Foundation

How am I holding up? The question came in a friend’s Facebook post.

Some days are harder than others, which is evident from the difficulty I have had writing this latest post for my blog. I have started it, and reworked it, and restarted it again. And again.

I miss being with my family and friends; I miss hugging them. There is unrest and uncertainty. People are divided (sometimes vehemently) over wearing masks and safe distancing and the severity of the virus.  Many wish we could just go back to normal. I thought I was handling it OK because I have my faith in Jesus, and He provides the measure of peace I find in this storm.

About a week ago I had a dream that showed I was more stressed and less settled than I tried to convince myself.

In the dream I found myself in the lobby of a bar of a hotel. There were a lot of people there with me, and we were all on top of the bar and tables. White wolves leapt up and snapped at people, and nobody (including me) was doing anything except recoiling in fear, wincing or crying. I realized I had to act. I found a knife on the table and when a wolf jumped up, I jammed the knife into it and twisted until it stopped moving. I kicked it to the ground. I started fighting the wolves and they fled down a hallway and out a door. I pushed the door open and stepped out into a dark, cold, and barren landscape. I could see the wolves fleeing over a hill, so I pursued. By the time I reached the top of the hill the wolves were nowhere to be seen. I stopped and slowly scanned all directions. Nothing. I turned and walked back toward the doorway I had recently come through. It struck me that I had been drawn away. Even in the dream, I knew I was dreaming and wondered what it meant. When I awoke, I asked the Lord to reveal the dream’s meaning.

Over the next couple of days, as I thought and prayed, some things unfolded. The danger had been real. Though I was scared, I had eventually stood against, fought, and chased off the wolves; I had pursued them, but then lost them. The Lord revealed that although I had protected people, I then kept my focus on the enemy instead of standing with people, caring for them, and pointing them to safety – the safety and hope of Jesus.

While writing this piece, God revealed something more: the frightened people also represented a part of me. Is that what I’m doing, Lord? I asked. Am I drawing back in fear of doing or saying the wrong things and failing to act?! The thought hit me like a punch in the gut. Guilt rose like bile in my throat.

Is that what Jesus died for? So that I could live a life of complacency?!

But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:16

I swallowed hard and hit my knees. My earnest plea from deep inside: No, Lord, do not let me take for granted the life You gave! If normal is a place of complacency, I do not want to go back there. Show me the place inside willing to stand for doing what is right, rather than hiding in a comfortable faith and life, to serve others first, to choose God over me, and to focus on Him. In Him lies my strength, my peace, and my hope. Jesus is my rest and certainty on all days; He is the firm foundation on which I rise and take my stand.

Fresh Revelation

Empty shelves.

Lack of greeted me as I traversed the aisles of my local market as I sought a single package of toilet paper or bottle of bleach a week or so ago.  No paper products.  No cleaning and disinfecting products.  The cereal aisle – decimated.  Frozen foods – gone.  Baby formula – cleared out.

Even in those early days, I understood how serious the pandemic was and is, but did the empty shelves also reflect a loss or lack of hope?  Sadness seeped into my heart.  Lord, I thought, how do we get through this?

As I walked the aisles and selected from the shelves what I could find on my weekly list, I realized I was not only sorrowful, but also a bit angry with the people who were panic buying more than they needed out of fear – and leaving nothing for others.  I breathed deeply and prayed for grace in my thoughts for others, and for mercy for my own self-righteous thoughts.  A memory came to mind of a prayer I uttered a few years back for God to give us a fresh revelation of Himself – a fresh revelation of Love.  I don’t remember the circumstances that formed the prayer, but His response flooded into my heart and mind just as it had that day:  you give them a fresh revelation of Me.

The words stopped me in my mental tracks when I heard them then; on this day they brought me a kind of peace.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Ah, yes, I thought, of course.  What could be fresher than to simply love and to love simply?

Lord, fill me today and every day.  Fill me so that I might pour out Love upon others – through caring, sharing, providing a smile, by reaching out by phone, card or email.  Fill the shelves of my heart, Jesus, that I might put something on the shelves of others’ hearts.  Let me not just reflect Your love; let me be a fresh revelation of You.

No Regrets

Do you ever wonder….?

