Category Archives: Lenten Reflections

In The Garden

DSC_0776By Judy Villanueva

And He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by.  And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”  (Mark 14:34-36)

But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities; 
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
 And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, 
Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
 to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:5-6)

Not too long ago I faced an excruciating trial.  It was an ordeal I did not want to go through but I saw it coming at me like a freight train! I prayed and asked all my friends to pray that this trial would fall apart and that I would be relieved from having to walk through it.  One of my friends, after hearing my request, said, “I’m going to pray for God’s will.”  To which I replied, “Don’t you dare!  I don’t want to do this!”  I really didn’t.  To say “Your will, not mine” is best said on one’s face because there, at least, the body is in a submitted posture even if the heart is not.  To be honest, I prayed against having to bear this cross and then, kicked and squirmed all the way through it — cuz I did have to go all the way through it.

It’s terrifying and beautiful to enter the garden and watch Jesus grieved to the point of death.  I’ve touched the edges of this kind of grief but many reading this have likely entered the heart of it.  It is when deep sorrow and suffering merge and literally push us downward with a crushing weight.  Each year during lent, I return to Gethsemane and quietly watch what happened there amidst the olive trees.

I tend to put the Garden away after Easter, but once a year I crawl over next to Jesus with my face to ground and listen closely.

There I hear his labored breath, his sweat that falls like blood to the ground.  There, I hear his desperate pleas to be relieved of the cup that awaits him.  Can you hear him with his mouth pressed against the dirt? “Abba Father! Is there any other way?”  That’s when I look over because I know what he will say next and I want to see his face when he says it.

“Yet, not my will, but Yours.”

It stuns me every time!  The beauty of it breaks me.  Not just His heart that trusted the Father in His darkest night, but the love that beat within Him for me!  For you!  I love the honesty in the garden.  It helps me, somehow, to witness the part of Jesus that was human, like me.  It instructs me on what to do and where to go when I am troubled, full of fear or weighted down with worry.  I find, as I lay with my face in the dirt next to Jesus, that I want to reach over and offer Him a consolation from the 21st century.  I want to whisper back to Him, “Thank you! For not backing away from being crushed, scourged, and pierced for my transgressions — for laying it all down, for trusting the Father, for saying, ‘Not my will, but Yours.’ Thank you!”

“Thank you, Jesus, for the garden!  You showed me what it is to surrender all the way.  Your will, not mine.  Help me to fall with you to a life that yields to your will and trusts you in suffering places.  Amen.”

What about you?

 How does looking at Jesus face down on the ground make you feel?

Can you touch His desperation?

Are you in a garden, a time of waiting or suffering?

What might a day be like of complete surrender to God?  “Your will, not mine.”

Take a moment to look and listen to Jesus in the garden! He shouted a Word so loud and clear that it travels across nations and through time. “I love you! Come to Me! I’ve made a way.”

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Worship

 

You Belong

DSC_0992 2By Judy Villanueva

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)

“Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved) 

“Shall we sit here, Nana?” I inquired as we came upon an ancient Oak whose branches stretched out over our heads offering a canopy of shade we couldn’t resist.  I pushed her wheelchair until it rested next to an iron bench and took a seat next to her.  It was our favorite tree and our favorite spot on the grounds of this quiet place that was now her home. She was ninety-eight years old and the matriarch of our family, not to mention one of my dearest friends.  Maybe it was because we had become friends over the years that I felt the freedom to tease her with a particular question that always brought a smile to her face.  “Nana, am I your favorite?  You can tell me.  I promise I won’t tell anyone!” J 

I don’t think I’m unique in wanting to be “the favorite”, am I?  It seems to be a need that bubbles up from the core of the human heart.  I notice it in children when they hunt for assurances that they are the fastest, the cutest, or the “best” at something.  I see it in the smile that erupts when a friend calls a friend her “bff” or when a husband whispers to his wife “You are my one and only.”  It is about belonging and being wanted.  It has to do with, what I believe is, a God given desire to be special.  I was reading the story of the last supper this week and came upon verse 13:23 where John refers to himself as “the disciple who Jesus loved” and I heard a familiar echo.  “Am I your favorite?”   

