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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Was It A Morning Like This?

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Matthew 28:1-8
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.



Was It A Morning Like This
By Sandi Patty

Was it a morning like this, when the Son still hid from Jerusalem
And Mary rose from her bed to tend the Lord she thought was dead?

Was it a morning like this, when Mary walked down from Jerusalem
And two angels stood at the tomb, bearers of news she would hear soon?

Did the grass sing? Did the earth rejoice to feel You again?

Over and over like a trumpet underground,
Did the earth seem to pound: “He is risen”
Over and over in a never ending round
“He is risen, alleluia, alleluia!”

Was it a morning like this, when Peter and John ran from Jerusalem?
And as they raced for the tomb, beneath their feet was there a tune?

Did the grass sing? Did the earth rejoice to feel You again?

Over and over like a trumpet underground,
Did the earth seem to pound: “He is risen”
Over and over in a never ending round
“He is risen, alleluia, alleluia!”

Was it a morning like this, when my Lord looked out on Jerusalem?

A blessed Resurrection Sunday to each of you, my internet friends.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Resurrection Sunday

Like Christmas, Resurrection Sunday has become all but lost in the secular trappings that surround the holiday. The world’s focus, on this most meaningful of all Christian holidays, is on Easter bunnies, Easter eggs, Easter bonnets, and Easter dresses...anything to distract people from the true significance of the day.

At Christmas, Christians celebrate the coming of God into our world in human flesh. At Easter or, as many Christians prefer to call it, “Resurrection Sunday,” we celebrate what His coming means for a world of lost sinners.

The Christian Bible consists of an Old Testament and a New Testament. Some folks see the two testaments as being totally different works, often assigning more importance to one than to the other; but nothing could be further from the truth. The two are in perfect harmony with each other, and each needs the other if the full significance of both is to be realized.

The Old Testament tells of God’s creation of the world; mankind’s fall into sin, which resulted in separation from God; the terrible effects of that sin on the world and everything in it; and God’s promise of a Redeemer that would one day come to rescue sinful man and restore him to a right relationship with his Creator.

The Old Testament records the first step in God’s plan of redemption, which was to call out a people for Himself, a people through whom He could be revealed to the world. He chose Abram, later changing his name to Abraham. God made a covenant with Abraham that He would make of him a great nation and that, through Abraham, all the nations of the world would be blessed.

Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, whose name was changed by God to Israel. Jacob (Israel) had twelve sons who became the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. From one of those tribes, the tribe of Judah, was to come the Redeemer that would bless all the nations of the world.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s dealings with His people included much symbolism, the reality of which would be ultimately revealed in the Redeemer that was to come. One such example of that is the Passover.

The nation of Israel had come under bondage to the nation of Egypt. God’s purposes in allowing that bondage had finally been fulfilled, and it was time for the release of His people, Israel, so that they could go and inhabit the land that He had given them.

God had been preparing Moses to lead His people out of Egypt and into the land of promise. So He sent Moses to the Egyptian Pharoah to demand the release of His people. Of course, Pharoah refused, resulting in a series of ten plagues sent by God on the Egyptians. The tenth plague was to be the death of every firstborn in the land, both of man and of animal.

Because they also lived in the land of Egypt, the people of Israel would have suffered the deaths of their firstborn, too, unless God had provided a way of escape. And He did. He instructed them to choose a perfect lamb from among the flocks, one for each household. They were to kill the lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their dwellings. Then they were to stay inside that dwelling until the plague had been completed. God said, “...when I see the blood, I will pass over you...”

From then on, the Passover was established as an annual day of remembrance of God’s grace in sparing His people from the death by which they were surrounded on that night.

The New Testament tells of the arrival of the promised Redeemer. God clothed Himself in human flesh and entered our world to live among us. When He had grown to manhood, He gathered around Himself a group of twelve men into whom He poured His life for approximately three years. These men became his closest friends and He theirs.

