner, and was present at his graduation!  But… we never met.  Not then.  Not on any of those occasions.

While David went to college in Boston, I attended the University of Delaware for two years, very close to his home in southwest PA.  I considered visiting his church in Wilmington, DE, from school many times… but never went.  David’s sisters came to a Bible conference at my church in Bryn Mawr, PA, more than once… but David never came.  There were so many times that we could have met, times that we might have considered to be perfectly orchestrated by God to bring us together.  But we didn’t.  Because God’s perfect timing was so different.

In the years before we met, the Lord was walking each of us through experiences that would touch us deeply, rewire our hearts, and draw us closer to Him first.  He used those years to bring us to the place where we could truly value and treasure one another.  In His divine plan, it was ten more years before He caused our paths to meet – at a Bible conference at David’s church.  Ten years after first thinking of visiting the Brandywine Chapel, I finally stepped inside those doors!

David would say that he knew the first day we met that he wanted to marry me.  Haunted by heartache, I was the harder one to convince!  But he patiently waited three more years while the Lord continued to heal my heart and open my eyes to just how attractive a heart for God can be!  By the time I realized that the Lord was bringing us together with a beautiful future in mind, David was graduating from law school and we were both ready to take an exciting step forward… together!

Without even realizing it, I selected another favorite white islet dress – my wedding gown!  As I slipped my arm into his on our wedding day, I never remember feeling more at peace, more spoiled, loved or provided for.  Our gracious God, in His perfect time, had orchestrated our beautiful day – clear, crisp autumn air with bright yellow maple leaves and blue sky, David in his handsome tux and me in my dress, feeling warm sunshine on our faces and the touch of a gentle breeze!  We caught each other’s eye more than once in private conversation that didn’t need words.  We were overjoyed to express our love for each other… and for the Lord Jesus who died to save us and lovingly guide us to that day.

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from our wedding processional:

“O Christ, He is the fountain, the deep, sweet well of love!

The streams of earth I’ve tasted, more deep I’ll drink above:

There to an ocean’s fullness His mercy doth expand,

And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land. 

With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove,

And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love;

I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned

When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.”

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Imagining us on that front porch as seniors in high school seems so carefree – young, energetic, filled with hopes and dreams, so unencumbered with real life responsibilities.  I picture smiles that are bright and free, an easy playfulness that is just fun and maybe a little daring.  The crazy thing is this – David has this way of leading me to believe that he still sees me that way!  Despite my always being too serious (about everything!) and the years not being so kind to my physical body, he sees me as fresh and beautiful as 18.  He brings out that fun and playful side the way no one else can.  His love for me, deep and constant, is one of the reasons I love this man.  He only ever sees me in the best light.  Even when real life crashes in and we both feel genuine stress, he can instantly become 18 again when he catches my eye, scoops me into his arms, and makes it all melt away.

When I take time to think about it, I believe it has something to do with the long, hard road that brought us together.  We know what it is like to be alone, and worse –  to be rejected, cast aside.  Past disappointments and heartache have given us the perspective to treasure the gift of our marriage.  We fiercely guard and defend it.  And we are both SO grateful that we get to live life together!

So even now, 30 years after that picture was taken, and approaching 20 years of marriage, there is still nothing sweeter to me than to quietly take my place at David’s side, slip my arm into his, put my head on his shoulder and feel him pull me close.  Together, we still hope and dream, and let our eyes dance as we look to the future.  The Lord has done great things for us and we have every reason to look forward with excitement and gratitude… together!

us-now

from our wedding recessional:

Praise to the Lord, Who over all things so wondrously reigneth,

shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!

Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been

granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;

surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.

Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,

if with His love He befriend thee.

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I have loved you with an everlasting love; with loving kindness have I drawn you; I will build you up again. ~ Jeremiah 31:3-4

 The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy! ~ Psalm 126:3