We headed north for vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was counterintuitive as a spring break destination. We traded sandy beaches for rocky shores, ocean waves for the swells of Lake Superior, swimsuits for winter boots, and warm days for windblown snow.
Visiting family and a comfortable place to stay for free were the allure. However, we discovered so much more: the beauty of winter. The pristine snow sharpened the sky’s blue and the pine trees’ green. The cold breeze coming off the lake created intricate designs along the shore. White and gray displayed their own palettes of color. If the cold didn’t take my breath away, God’s handiwork in the winter season did!
At first glance, much in the Bible seems counterintuitive to the world’s way of thinking. “Bless those who curse you.” “Love your enemies.” “Lose your life to find your life.” Only sacrifice atones for sin. Death leads to life. These challenges to our human perspective are given clarity at the cross of Jesus Christ.
As the only perfect sacrifice, Jesus died for God’s enemies to demonstrate God’s love. In the ugliness and starkness of the cross, God wrought the everlasting beauty and glory of eternal life through Easter’s resurrection. The cross was the means and the price to provide for our salvation and the forgiveness of sins. The Easter story is our story!
May we approach and celebrate every day by thanking God who shows up with beauty in the least expected places.
(See more pictures of winter beauty in my post, Part 2: Beauty In The Least Expected Places.)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
1 John 4:10
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Holidays are a time to catch up with out-of-town family. Over the years, I have discovered an extra joy: worshiping together in their home church. Being in God’s house away from home, I always learn something new and am prompted to reflect on God’s word. This past Christmas was no exception. In her sermon, the pastor posed three questions:
1. What gift has God given to you?
2. What gift do you give to the world because of God’s gift to you?
3. What is the song of your heart?
These are my type of questions in that they bypass the fluff and get right to the heart of the matter. The first question: what gift has God given to me? Salvation is the obvious answer. Without God’s salvation, I would have nothing of eternal value. But that wasn’t my answer. My answer was hope. The birth of Jesus and the realized promise of salvation fill me with hope. Hope for every circumstance and relationship in my life. Hope for my future, both here on earth and in heaven. And hope for living the life of hope that God has called me to. The second question: what gift do I give to the world because of God’s gift to me? Hmm, as a professing Christian, I should have many good answers. I went with the first one to pop into my head: love. Because God’s hope swells up inside of me, I can express and share God’s love. In a world beset with wars, political divisiveness and bitterness, love is a beacon of hope. Love starts with me in my little corner of the world and can spread beyond my reach through God’s reach to the world. The last question: what is the song of my heart? This was the hardest question. I thought I needed a highly profound answer. I stuck with this one because it is the mantra that motivates me each day. “Everything, even the little things that I do in the name of Jesus, matter to God.” My significance and my influence stem from heeding God’s word in my life and exercising faith daily. Great questions to ponder. May God’s answers spoken to your heart guide you in 2015.
Please feel to share your answers (short or long version) to these three questions in the comments section of this post.
And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Our new house has been more than we bargained for: in a negative sense. More problems to fix than expected. More money needed than expected. More time than expected. Like every homeowner’s lament, the to-do list is long. Personally, it has been a dark season in my faith. But I have learned a few things along the way. Our approach to difficulties matters. My husband’s approach is to tackle (just about) any house repair. He researches Do-It-Yourself projects online and browses local home improvement stores. I love his “can do” attitude. My youngest son is enthusiastic to take on new projects. There is a palpable excitement to jump in, get his hands dirty and make it happen. I love his “let’s get started” attitude. As for me, I just want to plant snowdrops in the landscape. I need the reminder that God can and will bless us in every situation. To expect to be blessed in this house and believe it today in anticipation of those blessings. Once I got the whining and the pity party out of my system, my attitude has been to be an encourager, to recognize the progress and to share the vision of home sweet home.
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
I Peter 1:6-9
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.