Archives for posts with tag: redemption
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Cross at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Conway, South Carolina, April 9, 2017

I have a distinct memory in my high school years. Our beloved Latin teacher gave quite dramatic deliberations on a variety of subjects. She was always incredibly entertaining.I remember her talking about bubble gum giving your mouth a sugar bath of decay. I remember her literally sliding across a table with her hands clenched saying, “PLEASE, PLEASE…”  I don’t remember what she was begging for, but the manner of asking made quite a long lasting impression, that’s for sure.  Yes, Mrs. Goodman was one of my favorites.  She was an incredible teacher, full of inspiration, drama, quick wit, and unconventional methods which sure made her students take note, and learn, like it or not.  I still remember a lot that I learned in that class…

Well, one day, she started a very passionate dialogue. And she said something that really struck me. But this time it wasn’t about health or education or daily stuff. This time it was about faith, Christianity, and the Cross. She asked the question, “Why in the world would a religion choose a symbol as morbid as a cross? It may as well be a tombstone for what it represents.”   And as a young believer in Christ, well, my wheels started spinning quite a bit. I mean, she had a point. The cross was a symbol of death. Not just a natural death, but a violent death where one is being killed. Killed. Punished. Put on public display.

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Beaver Dam Baptist Church Cemetery, Shelby, North Carolina

So I got it. I got the reasoning for her diatribe. And as a new believer in Christ, this most often quiet high school girl wanted to raise my hand  and raise my voice and say, “…but Mrs. Goodman…” But the class time was limited and my words didn’t formulate quickly even though my wheels were spinning fast. My hand stayed down and voice was silent. Ever since that time, I sometimes find myself thinking of Mrs. Goodman and her question. And here are some of my thoughts… (which so wouldn’t have been able to be spit out quickly in response to her age old question during a class period in high school…)

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Cemetery across from airport in Shelby, North Carolina, April 2017

A week before Jesus was nailed to a cross, literally nailed to a cross, he was being praised, cheered, exalted, as a Savior. People lined the streets of Jerusalem and hailed the “King” on the donkey.  They cried out “Hosanna!”  One translation of “Hosanna” is ‘save now’. SAVE…NOW.  Another translation is “I beg you to save now.”  All signs were pointing to Jesus being the Messiah, the promised One who was to be the Savior of the World. And people were recognizing him as such. They saw the miracles, some realized the prophesies, listened to His words…and were moved by His presence.They were recognizing that this one born in Bethlehem under Beacon of a Star could be the One, the Messiah, they were waiting for. “Hosanna!” was shouted, palm leaves were waved as people lined the streets and hailed Jesus as King.

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Cross at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church, Conway, South Carolina, April 9, 2017

But their definition of SAVE…SAVE now…it was a bit different…more temporal than the one that Jesus spoke of. The week before Jesus was crucified on a cross, people had lined the streets to praise Him as the one who would save.  But that ‘saving’ didn’t look like they wanted it to. They wanted the ‘SAVING’ to be from present circumstances.  They wanted the ‘NOW’ to be…now. Days later, cheers turned to jeers, waving palm branches turned to whips, a road to a throne turned to a road to a cross.

But here’s the thing. That had been Jesus’ destination all along. To be the Lamb of God, the Sacrifice, the One who was to SAVE us, not only from present circumstance, but from our Sins….the Sin the like cancer eats away at us, but more than that, the sin that separates from a Holy, Pure, Righteous God. This Messiah came not only to “save now” from sins, He came to reign in our hearts as Lord.  Sometimes we want to trade the external-temporal-SAVING-NOW, for the internal-eternal-Saving-for-all-time.  The internal-external-Saving-for-all-time would take a sacrifice. Literally.  The Messiah would be ‘pierced for our transgressions..’…and the cross, would be where that sacrifice would ultimately take place.

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Wilmington, North Carolina, February 2017

So, the cross became the symbol not for death but for life. It became the symbol for the death of sin’s hold and the redeeming of the soul.

I’m not sure what my Latin teacher would say after reading this.  And I think it’s ironic that her name was Mrs. Goodman, because, she was good. In fact, she was great. She was a nut, but she was so loved and appreciated by so many.  And like her name “Good – man”, there’s something in us that wants to believe that if we’re good enough, if we’re great enough, then, THEN, we or those people can earn their way into Heaven. And that’s the thing. It’s a faith thing. Not a works thing. The Bible says, “all have sinned…all fall short…” The chasm between holiness and humanity is too wide. And the cross of Christ, that symbol of death, becomes a symbol of life. Resurrected life. But the gift, it needs to be received. By faith. Alone.

