A New Day

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

As I write this on Easter Monday, April 18th, my mind is filled with many thoughts.

First, the day after Jesus rose from the grave, I imagine the joy and smiles on the faces of those closest to Jesus here on earth. The feeling of dread and doom that had filled them was now replaced with wonder and expectation. What was next for these men and women? They had witnessed so much in three years and now another twist in their adventure with Jesus.

Forty five years ago this evening, Dale and I made a commitment to follow Jesus. We both knew Him, heard the sermons and felt like we were pretty good. Our marriage was not only on the rocks, it was wrecked. We argued most of the time and around 6:30 p.m. on this day, we decided that we would divorce. He would stay in Japan, obviously, and I determined that I would go to San Francisco with our dog and start over.

A half hour later saw one of us asking the other what the marriage needed. The answer, “A relationship with Jesus Christ”. These were words neither of us expected. But, we looked at one another, knowing it was the truth. We went to our bedroom, knelt down and prayed together. When we finished praying we looked at one another and we knew that something had changed. We looked with eyes of love, hope and commitment.

On April 19th, 1977 I woke up different. I still looked the same, I was still the same person, but there was a deep change within. I opened up the blinds in our bedroom and looked out. The same four quad-plex buildings surrounded the grassy courtyard, but it appeared the sun shone brighter. Everything was brighter. I felt cleansed, more clean than you feel after showering, it was a deep clean. I guess the way I felt is how your home looks after a deep cleaning. The house glistens. The floors are polished, the furniture dust free, the windows clear, and fresh smells abound. That is the way I felt on the 19th of April, 1977.

Like the disciples the day after Christ arose, I was filled with anticipation, expectation and joy.

 “Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer captive to sin’s demands! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection. We know that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was a signal of the end of death-as-the-end. Never again will death have the last word. When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive he brings God down to us. From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that means nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue, and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin and alive to God. That’s what Jesus did.

That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God. ” Romans 6:6-14 (MSG)

Have I looked at each day like that first? No, but when I stop and quiet myself I still recognize that difference. My whole being shouts to me to be expectant and anticipate what the Lord is going to do today. Each morning is filled with the promise and assurance that God is in control. Nothing is going to happen to me that will take God off of His throne of grace, He is not wringing His perfect hands in worry. He has a plan for my life and yours.

Easter Monday

Have you ever had a day that you dread? Easter Monday is that day for me. Somehow, as a growing child I would have mishaps on that day.

I can remember my parents saying they were going to tie me in my bed so that no harm could come to me. Of course, they were joking.

Two incidents come to mind quickly when I see Easter Monday approaching. The first required an emergency room visit. My sisters and I were off school, watching mid-morning television, eating our Easter basket goodies and drinking pop (soda, coke, sody-pop, soft drink I have heard them all). Our mother was on the phone talking with a friend. My older sister asked me to go get her more to drink. I said no. She knew I would do it anyway, so she tossed her glass at me. Neither of us thought anything would happen. But, somehow the glass hit just the right way on my knee and exploded, sending chards into my knee. We both panicked and we didn’t want Mom to know what had happened. We slid by her, and went to the bathroom, I am certain she noticed that blood was running down my leg, but we were determined. As my sister was attempting to place band-aids over my knee, our Mother appeared in the bathroom door. I then went to the emergency room where our family physician removed the glass and commented that they were very pretty. They were blue and white glasses. I am certain we were corrected, but we were just being kids.

A few years went by. It was evening on Easter Monday. My sisters and I were outside, shoe-less of course. Again, my older sister asked me to go get her shoes, so she could investigate something. I obliged and ran down our sidewalk in the back of our house. I don’t know how, but, somehow I tripped, slid across the cemented back porch and the aluminum screen door stopped me, but not before I dented in the bottom part of the door with my head. No emergency room visit that time, but no school the next day either.

I occasionally hear about my adventures on Easter Monday, but it is few and far between. In jest I was referred to as Grace. All legs and feet and no coordination.

I smile as I write these memories. I can still recall the glass being removed and the doctor and my Mom laughing at our antics. I can still remember being stopped by screen door and hearing my Dad say, she dented my door.

These are the things that make parents go grey. They are also the stuff of great memories.

“And do everything with love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NLT)

Did we sisters do everything in love? No, of course not. We are a real family. But, we are fiercely devoted to one another, we have each other’s back. The Lord created our family. It was not always easy for us, but, we survived and flourished. Today I would not run to get her shoes, but I would most likely trip at some point. Grace still exists, but now I pass it off to old age.

He is Risen Indeed!

Christ the Lord is risen today; Christians, haste your vows to pay;
Offer ye your praises meet At the Paschal Victim’s feet.
For the sheep the Lamb hath bled, Sinless in the sinner’s stead;
“Christ is risen,” today we cry; Now He lives no more to die. ~

The week was horrendous, but Sunday is here. The women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus. They wondered how they would move the stone with the Roman seal on it. They really didn’t need to worry about that. The stone was blasted away by the power of a Living God.

“Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Sir, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”  Jesus said, “Mary.” Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”  Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’” John 20:15-17 (MSG)

I love these verses. Upon recognizing Him as Jesus, Mary grabs onto Him. Clinging to Him the way we cling to family members we haven’t seen in a while. He had to tell her to stop, because He still had to go to His Father.

How awesome it must have been to see a newly risen Jesus and to hold Him. I cannot wait until it is my turn to cling onto Him. To hear Him say Mary to me.

Today, I plan to honor this Resurrection Sunday. Christ is risen, He is risen Indeed.

Gone

Death. It seems so final. The emptiness that echoes in your heart. The darkness that creeps on the edges of all you do. The hollow feeling that envelopes you.

Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb. Out of fear, His tomb was sealed. Not only gone, but locked away.

Imagine what the disciples felt. Their friend. Their teacher. Their Lord. Gone and sealed off. Their feelings of desolation must have been indescribable.

“From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead.” Matthew 16:21 (NLT)

Having heard the above from Jesus, as humans we are sometimes slow to comprehend what we have heard when faced with tragedy. I think (and this is my opinion) that one of the disciples would remember this statement and share it, reminding others that there is hope. But, Jesus is full of surprises for us. I can’t imagine how the disciples got through those three days Jesus was in the tomb.

They thought He was lying in there dead, but, no, he was busy. “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last.  I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” Revelation 1:17-18 (NLT)

Jesus was working, grabbing the keys to death and hell. I personally cannot wait to hear this story.

For Us, For Me

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53:5-6 (NLT)

The end of this week we commemorate the events leading to Easter.

Jesus left Heaven and all of it’s glory to come to Earth. He did not have to do this. God the Father created this Earth, He (the Trinity) could have decided that they were done with this creation and with a word ended this whole thing. They decided differently,giving us a pure example of love in parenting, giving our children another try, God chose to send His Son to Earth, making a way for us to discover redemption and relationship.

Jesus came to earth as an infant. He was human, as we are. He cried as an infant, cut teeth, had childhood ailments, ear infections, fevers, colds, and flu. He skinned His knees, stubbed His toes, most likely got sunburned. He came to experience everything we do as humans.

He was human and God. This boggles my brain when I think of it. Have the power of God Almighty and yet choose to be human and restrained in these bodies. He didn’t do it grudgingly, He did it willingly. That humbles me.

On Thursday night we remember the Last Supper. Jesus brought his friends and followers together. He knew one would betray Him, and yet Jesus celebrated with this man. He broke bread with him, He included him. I couldn’t do that. If I knew someone was going to stab me in the back, I would keep that person at a distance and have no fellowship with them. Not Jesus, He feasted with Judas.

After the feast, Jesus went off to pray, His disciples slept off the meal, even after hearing that Jesus was going to be betrayed. What did Jesus pray? He prayed for us. He prayed for our protection. He prayed that we would continue in God. He thanked Father God for us, for me. (John 17)

When we have an appointment like a dentist or surgery there is a feeling of panic. We dread going. We ask for prayer. We warily approach the time of what we feel is going to cause us agony.

Not many of us go through what Jesus did. Yes, people around the world have been persecuted and martyred, but for the most part, we have no idea what that agony is like. We panic at the sound of a drill, or the sight of a needle.

Jesus knew. He knew what was about to happen. He knew He would be brought in front for a mock trial. He would be beaten. Not like what we see in movies, He was beaten, think about a piece of meat we have tenderized with a meat mallet. How that meat is stretched and mutilated. That is what Jesus did for us, for me.

That was just the beginning. He was crowned with thorns. Not those jiggers we get from roses or brush. Thorns long enough to piece through His skull. He did it for us. He did it for me.

We complain when we have to carry a bunch of groceries up stairs and we think it is so inconvenient and hard. Jesus carried His cross. With a pounding bloody head, and His flesh torn apart. He did it for us. He did it for me.

All of this sounds terrible. I know I haven’t begun to truly describe what He went through. After all of this, Jesus was nailed to a cross. His flesh, once more thrust with pain and agony. When we first went to Japan, we had an English language paper delivered to our home. One day, I opened the paper to see photos of several people crucified. Crucifixion was still allowable then. I stared at the photos in disbelief. They were gruesome and I was stunned. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified, because of us, because of me.

