an ode to green

an ode to green – glorious green – all things green, great and growing, growing grassy – glistening glorious, decorated in dewdrops made to capture morning sunbeams in celebration of a new day’s dawning

an ode to green – the glassy green of a tranquil pond where green bullfrogs jam all night, filling the peaceful green silence of the bayou with their melody while weeping willows’ graceful veils of green falling from heights of lofty branches to the ground, sway silently with the breeze, keeping time and wary watch lest anything not green disturb the peace

an ode to green – the graceful green of newly budded tree branches, lovely in their newfound lace after so long barren, brown under winter’s reign – the deepest greens of stalwart pines, standing steady, steadfastly growing green on mountains’ sides when all else sleeps, covered in white, while they proclaim with every green needle of every green branch of every green tree, that they live still, still green, evergreen, still growing, still producing pinecones, providing homes for every bird that seeks shelter when all other green has left the mountain, save the moss, the velvet green carpet of the forest floor, covering rocks and roots and trunks – revealing where the fairies hide, in all things green

an ode to green – the green of rice paddies in the rain, of corn fields full and growing tall in rows that stretch to the horizon, of farmers’ fields green with grain that feeds us all when it is fully grown and green

an ode to green – to chlorophyll, the green that takes God’s gift of sunlight and gives green life to every growing plant and flower and bush and tree, each producing nuts or berries or grain or vegetables or fruit – the green that feeds the world – the green of life

an ode to green – God’s gift of life in the garden of earth, God’s provision for our needs, growing right before our eyes on every tree, in every field, – God is the good Gardener, Jesus the green, growing, living Vine that invites each one to take life from Him – the Vine that gives eternal life –

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener. . . . I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1, 5)

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. . . . And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:11-12)

an ode to green – good, growing, glorious, glad, life-giving green

sincerely, Grace Day

grateful for all things green

As I sit here sipping my favorite beverage, green tea, I am realizing that April, the month of all things green, is drawing to a close. As I reflect on all things green, I want to know why the emerald is the birthstone of May and not April? The emerald stone, being a brilliant green, should definitely represent April not May. This makes me think of the aptly named Emerald Isle, which is Ireland of course, the country of all things green from shamrocks to leprechauns.

On St. Patrick’s Day there is the wearing of the green, not to be confused with the hanging of the green at Christmastime. But green is definitely Ireland’s color, it is green that colors their countryside so beautifully. Who knew there are so many shades of green?

I suppose I should add green vegetables to the list of all things green for which I am grateful. I actually do like broccoli and green beans and peas and green peppers and asparagus and pickles (not really a vegetable, but made from a vegetable) and my favorite, avocados. Wonder why we are always told to eat our vegetables? Because they are good for us, they say. Why? Well, green being the color of life, of living things, and vegetables being plants, they are or were, living plants until we harvest them and eat them. They nourish our bodies with the goodness of the green life stored up inside of them.

The ocean is often varying shades of shimmering green and is also home to many things green, not the least of which is the green sea turtle. Also, green, growing and sometimes glowing are green moray eels, giant green anemone, sea sheep and green algae. The ocean is full of green. The ocean is full of life.

I find it interesting that the shamrock, a three-leaf clover, (which is green, of course) symbolizes life in a unique way. St. Patrick taught that the three leaves of the shamrock represented the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Additionally, the three leaves are said to represent faith, hope and love. Finding a four-leaf clover represents an additional blessing and luck.

Green represents the gift of life we are given by God the Father when He created us, by Jesus His Son, when He died and rose again to give us eternal life and by the Holy Spirit who lives in us and sustains our lives every day. Psalm 23 assures me that God will lead me to green pastures where I can find rest and renewal. In fact, Jeremiah 17:8 tells me that when I trust in God, I am –

” . . . like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

grateful to God for all things green, as He is the Creator, Sustainer of every green and growing thing –

sincerely, Grace Day

the gift of a good neighbor

Good neighbors are truly one of God’s greatest gifts. I am thankful for my neighbors every day. Yesterday was no exception. Technology and I have been engaged in a battle recently over my blog settings/headings, and technology had me beat. I ended up with two duplicate headings and to make matters worse, if clicked on, nothing was there in either one of them. Then another heading said one thing, but delivered another. I was afraid to press any more buttons, things were getting worse every time I did. So I surrendered to technology for the time being, while I plotted my next move to force technology to bend to my wishes for my blog page. After all, why should technology dictate what that page looks like? It is my vision I want to see put in place. But as I said, with my every click, things got worse, not better.

