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Braking Points

Pausing in the midst of Life to ponder, pray and find footing to continue.

Month

April 2014

ONE HOUR?

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Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “So, couldn’t you stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40, 41 NET)

Lately, I have struggled with insomnia or perhaps just difficulty falling asleep, because I do fall asleep eventually. Typically, I shift, turn, deep breathe and try intentionally to fall asleep. My mind races with worries, upcoming events, list after list of uncompleted tasks. Last night I pulled out my Kindle, tilted my body so the light would not disturb Terry’s sleep and read for 15 minutes or so. I checked the clock two or three times and then miraculously I fell asleep. This process which varies slightly from one night to the next.

This morning I opened The Upper Room to the devotion for today, April 16, 2014 and found the scripture traced Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane honing in on Matthew 26:41 and as God often does when I read familiar scripture it is as if one phrase, one idea, one word becomes illuminated.

“One hour?”

That approximates the time I often spend trying to fall asleep. What if I spent that time praying? What if, I treated the myriad of thoughts, some with names as blessed requests for prayer? What if I prayed and waited with Jesus? What if I allowed the invasion of mental images rather than fighting them off and carried them to the throne of Christ?

“One hour?”

How better to spend it than waiting with Jesus.

Messages to the Contrary are Just Plain Wrong

What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is the one who will condemn? Christ is the one who died (and more than that, he was raised), who is at the right hand of God, and who also is interceding for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will trouble, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “ For your sake we encounter death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we have complete victory through him who loved us! For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39 NET)

For several days now, I have been considering memorizing the 8th chapter of Romans…no, I have not completed the task, but I find every word of it so powerful and so reassuring. What a bit of ammunition to have ready, when Satan starts in with his battery of lies, slander, and his store of old tapes. You know the tapes I mean, the slip ups, the mistakes, THE SIN that nailed Jesus to the Cross.

Also, about a week ago I started singing (off key, of course since I cannot sing) a little chorus that took shape into the verses below based on the power of Romans 8.

So here they are…if you can write music, I would appreciate a real melody…that is if these words touch you. To God be the Glory

I’m fine, I’m good
If you heard any differently,
you misunderstood.
God’s good, God’s strong
messages to the contrary
are just plain wrong.

Before I open my eyes, Before I see the sunrise
Climbing out of this bed, the thought fills me with dread
Deep down in my gut the pain starts settling in my shattered heart
But I Can’t let it take hold, Can’t give it any control
Gotta get up and dress. Gotta choose prayer over stress
Gotta move, My choice, Gotta go, Choose to listen to His voice.

I’m fine, I’m good
If you heard any differently,
you misunderstood.
He’s good, He’s strong
messages to the contrary
are just plain wrong.

Facing dragons today, Feel like turning away
Wandering here in the dark, seeking one little spark
Then a whisper shouts clear, “Grab your cross and come here!”
So when I’m losing control, He shouts, “Take hold!”
Gotta get up and dress, face the world with its stress
Gotta move to His Voice. For me there is no other choice.

His voice, My choice
His will what a thrill
His way every day!

Whatever life brings, if He’s there I can sing.

I’m fine, I’m blessed
Even when evidence
screams distressed.
God lives, God’s strong
Messages to the contrary
are just plain wrong.

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When I get to heaven, I am going to be able to leap like the girl in this picture, until then suffice it to say,” I’m fine, I’m good. If you heard any differently, you misunderstood. I’m fine, He’s Strong. Messages to the contrary are just plain wrong.

What I Learned about Heaven and Hell from Jesus’ Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man

Jesus said, “There was a rich man who always dressed in the finest clothes and lived in luxury every day. And a very poor man named Lazarus, whose body was covered with sores, was laid at the rich man’s gate. He wanted to eat only the small pieces of food that fell from the rich man’s table. And the dogs would come and lick his sores. Later, Lazarus died, and the angels carried him to the arms of Abraham. The rich man died, too, and was buried. In the place of the dead, he was in much pain. The rich man saw Abraham far away with Lazarus at his side. He called, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am suffering in this fire!’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember when you were alive you had the good things in life, but bad things happened to Lazarus. Now he is comforted here, and you are suffering. Besides, there is a big pit between you and us, so no one can cross over to you, and no one can leave there and come here.’ The rich man said, ‘Father, then please imagesend Lazarus to my father’s house. I have five brothers, and Lazarus could warn them so that they will not come to this place of pain.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have the law of Moses and the writings of the prophets; let them learn from them.’ The rich man said, ‘No, father Abraham! If someone goes to them from the dead, they would believe and change their hearts and lives.’ But Abraham said to him, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not listen to someone who comes back from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:19-31 NCV)

Recently, I heard a sermon at a church we were visiting that brought me back to this parable of Jesus. I realized the parable had SO much to tell me about heaven and even more to tell me about hell. Imagine that, there is still capacity to learn at my age and even more that God wants to teach me.