Can you hear the Voice that calls you from above and from within with whispers and loud declarations?  “You are Mine!”

It is staggering that the One who made the heavens and the earth summons us by name!  He keeps track of our thoughts and knows the sound of our voices when we pray.  He understands our need to be someone’s favorite and longs for us to feel His heart that spills over with joy for us.  When my soul cries out to belong, especially on days when I can’t feel that I’m wanted, I return to Gethsemane and kneel next to Jesus.  There, I experience His unfailing kindness.  And, as I watch Him pray with His face to the ground, I remember the length that Everlasting Love went to make me His beloved child. We belong.  We are wanted.  We are His!  

“Thank you, Father, for making me yours and calling me beloved. That your love is “everlasting” and your kindness, “unfailing” touches my heart with gladness!  I love being one of your favorites!  Amen.”

What about you?

Where do you best hear and feel God’s love? 

Has your heart been touched by God’s unfailing kindness?  

What does it mean to you that God has summoned you by name and called you beloved?

You are special to God. He loves you with an everlasting love!

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Worship 

Remember Me

sunwheat

By Judy Villanueva

Luke 23:32-34, 39-43

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots…

…One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Today would be his last. He knew he was guilty and deserved what was coming, but that didn’t stop his stomach from wrenching. He was a thief and today justice would be served on the same dusty hill where he’d seen countless others hanged for their crimes. Part of him was resigned to the inevitable and part of him ached for a second chance at life. The guards were coming! He could hear their footsteps approaching and almost without thought he murmured a desperate prayer. The iron gate screeched open and before he knew it, he was grabbed and thrown face down in the dirt. Far beyond anything he could imagine, this would be a day of cosmic reckoning!

Hanging with his arms tethered to horizontal beams and his legs roped to a post, he is roused by a jeering voice and suddenly realizes he is not alone on Golgotha.  The sneers and taunts emanate from a despicable thief with whom he must apparently share his last hours.  Sighing in disgust, he starts to turn away and notices another cross…the object of his neighbor’s ridicule.  “Is it Him,” he wonders, “the One he has heard about?” As he scrutinizes the face covered in blood and shrouded beneath a thorny crown, the man’s eyes lift! A holy power rushes toward him and, in readiness and gratitude, he hears himself utter, “Lord, remember me.” It all happens in an instant…an awakening, a reckoning, and a heart made whole!

The placement of Jesus’ cross between two thieves is an astounding and graphic picture of God’s tenacious love!  It is no accident that on one side hangs a man full of pride, living and dying for himself, and on the other, a humble and broken thief pleading for mercy.  And, there at the center is Jesus comforting a lost soul…even as He dies.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we live on either side of Jesus each day.

We see Him or we don’t.  We live full of pride and self-sufficiency, or ask to be remembered. We curse what cannot control or surrender in faith to a holy God.  We breathe each breath disgruntled or full of gratitude. And finally, a day arrives when we either reject the greatest gift ever offered us or follow Jesus to paradise!

“Thank you, Jesus, for dying for me.  When I slow down and witness what you went through for me on the cross, I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  I want to be like the thief who humbled himself and asked to be remembered, not just in my final hour of life but always.  Amen.”

What about you?

Have you ever ached for a second chance at life?

Do you feel your need for Jesus?

Which thief are you? In other words, are you trusting in yourself for your life or trusting God?

Have you said “yes” to the gift Jesus gave at Calvary? Have you received the gift of being found, forgiven and made whole?

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Worship

All is Grace

DSC_257By Judy Villanueva

John 1:15-17

And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

“All is Grace.”  (Brennan Manning)

Like little girls, we sat on the bed cross-legged reading to one another, only pausing to look up and marvel over what we were learning!  One of my very favorite things to do in all the world is to lose track of time celebrating God with a friend.  He is like a treasure  waiting to be unearthed and opened!  I cannot remember what we were reading, but I do remember the moment that captured our imaginations and invited us to jump right into the middle of the treasure chest!  It was then and there that we decided to begin a 50 Year Quest!   What would you want to spend a lifetime exploring?  I knew immediately what I would choose because in all the moments that led up to this one, I had become captivated by Grace!