Enter a good Samaritan, my next door neighbor. In a few minutes, with a few clicks, my mistakes were corrected and all was put right. Oh the gratitude I felt! I had triumphed over technology! Well, technically speaking, it was my neighbor, the good Samaritan, who had achieved the victory but I now reaped the benefit of the victory. My blog page makes sense again. My problem is solved and technology has been put in her place for the moment.

Life comes with no shortage of problems of all kinds. But for every problem there is a good Samaritan waiting in the wings. I am grateful for all the good Samaritans who are my neighbors. My mailbox no longer looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, thanks to their kindness and skill. And I have written before about the “soup Samaritan”, (not to be confused with the “soup nazi” of Seinfeld) who surprises me with hot soup on a cold day.

Now before you start packing up and moving to my neighborhood, I should clarify the concept of neighbor. In Luke I read about a conversation Jesus had with a man who was described as “an expert in the law.”

“But he (the expert in the law) wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ ” (Luke 10:29)

That’s when Jesus tells him the story of the good Samaritan, which has made Samaritan to this day, synonymous with acts of kindness and with being a good neighbor to others. The story is about a traveler who is robbed, beaten and left for dead by the side of a well traveled road. A priest and a Levite, (a very religious person) both pass the traveler by without stopping to offer aide. Then a Samaritan passed by, but he stopped, bandaged the man, put the injured traveler on his own donkey and transported him to an inn. There he paid the innkeeper to look after the man and paid for his room and board in advance, saying he would pay more if needed when he passed through again.

In that culture, at that time, Samaritans were despised and looked down upon by the Jews. So Jesus’s point that it was the Samaritan who did the right thing, the noble thing, the God honoring, God pleasing thing – would have been a rebuke to the “expert in the law” who asked the question in the first place. Turns out, my neighbor is whoever needs my help – not necessarily and not limited to, the person who lives next door to me. Maybe it’s the person I pass on my way to work or someone in my community I haven’t met yet.

I have been the recipient of good Samaritan acts of kindness many times. Inevitably, sometimes I am the one at the side of the road in desperate need of help. Other times, I am in a position where I can provide help to someone else. It is those opportunities that I do not want to miss. I don’t want to turn a deaf ear or a blind eye to someone to whom I can lend a hand, just as the good Samaritan in Jesus’s story did for a complete stranger. In God’s view though, strangers are neighbors, too.

I am grateful for each and every good Samaritan that God sends into my life. Please Lord, send me as a good Samaritan into others’ lives, so that I can be a blessing, just as I have been blessed.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Hebrews 13:16)

sincerely, Grace Day

life on the Vine

I’m still pondering all things green, as “green” is April’s word prompt and it is still April. April here is living up to its promise of gifting the world with green from the ground up, reaching even through the treetops. Everywhere I look there is some shade of green. Things are coming back to life, neighbors are coming out of their houses, while the sun shines a little warmer than it did in March. Sunlight and chlorophyll are working their magic right before my eyes.

Many flowering trees and plants are in bloom now, adding multiple colors against this green backdrop of spring. Occasionally I will notice a tree branch that stands out from the others because it isn’t green or flowering – but looks like it did in the dead of winter. When I take a closer look, I realize there is a reason for this disparity. I see that the branch is no longer completely connected to the trunk of the tree. It may be hanging precariously or laying against other branches who are supporting its weight. From a distance, the dead branch may appear to be connected, but proximity doesn’t guarantee connection. The branch has to be perfectly, completely connected to the trunk to receive all the life-giving nutrients the trunk provides its branches.

