Posts for Tag: Christ

Crucify Him

Crucify Him! Oil Painting by Ivan Ilyich (1969)

O Jesus, as You stood before Pilate and gazed out at the crowd, into the hundred hearts amassed before you, all thick with fear and fury. 

Was mine among them?... 

Yes.  Mine was among them. 

I have desired your death in order to preserve my life, my way of life, my fulfillments, and my own control. 

But You, like me, desired Your death too!

By a mercy I cannot comprehend, you accepted my evil intent even to save my life! 

I am therefore no more my own, but yours---no more an enemy, but a friend to you forever.   Amen.

(Prayer adapted from the devotional book "Reliving The Passion"  by Walter Wangerin Jr, a book I highly recommend. )

The Mercy Tree

"We lost ourselves at one tree. And only find ourselves at another." Ann Voskamp

  This past Sunday was the first day of Advent, and we lit the first Advent candle, the candle of hope. Today we hung a paper ornament upon the Advent tree, of an apple, signifying that day when the human race fell from grace, where we lost ourselves, at that first tree.

 That first tree, where we lost our innocence, where we found our death. That first tree, where we took up the shackles of sin and became slaves. Where the man and the woman saw that they were naked, and were now ashamed of that nakedness. Where the man and the woman, made for themselves coverings of leaves to hide their that first tree, where God Himself walked in the garden, calling out "where are you?".

 "I heard You and I was afraid"

 "I knew that I was naked.......I hid from You."

"Who told you that you were naked?"

"the woman.....the serpent"

  Man and woman cast out from the garden.......yet in their rebellion, God still supplies grace, and the very first lesson... the lesson that sin has a price......that price is death..........only blood covers sin......and there in that garden, at that first tree, animals were slain by God to provide clothing for the man and the woman. To cover their shame the innocent died. 

            "And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them."

  There is a wonderful fictional book, called Havah, written by Tosca Lee, that describes the fall in vivid detail.  Havah (Eve)describes the wonder of the garden, the wonder of her relationship with the Adam, and their relationship with the creatures God has created. Everything is at peace. One of her favorite creatures is a tigeress that Adam named Adah, and Adah's mate, Havah loves these beautiful creatures and often naps with her head resting on Adah, listening to her purr. On the day that Adam and Eve fall from grace all this changes, and as she and he are fleeing the garden, she looks and sees two bodies on the ground, she is confused, the bodies are raw and red and wrong, and she sees one twitching, and she is shocked.......they flee the garden, the next day she awakes, confused, lost, everything has changed,  everything is wrong, and she feels the garment that lays upon her skin, she looks closely to examine it............and in shock she sees that it is Adah's coat that wraps around her body, the beautiful tigeress, her friend and companion..........

  God made garments of skins and clothed the nakedness of the man and the woman.........something died to provide those skins.

 So much lost at that first tree........but at that first tree comes grace, God clothes them, and God promises them a redeemer as he curses the serpent......."I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head,and you shall bruise his heel.”

 From that first tree to the last tree...........a multitude of promises

      • He will come through the seed of the woman
      • He will come through the line of Shem
      • He will come through the line of Abraham
      • He will come through the line of Judah
      • He will come through the line of Jesse
      • He will come through the line of David
      • He will come from the town of Bethlehem
      • He will come as a child and a son
      • He will be born of a virgin
      • He will be called “Immanuel”
      • He will be called “the Lord our righteousness”
      • He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace
      • He will come in humility
      • He will serve as a prophet in Israel
      • He will bring good news to the afflicted
      • He will crush the head of the Serpent
  •  And we come to the last tree, the Mercy Tree, where the King of Glory hung, battered and beaten, bruised and spit upon.....the God who long ago stood at the first tree, and slew two animals to cover the nakedness and shame of the man and the woman, becomes the perfect sacrifice for all sin. He gives up His life, to cover our sin and shame. The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.He who knew no sin, He who lived a blameless life, the perfect unblemished Messiah, dies in our place.......and on the third day, defeated death and hell by rising from the grave, He ascended into power and glory, and one day, He will come again, to receive His own unto Himself, and He will make all things right again.....then it will be as it was before we met the first tree.
  • All was lost at the first tree..............have you come to the second tree?