But…if we don’t believe we are sinners, why would we need a Savior? And if we don’t believe God is a Holy God, and we are so not, why would we need a Redeemer?  And if we don’t need a Redeemer, a Sacrifice, then why would we need a cross?  Paul even recognized that reasoning when he said, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  (I Corinthians 1:18)

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I am a sinner. From the get go. I need a Savior. Every Single Day. I need a Redeemer, a Messiah promised from the beginning of time. I need a cross. A symbol of temporal death becomes a symbol of eternal life. Why?  Because Death didn’t have power over Jesus. He was resurrected. Changed. Sin had no hold on Him, and He was raised…and Lives. My Redeemer Lives. That’s what I see when I see the cross. I see a Sacrifice and a Resurrected Savior.  When I see the cross, I see the Love of Christ that breaks sin’s hold on me and breaks through vain religious hoops and striving. When I see the cross, I see Jesus.

Screen Shot 2017-04-15 at 11.58.12 PMI’m not sure where Mrs. Goodman is now. And if I could go back and sit in her class…in a few words, I think I’d say that the cross is the crux. It’s the heart of a redemptive God. The Isaiah 53 Messiah was the Jesus on Calvary who didn’t stay down, but was resurrected. And my awesome Latin teacher would know that the root of resurrection, the Latin ‘resurgere ‘ means “rise again, appear again”. His death is the gateway to life. And because of that, by faith, Death can’t keep a good-man down. Not when a resurrected Christ is your advocate. And that, that is something to celebrate.

A Blessed Easter to You~

Heather

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”  

I Peter 1:3-4

Isaiah 53

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     So, if you were to walk on the beautiful path at the edge of the Broad River, you might come across this scene.  The light gray trees rise above the verdant canopy like candles on a cake.  But they do not tell a story of celebration. They tell a story of what had been destructive to the whole area  years prior.  A forest fire had raged through the acreage at the river’s edge and the flames had quickly spread through the trees.  The river, wide and deep, had been a barrier to at least keep it from traveling further on.  But the damage was done.

  If you were to look closely at the landscape you’d see charred stumps and branches.  The forest fire had consumed so many of the trees in its path.  The trees that we see rising above the canopy are the remnants that have been left behind.  They stand tall and barren and tell a story in much the same way that scars in our lives tell a story.  Something occurred to change the course of events, and the consequences are seen and felt and heard and remain for  years to come.  But do you know what I love about this photo?  In time, the gaps are filled in.  New growth occurs.  The normal course of events continue on.  Life goes on.  It just does.  Even after a devastating fire.

So here’s the thing.  We may not experience anything as traumatic as a devastating fire sweeping through our lives, but all of us have stories to tell of loss, of struggle, of things not going quite as we planned.  And like the barren trees rising from the landscape, we may have daily visuals or reminders of the loss that we have gone through.  Like scars, they tell a story.  We all have them. We can hide them and be ashamed, or we can bare them as a thankful reminder to us and to others, that life goes on.  We live.  We learn.   We try to make the most of what we’ve been given.  I’m learning to not hide the scars, but to be thankful for the stories they tell.  Our stories can encourage others who may be stuck in a charred landscape who feel no hope for the days to come.  Sharing our stories, baring our scars to trusted few, can encourage people to press on and know there’s hope . There’s hope.  And I see it on the Broad River Greenway Path.

And one day, when I walk the Broad River path, these barren trees, these remnants of the past, won’t be visible.  The lush green vegetation and young trees will grow and fill in the barren spaces and rise above the naked trees left behind by the fire.  People may forget and not have any clue there was ever a destructive fire. So it is with life.  Beautiful are the stories of redemption, in landscapes, and in people.  Though sometimes the sharing (baring) of them can make us feel like a naked tree in a sea of green, the hope of resilience can encourage others to press on, to hope, to focus on hope of moving on rather than what’s behind.

One more thing.  I wonder… I wonder if the charred trees left behind become the very fertilizer which makes the woods thrive all the more? That the lifeless remnants of what was left behind after the fire actually enriched the soil which nourished the beautiful  new growth?  So it often is with the struggles in our lives.  They so grow us up and enrich our lives in ways we never would have chosen. They make us appreciate the little things, and help us to get rid of the fluff and ‘get real’.  They help us to mature in ways that can impact the lives of those around us.  And they help us to see that maybe we are not as in control of things as we thought…..and make us aware that perhaps there is One who truly is in control. He adores us, created us, and calls us to a life filled with so much more than the fluff of looking ‘presentable’. There’s no place for shame over scars or remnants.  Christ’s love burned that all up on the cross when He exchanged death for life.  He calls us to freedom and life.  Not rigidity and covering. He calls us to growth, not being stifled by trying to look a certain way.  Bare the remnants.  They tell a story of redemption.