Grace is a word I’ve heard a thousand times.  I’ve read about it, studied it, observed and experienced it but somehow am always left with the feel of it slipping through my fingers when trying to nail it to a definition.  Grace is a gift received “just because”…a priceless treasure we could never have earned.  It feels like being held, listened to, cherished, and known through and through.  It spills out in all good surprises, through beauty, sweet friendships, and being loved for no good reason.  It happens to us when walking in the wind, watching children play, falling in love…

And, in realizing that no matter what we’ve done or not done, God is boldly for us

Grace holds us in our places of sadness and disappointment, always whispering reminders that God is at work in and through it all.  Grace is truly the most beautifully pure and happy experience one can know and, the knowing of it, changes us!

Living present to the movements of grace around us makes us grateful and gracious worshippers.

It wants to stick to us and make us people who forgive because we are forgiven, who are patient because God is patient with us and, who love extravagantly because we are extravagantly loved!  We all need grace.  More than anything, Grace has made a way for each of us to be set free from a debt we could never repay.  We didn’t earn it and we don’t deserve it but it’s ours because God said so.  What is the definition of  “grace”?  Behold the cross… where it was nailed down once and for all!

“Father God, I cannot get over the gift of grace You have given me  or the length You went to give it.  Thank You!  “Grace” is such a power-packed word that after 20+ years I still cannot grasp its  magnitude and splendor.  Open my eyes to grace each day and help it to stick and change me .  Amen.”

What about you?

Have you received God’s gift of grace?

Do you know how to live “present to Grace”?   Awake and aware of  God in the day?

Are you a “grudge-holder” or “grace giver”?

Are you becoming more gracious?  Forgiving?  Patient?  Generous in love?

What might be your “50 year quest”?  What do you want to spend a lifetime learning about?

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Worship

 

Friend of God

papiEliBy Judy Villanueva

Mark 14:32-34

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Straining to see through the crowd, I searched for the beloved face of my friend.  Throngs of people poured out of the area where passengers are deposited after their flights and then, like ants, are scattered in every direction.  I waited eagerly, not wanting her to slip past me until at last I recognized her gait and smile maneuvering toward me!  The look in our eyes said it all, “Welcome!  So good to see you!  Hooray, you are here!”  What a precious gift God gives us when He gives us a friend, someone whose heart we trust and who will be there for us in good times and bad.

I rarely think of Jesus as a man in need of a friend.  Most gospel stories depict Him as a man on a mission, living life secured in the company of His heavenly Father.  Storms didn’t disturb Him nor  did the threats of those who sought to destroy Him.  But here, in the garden, we see our Lord struggling and asking his closest friends to stay and keep watch with him. The idea that Jesus, dare I say it, needed a friend is one that confronts me.

Have you ever considered that Jesus doesn’t only offer you His friendship, but also desires yours?

It is a wild notion!  On any given day we can seek His company and respond to His gentle invitations to sit with Him and pray.  Just like the friends who kept watch with Him in Gethsemane, we too have daily opportunities to bless Jesus with our presence and love Him with our lives!  How marvelous a speculation that our prayers, attitudes, and acts of grace can actually bless the heart of God!  It isn’t a one-way friendship where we simply receive His kindness and consolations, but rather, a reciprocal one where, as friends … we love God back!

“Lord Jesus, thank You for being a good friend to me!  That you desire my friendship is indeed a precious gift.  Help me to live in the days aware and awakened to how I might bless Your heart through my prayers, thoughts and acts of love.  Amen.”

How about you?

Do you know Jesus as your savior and most faithful friend?

Is your relationship with God one-way?

Have you ever considered that you can bless God with your acts of love?

Do you know that God desires friendship with you?