“This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right. He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way. His wounds became your healing. You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:21-25 (MSG)

Today I have had my mind filled with the sacrifice Jesus made for us, for me. Simply saying, ‘Thank You, Lord’ just isn’t making me feel better. I know He freely did all of that because of love. Forty-five years ago this Monday I asked Christ to come into my life and save me from my sins. I did this with Dale as we knelt beside our bed. There was no altar call or music leading us to the decision, it was our Lord, gently poking and prodding us to come to Him, freely. We did. The past forty five years I have tried to put into words what the remembrance of Christ’s death has meant to me. All I can say is He did it for us. He did it for ME.

Clementine

“Run like a deer from the hunter, fly like a bird from the trapper!” Proverbs 6:5 (MSG)

Our daughter’s family has two dogs, Winston and Clementine. Winston is a mixed hound breed, very loving, docile, and the image of a loyal companion who sticks closer than a brother. He stays beside you and goes where you go.

Clementine is a mixed breed also. We can’t figure out what she is. Half gazelle, half dying for attention and full on lap dog if she could get away with it. She is a small bundle of energy and love.

This morning I let the dogs out to do their morning thing. I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw Clementine bound down the steps into the yard. She had spotted something and she was going to get it. She was halfway down the steps to the beach before I could get down the steps to the yard.

I hollered at her, I clapped my hands, I used my deep voice. I watched as she kept going. I finally got down to the lake and she was bounding down the shore, sniffing and following scents that only dogs can smell. She would occasionally stop, turn around and glance at me, but her instincts had taken over and she was on her own mission.

I tried to be upset with her, but, I couldn’t. She was having too much fun. She didn’t wander too far, as rocks blocked her path and she couldn’t jump over them. Reluctantly, she turned around and headed back. I told her to go to the house and without slowing down she bound up the steps (there are 65 steps leading down to the lake). Winston was beside me and I told him to head to the house. He lingered beside me, making certain I followed them.

Clementine after her jaunt

Clementine often reminds me of joy. She takes advantage to leap around and enjoy her freedom. She relishes a good run. She makes the most of moments to explore her surroundings. Her mixed breed is a combination of dogs who hunt, explore and run. She does what she was made to do.

“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.” Psalm 18:33 (NLT) I pray that I, too, can be like Clementine. Relishing each moment, exploring the possibilities, and feeling the freshness of each day with delight.

Water

Having been married to a sailor for the first 20 years of our marriage, we lived near the water. I grew up with a river in our city, along with Oil Creek. In the summer we would swim or play along the banks of the Allegheny river and in the winter we saw the river freeze over. In the spring we knew that the ice would melt enough to flow and there would be a pile up of ice where the Allegheny met Oil Creek. The downtown area would flood in the spring. That was the rhythm of my life when I was a child.

When we married, I lived by the Atlantic ocean. I will always remember the first time seeing the ocean. It is so vast and grey. I loved it. We spent many weekends during late spring, summer and early fall laying on towels and body surfing. Wonderful memories.

Moving to Japan, we lived on Sagami Bay which flowed into the Pacific Ocean. The beaches were black because they were formed by the volcanic ash from Mt. Fuji. The beaches were not bare-footed beaches, the surface was hard and coarse . The waters would churn up from typhoons and the sea would look angry.

The next body of water we lived on was Schoodic Bay in the Bay of Maine, part of the Atlantic. The coast of Maine is something to behold. It is majestic and bold. Water agitates and foams crashing over the rock bound coast. The noise of the water echoes in my memory, along with the sea water smell . Each drive along the scenic coast of the Acadia National Park was different. Granted there were times during the summer when I would be trying to get to the base and find myself behind a tourist and mumble, “yes, people, that’s the water, and those are rocks and yes it’s beautiful, but, I need to get moving.” We can take beauty for granted when we see it daily.

In San Diego our house had a million dollar view. The house was not worth that, but the view was incredible. Each day I looked over the bay heading into the Naval Base. I saw the Coronado Bridge and Point Loma. Without exception the Lord would paint a different sunset with His palette of colors, swirling tones and highlights to delight any eye watching for the green flash as the sun dipped past the horizon.

In Charleston, as we hit our ‘senior’ status, we would walk the shore of Sullivan’s Island. Holding hands and talking above the quiet flop of the water on the shore we would reminisce or talk of our future. It was our place of solitude.

I was reminded this week of these places as I have looked over the lake. At times the water is still, no movement. Other times with the wind, white caps are visible. The occasional speed boat will stir up waves that lap against the shore. Ducks land and glide across the lake, each taking turns dipping under the water to catch some food.

Water can be like our lives. There are times when we get all churned up, tossing things that are causing turmoil within us. Sometimes we get angry and we crash over people we love, dunking them in our attitude. Once in a while we are dark and foreboding, other times we are reflecting the bright light of our Creator.

Psalm 23:2-3a, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul;” (NKJV)

I have needed this week. My soul has been refreshed. Refreshed by the view of the lake, refreshed with being with my daughter and her husband and refreshed with my granddaughter. Her delight in all things spurs me on to look at the world as she does.

