Have a Blessed Resurrection Day. Happy Easter from Mama’s Empty Nest.
It’s Maundy Thursday – a day of remembrance for those of us who are Christians.
Good Friday is but a day away. And then we wait for the day spectacular. The day of rejoicing. Resurrection Day! Easter Sunday – the day Jesus proved He is the way to victory over death.
But as we wait, we commemorate. Tonight at church, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper. As believers in Christ, we will gather together in our country church. We will read Scripture and ponder those last days Jesus lived on earth in human form.
We will follow in His footsteps. We will eat a meal together – we call it a Love Feast – just as He did with His disciples before He was arrested, tried, convicted, beaten, and crucified on a cross.
John 13:1: “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.”
Today we will partake in Communion. We will break specially prepared bread, handmade by our church deacons using a long-used recipe. We will give thanks for it before we eat, just as our Savior did before he spoke these words recorded in Luke 22:19: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Then we will take the cup, again giving thanks in remembrance of what our Lord did for us on the cross when His blood poured forth to save our souls. In the same way, after the supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” ~ Luke 22:20
But there is something else we will do. It may seem unusual to some, but it is an integral part of our faith as we remember the significance of this Holy Week, the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made for human kind, and the love that overflowed from Him.
We will fill basins with water, gather towels, and kneel in front of other fellow believers in Christ and wash their feet.
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.” ~ John 13:3-5
In Jesus’ day, prior to a communal meal, it was common to have your dirty, dusty feet washed before reclining at a low table to eat. This job was relegated to a lowly servant. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate in love, humility, and servanthood by performing this act for His disciples.
And then He told them and us, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, not is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” ~ John 13:14-17
So why do we do wash the feet of another? Not only do we do so to follow Jesus’ example, but also because even though as believers we have been washed clean of our sins when we come to Christ, we need cleansing from living in a sin-stained world.
Sanctification (cleansing) is performed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the “washing with water by the Word” (Ephesians 5:26). As followers of Jesus, we desire to emulate Him, serve others with humility in our hearts and minds, and build one another up in love.
It is then that we will be equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
On this best day of the year, I can’t think of a better way to spend it than serving my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ by following the footsteps of Jesus.
Wearing shoes outside this last week or so would just result in wet feet since my home is still encased in a snow globe world.
So shoes, old or new, haven’t really been on my mind. Until today, when I realized I needed to write about new shoes.
Over the weekend, I yanked a pair of boots on yet again when hubby and I ventured out shopping. I actually looked at a pair of shoes on the sale rack, but then dismissed the idea of buying them because: a. I really didn’t need them; b. boots adorn my feet when I’m going anywhere this time of year since it’s snowy, icy, or just plain cold outside; and c. they weren’t that cute.
I didn’t think about shoes again until yesterday. Cue the new shoes reference.
During worship at our little country church, a choir member sang a solo entitled New Shoes. As I listened to the song lyrics, “So I’ve made my reservation for my final destination, I’m changing my location to my mansion in the sky; gonna wear me some new clothes, bright shiny white robes, walk ’round in new shoes getting ready to move,” an idea popped into my head.
I found myself thinking about new shoes and wondering if really we would even need shoes in heaven. I mean, who knows? There are references to some form of white garments in the Bible, but I can’t find anything scriptural about having shoes in heaven, new or otherwise.
Now I am aware that for some people getting new shoes is heaven, and that some shoe stores named Shoe Heaven actually exist. So there’s something heavenly about new shoes that attracts us humans. I admit it floats my boat to buy new shoes, my mother also loved shoes, and my daughters are a bit shoe-crazy themselves.
Cue the next new shoes reference.
I decided to do some online research about shoes in heaven because, you know, Google is the final authority about everything (please know I’m being sarcastic, and if you’re seeking any Bible references, use a reputable source not just someone’s goofy answer on Google). But first I logged into Facebook to see what was happening in my friends’ worlds.
Apparently, buying new shoes. Yep, a Facebook friend posted this status: “Somehow new shoes always make me feel better ”
New shoes. Again. And that reminded me of another song about new shoes [click to hear it], which for some crazy reason, cheers me up every time I hear it and not just because it happens to be the cell ringtone when oldest daughter calls me.
So I started singing, “Hey, I put some new shoes on and suddenly everything is right I said, hey, I put some new shoes on and everybody’s smiling, it’s so inviting.”