I notice the same thing in bushes and flowers, where amid the green and the blooms, there is a not green, not blooming section that looks out of place amid so much green, so much life. When I look closer, I find that they are no longer securely connected to the main stem of the plant or to the vine. Just yesterday I gave a potted plant to a friend with five lovely pink blooms on it and more waiting to bud. But when I presented her with the plant, I noticed one of the flowers was drooping down and I discovered its stem was bent. I realized that it would only be a matter of time before this pink blossom turned brown and its leaves and stem with it. The connection wasn’t totally severed, it was hanging on to the main stem at just one point, instead of being completely connected. Without complete connection the prognosis wasn’t good.

Which brings me to the vine, whether it be morning glories or grapes, such abundance can grow from just one vine! I walk by some beautiful morning glories which completely cover the lamppost around which they grow. The deep purple flowers are so large and lush, they are all I see. The vine from which they grew, the vine which even now sustains them, is not visible. But each blossom is connected to the vine. If not, they would wither and die.

In vineyards, vines heavy with their abundance of grapes, continue to support the grapes, supplying all their needs until they are ready for harvest. Only if the vine dies, will the grapes lose their lifeline and die along with the vine. That’s what the vine is to the grapes and to the morning glory flowers – a lifeline.

We all need a lifeline, a vine, in order to survive in this life – someone or something that sustains us, nourishes us, provides for us, keeping us alive through any drought or difficulty that may come. Turns out there is a lifeline that never dies, a Vine that is eternally green. I read about it in John chapter fifteen, when Jesus tells His disciples,

“I am the true Vine, and My Father is the gardener. . . . I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that withers and is thrown away; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:1, 4-6)

Vineyards were common in Israel in Jesus’s day, just as they are today. So Jesus’s disciples would have understood His meaning clearly. In fact, earlier, Jesus had told them this,

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Jesus came to bring life to a dying world. Jesus is the true Vine, that gives life to every branch that is connected to the Vine, which is to say connected to Jesus. That’s why He instructed His disciples to “remain in Me.” Jesus knew apart from Him they would perish, just like grapes dry up when they lose their connection to the vine.

Jesus is the eternally green, life-giving, life-sustaining Vine. I want to “remain or abide in Him” so that I am not cut off from His continuous supply of all that I need to live this life. These are His good gifts, which include His mercy, wisdom, guidance, comfort, peace, hope, joy, meaning, purpose and so much more, which He bestows like the manna He provided in the desert, new every morning. It is an infinite supply – this Vine never runs out or dries up.

“His divine power has given me everything I need for life and godliness through my knowledge of Him who called me by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

It’s like the article about pumpkin vines said, “Without healthy vines, pumpkins would never reach their full potential.” A pumpkin vine grows, supports and sustains some pretty big pumpkins! Well, Jesus made it clear that “apart from Him, I can do nothing” and “apart from Him, I perish.” But when I abide in Him, remaining connected to the Vine, I will reach my full potential. I will find the purpose for which I was created.

Jesus, the Vine, is more than able to give life to any and all who choose to abide in Him. As Jesus told His disciples, “apart from Me you can do nothing.” But, as I read in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Him (Jesus) who gives me strength.” Whether I am separated from or connected to the Vine, makes all the difference in whether I live or die. Life on the Vine is so much more abundant than anywhere else. This is where I want to be at all times – hanging on and completely connected to the Vine. As it says in Acts 17:28,

“For in Him (Jesus) I live and move and have my being.” The result? The result is described in Psalm 92:12-15,

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.’ ”

staying fresh and green, productive, purposeful, bearing much fruit, that’s life on the vine, that’s life abiding in Jesus, the true, evergreen, eternal Vine –

sincerely, Grace Day

the grass is always greener . . .

in someone else’s garden. Isn’t that how we feel if we are honest? The grass is always greener . . . there are many options for completing this phrase, such as “on the other side of the fence” or “somewhere else” or “next door.” But the gist is the same – the grass is always greener in someone else’s garden. This is not a new sentiment. Some say it dates back to the poet Ovid (43 BC – 17/18 AD). But if truth be told, it started long before Ovid’s time. It started in the original garden, the Garden of Eden.

Eve was the first to decide that the grass is always (must be) greener in someone else’s garden. The serpent convinced Eve that God was holding out on her, that there was something more, something better, that was not provided for her and for Adam in the Garden. This had to do with the fact that God told Adam and Eve they could eat fruit from any tree in the garden, save one. There was one tree whose fruit they were forbidden to eat.

