Shadows in the Snow

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Why I Need a Savior

There are endless reasons why I need Jesus, but this morning I had a running tirade in my head that was stopped in it’s tracks by the thought, “Wow, this is why I need a Savior.”

It was potato salad.

There is tremendous variety in potato salad recipes. Each family seems to have their own variation. When I actually met someone who made “our” potato salad I was left wondering if somewhere in the midst of history we were related.

We make such a simple potato salad. Just potatoes, eggs, mayonnaise, celery, onion, celery salt and salt. Those are the only ingredients. It was one of the first recipes I learned as a child.

This year I decided to simplify. I recognized that early in Advent that I could not get it all done. So I cut back to the basics. My mother made potato salad every Christmas Eve so she would have it ready to serve with the Christmas ham. This could be the year I follow in her footsteps and not spend all day Christmas alone-in the kitchen.

Christmas dinner would be baked ham, potato salad, a steamed vegetable and raspberry cheesecake bars. I planned it weeks ahead. I make a menu each week and from that menu a grocery note to take shopping. I bought potatoes, onion, made sure I had plenty of mayonnaise, and celery salt. I thought I had celery left in the crisper drawer from last week’s roasted vegetables.

Somehow. I cannot fathom the reason. Today. Christmas Day. Yesterday was too busy. Today, I find carrots in the crisper drawer. I have no celery!

My thoughts run wild. I have ruined the potato salad. Carrots cannot be substituted for celery in potato salad. Christmas dinner is ruined. I have failed my family. I could not even do one thing right.

The word right is an ugly word for me. I define it as completely correct. I never seem to get anything right.

I am fatally flawed. I am hopelessly bound by sin and mistakes. I try with all my being to do right. Yet I cannot produce perfection in anything. I ought to be able to do some small things right.

Who will save me from my brokenness? Only He whose birth we celebrate today. How can I ruin Jesus’ birthday? Does He care if there is celery in my potato salad?

God was born. He took on our flesh and brokenness. He became one of us to save us. He saved us from the accuser. The evil one tried to destroy my Christmas joy by convincing me that I had ruined Christmas by forgetting to buy celery.

I need a Savior because even on such a holy day I am so easily led astray.

Eve may have fallen over an apple, but today I fell over celery.

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The Cart

imageI had a dream that I was going down a lonely road in an old, rattle-trap cart. It was a very bumpy ride, which was frequently brought to an abrupt halt when one of the wheels fell off. In addition to being small and uncomfortable to ride in the cart was old and shabby to look at. Though it was foggy I could see many ugly patches on the cart. I was filled with self-pity. How had I come to be riding in such a pathetic, old cart? Why was I slowly bumping along an empty, dirt road in the middle of nowhere? I envied those who were fortunate enough to be swiftly riding down well paved interstates in luxurious speed. Oh, how I wished I had the Mercedes and smooth road.

I was so cramped in my little cart that when the wheel fell off, as it frequently did, I could not get out of the cart to put it back on myself. The wretched cart held me fast. I had to sit still until someone came to help put the wheel back on my cart. My impatience to be off, along with my shame over having ridden in such a wretched cart caused me to be less than courteous to my assistants.

After the wheel was fixed off I went, rattling along again. I regret to say that on more that one occasion, being in such a hurry, I whipped at the front of the cart, For though the fog hid the beast, I was sure from the slow pace and the condition of the cart that it must be a pathetic, old mule, or some such dismal creature that was pulling my broken old cart.

After a time, I noticed that it was often the same people who came up from behind to fix the broken wheel. Being in a more appreciative mood on day I asked my helper why they didn’t just get into the cart and ride with me since we seemed to be going the same way. My offer was graciously declined. The poor souls preferred to walk. My progress was so often halted that the walkers were always catching up with the cart when the wheel fell off. Though I had a sometimes lonely ride I considered myself better off than the walkers, Unfortunately, I was frequently loosing a wheel or getting stuck in the mud. The walkers pushed with all their might to get me out of one bog, yet they never gave up or passed me by.