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 Worship:

Father, Forgive Them

duncan houseBy Judy Villanueva

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

There He is hanging on the cross…nails in His hands and feet, blood oozing from his side, a crown of thorns pressed into His brow… beaten, bruised, torn open, and naked.  To make matters worse, from the cross he looks down on the people he is dying for only to hear their mocking words. They don’t get it!  How can they not see and embrace the gift that Jesus is giving as He gasps for air?  More to the point, how does Jesus not cry out, “You ungrateful people!  Don’t you see what is going on here?  Just forget it!  Go to your graves hanging onto your sin!  I’m outta here!”

Nope.  Never entered His mind.  Instead He calls out to His Father with whom He has shared intimate friendship for all eternity, and asks for a pardon for those who are killing Him.  How on earth?  How in heaven?  The love that fills Jesus’ heart for mankind is beyond imagination.  It is immense and unstoppable!  The fact that they were undeserving, self-willed, head-strong, mean-spirited and blind didn’t count against them.  It didn’t matter!  Nothing mattered except that Jesus loved them.   He never flinched.  It was never a question.  He is love and loved us unto death.

How do I respond to this kind of Love?  How do you?  If I stand beneath the cross and look up at my Savior, I feel pierced with sorrow at His suffering.  If I then take in the reality that He hangs there for me…I fall to my knees!  I wake up most days with this story in the background of my awareness and can live separate from it, but I don’t want to!

I want this act of Love to sit in the foreground of my life so that whenever I open my eyes, I see it!

To see Jesus loving me and going the distance on my behalf pushes me out of complacency and fills my heart with overwhelming gratitude.  It pulls out of me the deepest desire to live loved and to love well.   It makes me want to love Him back every moment and with all of me!

“Jesus, how can I thank You for dying for me?   Help me to remember… to call to the foreground this most precious gift each day and fill me so that I might love you with my life.  Amen.”

How about you?

What do you feel when you stand at the foot of the cross and look up?

How do you respond to this kind of love?

Is the reality of the cross in the background of your life or the foreground?

Take time to remember the cross, to bring it’s reality into your heart each day.  You are loved with a mighty love.

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Worship

Trading Places

aspen cross2By Judy Villanueva

Matthew 27:15-26

Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd.   At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas.  So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you:  Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?”  For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

…But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.   “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.  “Barabbas,” they answered.

“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.  They all answered, “Crucify him!”  “Why?  What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.  But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”…Then he released Barabbas to them.  But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. 

We sat together in the hospital waiting room so grateful to see one another, even under these circumstances.  Mom was in the center of our little circle smiling as we, her grown children, bantered and teased one another.  In between the light-hearted exchanges were knowing glances as we held our dad up in quiet prayer.  He was missing from our circle.  Dad used to promise us that he would live to be a hundred, so I never really worried about losing him as a child, but now at 86 years of age, the notion of it seemed to hover around us.  Our prayers that day reached far beyond a good surgical outcome to a time when this beloved man will say “yes” to the gift of love given on Calvary…the one where God’s Son traded places with Barabbas!

Have you ever put yourself in Barabbas’ shoes?   He was on death row for murder among other things.  What was he thinking that day, I wonder, when all of a sudden he was yanked from his cell and placed before Pilate and a rabid crowd?  Had he heard of the “other” Jesus, the one they called the Messiah?  Imagine for a minute that you are Barabbas standing next to Mary’s son awaiting your fate. Go ahead.  Look at Him.  Feel His presence, see His eyes seeing you, the guilty one, and hear the governor ask which of you should walk free.  You know who should walk free but instead you hear your name being lifted up by the people…and you, who deserve death, are set free!

Now let’s take a walk to Golgotha.  Notice as we approach the three crosses silhouetted against the darkening sky and the crown of thorns that seems to distinguish the man in the middle.  The scene is utterly still until the silence is pierced by a Voice that whispers, “Father, forgive them…”  Stop!  Oh, look up at Love as He dies for you.  Lift your eyes to His and see a devotion so deep that it gives all it has…to have you.