So naturally, after conversing with the serpent, Eve decided life wasn’t green enough, she was missing something, she was sure of it. But if she could have this forbidden something, life with the forbidden fruit would be greener. Eve believed the lie, took the bait, ate the fruit, and shared it with Adam, who ate it also. The result? They were kicked out of the garden they inhabited and ended up in a less green garden where they had to work the earth to bring forth food. In Adam and Eve’s case, the grass wasn’t greener in another garden. They had been living in the ultimate garden – the garden to which all gardens would forever be compared.

It seems like we still live by this same motto today – “the grass must be, always is greener in someone else’s garden.” Maybe that’s why we refer to this phenomenon as “the green-eyed monster” that is jealousy or envy – it’s continuously having our eyes on the greenness of another person’s garden or on the perceived greenness of another person’s life. This perpetual pursuit of greener pastures on our part, leads to nothing but heartache, disappointment, conflict and endless strife.

It has been this way from the beginning. Consider what happened with Cain and Abel. It was all about whose garden or pasture was greener, who brought the better offering and found favor with God. In truth, they both could have found favor with God by offering to Him their best. Instead of resenting Abel, Cain simply needed to take care of his own garden. A lesson we still struggle to learn to this day.

In fact, another quote I saw said, “the grass is greener where you water it.” and another, “water your own grass, don’t worry about your neighbor’s grass.” This “grass is always greener somewhere else” phenomenon speaks to our lack of contentment with what we have and our desire to always acquire more. As a result, we never rest, we are never at peace. If I am constantly thinking that someone else has a greener garden or I am constantly searching for greener pastures, then I will never appreciate and enjoy what God has given me.

The search for evergreener can be exhausting. Then I remember these words from Philippians 4:19 and from 2 Corinthians 9:8,

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

God is able to supply all my needs if I will let Him and, unlike Eve in the garden, I will find myself not only satisfied but overwhelmed with the goodness of His many gifts.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

God provided the Israelites food in the desert, the least green place of all. They had manna every morning, new, just like His mercies. And eventually God led them into greener pastures, the promised land of Canaan. God, as the Author of all life, is all about the green – the color of life.

I guess instead of spending my time worrying about the grass being greener in someone else’s garden, I will follow the Good Shepherd wherever He leads and take good care of the garden He gives me to tend. And I will say along with David,

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3)

God’s pastures are definitely the greenest – they are eternally green. When God leads me into His pasture and places me in His garden, I can truly say,

“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

sincerely, Grace Day

the holy ghosts of Easters past

They are keeping me company today – these holy ghosts of long forgotten Easters. It is fitting that they should be holy ghosts because Easter is a holy holiday. And in full disclosure, who I often heard referred to as the Holy Ghost when I was a young child, I now know as the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity – God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

But I digress from the more mundane, yet still sacred in their own way, holy ghosts of my past Easters – and they are many – the myriad memories of long-ago Resurrection Sundays. Those Easters were filled with more than just baskets full of jelly beans and chocolate bunnies. There were brand new black patent leather shoes, while lace socks, white gloves and hats – there were hats! Everybody, including my sisters and I got a hat! Guess that’s where the “in your Easter bonnet” song came from.

There was music, glorious music, hymns reserved just for Easter, which rang out so joyously, it seemed to me, more so than on other “ordinary” Sundays. And there were eggs to hunt – the hard-boiled ones we had colored the day before and plastic ones, which were more fun to find because they would have candy or coins inside, which I preferred to a hard-boiled egg any day.

Then there was Easter dinner, after church at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house. I’m sure it was pretty typical stuff for the time – rolls, mashed potatoes, green beans, ham, I couldn’t say for sure. But what I can tell you is that there were bright purple eggs and a lamb cake. Now the “purple eggs” were hard-boiled eggs without their shells, turned purple by beet juice, I think? I only saw those eggs once a year at Grandma’s Easter dinner. Likewise, the lamb cake was only once a year as well.