These words often cause me to brace for the words to follow, which frequently lead to questions of regret.

One brisk fall morning nearly one year after I gave my life to Christ Jesus, as I hiked with a friend, she asked what I was reading that week in the Bible.  She liked to know what book and chapter I was reading.  Then we would discuss what the verses meant to each of us.

I chatted on in an excited tone about my reading and what God spoke to me in the verses.  When I paused, she noted how thrilled she was at my excitement in talking of God.  She remembered in words the days not many months before when I did not believe.

What she remembered was true.  I had come to faith after thirty years an atheist.  When she talked about God, I used to politely brush her off.  I would say something like, I’m so glad your faith helps you and encourages you, but I don’t need God to get me through things or as my moral compass.  I have a heart to serve people, but it’s because I like people and like to help.  I still cringe at the memory.  Who was I kidding?  How could I “politely” brush off someone else’s beliefs?!  Truth is, I was condescending.  Yet, she accepted my attitude with grace.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

“Look at where you are now in your faith,” she had said.  “You’re pursuing God with all you’ve got.”  I remember the hot sting of tears that rose to my eyes, which I blinked back.  It humbled me when a friend recognized my devotion to God.  I could never repay God for His love and faithfulness throughout the disdain of my unbelief, but I wanted to spend my remaining days loving Him and being faithful to Him.

Then she asked the question.  Do you ever wonder how much further you would be in your faith, how much different your life might be, if you had believed your whole life?  Her tone conveyed earnest curiosity.

I pondered her question a few moments.  Then I told her, “Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind.”

I couldn’t change how I was then.  I couldn’t take back the unbelief and disrespect.  And I certainly could not make up for it.  Still, I deeply regretted it.  I felt terrible to have treated God that way, and horrible that I spoke arrogantly to people about my unbelief.

But, would I be more devoted, or could my longing to know Him be greater, or could I serve God better if I had turned to Him sooner?  Thinking about that would be wasted time – time taken from my life with Jesus now.  I don’t know how or why, but my experience of God, with God, gets better every day.  Jesus makes me feel loved and included beyond all reason – even though I tried to throw Him away – showing me He has no regrets in dying to save me.  When I think about that, I still get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.  Yes, I have regrets – but my regrets led to a complete change in my beliefs and behavior.  And my new life in Jesus is something I will never regret.

All In

My headlights picked out the road in the six o’clock darkness as I headed out to work a couple of days ago.  I prayed and cried out.  At the start of my day I already felt drained from the alarm set thirty minutes earlier than usual so I could do morning chores while my husband healed from surgery.  I also slept fitfully for several months due to menopausal body changes that woke me throughout the night.  Lord, please, I just need a good night’s sleep and I can endure, I pleaded.

I made you to walk on water.  The Lord’s words rang in my mind.

“What do you mean, Lord?” I asked aloud.

In the quiet that followed, I thought of Peter, who climbed out of the boat and took a few steps on the water when Jesus called him. Peter sank only when he noticed the wind. I dropped my head slightly in a bow and felt tears sting my eyes.  I had taken my eyes off Jesus and looked only at my circumstances.

“Forgive me, Lord,” I said in a quiet voice.

Why do you ask for so little when I want to give you all of Me?

Oh!  I drove to work pondering God’s words.  He was right, of course.  How often was I content to just feel better when He wanted to make me whole?  How often did I settle for what I could do for myself?  Dang it, I thought, there it is again – pride.  Lord, show me how to lay it all down, I prayed.

The following morning, I sat on the kitchen floor with a cup of coffee and my bible.  I spent time reading Peter’s story in Matthew 14 to see if there was more to the story that I had missed.  Peter’s lack of focus showed a lack of faith.  Did my asking for less than God’s best show a lack of faith?

Is that it, Father? I wondered.  Like Peter, did I lose faith?

I never made you to be like Peter.  I made you to be like Jesus.

The words hit like a punch in the gut and knocked the wind from me.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:28-29

I drew my knees to my chest and hugged them, and I sucked in shallow breaths.  Of course, it was Jesus who walked on water.  I drew longer breaths, and with them came tears of complete humility and surrender.  Yes, there would be times I would need to endure, and times I would have to persevere, but Christ died to give me His full life.