 THIS love is mighty to save and, make no mistake, trading places with you was His idea!

Yes, we are Barabbas!  Most of us cannot be accused of murder and we may even feel that our lives have been “good enough” but the holy truth is that each one of us sits on death row…but for Christ!  He took our place. He paid our debt and He implores each one of us to go ahead…make the trade!

“Thank You, O God, for trading places with me!  Help me, Jesus,  to hold this gift thoughtfully every day and offer my life back in gratitude and love.  I pray You will open my dad’s eyes to this beautiful invitation…and others who need  Your love.  Amen.”

What about you?

Can you identify with Barabbas?

Have you ever felt the relief of being set free, declared innocent, or taken “off the hook”?

Do you feel your need for a Savior?

How does it feel to imagine looking at Christ on the cross, knowing he chose to stay there for you?

Have you received His gift of love?

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Worship

Sacrificing Isaac

DSC_0142By Judy Villanueva

Genesis 22: 1-2

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

It was an unimaginable ask!

After years of infertility and waiting…after finally giving birth and looking into the face of sweet joy…after cradling  a heart’s desire, God asks what?  Every mother’s heart stops beating at the thought of harm befalling her child but, to think of harm coming at the hand of his father is unthinkable!

Why does God ask Abraham for Isaac?  I’ve always understood this passage as pertinent with regard to idols and placing anything or anyone higher than God.  This makes sense, of course, but this story pushes us to an almost untenable limit.  My child?

Take my dog.  Take me.  Take anything, but please don’t take my child!  And yet, a child is what God gave…

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son…”  It’s a familiar story and stories begin to have a fairy-tale quality to them once we’ve heard them a time or two.  But, this story is real and invites us to the most beautiful act of love ever demonstrated.

Before Abraham knew a ram would be provided, he said “yes” to God.

This astounds me!  It makes me curious about  Abraham’s relationship with the Father.  Over a lifetime he had come to know God intimately…through trials, long periods of waiting, personal failures and great acts of faith, he had learned to trust God.   Obedience on the mountain of Moriah would require a deep and unwavering confidence.

Love held Abraham and Love held Isaac as the knife was raised!  Love saved Isaac and provided for Abraham another sacrifice.

But, think of it!

Love let go of His most treasured Son—and held us as our Savior hung on the cross and died.  Love spent all He had to have us!

It was an unimaginable gift!

“Father, I don’t know how to take in the wonder and beauty of the gift You gave on Calvary.  Yours truly is a love beyond reason and invites me into its healing power.  To think that I am loved with such vigor and might fills me with hope and deep, deep gratitude.  Don’t let me forget this moment, not for one minute!  Amen.”

What about you?

Is the story of the cross real to you?  Or, has it become a fairy tale without any real impact on your life?

How does it change the way you think of yourself? Think of God?

Do you know that you are deeply and greatly loved?

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Gethsemane

DSC_0388By Judy Villanueva

Matthew 26:26-36    

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

It was dusk and the desert landscape was quickly changing from shadows to black night as we drove east toward the Colorado River.  I was only twelve years old and had been invited to join a friend’s family on their spring break.  In the light of day it seemed like an exciting opportunity,  but as the sky darkened I held back tears and longed to be home with my family.  Home had always been a warm and loving place filled with the people who knew me best and with whom I had shared every day since birth.  When I read this passage and imagine Jesus in the garden, I am dumbstruck at what He must have felt lying on His face, overwhelmed  to the point of death.  I’d always thought that it was the anticipation of the cross that was the cause of His troubled heart, but I have come to believe that what Jesus smelled in the garden was far worse.  I think it must have been the impending loss of home that stole His peace.  Never, for even a millisecond, had He known existence apart from His beloved Father.  They were One and had forever shared a perfect, blessed, loving community of three… but a time was drawing near when Jesus would experience being torn from His Father.