This cake was Grandma’s own invention. She made a sheet cake, then cut it into sections out of which she fashioned the form of a lamb, then iced and decorated it. It was all white, white cake, white icing, only eyes, nose and mouth were a different color. The symbolism of the lamb cake never occurred to me as a child, nor do I remember any of the adults discussing the reason for a “lamb cake” at Easter. Or was it just happy coincidence? (I think not)

Either way, I realize today the deep significance of Jesus Christ as the “lamb who was slain for the sins of the world” and of the words “Take and eat; this is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19 & Matthew 26:26) That’s what Easter is all about – celebrating Jesus as the sacrificial lamb without spot or blemish, crucified on a cross, for my sin, for your sin, for everyone’s sin; Jesus, who then defeated death by rising from the grave on the third day – the day we celebrate Jesus’s resurrection from the dead, Easter Sunday. Jesus, our lamb provided by God –

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ ” (John 1:29)

” . . . For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8)

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:18-20)

” . . . He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:7)

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:17)

today, memories of a lamb cake displayed on Grandma’s dining room table mix with my celebration of the sacrificial Lamb who is now the Risen Lamb, sitting on heaven’s throne, waiting to welcome me home – what glory that will be!

sincerely, Grace Day

the gift of green

“Then God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. . . . And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:11-12)

This month’s word prompt is appropriate for April. It is “green” and where I live, April is usually the month when everything that has been brown comes to life and turns green again. Green is the color of life – new life (light green), eternal life (darker green like the evergreen of pines). Green is the most prevalent color in nature, which makes sense because everything that grows – grass, plants, trees, bushes – is some shade of green. This is the work of photosynthesis, that miraculous process which uses sunlight and the chlorophyll (which is green) in leaves to turn carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and glucose. The glucose is a source of food for the plant. Plants in turn are a source of food for animals and humans. So photosynthesis feeds the world and gives us oxygen as a bonus byproduct in the process! Oxygen is necessary to sustain life. Just another reason green is the color of life.

Some of the first green stems and leaves to appear are those of the crocus and daffodil flowers, which spring up from a bulb that has been buried in the dead, frozen earth all winter. Year after year, spring after spring, these lovely flowers appear as if by magic, reminding me that the earth has not been dead, just sleeping during the dark, frozen days of winter. Overnight the earth seems to turn green with new life, as grass, flowers, bushes and trees all wake up together displaying multiple hues of green.

Green is also the measure of health for my houseplants. As long as they are green, I know they are alive and growing. If they start to turn brown, I know they are dying and I need to do something different to see if I can get them to turn green and growing once again – to bring them back to life.

In Psalm 23:1-2, David says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures,”. Green pastures mean abundant provision for the sheep, plenty to eat. Green pastures mean life. Green signals the arrival of spring, the season when new life appears on previously barren tree branches and previously barren ground. Not coincidently, it is in the spring that we observe the Easter holiday, which is the ultimate celebration of new life.

Resurrection Sunday reminds us that there is an empty tomb, because Jesus, who was dead, is now alive. Life has triumphed over death and every spring we watch this play out in nature, reminding us of this truth, reminding us never to give up hope. Trees that appeared dead, suddenly have buds that turn into leaves, and some even grow fruit! Land that was frozen, dead, thaws and grows grass and crops, sustaining life once again. Earth has turned green once again, everything has been reborn. New life – wrapped in the color green, that is the gift of spring, that is the gift of Easter.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.’ ” (John 11:25-26)

“Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)

sincerely, Grace Day

faithful or faithless?

Memories washed over me as I watched the children waving their palm branches as they walked down the aisle toward the front of our church as part of our Palm Sunday celebration. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was one of those waving palm branches and shouting hosana – but I guess it’s been a minute after all. Still, it is one of my clearest memories, commemorating a significant event in Jesus’s earthly life, His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

The scene was a joyful one, described in Mark 11:7-10 in this way,

“When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, He sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!’ ”

Luke 19:38 records the rejoicing crowds as shouting, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

It seems the people were in high spirits that day as they lined the road to watch Jesus pass by on His way into Jerusalem. Their hosannas were filled with the high hopes they had for Jesus, as they welcomed their long-awaited king. It is so easy for me to picture this joyous scene and to enter into its reenactment on Palm Sunday.