Fullness

God revealed Himself to me in a moment: from adamant disbelief to belief in an instant of His felt presence.  That revelation left me repentant, begging forgiveness and longing to know this God I had been so wrong about – but I did not suddenly know God.  A little over a year passed between the time I knew that God is and the time I knew something about who God is.

The friend who ministered to me told me there would come a point in my journey when God would ask me to make a commitment to Him – to choose Him over myself.  The more I learned about God from reading my Bible, listening to sermons and talking with Christian friends, the more I fretted over my friend’s words.

What would it look like?  How would He ask?  Would I even recognize it?  I pondered and imagined.

What if I missed it?!

November 11, 2019 marked the eighth anniversary of God’s request for my commitment:  November 11, 2011.  11/11/11.  The memory remains clear in my mind. 

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.  Psalm 73:28

My mom had slipped on her steps and badly bruised her leg early that November.  The Friday after her fall I planned to drive the 200 miles to her house to help her for the weekend – just until she could get on her feet a bit.

It was already dark when I kissed my husband and son goodbye, climbed into my truck and pulled out of our driveway.  The night was cold and stunningly clear.  Several inches of recently fallen snow blanketed the ground.  As I drove south on the interstate through the flat farmland of central Wisconsin, a huge golden harvest moon rose from the eastern horizon and dulled the stars.  Burnished gold glinted off a pristine blanket of snow.  I turned every now and then to look full into that glorious moon.  I turned up the Christian radio station I had begun to listen to and sang my heart out to God – the God I was getting to know and wanted to trust with my life.

Trust.

A memory from junior high gym class suddenly flashed in my mind.  I was supposed to do a somersault on the balance beam.  I watched as girl after girl mounted the beam and did the somersault as the teacher spotted or supported them as needed.  My turn came.  I mounted the beam and squatted into position – and froze.  I don’t know why it scared me so badly, but no matter what the teacher said or did, I could not move.  I took the “F” and slipped off the beam.

I drove and sang and thought on the memory a bit.  Suddenly I saw myself standing on the three-foot concrete ledge of a building some five stories up.  I felt the roughness of the red brick against my palms as I pressed my back and hands to the wall.  Dim light shone from behind curtains in the windows of surrounding buildings.  I looked up – and Jesus stood across from me in the air!  He is almost close enough for me to reach Him.  His arms open wide in an unspoken invitation to jump into them.  My gaze is drawn to His eyes: eyes that hold the assurance He will catch me.  I cannot tear my gaze from His eyes.  His eyes are deep pools – bottomless pools that hold all of time and all of life in them.  His eyes speak volumes of love and acceptance and invitation – and I want to jump into them and feel like I will fall into them, both at the same time.

The ledge is wide enough that I have no fear of falling off.  I step forward and prepare to jump, but freeze.  I move back against the wall and pray, “God, help me let this ‘self’ die so I can be completely Yours.”  I try again and chicken out again.  And pray again.  After about the fourth time, I force myself off the ledge.  I do not just step off the ledge, I fling myself into Jesus’ arms across what feels like a chasm.  I feel His strong arms catch me and hold me tight, but with a gentleness I have never known.  I hold on for dear life.

As suddenly as I was on that ledge, I was driving down the road again: moon shining, radio playing, tears streaming down my face, and my heart was so full I felt it might burst.  As my tears flowed so did the weight of shame and guilt, so did the worry I had carried.  I had fretted over God’s invitation, and Jesus made it abundantly clear: simple, yet extravagant.  The God I had almost thrown away for eternity came for me.  Jesus wanted me, and my leap into His arms sealed my commitment.  I said “yes” to Jesus on 11/11/11, and though the journey has not always been easy, I have never looked back from my decision.

Upended

“Where did you hear that God is judging and vengeful?  I don’t remember learning that.  In fact, if anything, what I remember from high school was a sort of watered-down, wishy-washy Jesus.”

My sister posed this question after reading one of my blog posts.  We are twins, so we shared the same schools and grades, and, if not specific classes, at least many of the same teachers.

I plumbed my memory for examples.