Hey, some new shoes…and that all brought me back to my initial question. Will we wear new shoes or any shoes in heaven?
I don’t know. But I do know that while we’re still here on earth, the Lord has given us much instruction on how we are to walk, regardless of our shoes.
Scripture tells us to walk faithfully, walk in obedience, walk in wisdom, walk blameless, walk in the light, walk humbly, walk by the Spirit, walk in the way of love, and walk in truth.
That’s a lot of walking! So maybe we do need new shoes after all. And maybe that’s why new shoes make us feel good and downright happy.
An old German proverb advises us, “Don’t throw away your old shoes before you have new shoes.” That’s pretty decent advice unless you want to be bare-footed, but I do believe it’s wise to ‘throw away’ your old shoes if they’re taking you to places you shouldn’t go.
Even Dr. Seuss gave us some thoughts about where our feet should take us when he wrote, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.”
For me, whether my feet are shod in boots or shoes, new or old, or I’m just barefooted, I want to walk the way Jesus shows me.
And to do that, I need to be reading His words, binding His truth to my mind and heart.
“When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.” ~ Proverbs 6:22
On this best day of the year, where are your shoes taking you? Do you need new shoes?
Lately, images of fire dart across my mind’s radar screen.
Of course, the news reports about wild fires out west attracted my attention and the sight of all that devastation leaves me rife with sympathy for those who’ve lost their homes.
To continue the fiery theme, last week my blog received the “Blog On Fire” award. Shortly before that, an amazing display of fiery color occurred in my own backyard at sunset one evening – an image I managed to capture with my camera and post yesterday on Wordless Wednesday.
Even the weather speaks of fire to me with sultry hot and humid days and nights, which make me feel like I’m burning up and bring old sayings to my thoughts like “hotter than Hades,” or my personal favorite, “hotter than a flicker’s nest,” a phrase my Mom used to utter.
All these fire images got me to thinking. You know the problem with fire is you can get burned out. When there’s not enough fuel to sustain a fire, it flickers, it fades, and it dies out. Done. Consumed. Burned out. Cold.
Sometimes that’s exactly how I feel – in my real life and in my writing life – like I don’t have enough sustainable fuel to keep the fire going. As I examine why I feel so consumed, I can list off a litany of reasons.
I’m tired. I’m overwhelmed with too many tasks to accomplish. The summer doldrums I usually encounter this time of year just weigh me down. The emotional aspect of our middle daughter getting married recently and preparing for our other two adult children’s weddings is taking a toll on me. I’m feeling a bit melancholy over the fact that all of our children will again be far from the homestead.
Now that middle daughter is married, she and son-in-law have commenced their newly-wedded life in the state south of us. When son marries in two months, he and our new daughter-in-law will live in the state to the east of us. And we just learned that oldest daughter and her fiancé will set up housekeeping in his city – a state several hours southwest – once they become man and wife.
It’s entirely possible that all these circumstances explain why I feel burned out and used up. I spoke with a very good friend lately and confided some of this to her as well as the fact that on top of all of these reasons, I’m also encountering a very dry spell in my walk of faith.
I know this happens from time to time. I’ve experienced it before, but I don’t like it. Here’s how I would describe this experience:
You used to feel revived, just like a continuous mountain stream might provide refreshment, by the living God each day. Cool and alive, moving forward. You’re nourished by God and His Word and saturated with His living water.
Then for some reason, the dry season comes just like the drought that holds much of our country tight in its grip right now. You feel withered. Parched. Like you’re in the middle of a hot, desolate desert.
Here’s the part that causes me to often struggle. I know my Savior. I know the answer to my thirst, the solution for the dryness is in His Word. All I have to do is open it and partake. It’s like when you turn on your kitchen faucet. Cool water pours forth. You need to grab your cup, fill it up, and drink to quench your thirst. And even though I know this, I don’t do it. My Bible sits unopened; my prayer times prove shoddy and quick at best.
I have an amazing friend who is an ardent prayer warrior. I know she prays for me. She told me she often pictures those she prays for as vessels which have been turned over on their sides and are starting to empty. So she prays for God to fill them up.
As she’s been praying for me, she saw me as a vessel not just turned over, but turned upside down and emptied out. She softly added that she doesn’t tell me this to hurt me. I replied that this image doesn’t hurt me because I know it is truth and she has put into words exactly how I feel. Upside down and empty.