After spending a long, cold night with a broken wheel, one of my fellow pilgrims came up to help me again. “If you don’t want a ride, that’s fine. It’s cramped in here anyway, but why are you following along behind me?, I asked. My assistant looked surprised at the question and replied, “I’m not following you. I’m following Him.” I looked at the front of the cart as he pointed and for the first time the fog cleared enough that I could see it was not a mule harnessed to my cart but a man. Here was a tired looking, ragged man, with sweat and blood running down his face, holes in his hands, feet and side, and a crown of thorns upon his head. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God was pulling my broken cart!I wept with tears of guilt and remorse at how bitterly I had complained about being in such a broken, old cart. I had taken out my frustration on the slow speed and inhospitable road on the one who had never left me despite my ill-usage and self pity.

Now freed from my folly I was able to climb out of the cart and worship at his feet. “My child,” he said, “Can you take up your own cross and follow me?” I fell into walking with the other pilgrims as we followed him down the narrow, ill-kept, dirt road.

He never walks unharnessed. He is always finding someone in a broken down cart to pull. It is much easier to walk than it was to ride in my old cart. We walkers help to pull carts out of the mud and repair their broken parts. All the while we keep our eyes on the Master, the humblest and most broken looking one on the road, Yet he alone has the strength to pull a cart. He can and does. And we follow the humble Master who leads us home.

Sometimes I am in the broken cart. Sometimes you are the one creaking along. We all ride in its’ miserable confines at one time or another. When we are strong enough we get out of the cart and follow on foot. When you’re stuck in the cart remember you’re never alone. Christ is pulling you.

We Do Not Loose Heart

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthian 4:16-18

We do not loose heart…
What we see is such a poor reflection of what is to come. Some days all we see is heartache and loss. The dark can seem impenetrable. We are told in Scripture that light ultimately triumphs over dark, but there are days when the darkness seems to win.

The discordant notes of this life sound like they have taken over and threaten to derail the beauty of the music of life. The cacophony of sound threatens to overwhelm my migraine prone head into utter misery.

Dark and jarring sound are two images that seem at first contrary to a migraineur. Dark when one has a migraine is a relief. A cessation of pain comes with the evening darkness. Yet too much darkness does not really solve the problem, but merely hides it. Night does not reliably guarantee the end of a migraine.

Atonal music needs a harmonic resolution to feel complete. The amazing thing is that minor and discordant music can resolve into something which is beautiful in its entirety. Life has periods when it becomes atonal. It can seem as though the discord is consuming all of a life when it is really but a movement, adding depth and increasing the relief and sensation of a resolution.

It is hard to believe in the music of life, the absolute goodness of God and His never ending grace when it seems as though your life is surrounded by a modern symphony orchestra with each musician playing their own thing and creating an unbearable chaos. Family, friends, work associates, fellow Church members everyone needs a piece of you, something different from you, all at the same time. Life, sickness, hurt, need, poverty everywhere we experience pain…where is the harmony?

What we can hear, what we can see in any one moment is limited. We are finite beings. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians, that what we see in the dark is not all that is there. All that we hear is not all that is sounding. It is cold and dark, it is March. The noise of town is less than in the summer, but still ever present in the day. But if I listen for them I hear the birds singing of spring to come. Only if I listen for them. When the traffic roars, my Dad’s tv blares, my sister’s stereo tries to drown it out and my head throbs, I forget to listen for the birds. Hope is always singing.

We do not loose heart, not because we are protected from life’s storms, but because we remember to listen. The affliction of the present is not all that is. God is still good and loving. Some day all the pain will fall away and the joyous resolution will overtake all of creation, and we will see how the world has become better through pain, the pain of the cross.

In Lent we remember that loss is not all that there is, but that sacrifice is the road that redeems and restores. Waiting is hard. Believing in a spring or hope that never seems to come can test us to the breaking point. Yet, because of Easter we do not break. We believe in what is not yet come, for He has come.

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Storm at Sea

Psalms 73:26
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Another translation for “strength of my heart” is rock. God is indeed the rock my life needs to be built upon. If I let the lovely seashore lull me into complacency I may be tempted to build parts of my life upon sand. “Sandy” recently reminded us how secure houses on the sand are. Houses far from the shore we picked up and pushed over in the winds of the hurricane. If I let my ambitions or talents become my foundation, I too will eventually blow over.