Instead, my mind rolled back to the moment I realized the childhood brokenness that I hid behind a wall of control, reason and logic was just my way of dealing with rejection I felt from my dad – and turned me from God before He could reject me.  That realization left me sobbing on the floor – feeling like I was lost forever.  In that heart-crushed place I encountered God’s love through the comforting weight of His hand on my shoulder and His words in my ear.  It’s OK, you’re here now.

I remembered how, suddenly, for me – God was.  How long minutes later I sat on the floor and slowly drew breath.  I looked around the room, almost surprised to find myself alone. I no longer felt His hand, but a sense of calm and lightness washed over me, and I sat and soaked in it.

It was not just the idea of God I had experienced, but the real, tangible God.  I felt certain of that.  I also knew He loved me.  Always had and always would.  I had no idea what to do with that knowledge.  All I knew was that I wanted to know God: this God who showed up when I was in my dark place; this God I had been so wrong about.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

Wow, I thought.  So wrong.  I have been so very wrong all these years.

But now what?

It felt as if a rug had been jerked from under my feet, and my upended soul lay sprawled on the floor.  All my beliefs had changed in the breadth of striking a match.  Yet, somehow, my heart and mind felt sort of “righted.”  Although I did not have a clue as to the how or the why of this God stuff, it was enough for me in that moment to know God was.

I had been so sure of myself, I thought.  I had been so sure I had dealt with my childhood pain and was fine.  I had a good marriage, a wonderful husband, a thoughtful and loving son, a decent job, a nice home, the horse I had always wanted – yet I knew something was missing for a bunch of years.  I was a “good” person with a giving heart and a good and happy life.  I told myself for years that I was kind and thoughtful simply because it was the right way to be – and I honestly thought it was all inside of me, that I had done it all by myself because my mind understood that my dad’s behavior was about him, and not me.  I thought I had risen above the pain of a tattered and scarred childhood.

Until I realized I had risen above nothing.  Until I realized God had been there with me all along. Until I realized how truly ignorant I was.

Once again, the question came.  But now what?

I don’t know, I thought.  I don’t know!  My mind paced even as stillness gripped my body.  I ran my hands through my hair.  My nerves buzzed as emotions pushed aside rational thought.  My heart cried out.  I thought, God, help me! Help me find the answers! Help me heal and to become who You want me to be!

In the stillness I heard:  That is what I have been doing your entire life.

My breath caught at the weight of the words.  A lump rose in my throat and hot tears stung my eyes.  I saw again how God had been with me all my life, how He had gently guided me in my choices since the very beginning.  Once again, the heat of shame rose in my heart.

“Forgive me, God,” I begged.  “Forgive me for not seeing you, for not being with You while You were always with me.”  I swallowed and blinked back the tears.

The weeks after I became aware of God felt like a vicious cycle.  Each time God comforted me in my pain, I saw His love and His hand in my life – and I felt so guilty because I was so unworthy.  I thought, I treated You horribly – and You repaid me . . .  with love . . .  I do not deserve.

I blinked and pulled my mind back from my reverie.  I reconsidered my sister’s question.  Does it really matter where I had heard the lie that God was harsh or condemning? I asked myself.  Truth lay in the light of my memory.

Mere Words?

Listening is a problem for me at times.  I hear, but I do not always heed.

One morning several years ago, I challenged God about heeding His instruction.  I had thrown a pork roast in the slow cooker for dinner, and realized I was missing one key ingredient to make a sauce my family loved. I ran a bit late as I prepared for work, but figured I could drive to the market and back, throw my sauce together and still get to work by 8 o’clock.

At the market I walked to the proper aisle, grabbed the ingredient I needed, and strode to the single open checkout lane.  The clerk had just scanned groceries for a young man in jeans and a black windbreaker.  She announced his total and he ran his debit card.  The card terminal beeped a decline.  He swiped his card again – and the terminal beeped again.  The clerk looked beyond the man at me and rolled her eyes under dark eyebrows drawn on in an inverted V.  Her red lips drew tight when the man asked her to put his bag aside and told her he would be right back.  He walked out of the line and pulled his phone from his pocket.  The clerk huffed a sigh.

I stepped up to the clerk and smiled at her.  “Good morning.”  I placed the jar of sauce on the checkout lane shelf.

The clerk picked up my jar, scanned it and uttered the total.  I handed her cash and waited until she placed the change in my hand.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Have a nice day.”