The first part of the parable deals with two men living very different lives on earth. One has money, privilege, he is living in the lap of luxury and whether he simply cannot see the suffering right outside his gate or he simply chooses to ignore it. I don’t know, but what I do know is that the man suffering in poverty and poor health has a name, which gives him greater distinction in Jesus’ story than the rich man. His name is Lazarus.

While the rich man disregards Lazarus, Lazarus sees the rich man and longs not to bring him down to his level, but to merely have crumbs from his table, discarded bits of garbage from the rich man to eat. Street dogs give him more regard than the man with plenty.

BUT, both men die. Jesus tells this part with the matter of fact attitude death deserves in the God’s Grand Scheme. Rich or poor, all flesh eventually fails and dies. Here is where the heaven and hell stuff begin and here is what I learned.

Angels carry Lazarus, not a nameless beggar, but a person whose name God knows to the arms of Abraham (heaven). There he is alive, comforted, and sees only the beauty and grace of God. In hell, on the other hand, the rich man suffers physically, mentally, spiritually.

So much for the attitude that says “I’d rather party in hell than strum a harp in heaven.” The rich man in hell is very aware of heaven. He sees the lavish life Lazarus is living. Like Lazarus once longed for the rich man’s crumbs, he longs for a single drop of the living water of heaven. Imagine the torment in hell as the damned see heaven constantly from the pit. Imagine realizing that the chasm between cannot be crossed after death, but also imagine the rich man’s anguish as he recalls his brothers who are still living on earth without benefit of salvation.

Hell isn’t some good old boy’s club or “Cheers, where everybody knows your name”. In hell you don’t even have a number let alone a name and like the rich man in his torment, no one there wants to see the people they love join them. There is no party! There is loneliness and regret. One may never have cared whether family or friends found Jesus on earth, but based on Jesus parable, in Hell they are begging for their redemption. If we Christians had one ounce of the passion for the lost that the rich man exhibited in hell, we could change the world.

Once in heaven we cannot see the other side. We will not dwell on the citizens of hell, but in hell those citizens see what they rejected, pay the price, and long not to have another person join them. We see glimpses of this desire for others to be saved here on earth…people who have experienced hellish life styles that destroyed themselves and others before finding Christ usually make the most passionate evangelists.

I really don’t like thinking about hell and yet here in this week before Palm Sunday, I realize Jesus thought about it, taught about it and experienced it for ALL Creation, so I cannot ignore it. So today I am praying for the Lost…especially, those who think they have it all together and simply do not need God and for those who think God doesn’t exist and that death is simply switching off the lights.

 

Lenten Reflection: And We Didn’t Even Notice Him

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He was hated and rejected by people. He had much pain and suffering. People would not even look at him. He was hated, and we didn’t even notice him. (Isaiah 53:3 NCV)

Bruised and bullied, crying softly where he lay
Left to suffer by his taunters, battered child, jar of clay
And we didn’t even notice him, we looked the other way
Not a hint of recognition, not a single glance his way.

Wounding words on her Facebook page, No not another day!
Cannot face the ridicule and shame waiting in that hallway!
And we didn’t even notice her, we looked the other way
Not a hint of recognition, not a single glance her way.

Tiny heart beating, tiny product of a night of play
It doesn’t fit, wasn’t planned, just make it go away
And we didn’t even notice them, we looked the other way
Unborn infant, frightened mom, not a glance their way.

We shouldn’t be surprised at the headlines of today
We, too, are battered, bullied, broken jars of clay
The pattern of our brokenness makes us want to look away
But the Savior of the world has something else to say,

“In every tender battered shoot trampled on today
In every broken heart, in every fractured jar of clay
See me, see me, see me where the wounded lay
See me, see me, see me don’t look away.”

For every teardrop, every sin, He died to pave the way
Bloodied, naked on the cross, He didn’t look away
He saw the thief, He saw his mother, He didn’t look away.
Mockers, skeptics, pagan soldiers, all within his sway

And YET He stayed, He didn’t look away.
He didn’t look away! Can I not stay?
Can I not look and see beyond my mirror everyday
And see the suffering, tend a need for other jars of clay.

“In every tender battered shoot trampled on today
In every broken heart, in every fractured jar of clay
See me, see me, see me where the wounded lay
See me, see me, see me don’t look away.”

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