Rain In Heaven

handinrainThose that know me well know that I would much prefer a rainy day to a sunny day any day. I know this is a bit strange but there are some reasons behind it.

First and foremost, I was saved on a rainy day. Well, it didn’t start out raining but after I said the words “Lord, come into my heart” and came out of the most profound experience of my life, I stepped out into a spring downpour that seemed to flood my soul as it washed away all the muck and mire within. I have never smelled the air so clean or felt so fresh and free in my entire life! I know my emotions had much more to do with the experience that I had just gone through, but the rain on my face is the first thing I remember afterward, and has stayed with me since. There has been nothing in this world that has come close to what I felt when those raindrops hit my face that day.

Another memory that is embedded in my mind are the many camping trips our family took when I was young. We would usually be gone for a week at a time and camped in one of those big old canvas tents that always has that packed, musty smell…no matter how long you let it air out. That aroma was especially strong after a rain. Camping trips are some of my fondest memories of childhood. I loved riding in the car…I got to sit in the front and my 3 sisters always had to sit in the back. The view from the front seat was amazing – all the new and interesting places and never really knowing what was around the next bend in the road. We’d finally arrive at a packed campground, (my dad never made reservations so we rarely got to choose a site…we got what was left over), and all kinds of different people milling about and the smells of campfires and hot dogs and hamburgers being burned…and the packed, musty smell of our old canvas tent that had been rained on the night before but hadn’t dried out yet. Love that smell…

Driving home from work the other day I caught a quick glimpse of a rainbow. A brief spring storm had just blown over and the evening sun’s rays shot across the skies toward the east revealing the promise….that is what rainbows are – promises. It got me feeling a bit nostalgic about people and places I’ve been and how my most precious memories often involve rain…and how much I love the rain. I think we all have these kinds of signposts on our journeys. For you it may be butterflies or bugs, breezes or beaches. That thing that reminds you that you are on a path and that path is leading somewhere. You may not feel any different and your circumstances may not have changed but there is that marker that reminds you where you have been and how far you really have come…and then encourages you to take one more step…and then another…

I hope there’s a special place in heaven where it rains…that would be a beautiful place.

Waking The Waiting

maninforestIt began with the sound of gentle rain on the roof. At about one in the morning I stirred in my slumber and then woke as the soft pitter-patter became a drenching downpour. I listened as it washed away the winter grime and gave hope to dormant roots still sleeping in their garden beds. Perhaps it was a waking dream or just my imagination painting a picture, but I could see the water as it flowed through the soil caressing every root and tuber and bulb waiting in their beds for that first sign of spring. That is all they really need; just a taste of fresh water filtering through once frozen soils. That is all any of us really need.

As I laid in bed and listened I heard another sound. It was distant and deep like the sound of gravity, if gravity has a sound, causing you to quiet your soul, humble your heart, and bend your knees. Announced by bursts of brilliant light, the thunder rolled and rumbled, low and long and louder with each flash. The rain intensified, the lightening lit up the sky, and the clapping and crashing thunder neared. The storm was approaching and I lay in my bed quietly listening as the first storm of the season rolled in. I have been waiting for this for a very long and cold winter.

What began as a gentle sound that stirred my sleep soon became a cacophony of light, roaring thunder, whistling wind, and pouring rain. Gentle rumbles soon became bone shaking bellows in low tones, thudding and thumping through the walls, rattling the roof and windows as the waves of sound moved through the air. I imagine the ground shook as well, loosening the soil for the falling rain to seep in and nourish the thirsty roots. Each flash of light showed the way, each gust of wind a breath of fresh air, and every rumble breaking up the ground a little more as the water filled the empty spaces.

Soon the storm moved on to wake and water other waiting lands. I turned on my side and pulled the covers up under my chin and drifted back to sleep thinking…maybe dreaming…what it would be like to be in one of those garden beds that the storm had just rolled over. I can only imagine…

Hearts of Stone

stoneheartFor years there had been a solid piece of stone embedded in the chest of this man just left of center. A cold, dark, and hardened piece of flesh with no signs of life, love, or liberty. A child of 13 should not have had to harden his heart so much – but I did, and mine was. I do not need to go into the reasons why it happened, that is not the point of this writing; but understand, this now grown man of 46 once had a heart of stone rolled away at the age of 13.

When Christ came in the very first thing he did was shatter the stone cold center of my being. What was once hardened, calloused, dead thing became a fresh, new, and moldable piece of clay. Joy moved in, and peace began to paint the walls. Hope opened the windows and the freshness of a rainy-day breeze blew through removing the cloudiness of doubt, fear, and despair. I’m still a work in progress but there was a moment in time when the stone in my chest was rolled away and I became new.