That is how life feels sometimes, even the life of a believer in Christ. We endeavor to live each day with gratitude and joy, but some days, our humanity, our very humanness gets the upper hand and we just don’t feel it.
But then something truly amazing happens. Even amid a burned out, worn out wasteland, God is a God of restoration. He tells me that in scripture, but when I can’t, or don’t, or won’t read that for myself, He shows me.
I see firsthand His restoration in my parched, dried, crunchy brown lawn when he sends refreshing rain to green my grass yet again. He demonstrates restoration when I gaze at the farmer’s field next to my home. Once it was a wasteland of overgrown brush and briars, ugly to behold. Now, it boasts stalk after stalk of lushly green corn, growing by inches each and every day.
He reminded me of His restoring power when we visited Shanksville, PA recently and I viewed the farmland which was violated, shredded, torn, and burned when Flight 93 crashed there on September 11, 2001. In place of the horror that field represents, gorgeous wildflowers now grow as God restores that land.
And He proves to me that even though I feel distant from Him, worn down, and burned out, He is still with me (or as my prayerful friend says, “He knows your address.”). He still cares, He still protects, He still loves me unconditionally – empty and parched, tired vessel that I am.
How do I know this is true? Because as I trudged to my mailbox one weary day, I glanced across the road, and God, Creator of the universe, showed me something – a group of wild daisies blooming.
Happy little white and yellow flowers that I’ve never noticed growing near my house before. The sight of them transported me back to childhood and a summer activity I always loved as a youngster – picking a daisy and plucking each petal off of it as I recited, “He loves me, he loves me not. He loves me, he loves me not.”
Right then I knew it! I knew – deep in my heart and yes, in my soul – something profound resonated while observing those wildflowers by the side of the road.
I picked a daisy and as I twirled it round and round in my hand and considered plucking its petals, it ‘spoke’ to me. And this is what it said, “He loves you.” Each petal of that daisy proclaimed, “He loves you. He loves you. He loves you!” And I didn’t have to pluck the petals off the stem to know it.
I never have to second guess His love for me. Even when I feel distant from God. Even when I feel like I’m in the middle of an arid desert. He always has loved me. He always will. He will restore me, and He will provide refreshment. He will give me strength. He will grant me joy. He will always be with me. That is His promise - “… lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” ~ Matthew 28:20.
And you know what? He loves you the same. A daisy told me so.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8
I captured this photo a couple of years ago at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh one day when my husband and I visited there in need of a winter’s day respite.
Something about this sight intrigued me enough to warrant taking a picture. In comparison to some of the other photos I snapped of exquisite plants and flowers that day, this one doesn’t seem that extraordinary.
But yet, each time I view these snapshots, I am drawn to this picture over and over again. Finally, this week as I prayerfully considered Holy Week and what it means to believers in Jesus Christ like me, I realized why this photo attracts me with such intensity.
It reminds me of the picture in my mind of how I think the tomb appeared on that Resurrection morning. The stone was gone. The tomb was open. And it was empty. Our Savior defeated death and He arose!
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ Then they remembered his words.” ~ Luke 24: 1-8
The tomb is empty. My Savior paid the ultimate price for my sin and the sins of this world. He arose from the grave victorious! And so shall we. Hallelujah! He is risen, indeed!!
Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
The Death of Jesus:
“It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.
The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.’ When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.
The Burial of Jesus:
Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action. He came from the Judean town of Arimathea, and he himself was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.”
Holy Week, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, always leaves me at a loss for words.
To remember that my Savior entered Jerusalem triumphantly to the cheers of a crowd shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” yet just a few days later, Jesus hung on a cross dying to jeers of the crowd simply astonishes me beyond words.
After observing the Passover meal with His disciples and trying to prepare them for what He knew was to come, Jesus established what believers in Christ call the Last Supper. Then He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was betrayed, arrested, deserted and denied, tried and condemned to be crucified until death, beaten, scourged, and mocked.
To consider that He bore the sins of the entire world on His shoulders willingly, knowing the pain and agony He would bear and to realize He loved me (and you) enough to offer Himself as the sacrificial Lamb takes both my breath and my words away.
Last Saturday evening, the day before Palm Sunday, my husband and I worshiped the Risen Lamb with 14,000 other believers at a Casting Crowns concert in our nearby city. What an incredible night.
What an amazing way to usher in this Holy Week, listening to and singing along with one of my favorite Christian performing groups. Surrounded by a packed arena full of fellow Christians. Again it rendered me speechless.