I walked past the young man as he stood beyond the checkout lane.  He held the phone to his ear, but I guessed he was not getting an answer, because he lowered his hand, fidgeted and paced back and forth.  I had a sense that I should pay for his food, but I was in a hurry, so I walked past him.

That little voice in my head said, pay for his groceries, but I continued my hurried steps and reasoned with myself that I was already out of the store.  Dang, guess I missed my opportunity, I thought.  I climbed into my truck, pulled the door shut and turned the key.  The engine hummed to life.  I reached for the shift lever when I heard again, Go. Pay. For. His. Groceries.  It was the voice I had come to know as the Lord’s.

“But I’m late.  And I probably missed my chance.  And I’m gonna look like an idiot going back in there . . .” I argued aloud.  But even as I pleaded my case, I remembered all the times I had asked God to show me where he was working and had asked Him to invite me into His work.

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion – how can God’s love be in that person?

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:16-18

I heaved a sigh.  Sorry, Lord, I thought.  I turned off the engine, swung the door open, slid from my truck and walked back into the store. 

The young man now talked into his phone.  I heard, “She said she put $30 in the account.”  I walked past him to the clerk in the now empty lane.

“May I pay for that man’s groceries?”  I pointed to the young man on his phone. 

Her frown contrasted with the surprised look of her arched brows.  “You want to pay for him?”

“Yes,” I replied and smiled.

She kind of shook her head but rang up the groceries.  She told me the total and I swiped my credit card.  The cashier looked at me with a bewildered expression, then her face softened to nearly a smile.

“You have a great day,” she said.

I smiled and wished her the same.  I lifted the bag with the young man’s groceries, exited the checkout lane and placed it in his hand.

“This is taken care of.  Have a blessed day,” I said.

The young man, still on the phone, stared at me with his mouth agape.  I quickly walked off, feeling a little embarrassed.

I left the store, climbed back into my truck and drove home later than I had anticipated.  I thought of the change in the expressions of the clerk and the young man, and the words that trailed off as I walked away.  “You’re not gonna believe this . . .”  A smile creased my face.

Story Lines

A memory: I watch my 3-year-old son as he sits on my husband’s lap.  He looks up with a solemn expression, lifts his arm and begins to carefully trace the creases and lines in his dad’s face with his finger.  His innocent and honest child’s voice asks, “Daddy, why are there so many lines on your face?”  His dad looks into the gray-green eyes of our son and replies, “They tell the story of my life.”  Our son receives this wisdom with a nod, a smile and a simple, “Oh.”

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 NIV

The Bible reminds us that the Word is alive and active – but do we believe it?

Before I was saved in 2011, I scoffed at the mere thought – ridiculed the idea that the Bible is the inspired word of God, and  that God speaks directly to people through the Bible.  I agreed that I, or anyone, could “get a message” from any book, but I had to wonder if I found the “message” I expected to find, or the specific “answer” I was looking for by inference.  In that time and place in my life, I considered such a message a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fast forward eight years.  I look down at the beloved Bible in my lap, touch its pebbled leather surface.  The Bible does not just tell me what to think (like a textbook), nor how to think (like a motivational book) – it speaks to me on a personal level.  When I hold the Word in my hand, I literally pick up Jesus.  I can feel the weight and faithfulness of His love.  Opening it is like crawling into the Father’s lap.  The crinkle of a turned page is His breath in my ear; the cadence of the words His heartbeat.  As I trace verses with my finger, I feel every line of His face. It tells the story of God’s life.

Groundbreaking

A couple of weeks ago I attended an informational clinic at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch.  The ranch is nestled amongst junipers, rocks and irrigated pastures in the high desert of central Oregon, just east of the Cascade mountains.  CPYR is a ranch whose ministry offers the love and hope of Jesus Christ to children and their families – through connections and mentoring with horses.  The ranch founders and staff share “how to’s” with others considering a similar ministry.

The first pull on my heart to attend the clinic occurred about a year ago when I first read about the annual event.  I was familiar with the ranch and its mission, and I love how CPYR shares God’s love.  Yet, I did not see myself beginning a ranch or horse ministry.

Is this what you want, Lord? For me to share Your love through my horses?  I asked these questions in the ensuing months.  My heart simply told me to go, so I registered for the clinic and made my travel plans.