What happened in that garden centuries ago is still happening today. That tomb that was cold and dark and filled with night, in three days’ time became a light filled room of hope and joy spanning the globe and the years, and may possibly be touching your heart right now, this very day. We all have a stone cold darkness in our chest just left of center. It is called the human heart. If he can move that giant stone in the garden, he can most certainly handle the one inside of us. In fact, he could reach in, pick it up and hold it in the palm of his hand, gently bringing light and life back into it. That is why he came in the first place: to remove our hearts of stone.

Fearful Follower, Faithful Friend (part three)

facelookingupA King with Scars

They had all heard the news by now. Some had even seen the grave cloths and the empty cellar. And they had all heard Mary tell her story over and over again. Then they had been there that first night when he had walked right through a locked door and visited with them. They were surprised and overjoyed at the sight of him and in order to dismiss any doubt he revealed the scars that remained in his hands and feet and side – healed now but still visible and touchable. There could be no mistaking that this was indeed their savior.

After he had calmed their excitement he told them that just as he had been about the work of his Father that he was sending them out to do the same work and with one breath he gave them all a portion of the same power that he had to heal and forgive. They were now to be his representatives to the world. Of course, most had really no idea what that all meant at that moment but they did know that they had been changed and that the one that they had been following was alive and still their leader…and their Lord.

I was not there when all this had happened. I had been one of the first of his followers to scatter that fateful night in the garden when the soldiers came and took him. That whole night had been very strange. The lot of us had dinner together and he had told us many things about what was going to happen very soon. He had said that one of us would betray him and that Peter…even Peter…would deny him before the night was over. I was frightened and confused. How could any of these things be? He was our Lord and the Savior of our people. After supper we had gone out to the garden and waited while he and the others went further on to watch and pray. When I saw the soldiers coming and Judas among them I knew that the words he had spoken at the table that night were true. I confess, I was overcome with fear that I might be caught too…so I fled. The next day I watched from a distance as the radical, as they called him, climbed onto the tree and the words, “it…is…finished!” rang loudly in my ears. And again, I fled.

A couple of days later, I heard people talking about how the women had found the cellar empty and that Mary had actually spoken to him in the garden. He had told us to wait for him and that he would see us all soon. I could not believe it…it could not possibly be true. Wanting to go to where all the brothers were waiting but still fearful of being caught, I stayed hiding – how I wish I had had the courage to go. I could hear the commotion in the house but had seen no one enter. Later I heard that he had shown up right in the midst of them. The next day I went to the house where he had been and found the brothers and women still enamored and still talking. They told me all that had happened and the mission that the Lord had given them. I wanted to believe but just could not wrap my mind around all that had happened. No, it could not be true. I had seen him die in the tree. I watched as they wrapped his body and brought him to the cellar and sealed it. Dead men do not roll stones away.

Many days went by and while the brothers were still talking about him and their new mission, I was still in doubt. Had I missed it all – too afraid for my own life to be concerned with His? After dinner one night we were all just sitting around and talking when there, seemingly out of thin air, he appeared. The others immediately jumped up, excited to see him again and have their conviction once again strengthened. He calmed them down and made his way to where I was sitting and then, as if he had come that night just to see me, he bid me touch his hands and the scar in his side. I did as he asked touching first his hands, palm and backside, and then the deep scar in his side. I was undone…it was him…he was alive! Then he penetrated my eyes with his and said with a smile, “stop doubting…and believe!”

“My Lord and my God!” I said…and never doubted him again.

Fearful Follower, Faithful Friend (part two)

facelookingupA Savior in a Cellar:

Where he went no one was quite sure. Some said his final words were just the mutterings of a man who had finally given up. Others, citing the earthquake and the darkness, had a suspicion that there was far more to the cry, “it…is…finished!” Those who followed him knew it was much more and believed he had come to save them but could not understand how what they had just witnessed became salvation…it looked much more like defeat with the one they believed to be their savior now buried in a cellar.

The fact is that salvation had just been purchased and his life had been the price. For three days he had been about the business of providing a way for all to find the Kingdom. The keys were now in his hands and the prison doors were opened to those who had been held captive for so long. Now, through him, all had been given the opportunity to approach the throne of Grace and find salvation for their souls and spend eternity in his Father’s Kingdom. Those who had followed him would understand very soon and would be charged with carrying this good news to the world that they knew. That good news would eventually reach across time to every soul, offering forgiveness and granting salvation to all who would believe.