My own words seem so inadequate to express what my Savior did for us. Often when words fail me, pictures and music suffice. So as this Easter weekend unfolds, I’ll post music that is meaningful to me and captures the waves of emotion I feel.
And all because of this:
“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16
Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com
I spend so much time peering at and examining something that I don’t really see it for what it truly is. I often wonder if I miss blessings that way.
This came to my mind because when I arrived at work this morning and turned over today’s leaf in my daily inspirational calendar, I read this quote:
“Courage does not consist in feeling no fear, but in conquering fear. He is the hero who, seeing the lions on either side, goes straight on because there his duty lies.” ~ Saturday Magazine (British magazine published 1832-1844)
And that’s my problem I think. I too often concentrate on the lions on the side threatening to attack me or the trees that block my path. I’m distracted by fear for what might happen instead of focusing on what’s right in front of me, straight on. Fear has a way of grabbing and holding my attention so strongly, making it difficult to focus on thankfulness and joy.
Over the years, my gripping fears have changed. When I was a girl, fear came from the darkness. I don’t know why I was afraid of the dark, but I was certain something or someone lurked in the shadows just waiting to pounce upon me.
If I was at my friend’s house next door and had to walk home alone after darkness descended, I sprinted through our yards, heart pounding, legs churning to reach the safety of my back door as fast as possible. I’ve conquered that fear for the most part, but occasionally, when I walk alone in the dark now as an adult, I still make haste to arrive at my destination quickly.
As a young child, I was frightened of a gigantic monster in our basement. It had widespread mammoth-sized arms and it breathed fire, literally. The monster was an old coal furnace that heated our house and that thing terrified me. The dark little coal bin under the porch also was a scary place. As I grew older, I realized how irrational my dread was, but it still helped when my dad installed a new and smaller natural gas furnace.
None of those childhood terrors were quite as unnerving though as the fear that squeezed the breath out of me almost seven years ago when my doctor informed me I had cancer. That fear rose up, snaking its way around me, twirling its terrifying tendrils until it locked me tightly in its grasp.
But as I prayed and sensed my family and friends’ many prayers for me, I literally felt that imprisoning fear fleeing my body and in its place, the Lord granted peace and comfort to fill me.
I persevere to keep that nasty fear at bay, but yet it occasionally sneaks back for another attack. What if the cancer returns? What if my husband loses his job? What if..? What if…? What if???
I had an unnerving dream over the weekend, one that startled me awake gasping for air, making my heart pound, and opening the door for anxiety. This nighttime terror was deeply set in a foundation of fear that trapped me as surely as fast-setting cement.
Terror curled around my subconscious so securely that when I fell asleep again, I dreamed the same nightmare. During the day, that dream weaved its way into my thoughts and captivated my mind with an eerie, unnerved feeling.
I pondered this over the weekend. What am I to do with this fear that attacks me even in sleep? And then I remembered. One day several weeks ago while driving to work, I listened to Dr. Charles Stanley on the radio as he related a story that I haven’t forgotten.
This pastor spoke of a very difficult time in his life when he could have easily given himself over to fear and anxiety. An older lady in his church invited him to her home for lunch and showed him a painting she had of Daniel in the lions’ den. She asked Stanley what he saw in the picture. Lions, he answered, surrounding Daniel, ready to attack him, maim him, and destroy him.
But then the woman told Stanley to look closely at Daniel. What was he doing? Daniel wasn’t looking at the lions at all; his eyes were turned upward to God. His focus was not on the dilemma he was in, or on pain he might endure, or even on the fear of being eaten alive. Daniel’s focus was completely on God.
Dr. Stanley said the message he learned was that as we face the ‘lions’ in our lives, we must remember that God is ready, able, and willing to fight any battle we might face and protect us just as the Lord protected Daniel. But we have to turn to God, focus on Him, not our fears, and make our way straight to Him.
Daniel never doubted his faith in God. He may have felt fear, but he knew the Lord would give him the courage to conquer it and bring him through the situation. Daniel understood that the battle belongs to the Lord.
Oh, to have faith like Daniel and trust that Almighty God will help me conquer my fears. To focus my eyes on my Savior, not on my anxiety. To see the lions on either side but continue straight in the path He’s made for me. To not let the trees block my view of the forest. That is my prayer on this day in my book of Opportunity.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9
Copyright ©2012 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com