He taught these twelve and others spiritual truths. He healed the sick and gave sight to the blind. The lame walked, and the deaf heard. He explained to His disciples that He had come into the world to save sinners. He told them what lay ahead for Him: arrest, torture, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection. They believed that He was the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah; and their human minds couldn’t fully understand these sayings until after the predicted events had come to pass. They didn’t understand that the Messiah must first be punished for sin...not His, but ours...before He would come again in power as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Jesus was the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world.” As God’s perfect Passover lamb, Jesus was crucified at Passover. Only a sinless Savior could pay the penalty for the sins of the world. And only God is sinless. Jesus' resurrection on the first day of the week was confirmation of God's satisfaction with the payment Jesus had made for our sin.

When a person places his faith in Jesus and asks God to forgive his sins based on the fact that Jesus already paid the penalty for those sins, the blood of Christ is applied to that person’s heart. From then on, God sees that believer as one whose sin debt has already been paid. And, as He said to the people of Israel on that first Passover, He now says to those whose faith is in His Son, “...when I see the blood, I will pass over you...”

Every one of us is ultimately accountable to God for the things we do in this life. God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself to us through creation, through His written Word, and through Jesus, Who is the Living Word. He has communicated His standard of perfect righteousness which is required for admission to Heaven. He has also revealed that no human ever has achieved or ever will achieve that standard. But, rather than leave us without hope, God Himself bore our punishment and offers Heaven to us as a free gift, which can be received by faith in the substitutionary death of Jesus on our behalf.

As we approach the holiday most commonly known as Easter but which is best described as Resurrection Sunday, it is my prayer for each of you that you would place your faith in Jesus and allow Him to come into your heart as Lord of your life. Then we can be assured of meeting one another some day...if not in this life, then in the next.

And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12:13)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Advances Slowly

A few signs of spring in our back yard.

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Our crabapple tree will soon be full of glorious flowers; but, for now, the green is a welcome sight.

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The yellow flowers of forsythia are always a beautiful way to signal the coming of spring.

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The robins returned in February, apparently optimistic that spring couldn't be far behind.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Drive in the Country

It was such a pretty day yesterday that Doug and I decided to take a drive out to the little town where I had lived when I had my horses. We had heard about a little restaurant there that we wanted to check out, so we timed our visit to coincide with supper.

After our meal at the restaurant, we drove out past the farm that my folks had owned and where I had rented space for my house trailer. It's been 25 years since my dad's health forced him to sell the farm. He moved into an apartment in town; and I purchased a small house for myself and our two dogs, Heather and Brandi.

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The above photo, taken in 1973, shows the back of Dad's house. No one used front doors in the country, so the back door was the main entrance.

The photo looks west toward the road and the open field across from the house. The white building on the left is the garage. The road in front of the house ran north and south, and the wind blowing across those open fields created some challenging snow drifts in winter. Sometimes a snow of just a few inches could pile up in our road and leave us stranded. There were only three houses plus my trailer and my nephew's trailer on our short road, so it was not a high priority for snowplows.



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The photo above was taken in 1977, and provides a view of the house, garage, and barn, as well as some of those challenging snow drifts.

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This shot was taken yesterday, from approximately the same place as the preceding photo and shows the amazing transformation wrought on the house by the folks who purchased the farm from Dad.

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Here's a closer look at the remodeled house. Hard to believe it's the same house, isn't it? I marvel every time I see it. I'd love to see the inside, but I've never had the courage to ask. When this family originally purchased the farm from Dad, they could see how much he loved it; and they extended an open invitation to him to come and visit any time he wanted. He never did, and neither have I.

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As we were driving home last night, the sun was sinking in the west. They're difficult to see in this photo, but there are sun dogs on either side of the setting sun. A nice way to end my nostalgic walk down memory lane.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Terry and Mike and the Gym Shoes

Sandra and I have both posted about when we worked in the Commissary at the county Jail. Here is another story from that interesting and fun job.