A Little Nighttime Dance

“They let their children frisk about like lambs. Their little ones skip and dance.  They sing with tambourine and harp. They celebrate to the sound of the flute.” Job 21:11-12 (NLT)

Dale and I drove to spend some time with our oldest and her family. They recently bought a vacation rental and are doing some work on it. We are attempting to help and not hinder the progress.

We drove to their home, an hour and half from the lake house. The first night we were together I was coming out of a room upstairs and our granddaughter was finishing getting into her pajamas. I hear, “Grammy, come in here please.” Of course I did. As I entered the room, she started playing an electronic type of renaissance music from her iPad. She wanted me to dance with her.

Now, I am not a dancer. The best I did was the bump in the mid 70’s. But, even that could become dangerous for Dale.. Anyhow, I started to dance with my granddaughter. She was doing some ballet/modern/interpretive/hip-hop dance. I just tried to keep up.

It was only a few minutes, but it was the loveliest evening I have had in a long time. Her expression of pure joy and happiness was one I will never forget. Her youthful delight in creating a moment was not lost on this grandmother. Too often I neglect to take the time to do a little dance just because.

What a delightful way to start a week together.

Doing All Things

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

This is my oldest daughter’s life verse. I don’t know when it became her verse or the circumstances surrounding it. I just know that we have reminded one another from time to time when this verse is applicable.

She once told me she wrote it on the palm of her hand before a difficult test in high school. She would glance at it and finally the teacher came to look and see if she was cheating. What she got was scripture.

When Dale and I were on our way to Japan we boarded a plane in our local regional airport. Both of our families were there to say good-bye as we knew it would be a long time before we saw one another or talked with one another. We went to Franklin to the airport, which is now referred to as Venango Regional Airport. It was a one room airport. No security, no frills. We walked in and the man behind the counter took our tickets. He then walked down behind the counter and checked our bags. After that, he loaded the airplane. At this point, my older sister grabbed my arm and said to me, “Cathi, if that man changes his hat and flies the plane you are NOT going.” I can still feel her grip on my arm and see the expression on her face.

Like a comic sketch, the man put on a pilot hat and lowered the stairway and welcomed us aboard. Since Dale, the pilot and I were the only ones on board, he had us sit where the plane would be balanced. I swear I could hear the Hail Mary’s from my sister.

This man could do all things. He proved it that evening on our 30 minute flight from Franklin, PA to Pittsburgh, PA.

We don’t have to be a jack of all trades to live that scripture. But we can realize that nothing is difficult with the Lord involved. He will give us the needed strength, wisdom, discernment and energy to follow through. Not everything will be easy, but we can have success.

God’s Sense of Humor

I have said that God has a sledge hammer sitting beside His throne which has my name on it. He picks it up on occasion to whop me across the head to get my attention. It usually works.

I have also said that I make God roll His eyes and groan a lot. He also laughs at my antics. I don’t do that on purpose, but I just know I am THAT child. The one you watch and chuckle and shake your head at. THAT one.

As I had mentioned earlier I had to have a procedure done this week. In the mid 90’s I was diagnosed with a tumor in my right breast. Before going to see a surgeon I had prayer from our pastor at a Friday night prayer meeting. It was a simple prayer, but an incredible healing. I could not move from my chair for about twenty minutes and I just kept giggling. A week later I went to the surgeon and told him that I had had prayer and that the Lord had healed me. The doctor did not believe me. He examined me to the point that I felt like he was counting my vertebrae from my front. He finally asked his nurse what she felt. She said scar tissue. At the time, I smiled at the doctor and said, I told you I was healed. Then I laughed all the way back to my office.

I have often been able to share this healing with others and each time I get excited. This week I had to have a biopsy on my right breast. A friend of mine reminded me that that one was healed miraculously and that God does not remove His healing. Throughout this whole situation, I have been very calm and peaceful. I didn’t even get nervous when I went in and had the biopsy. It was so cool, I watched it on the screen while it was happening.

So today I got the results. The first results came via My Chart. It was the reports from the radiologist and the doctor who read the results. I went to google to look up words. All was confusing. I handed my laptop over to my husband and he was equally confused. I decided to wait until I got a phone call before I said anything. I did not have to wait long as the phone rang within minutes of the email.

The result was benign with some scarring. Now, I know the scarring can mean many things, but to me, it was a reminder that God has healed me and He was recalling to mind that He lets us know when He has been in a situation. I like to think He is on His throne shaking His head at me and thinking, “I told you I would never leave you.”

How many instances in our lives do we fail to see God’s humor? I love that He made me smile today for several reasons.

Psalm 2:4a, “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;” (NKJV) I know that is taken out of context, but I truly believe that God has joy in us and He does laugh and smile when He is working out His perfect plan for us.