     All was lost at that first tree..........all can be found at the last tree.......the Mercy Tree.......

    On a hill called Calvary
    Stands an endless mercy tree
    Every broken weary soul
    Find your rest and be made whole
    Stripes of blood that stain its frame
    Shed to wash away our shame
    From the scars pure love released
    Salvation by the mercy tree

    In the day between two thieves
    Hung the blameless Prince of Peace
    Bruised and battered, scarred and scorned
    Sacred head pieced by our thorns
    "It is finished" was His cry
    The perfect Lamb was crucified
    His sacrifice our victory
    Our Savior chose the mercy tree

    Hope went dark that violent day
    The whole earth quaked at Love's display
    Three days silent in the ground
    This body born for Heaven's crown
    On that bright and glorious day
    When Heaven opened up the grave
    He's alive and risen indeed
    Oh, praise Him for the mercy tree

    Death has died, love has won
    Hallelujah, hallelujah
    Jesus Christ has overcome
    He has risen from the dead

    One day soon we'll see His face
    Every tear, He'll wipe away
    No more pain or suffering
    Praise Him for the mercy tree

            Christmas is coming...........we await, in hope, the arrival of our messiah..........Christmas is coming!



    Ann Voskamp quote is from her new Christimas book, "The Greatest Gift".

    Story of Hanah is from Tosca Lee's book "Hanah", the fictional story of Eve.




  • In a Rough Year, Thanksgiving Looms and the Praise Goes On

     Thanksgiving is looming upon us. This year of 2013 is quickly drawing to a close and in two short weeks I will be preparing the Thanksgiving dinner for our family. Each year it is hosted by one of my husband's sisters or myself.

    (This painting hung in my home when I was growing up. I have always loved it. It reminds me of my dad, of my brother, of the countless meals around the table and the prayers my dad prayed)

     We volunteered this year. 

     So now the questions loom. How to give thanks when there are empty seats at the table? How to give thanks for the hard truths learned this year? How to give thanks for the long fight where heart and soul were poured into an all out effort to make things right and yet it turned out wrong?

     How to give thanks for the wounded hearts, the bruised and battered souls?

     How to give thanks when you have battled darkness for someone, only to have darkness seemingly win? How to give thanks when that darkness snatched yet another from us, two dear ones within a few months time? How to give thanks when that same darkness seems hellbent to consume yet a third?

     "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." He says.

     Three very key words there......"in"..........and........"everything".......

     Give thanks "in" all things. That means right there, in the thick of it, we are to lift our hands to the heavens and give thanks.

     In "everything".

    for this is the "will" of God.

    So we lift our hands to the heavens and we give thanks to the One who is the protector of our souls. 

    We thank Him for His deliverance.

    We thank Him for our trials.

    We thank Him for the circumstances.

    We thank Him for His promises.

    We thanks Him that His promises are true, even if we do not see them now, we affirm that we will see them.

    And in the act of giving these thanks we understand....

     The darkness did not win. Those we love reside apart from all darkness now. He is their light. They worship Him now in spirit and in truth, they revel in His glory, bask in His love.........darkness did not win. In truth, darkness was utterly defeated and forever dispelled.

     "My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand."

      Loved ones can be snatched from us here, leaving us to go on without them. But they were not snatched from Him. Their time in this fight is over. We have simply been left to fight on for a time. We will see them again. They were both His. Until then we should fight on, looking back on that victory that was achieved at the cross, where the Seed of the woman, once and for all bruised and crushed the head of darkness.

     Like a snake when it's head is crushed, darkness writhes and twists and does all in it's remaining power to harm......but in truth it's time is swiftly approaching, and it is dead.