There were two Judys on the Commissary team. The need to distinguish between them resulted in their being known in the group as Good Judy and Bad Judy. Actually, Good Judy was always called "Good Judy," while Bad Judy's name was often shortened simply to "Bad."

Bad was the shortest member of the team, which often resulted in "short" jokes at her expense.

The two men who delivered the majority of the products sold from the Commissary, Terry and Mike, were very funny guys in their own right; but their humor seemed to take on a life of its own whenever they made a delivery to us in the Commissary.

None of us were immune to Mike's and Terry's practical jokes and verbal humor. They would rearrange things at our work stations, maybe tape a stapler to a desk or adjust the height of someone's office chair. But it did seem as if Bad might have been on the receiving end of more of their attention than some of the rest of us.

They always made a big deal of asking her if they were stacking the chips that we sold to inmates too high for her to reach. Once they took a pair of gym shoes and nailed them to blocks of wood and presented them to her, to give her another few inches of height.

Another time, they each took a pair of gym shoes and placed them side by side on the floor, then knelt on them so that it looked as if they were a couple of very short guys wearing gym shoes...then waited for Bad Judy to notice that she was no longer the shortest person in the Commissary.

The days that Mike and Terry made their deliveries to the Commissary were always a bright spot for those of us who worked there. We were a fun group and never lacked for laughter, but Mike and Terry just brought their own special brand of humor to add to ours.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Thoughts on Church

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A strong wind was doing interesting things with the clouds last Sunday, when I took this photograph. The church in the picture is not the one that Doug and I attend. Actually, the shot was made from our church's parking lot.

As I thought about that, I thought about the reasons that different people choose different churches. For three years, Doug and I drove 30 miles to attend church in another town. While we were doing that, a couple from that town was driving the same 30 miles in the opposite direction to attend the church we're now attending with them.

I suppose most often a church decision is made based on the attributes of a particular pastor. Some look for one with an ability to teach the Word of God clearly and with application for daily life. Some may reject a pastor with good teaching ability in favor of one with good people skills. The ideal is when both traits exist in the same individual.

Some may look for a church in which the people are friendly. That should be the case among all Christian churches; but, sadly, it isn't always the norm.

In today's church culture, a big factor in choosing a church is often the type of music used in worship. Many churches today have adopted non-traditional music, usually played at great volume and with a pounding beat. Many people seem to be drawn to this type of music. Others prefer what they consider to be the more worshipful music and theology of the traditional hymns.

Local churches exist in such abundance that it's easy to just move on when a disagreement arises over church policy or in personal relationships within the church.  The argument can be made that it's better to just move on than to cause division in the church. There's something to be said for that. But I don't know if moving on is always the answer. It is, however, a fact of life in today's culture.

And that reminds me of this story:

A man had been shipwrecked and stranded on a deserted island. Years went by, and his hope of rescue began to wane. Still, he always kept a signal fire ready to light as he watched continually for any ship that might approach.
 
Then, one day, miracle of miracles, he spotted a ship on the horizon. He quickly lit the signal fire and began jumping up and down and waving anything he could find to attract the attention of the ship's crew. Slowly but surely, the ship began to come closer; and the man knew that rescue was finally at hand.
 
A landing boat came ashore with the captain and a couple of crew members. They couldn't believe what they were seeing.
 
"How long have you been living here?" asked the captain.
 
"I'm not totally sure," replied the man, "but I think it's been around five years."
 
"Is anyone else on the island?" the captain inquired.
 
"No. No one but me," the man replied.
 
The captain looked puzzled and asked, "Did you build that structure over there on the left?"
 
"Yes. That's my home," said the man. "I built that to live in."
 
"Well, what's this structure next to it?" the captain asked.
 
"Oh, that's where I go to church," replied the man.
 
The captain pointed off a little distance and asked, "What's that structure over there?"
 
"Oh," replied the man, "That's where I used to go to church."
 