Not so easy, however, is picturing the scene that took place only a few days later. The same people that had shouted “Hosanna” with such joy, were now shouting with anger and hatred, something quite different at the very same man, Jesus. They were shouting, “Crucify Him!” How could this be?

Jesus had been falsely accused and arrested, but being found innocent, Pilate wanted to release Jesus rather than put Him to death by crucifixion. However, the angry mob, made up of yesterday’s Hosanna heralders, would have none of it. I read what happens next in Mark –

” ‘Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. ‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them. ‘Crucify Him!’ they shouted. ‘Why? What crime has He committed?’ asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify Him!’ Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:9-15)

These were the same people who just days before had been shouting “Hosanna to the king!” Now they were shouting “Crucify Him!” I guess James was right when he said, “Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” What had happened in those few short days? Had they lost faith, when things appeared to be going south for their deliverer? So they jumped ship – fearing they would go down too. Even Peter denied that he knew Jesus – three times! And indeed their worst fears were realized. Jesus was crucified and laid in a tomb. It appeared to be over. So much for the dream – the dream had died with the death of their Deliverer. BUT . . .

“If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.”

The disciples dispersed and went into hiding. Jesus’s body lay in a tomb. They thought this was the end of everything they had been learning and doing during their three years following Jesus. The disciples had lost whatever faith they had possessed. But fortunately for them, God remains faithful to His promises and faithful to us, even when we are faithless. The disciples were soon to experience this truth for themselves. They did not know that what appeared to be the end, was really just the beginning for them and for the world. A glorious, new beginning was closer than they could have imagined. They just needed to hang onto their faith in Jesus.

From Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday is only one week on our calendar, but it is the journey of a lifetime, a roller coaster ride of highest heights and lowest lows – and I find myself drawn into the drama of each day every year. I have to ask myself, if I were there, would I have been among those shouting “Hosanna to the King”? Would I have been shouting “crucify Him” a few days later, along with the rest of the angry mob? Would I have denied knowing Jesus as Peter did? Would I have lost my faith as I watched Jesus die on that cross? Would I have visited the empty tomb, realized everything Jesus said and taught was true, and joyfully shared the news that Jesus is alive with everyone I met?

It surely is a journey of faith, – following Jesus, shouting Hosannas, welcoming the King/shouting “crucify Him”, watching Jesus die, finding His tomb empty, rejoicing again – a journey of faith found, of faith lost and of faith found again in a most unlikely place – an empty tomb. The disciples’ journey is my own. When dreams are denied, when the promise appears to be broken, when hope is gone and faith seems futile – it is then, I believe. I believe even while I am walking in the dark, I believe while I am waiting on the Light to come and conquer the darkness, I believe though I do not yet see.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

sincerely, Grace Day

a moment on the mountaintop

I spent a moment on the mountaintop today. I always want it to last longer. But the air is thin up here, there is no level ground for the long haul, and the need is in the valley below. Still I never want to leave the mountain top when I enter into His presence where I am fully blinded by His glory, totally humbled by His love, completely overwhelmed by the reality of my sinfulness and the depth of His forgiveness, speechless in the presence of Him who knows my heart’s every word before it finds its way to my tongue, engulfed in the peace and beauty that are the province of the Creator of the universe, overtaken by inexpressible joy – tears fall freely as I fall face down in worship – only to discover my head is lifted to gaze upon His face. I never want to leave this place. I never want to leave the mountaintop.

I wonder if this is how Peter, James and John felt when Jesus took them up onto the mountain to pray one day? Moses and Elijah showed up unexpectedly and, well this is how the scene was described –

“As He (Jesus) was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. . . . a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.’ ” (Luke 9:29-35)

Pretty life-changing experience for Peter, James and John, right? So what happened next? Well, verse thirty-six says – “When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.” So things went right back to how they had been and they headed back down the mountain where normal everyday life awaited them. Their mountaintop moment was over, left behind as they entered once again into the mundane of the everyday.

Were the three disciples forever changed by their experience on the mountain? Luke 9:36 tells us, “The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.” How could they? Some things are just too wonderful for mere mortal’s words. They defy description. So the three remained silent. I wonder, as time passed, did they began to doubt the reality of their mountaintop encounter? Were they asking themselves, “Did it really happen? Was I really there?” Did the memory of the transfiguration they witnessed began to fade as earthly cares took precedence each day, until it seemed only a distant recollection -vague and devoid of the power it once possessed?