     As for the darkness that still seeks to destroy.........

     If there is one thing the darkness hates, it is to see those afflicted, raise their hands to the heavens and sing praises to the King of glory! Darkness much prefers you on the floor in a heap, weeping and sobbing and bemoaning your state. Darkness seeks to defeat you, to have you cast off your faith and wallow in despair.

    Darkness is the absence of light, and all that is needed to dispel it is flipping a switch. I stumble about in the darkness of my home, bumping into things like a fool when all I need do is flip the light switch. Just as I often stumble around in the trials and burdens of this life, bumping into things, crying out in despair, when all I need do is lift my hands to the heavens and praise God, and thank Him for His mercy and His grace, thank Him for salvation freely given to one who deserves it not, thanks Him for the trials and ask that He help me bring glory to Him in the midst of them......and the light pierces through the darkness and I can see again!

     So I raise my hands, I sing His praises! I believe! I am a child of the King! I rest on His promises! I give thanks!

    Thanksgiving is the key.

                        The key to hope, the key to faith, the key to strength.

     Give thanks, in everything. For it is His will. Trust Him, no matter what you are experiencing, for He has made us promises, and those promises are true and amen, and whatever happens to be going on will lead to victory.

     "For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for well-being, and not for calamity, in order to give you a future and a hope. "

     So we look forward to the Thanksgiving celebration, where family will gather together. We will eat and drink and remember the many blessings He has given, He is giving and He will give. The greatest of these blessings is the forgiveness of sins, the assurance of salvation, and the hope of eternity with Him.

    "“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
    Nor have entered into the heart of man
    The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

    The photo is called "Vengeance is Mine" and depicts a victorious Christ, stepping upon the head of Satan, the sword in His hand the Sword of the Word of God, and the robes in His other hand depict His stripping all authority and power from the enemy.
    The artist is Chris Higham.

    His website can be found here:

    The Great and Heavy Weight of the Poppy


    This morning as I walked into my local Walmart a woman handed me a tiny red poppy on a little metal stem.

    I stopped, and took it from her hand, and just looked at it. I had to reach down deep, real deep, to find the strength not to simply burst into tears. This little tiny flower, made of cheap fabric and wire, yet it weighs like a stone in my hand, like a thousand pound rock pressing into my very soul. The weight of it threatens to push me to my knees……

      I have always honored our veterans and the poppy has always been meaningful to me. It represented my dad and his service during WWII, it represented my own service during peace time, and it represented the countless ones who fought and died for my freedom. It represented all the patriotic flag waving parades attended across the years.............each year it has come to mean a little more to me as my own son deployed with the Army Infantry, first to Iraq, then to Afghanistan.

    But today, I think I finally understand, I think I get it, this little red poppy means so very much more than all I had previously thought. I am unable to express in full detail what it means…but in the words that follow I will attempt as best I can.

     The poppy stands for Kalin Johnson,  Rudy Acosta, Michael Anaya, Kris Lorenzo, Vincent Ashlock, Frank World, David Todd, Patrick Carroll, Stephen Koch, Adam McSween, Seth Blevins, Andy Krippner, Kevin Balduf, Jamie Jarboe, Dustin Lee, Derek McConnell, Juan Navarro, Michael Demarsico…….and ………so very many more, all lives, all leaving behind lives forever scarred by their absence.

    The poppy stands for Leah and her beautiful boys and the birthday they just celebrated, he would have been 36 years old this year. Deployed to heaven, gone too soon, killed in action in Afghanistan.

    It stands for Cheryl, Chipster,Florence,Walline and Mary…………godly loving people, who show love and mercy to all they see, who pray so for my son, theirs gone too soon, theirs deployed to heaven.

    It stands for Lisa, we agreed together on so many prayer posts, lifted up our sons and all those with them....mine came home, hers deployed to heaven.

    It stands for the little blond boy, sitting in a heart shaped wave on a beach, who will never feel the arms of his father about him as he grows.