The clinic spanned five days of fellowship with the staff and attendees from various states and nations as we worshipped, shared meals, prayed and attended classes.  Everything pointed to Jesus!  It was wonderful!

I returned home in a sweet place of awe, wonder and gratitude for my God.  It reminded me of the early days of my faith when all I desired was to know Jesus more.  I smiled at returning to that heart place.  I still did not know exactly what lay ahead on my journey, but I knew He always has in mind His best for me. 

As I rested in that place of peace, I remembered in contrast the brokenness of my heart most prevalent in the early days of my journey – before I even knew the journey led to Jesus.  I remembered an email exchange with my horse trainer.  We had discussed the emotional trauma that was the root cause of my reaction to fear when riding my horses.  I had shared with her thoughts on facing childhood pain in a way that offered healing, rather than just “getting over it.”

One line of her response stopped my heart: “I do know that God wants you to have all that you have had stolen from you and then more.”

I remember how I read her response once, then again, and again as something in those words snagged my attention.  Wait a minute, I thought.  “God wants you to have all that you have had stolen from you and then more.”  What?  God wants for me?!  My mind got caught in a jumble of thoughts and emotions.  It felt like someone had grabbed my guts and twisted.  I thought God always wanted from me.  He was a strict disciplinarian who demanded obedience.  Stolen?!  Did she mean I had not lost a part of my childhood?!  It wasn’t my fault?  This defied all logic of what I had been taught about God, had heard through the years about a judging and vengeful God.  This was a picture of God I had never seen or considered.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV)

On that heart pause, a truth broke hard ground and encouraged my heart to soften and shift.  It took another three or four months before my heart fully changed direction and I began to earnestly seek God’s heart.  Since then, I have experienced in ever-greater measure God’s love poured out in grace and mercy.  He wants for me.  He wants all He is for me.

Crossroads

Resurrection.  Restoration.  Relationship.

My husband, son and I spent my first Easter as a “born again” Christian visiting my mother, who lived 200 miles from us.  Mom and I attended Easter mass at her Catholic church.  I remember the solemnity of that first Easter service after reuniting with my God – staring up at the larger than life-sized crucifix at the front of the church.  Pangs of guilt still pulled at me back then when I thought of the price Jesus paid to restore me to right standing with God.  But, more than guilt, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the love that endured such a horrible death for me.  As I sat while the parishioners filed up for Communion and returned to their seats, I looked up at Jesus and mouthed, “thank you.”  Silent tears ran down my face.  Mom reached for my hand and gently squeezed.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

In 2014 we did not travel to visit my mother, as we most often did on holidays.  I wanted to attend Easter, Resurrection Sunday, service at my home church that year.  A cross stands at the front of our church, too, but it is an empty cross – signifying not only Jesus’ death, but also His resurrection.  I remember worship before service that Resurrection Sunday.  I stood at the area in front of the worship platform and praised my God.  I joined with the worship team as they played and sang SWEETLY BROKEN.  I sank to my knees, closed my eyes and sang my heart to God.

As I sang, I found myself kneeling in the dirt on Calvary under gray storm clouds.  Dust swirled in the wind that blew across the hilltop.  I stared up at Jesus where His battered body hung on the cross.  Trails of dried blood stained His head and face from the crown of thorns they had forced on His head.

His life; my sin.

Deep sorrow filled my heart; tears trickled down my face.

“Jesus!  What have you done?  What have you done?” My voice was a choked whisper.

Jesus opened His eyes: narrow slits in a face swollen and disfigured by the beating I knew He had taken.  He looked down on me.  “I did it for you, Love,” He said.  Then His eyes closed, and He was gone.

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.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  John 3:16-17

I was undone by the immensity of His love – His personal and intimate love.  It was the only way.  Sobs wracked my body: pain and sorrow for what He endured and sacrificed; and gratitude, joy and love because He did it for me.

A hand gently cupped my chin and raised it.  I opened my eyes and looked up into the beautiful face of my living Lord.  He stepped back and extended His hand.  I placed my hand in His and rose to my feet.  Indeed, Jesus is alive!

Suddenly, I was singing my heart out in worship in church, again, as tears rolled down my face.