Sometimes we feel torn between what seems beautiful and what is really lovely in God’s sight. A home right next to the sea may have a stunning view. But when the winds come are the windows hurricane proof? An outfit may make the most of our curves, but is it appropriate, for one who wants others to see Christ when they look at her, to wear?

In the very midst of these doubts come today’s verse from Psalm 73:26. Though my understanding is limited, my heart and my flesh will fail, yet God is my strength and rock. I do not know why the pieces of my life don’t always fit neatly together. I do, however, know where to turn for the roadmap. The Word of God is the ultimate GPS system. If I spend enough time with Him, in the end I do find my way back to my rock and my strength.

When I have doubts about the course of the day that is when I need to squeeze in some Bible reading and prayer. This morning the alarm did not sound. It flashed red in silence as I slept. I awoke to the realization that all my carefully laid plans were in ruins. It bears no comparison to a hurricane, but my own agenda had been blown seriously off course.

There were two options: I could jump up and rush like a whirlwind that would likely leave my home and family in chaos and try to regain the lost time or I could take time to pray and care for my home and pets as I had planned. Rearranging the days schedule took some faith and determination, but as it turned out, I was able to help get meals off to the shut-ins at my Church because I lost an hour.

I still have not caught up with my lost at sea day. It currently stretches before me an endless storm-tossed ocean. What to make for dinner is more problematic than I would like. Alternatively, I am grateful that God, my rock and foundation, enabled me to be a small part in others receiving a hot dinner on a bitter cold day.

My portion will never fail me. I will make and serve my family a hot and nutritious dinner, I took time to pray with my octogenarian father, and I even squeezed out some bagging of meals for other seniors. God’s ways are not our ways. His ways are better.

Humility

Isaiah 57:15
For thus says the high and lofty one
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.

Humility, what a challenging concept in today’s world. God, the Holy One, the One who Is, “dwells in the high and holy place… with those who are contrite and humble in spirit.” The contrast between our all powerful God and the humble ones of this world is practically too great to fit into one concept for the mortal mind. Yet, in light of the Gospel there really is no doubt about the subject. Christ himself in the sermon on the mount said,” Blessed are the poor in spirit,for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are the meek,for they shall inherit the earth…” Matthew 5:3-5. God loves those the world regards as of no account. God loves us even in the times when we feel as if we were of no account.

There is always a critic in every group or organization. Eventually we adjust to this reality. We don’t like receiving disparaging remarks about our efforts, but we can grow to accept them with grace. The greater challenge lies in our inner critic. I find most Christians are capable of talking ruthlessly to themselves. They would never dream of coming down half as hard on someone else. Worse still, we often replay our failures and pass over our successes as irrelevant.

The balance between humility and self-abnegation is a delicate thing. it is all too easy to confuse one for the other. One of the keys perhaps is to remember that it is God working through us that leads to success. We do not need to be our own worst enemy to avoid pride. Our job is to be vessels that God can use to accomplish His will. Using our God given gifts is not relying upon self. In and of ourselves lies no good thing, but God can use us to do great things.

It is through our dependance that God can use us best. When we feel like quitting we must keep going, despite set-backs. The obstacles of life can teach us more than the level road. Facing difficulties with humility and resolve both can set us on a road that God can use. We know where we want to go. We want to be with the Holy One one day. The pilgrimage is long and dark. When the way is steep and slippery cast your thought on the One who knows exactly where we are and can use us to make His way known to others through us. When we share the Light the path is lit for not only us, but others as well.

Help me humbly hold the Light of Your Word Lord in this dark and lonely place. Amen.

Journey

Welcome to this pilgrim journey through life with me. I am so glad you could join me. Too often it seems that adventure takes place only in the movies, but when we consider carefully, a Christian life is an adventure. We know where we are headed and we know why we are on this road. So join me in finding the adventure in everyday life. Let’s encourage one another in the Word, and find the larger purpose in the mundane of ordinary life.