I think I know how they felt. Mountaintop moments change you forever. But then you come down the mountain and nothing has changed except that you don’t fit in, but you want to find a way to walk in this world without forgetting what the mountaintop taught even as its memory grows dimmer with each passing day. I can learn from Peter’s experience, though. Sometime later, after his mountaintop moment, Peter denied he knew Jesus three times to people who asked him. I am no different. By my actions and words, I often deny the transforming moments I have experienced in the presence of my Savior. And like Peter, I am filled with regret and remorse each time.

However, I take heart in knowing that Jesus forgave Peter and He forgives me too, when I ask. This knowledge gives me the courage to climb the mountain again and again in pursuit of a moment on the mountaintop, knowing I will not get to stay there long but that I will be welcomed in. Hebrews 4:14-16 tells me so,

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. . . . Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The climb is long, all for just a moment on the mountaintop. And no matter how many moments there have been before – when I come into my Heavenly Father’s presence – my moment on the mountaintop – it is all brand new and like coming home simultaneously. He really is that Holy. I really am that sinful. And like Job I cry out –

“Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . . My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:3-6)

in that moment, I know that I am loved without limit or measure, I am loved beyond all reason or explanation – and so are you, dear readers, so are you.

sincerely, Grace Day

a branch without a vine

Last time I looked there were two-hundred fifty-four comments and counting in response to a devotional about rest which I read yesterday. This is probably three to four times the usual number of comments. Who knew “rest” was such a hot topic? But I discovered that it truly is a topic that touches a lot of lives. As I scrolled through the comments it didn’t take long for a common theme to emerge – we are all exhausted – we all feel like we are “running on empty” and we are all desperately desiring rest. At least that was my take-away from the comments I read and I easily identified with all the various situations and seasons of life that contribute to this phenomenon of perpetual weariness.

I am wondering if this weariness is just a western culture problem or is it something women around the world are experiencing, irregardless of country or culture? Could it be the result of our fast-paced way of life today? Were my grandmothers and my mom this tired all the time? I am trying to remember if rest was such a sought after commodity back then.

It occurs to me that there is a difference between physical fatigue and soul weariness. What I learned from the many comments I read was that I think for most of us the mental, emotional, soul/spiritual fatigue is what we suffer from much more than physical tiredness. Sleep can alleviate our physical tiredness, but we are left still seeking solutions for our elusive soul weariness.

Which is precisely what Jesus offers to each and every one of us when He says in Matthew 11:28-30 –

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus provides me with rest, so why do I so often feel fatigued? For me, the answer lies in these words Jesus spoke to His disciples,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

No wonder I sometimes get so tired! I too often try to do things (bear fruit) in my own strength, (instead of letting God do the heavy lifting) and this leaves me exhausted and discouraged – like the branch which wearies, withers and weakens when not fully connected to the vine. Apart from the Vine, I am running on empty. I know I need to stop and get gas, but I don’t have time – time to spend hanging out with the Vine – actually time spent hanging onto the Vine. If I don’t stop and fill up my tank, I will stall out, I won’t be going anywhere. But when I am abiding in and connected to the Vine, I have a constant supply of everything I need to live this life that God has given me.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)

My Heavenly Father’s manna and mercies are new every morning. As long as I remain connected to Jesus, the life-giving, life-sustaining Vine, I am continuously filled up with His grace, love, forgiveness, compassion, peace, comfort, joy, light and so much more – so that I can serve Him by sharing with others all that He gives to me. In other words, I will bear much fruit, just like He said. As a branch on the Vine, I only began to weaken, wither and grow weary when my connection to the Vine is loosened or lost.

I never want to be apart from the Vine. Why would I? Jesus said,

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (John 15:4

To a branch like me, the Vine is life itself – abundant life, so much more than I could think to ask or imagine. I never want to be a branch without a vine. Thank You, Jesus, that I can abide in You, the Vine, who sustains every branch – including me, giving me abundant life and rest for my soul every day.

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)

sincerely, Grace Day