     It stands for  a young man named Michael as he lay burned and wounded in that hospital bed in Germany, his beautiful young wife beside him bending low to hear his whisper…”you have to let me go”…..and she did, with tears and sorrow.

     It stand for a leader named John, who promised families he would bring their men home, and who now sits in prison till the end of his days for doing so.

     It stands for Siobhan who laid everything down and rushed to the side of her wounded son, she and he fought like lions, through the constant threat of death, each time pushed back, each time defeated, and then one night he simply went to sleep and never woke up…deployed to heaven, we know not why.

     It stands for Jamie Jarboe, as we watched from afar, the desperate fight to live, he fought long, he fought hard, but in the end, he went home, leaving behind a young wife who tries her best to honor his wishes and his memory by assisting veterans and their families.

     It stands for Chaz, as he picks himself up off the ground at an airport, and his beautiful wife  who feels the eyes of condemnation upon her by some stranger who knows nothing at all of the story she is witnessing.

     It stands for young Mark, who graced our home with his presence, as he slyly twists his foot in a full circle and shows us his prosthetic leg.

     It stands for Harry. It stands for Anthony. It stands for all our wounded and all those who love them.

      The poppy stands for Trevor, Jon, Joe, Allen, Artie …and all of of those who fell to suicide. Behind them stand more wives, husbands, mothers, fathers and children all asking why.

      It stands for Tammy, who buried her son Jon too soon, one who lost his fight against PTSD. She often sings various lyrics from numerous old songs, and she reaches out to veterans and survivors of suicide to lend a helping hand.

     The poppy stands for a host of young men and women still out there fighting, still paying the price, still bleeding blood wounds and soul wounds the likes of which you cannot comprehend. For Francis, for Stuart and a host of others.

     The poppy stands for all those who wait, for all those who struggle, for all those lives affected by all these wars, from the one that first began this country to the one we fight right now, to the ones we will most likely fight again in the future. The fallen, the wounded, the maimed…..and every single soul that loves them.

     The poppy stands for those who have come home, and yet remain there, who battle against PTSD, the ones enduring the nightmares, the anxiety, the anger, the depression, the hopelessness. For Andrew who once sat in a closet, gun to his head and who now writes books and poetry and strengthens his brothers and sisters. For Boone who uses the demon of PTSD against itself and directs his rage towards helping his brothers and sisters come together and stand together and fight PTSD. All the way Boone! It stands for Joe Dyer whose photo carrying an Iraqi boy to safety touched the heart of America but who died battling the demons of PTSD.

    It stands for Bill, still battling the memories of Vietnam.

      Behind each warrior who battles PTSD stand more mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, wives, husbands and children, watching their loved ones struggle against darkness, doing all that they can to help, fearing the dark, raging at the dark, and lighting candles against it.

     And now the poppy begins to become very personal to me……the poppy stands for Allen, and for Mandy, and Luke and Reddik, for Steve and Judy, for all the blood, the tears the sacrifice, the loss and the sorrow.

     It stands for the flag passed to two little boys, and the looks on their faces as they accepted it. It stands for the young woman who is burying the love of her life.

     The poppy stands for my son Joshua, who never served a day and yet has served every day for many years. He bore the burden of an older brother fighting, he bore the fear of loss, he bore the worry and the stress and now he bears his brothers wounds, now home, the physical war behind him, but the mental one rages on.

     The poppy stands for my family, for the nights on our knees, on our faces, for the fear, for the worry, for the pride, for the sacrifice, for the nights without sleep, for all the cries sent up to heaven, for all the pleas for prayers, for the days spend hovering by the phone, for the sorrow and pain felt at each loss, each wound. For the loss, for Mel who could not endure it all……

     The poppy stands for Adam, my oldest son, for his service and sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan, for his actions, for the good and the bad, for his fighting with all of his heart and soul, for his wounds received, the physical and the mental, for the innocence lost, for his guts and his bravery and his willingness to do whatever it takes to bring his guys home, for the price he has paid for that, for the lives he saved and the lives he took. For the fight he is engaged in now, a fight for life and soul. For the great love we his family have for him, for the pride we have in him. He is a man. He has stared into the face of fear and hate, death and evil. He bears the scars of those encounters, and fights still to overcome wounds received to his soul.

