Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Empty! The Tomb Is Empty.

Many years ago, a very excited friend gave me a carton of plastic eggs and told me that the eggs were called Resurrection Eggs.   She told me that my preschool kids would love these for Easter.   

I opened the carton and looked at the unimpressive, colored eggs then closed the lid without further examination.  I stuck the carton away in my supply cupboard and forgot all about them for many years.

Then one day, I decided to take a closer look at the Resurrection Eggs.  I opened the carton and read the little paper that was enclosed with the eggs.  I  peeked inside each numbered egg and quickly realized what a treasure these eggs would be in helping young children understand the Easter Story.

The next Wednesday night, I used the Resurrection Eggs for the first time.  I let the children come up and select an egg from the carton and instructed them not to open their egg until their number was called.  Each child held their plastic egg like something magical was inside.  They could hardly wait for their number to be called.   

When I called the first number, I asked that child to open his egg and tell me what the item inside had to do with the Easter Story.  If a child didn’t know, I’d helped them along with how the item in the egg pertained to the Easter Story.

Egg 1:  Leaf/Triumphant Entry 
Egg 2:  Perfume/Mary Anoints Jesus
Egg 3: Small piece of Washcloth/Jesus washes the Disciples Feet
Egg 4:  Small Crackers/Last Supper
Egg 5:  Three Dimes/ Judas Betrays Jesus
Egg 6:  Purple Cloth & Thorns/Soldiers Mock Jesus
Egg 7:  Dice/Cast Lots for Jesus's Clothes  
Egg 8:  Cross (Made with Sticks) or Nails/Jesus is Crucified  
Egg 9:  Sponge dipped in Vinegar & Toothpick/Blood & Water (No Bone Broken)
Egg 10:  Spices (Clove or Cinnamon)/Jesus is Buried
Egg 11:  Rock/Stone rolled over the tomb

When we came to Egg 12, I was unsure how the child holding this egg was going to react when he opened his egg because the last egg was EMPTY.   

When I called for Egg number 12 to be opened this little boy couldn’t hide his disappointed.  There was no special item inside his egg to show the class. 

I quickly asked the question, "Why is your egg empty?  What does that have to do with the Easter Story?"  

My little preschool friend's face lit up and he blurted out, “Empty!  The tomb is empty."

Luke 24:6 (NLT) this familiar question is asked ...“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?  He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!"

Praise God.  
Empty! The tomb is empty.  
He is risen from the dead!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

I didn't know.

It was more than a year ago that I planned a one-month vacation to Florida.  I’d never been on a vacation for this long in my entire life.  In the planning of this escape, I searched the internet for the best location to stay with the best price.  I landed on a sweet little condo in a tropical resort community southwest of Orlando.  Thus, I began to make plans for this extended holiday.

What attractions would we visit?

What special local restaurants would we find to eat out at? 

What items would we need to bring with us to make our trip more comfortable?   

The curious thing about making plans for the future is…we don’t know what the future holds.

I didn’t know that three weeks before our trip my husband would have a 7-hour surgery to repair 5-hernias and this vacation would give him the restful time he needed to fully recover.

 I didn’t know that my daughter’s family would be moving to Florida and I’d be able to spend time with them, see their new house and even spend a few nights with my four grandchildren. 

I didn’t know that I’d see a family member that I hadn’t seen in 38 years.  (My father's sister who is 7 months younger than me.  This was a special treat.)

But God knew…He holds the future in His hands.  He knows our coming and our going.  He knows the beginning and the end. 

I’m a planner.  I like to have every detail planned out before hand, but this time…I just don’t know, but I’m thankful that I serve a God who does know.

In Ecclesiastes 3:11 (GW) it says...

It is beautiful how God has done everything at the right time.
He has put a sense of eternity in people’s minds.
Yet, mortals still can’t grasp what God is doing
from the beginning to the end of time.

I know that I need a reminder at times that God has it all planned out.  He is in control.  He knows, even when...I didn’t know.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Beauty for Ashes

Front of picture
Back of picture

Years ago, I decided to take up the hobby of cross stitch.  I found it very satisfying to create something beautiful from a blank piece of fabric.  During those years, I made some wonderful pieces of artwork.  Some I kept, and some I gave away.  One very special cross stitch picture I did was of my daughter when she was 10 years old.  As the picture began to take form, I was more surprised than anyone that it was a perfect likeness of the photo I used to made the pattern.  At least the front of the picture was.  The back was a mess of treads and knots.

When I compare the front of this picture against the back, it reminds me of the life of an Old Testament Bible character.  Her life was definitely a knotted up mess.  She had a lot going against her and some of the mess wasn't even her fault.  After all, she was forced to marry a man who didn't love her.  A woman in those days would have found it nearly impossible to disagree with her father.  Leah dutifully followed her father's deceitful plan.  And...we know deceitfulness never works well for any of the participants.  Leah fought against jealousy towards her own sister, Rachel, who was the pretty one and the wife that her husband loved.  Even the meaning of Leah's name is an uphill battle.  In Hebrew it means weary.    The word weary paints a clear picture of Leah's messy knotted up life.  

Yet, God saw Leah and blessed her with children.  Or was that a blessing?  Leah's daughter was raped, two of her sons plotted and committed mass murder and her boys were involved in the selling of their half brother into slavery.   Still, with all these heartaches and woos, it was through Leah's line that Christ would come.  It's interesting what Leah's name means in the Greek--The Greek spelling of Leah is Lia which means bringer of good news. 

God can take the worst tangled up knotted mess and turn it into something of beauty when it is placed in His hands.  In Isaiah 61:3, God promises Israel...and us...something amazing.

To all who mourn in Israel he will give: 
beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; 
praise instead of heaviness. 
For God has planted them like strong 
and graceful oaks for his own glory.

God see's our miseries no matter how small they may seem or how huge.  He will step into our lives and create something beautiful out of the mess if we let Him.

What side of your life’s picture are you focusing on?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Bow and Arrow

A few summers ago, I bought the grandkids a little plastic bow and arrow set.  It was cute to  watched the little ones pull back the string on the bow and try to balance the arrow in their tiny hands.  In the learning process, there were lots of arrows that fell to the ground before one took flight.  

I probably should have led with this--the tips of the arrows had suction cups.  There were no children hurt in the making of this illustration.  

As I watched numerous grandchildren take a turn at archery, each one had to pull back the string to propel the arrow forward.  To the casual onlooker, the string of the bow being drawn backwards might look like a setback.  But the backward motion is what gives the arrow the ability to soar.  

Paul the apostle faced setbacks in his life.  Some may have though he was out of God's will or that he had made a mistake.  People may have thought that Paul wasn't hearing from God.  Paul certainly felt the tug of the bow string when he was in a damp, cold prison cell and when he was lowered in a basket and fled the city because men plotted to take his life.  Paul must have had questions when he pressed on through storms at sea where he experienced being shipwrecked.  He also had the setbacks of broken relationships in ministry.  All these may have looked like backward motion, but God was about to propel him into something better.  But first there was a setback.  

I like what Paul reminds us to do in Philippians 3:12-15.   “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let us, as many as are mature, have this mind.” 

Paul felt the tug of the bow string, but it wasn't defeat.  It was God
 preparing to release him into something great.

How about you?  Are you feeling a tug on the string of your bow?  Have you had a recent setback in your life?  Don't fear.  Get ready.  You are about to soar.

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