Monday, April 04, 2011

Sullivan Ballou's Civil War Letter to His Wife

Most of us recognize that letter writing is a dying art. A number of things can probably be cited as contributing to this, most of them related to advances in technology. The decline in the art of letter writing may have begun with the introduction of the telephone. E-mail has certainly contributed to it. It seems to me, though, that the death blow has probably been dealt by the phenomenon of texting, which seems to seek to use as few actual words as possible, while still communicating a thought.

These technological advances, while providing some very positive enhancements to our lifestyle, have cost us something.

Following is a letter written almost 150 years ago by Sullivan Ballou, a soldier in the Union Army during America's Civil War, to his wife, Sarah. It not only provides a look into the heart of the man who wrote it, but it is a wonderful example of what letter writing used to be.

July the 14th, 1861
Washington DC

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days - perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure - and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing - perfectly willing - to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows - when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children - is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death -- and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and "the name of honor that I love more than I fear death" have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me - perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar -- that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night -- amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours - always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God's blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

Sullivan

Sullivan Ballou died as a result of wounds received during the ensuing battle.


Saturday, April 02, 2011

Time Share Hawkers

Have you ever been offered a deal you just couldn't refuse in return for sitting through a presentation on the benefits of owning a time share in a vacation condominium?

The first time it happened to me was when Doug took me to Hawaii for our fifth wedding anniversary. (We hadn't married until we were in our forties, about 20 years later than most people in our age group; so we figured we'd better have a "25th anniversary celebration" on our fifth, before we got too old to be able to enjoy it.)

In the first day or two of being in Hawaii, we broke our camera and had to pay fifty dollars to have it repaired. So, when we were approached by a time share hawker, offering us fifty dollars if we would just come to one of their presentations, we saw it as a way to recoup that expense.

The presentation was held in a room with a number of small tables, allowing couples to each have their own table. Refreshments were served, and the presenter spoke glowingly of the benefits of owning your own time share.

When the general presentation was finished, an individual salesman sat with each couple at their individual table, prepared to move the couple closer to a decision to purchase, all the while with loud and annoying music playing from a sound system. The music accomplished the dual purpose of scrambling our brains and keeping us from overhearing discussions from neighboring tables.

The salesman asked about how many nights a year we spend in hotels, then showed conclusively how much we would save if we had our own time share condo. He assured us that we could easily trade locations with someone else if we didn't want to go to the same place every year. And all for the low price of $25,000, or some such figure, for one week every year.

Wouldn't you think he would have known that only a couple of tightwads would agree to sit through this torture for a measly fifty dollars?

But, ever the bargain hunter, I said, to Doug's horror, "Is there any discount if we purchase TWO weeks?" At that, our salesman excused himself, and a man who looked and talked like the mob bosses you see on television took his place. That man was not going to let us out of there until we signed the deal.

Well, we didn't sign; and he did let us out, but not without some serious trauma to our internal systems. Our stomachs were in knots; our minds were reeling; and we were mentally exhausted by the time we made our escape. I was thinking I'd rather have BURNED that fifty dollars than put myself through that.

And two weeks after we returned home, a hurricane struck the area and damaged that $25,000-for-one-week-a-year condo.

Since then, we've subjected ourselves twice more to these presentations. Once was for a free weekend get-away, complete with a meal coupon and tickets to a play. But, instead of putting us up in the condo in which they wanted us to purchase a share, they gave us lodging in an old run-down motel that wasn't comfortable and didn't smell all that good.

The other time was because our friends wanted to go to a presentation in the Smoky Mountains. I think we were given free tickets to some live entertainment or something like that.

In every case, the promise is that the only requirement we have to fulfill in order to receive the "gifts" is to attend an hour-long presentation. And, in every case, the "hour" stretched to a half-day gone from our vacation and emotional exhaustion that all but ruined the other half of the day.

So, now, when we go into a hotel or a grocery store or a restaurant that has a booth or table set up offering discount or free tickets to something, I remind Doug, "Don't make eye contact."
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