It strikes me that this scene is the only one I can think of where Jesus is troubled and, literally, doubled over with sorrow.  Can you picture our Lord with His face to the ground?   Try.  It isn’t how we are use to seeing Him,  but there in the garden beneath the Mount of Olives, He bends over with a desperate plea!  “Father, take this cup.”  He faces off with a moment of truth…a beautiful, terrorizing, extravagant, horrifying and holy moment!   Imprisonment, false accusations, a thorny crown, beatings, nails, a spear, mocking, humiliation, scorn and the full weight of man’s sin await Him.  THEN, the loss of His most precious treasure, the Love that had been His smile since forever…His Abba, His Dad would turn away!

“Your will, not mine.”  Alone in the garden, with his friends fast asleep, Jesus prays three times that this cup should pass and, each time, submits to His Father’s will.  Finally, He wakes up His friends with what looks like refreshed strength and determination, “Rise!  Let us go!”  He is no longer bent over in sorrow with His face to the ground.  No.  Jesus has been with the Father, accepted His will and now moves with faith and hope to the cross!  He knows what is coming but we don’t see Him hesitate anymore.  I wonder what THEY talked about in the garden.   Was it us they talked about?  Did their Love inspire a gift so great that the Godhead re-uped for being ripped a part in order to carry us home… so that They might become our warm and loving family for all eternity?   Oh beautiful love of God!

“I can’t even fathom this kind of Love, Lord!  I am grateful!  Help me, Jesus, to pray with a submitted heart…to ask for what I want, but trust in what You will!  Thank You for making a way for me to come home someday and share forever with You.  Amen.”

What about you?

Are you in a garden of Gethsemane?  Are you struggling with God in prayer over something He is asking of you?

Is there a cup you would like to pass?

Where are you in terms of the crucifixion of your will?  Are you able to say, “Your will, not mine”?

Have you received this gift of love, Christ’s death on the cross, that delivers us from sin?

Can you trust in the Father’s love to deliver you home safe and sound?

 

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Dusty Thoughts

DSC_0455By Judy Villanueva 

Psalm 51:17    The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit:  a broken and contrite heart you will not despise.

Psalm 103:14    As a father has compassion on his children, 
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;  for he knows how we are formed,
 he remembers that we are dust.

As I sat down in the pew I could feel a deep sigh coming over me.  My mind had been occupied with many things and it felt good to sit in a quiet sanctuary and slow down.  I have many memories of Ash Wednesday services growing up, including the post-smudge contest where ashen forehead crosses were compared, the darkest ones the envy of all.  It still makes me smile!  Today, as I listened to the Word invite me to a broken and contrite heart, I felt the Holy Spirit moving through the room with light and grace.  I became conscious of my dusty origins and aware that part of my preparation for the risen Christ involves taking inventory of my heart…and the secrets it likes to keep hidden from me.

What does it mean to remember that we are dust?  It feels strangely relieving to not have to be perfect, to freely know that I am who I am…even if who I am struggles every day with pride, fear and a lack of faith.

It’s hard work to keep from knowing my failings but I suspect that it is in the knowing that my heart becomes contrite and freed to need Jesus.

Living conscious of God’s love gives me the courage to let go of my pride and acknowledge my sin.  It makes me wonder if at the center of humility, where God is God and we are dust, our souls find a place to rest.

Aren’t you grateful that God remembers we are dust and is not thrown off course by our failures and fickle faith?  Even when we cannot bear to know the dusty truth about ourselves, He always knows us as we are…and loves us.

Here is the amazing Grace our hearts long for, the Light that draws us out of our fears and the Power that beckons us to come!

There is no sweeter place of belonging, no kinder companion when looking into our hearts…and no One else who knows just how to form our dusty lives into beautiful and fragrant offerings.

“Father, thank you for knowing me as I am and loving me anyways!  Give me the courage and humility to know the parts of my heart that need your love and grace.   Help me to remember that I am dust and need You every, every day.   Amen.”

What about you? 

Do you know that God loves you?

What does it mean to remember you are dust?

Are you willing to sit with God and let Him show you the hidden places of your heart?

Are you free to need Jesus?

Take time with God to know your heart.  Let His grace lead you to proper sorrow and to His love that covers and frees.

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