So, me? As I look at the photo of the lifeless, gray trees in contrast to the canopy of green, I’m thankful for the remnants in my life that tell a story.  People may or may not hear the story, but I pray that just as the trees charred by the Broad River Fire help nourish the growth of what remains and is now flourishing, that the scars in my life point to a Savior who redeems.  He redeems and the remnants can help us remember and rejoice. Choosing to bare the remnants and bear testimony to the grace of God  helps beauty rise up from the ashes….like vibrant trees rising up from a sea of charred wood.

Blessings,

Heather

“…but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3,4

Rear View

I’ve sat in the passenger seat and helped teach 5 teenagers how to drive. (FIVE!)It’s good training for having nerves of steel, it really is! But I always love how when kids have just gone through Driver’s Ed, they know the techniques. One son in particular was really good about using techniques initially. He had the hands at 10 and 2, and adjusted the mirrors. When he backed up, he always looked over his right shoulder, put his right arm back over the seat, and was really good at backing up in a straight line. I think it was because he would look over his shoulder and have a center line to gage from. He wouldn’t drift to the left or right, but stayed focused on the destination by looking back.

When I was learning to drive, I was terrible at backing up. I could do just about anything else, even parallel park. But when it came to backing up, I would drift and get off course in the drop of a hat. Later in life I still struggled with backing up in a straight line. It was probably most apparent the weekend I borrowed my friends trailer. Driving forward was no problem. But backing up with a trailer on the back, it was just too much. It could have been a comedy sketch watching me try and try and try again to back up a trailer in our curved driveway, but was a definite test of my patience at the time. I would avoid needing to back up with the trailer at all costs, but sometimes it was just inevitable. There was no way of getting around it.

It’s been one of those seasons for me of ‘backing up’…looking back and looking inward. Some things we were dealing with in my family made me really examine things in my own life and it’s been no fun. I needed to deal with some things. It was inevitable. I’m not talking about getting down on myself or the “paralysis of analysis”. I am talking about acknowledging mistakes and making room for growth in learning from them. There again, the goal is to learn from mistakes so as not to make the same ones over and over again. Years ago, our pastor would say “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll be what you’ve always been.” (Dave Shores) I sure don’t like the painful process of dealing with regrets. But sometimes, we need to visit those places in order to ensure that we don’t want to go back to the same old ways. Backing up in a car effectively takes using strategies. So does looking back into our lives. If we don’t have a center point, its so easy to get off course.

In that painstaking process of self-analysis, it’s so easy to drift one way or another. There can either be a deviation from standards and a watering down of expectations, or on the other extreme, there can be an overdose of shame and condemnation. Just as losing that focal point when backing up a car leads to drifting off course, losing perspective when looking back at past failures and issues without having a center point can make us drift far from where we need to be. As a mom of those in their teens and early twenties, I’m looking back a lot more now, and sometimes it just plain hurts to think of the “should haves” or “would haves”. But I want the looking back to be a motivator to do better as I move forward, and that requires keeping things in perspective.

So here’s the thing. As a believer in Christ, that center point, that standard of both acceptance and expectation, is found in the Truths of Scripture. If I am to stay on course, I need to fix my eyes on the One who can has been with me at the beginning of this journey, and will be there at the end. Bottom line, He’s been the One planning the itinerary. I love how Hebrews 12:1,2 talks about “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith”. He is the Author, the originator of our journey, and He is the One who will help us perfect it in the end.

So, as I’m backing up and owning up to things in my life, I am so thankful for a Redemptive God. He sees and guides and redeems. I want to be like my son who uses that focal point so that he can stay on course. I want to fix my eyes on Jesus and lay aside the weights that cling to me so that I can move forward. Yes, acknowledging the weights is key to letting them go, and that’s a part of the process of looking back. But the goal is to let those weights go and move on. I’m still here. This journey is so not done, so I want to make the most of it as I can….with those that I love…and enjoy the process. Yes, “forgetting what lies behind, I press on.” (Phil 3:13)…and pressing on is what it’s all about…

“so let us know, let us press on to know the Lord
His going forth is as certain as the dawn
and He will come, He will come to us like the rain
like the Spring rain watering the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

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