     This then is why, when that woman passed me that poppy this morning, it near took me to my knees, right there at Walmart, it stole the breathe from my lungs, brought the tears to my eyes, and I took it from her, and I nodded, for I could not speak, and I looked at it, and I pinned it to my chest.

      So I ask you, regardless of what the poppy might mean to you………pin it to your chest, it is heavy this tiny flower, this lite as air piece of fabric and wire, it weighs the soul, weighs down deep……..weighed down with the terrible cost of war, the blood, the wounds, the death, the destruction, the hate, the pain, the loss, the fear….it is heavy but nonetheless, carry it and remember.

     There is one more thing……..the poppy in all its heaviness, all that it represents of pain and loss and sorrow and sacrifice, also reminds me of my Lord. He too understood death and blood and pain and sorrow. He was whipped near to death, a crown of thorns pressed into his brow, he carried a heavy wooden instrument of torture to a high hill, whereby he was nailed to it, and lifted up, naked and laid bare to the world, to be mocked and scorned, his side pierced with a spear…..the sinless Lamb of God willingly took all this upon him, all the sin and death and horror and ugliness of this world, that we might be set free from the price of all our sins.

    The blood that ran down was red like a poppy, and it has the power to wash away all sin. And upon remembering this, the back became stronger, the weight of the tiny flower eased, and once again it was a flower of remembrance for all that has been sacrificed.

    I am so very honored to wear it.

     If you are willing, and if there is someone for you, that gives that poppy weight, please leave their name in the comments so we can honor their memory. God bless you all, and God keep our veterans.

    In the Furnace With God

    “And he (Nebuchadnezzar) ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

    Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.””

    Most people know the story of the three Hebrew men, tossed into the furnace for their refusal to bow down and worship a false god; it has always been one of my favorite ones. I cannot count the times I have read this out loud to my sons when they were growing up, or the times I have gone back to it myself for comfort.

    This morning was one of those days, and I sat and read this story and something that I had not considered before came to my mind.

    Nothing is said about whether or not the three Hebrews also saw the fourth man, the one who was like a son of the gods, and nothing is even said about whether the persons watching saw him or not, the only certain thing is that King Nebuchadnezzar saw him.

    Life is like a fiery furnace sometimes. We are bombarded with trials, painful trials, trials that can suck away our strength and our joy. Often in these trials we cannot see clearly. One could assume that these three young men were afraid, sure they spoke with faith and confidence when they refused the kings request to bow to the idol, but they were human, just like us, they had to be fear, and dread, and maybe even some doubt. They did not doubt God, they simply could not have known for certain if God would deliver them this side of life, or on the other. It is also possible that they walked about this fiery furnace with no knowledge of the One who walked with them, the text is not clear on what they saw, only what the king saw. They walked in faith, in the midst of flames, unaware that God Himself walked with them, for the One for appeared like “a son of the gods” was no less than our Lord Jesus Christ. (Look up Christophany.)

    When life is hard, when the fires burn high, we can remember our Lord. We are not alone in the furnace. He walks with us, and He will bring us through. I may not be able to see Him, but it is certain that the enemy of my soul sees Him…………and that is enough for me.

    We as believers do not walk alone, we are never alone, there is no place and no circumstanced where we should be afraid. We should face adversity, sorrow and even death with the sure knowledge that we are not alone……He walks with us. He has promised that He will never leave us, He will never forsake us and that nothing can separate us from His love and care.

    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
    when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.”

     So let us then be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Let us stand fast and face whatever He allows in our life, face it with faith and courage.

    Fight the good fight