What he had just accomplished in three short days was no small feat but there were a few things he had left to do before he went to his Father’s house. Strolling along the path that lead to where his body had been laid he came upon a woman who was very much in a hurry and weeping as she ran. He asked her what was going on and, thinking he was a gardener, she begged him to tell if he knew where the body of their Lord had been taken. She was distraught beyond words but managed to tell him all that had happened over the last week – about the man who had died in the tree and how the tomb they had sealed him in was now open and empty. When he could bear no more of her sorrow, he stooped to look into the woman’s eyes and said, “Mary…”

Immediately, in amazement and overwhelming joy, she leaped up with arms outstretched, rushing to embrace him. He stepped back and pleaded with her not to touch him since he had not been to his Father’s house yet. She was quick to believe and understand what had just happened and was filled with a joy mixed with peace that could not be described. He asked her to hurry along and tell his followers all she had seen and heard – that he was alive and well and would see them all very soon. Taking one last look at his loving eyes, she sped on as if the very wind were carrying her with her feet barely touching the ground. He watched her as she ran knowing that she was the first messenger of the good news that their Savior was no longer in the cellar…she had seen him and spoken to him…he was ALIVE!

Fearful Follower, Faithful Friend (part one)

facelookingupA Radical In A Tree

From his vantage point perched high upon the tree he could see the world. He could see the sun being covered by thick dark clouds casting shadows and gloom over the land. He could see the animals in the fields huddling in crevices or thickets seeking shelter from the darkness. He could see the city seeming to slide down the hillside as the buildings clung to the stony ground. There in the midst of the city on the hill he could see the king’s palace where just a few hours before he had been in a meeting with the city officials wondering what they ought to do about the radicals stirring up trouble in the streets.

From that tree, which was itself on a hill a bit above the city, he could see people on their way here or there. Some were headed away having completed their work for the day or their business in the city. Others were coming nearer, curious about the commotion that had just taken place along the streets and upon the hill where his tree stood. Still others were very close, nearly at the roots of his old tree, peering up at him trying to see but unable understand why this radical was up a tree. Then there were those who were on their knees weeping, wrapped in each other’s arms that brought no comfort, unable to look up, knowing what and who they’d see – not some radical but one of their own…their very own. If he could have he would have reached down from where he was and wiped their tears away and calmed their fears but he loved them all too much to do that. He knew why he was up a tree and that he would not be there long so he steeled his heart against the sights and sounds and endured the pain.

He was not alone on the mount, there were two other men in two other trees on either side of him, one just sneered but the other was pleading. He had watched as these two fought and struggled against their captors. They had screamed and bellowed and hurled insults and begged for mercy to no avail. They had been treed and he knew he was soon facing the same fate. He resolved not to fight, instead climbing the tree himself. This had left many of the people both bewildered and amazed but none so much as the man on his right pleading, “Remember me”. He would not forget.

As the sky grew darker and the people scattered fearing the foulness in the air, he found there was nothing else he could do upon the tree. He had gotten himself into a position from which there was no turning back and he would not have done anything differently anyway. He knew the pain would be worth the reward. Though many could not understand at that moment what was happening he knew that one day they would. There was a war raging that none of them could see and this was the only way to win. So with his last ounce of courage and his last bit of strength he stood out on a branch and stretched his arms our as far as they could reach. He looked out over the people and the city and across all times and screamed, “It…is…finished!” and let himself go.

(This is part one of a series of 3 that I posted a little over a year ago. I had fewer followers then so I thought I’d repost them over this weekend as we are nearing Easter. Parts 2 and 3 will follow over the next two days. Thank you so much for following along…we all have so little to doubt and so much to believe…)

What Love Is

heartlockBeing ‘in love’ is a wonderful thing, but sooner or later the butterflies and rainbows flit and fade and we are left with a few choices to make. Feelings will not carry us through the next 20, 30, or 50 years, but a real understanding of what real love is may. Love is a choice. It is not something someone can force you into or something that can be manufactured. It is not a feeling. Yes there are emotions we attach to events and people and we call that ‘feeling’ love, but that is just our way of trying to attach a name to something that is beyond our ability to understand. Love is a choice…and it is not always an easy one to make. This is what love is, (and the choices we often make):

It is patient, (I can’t wait any longer…)

It is kind, (I’m feeling really grumpy today!)

It does not envy, (I really want what they have…)

It does not boast, (look how much I have!)

It is not proud, (I am so much better than they are!)

It is not rude, (get out of my way!!)

It is not self-seeking, (me first! me first!)

It is not easily angered, (count to one…then explode!)

It keeps no record of wrong, (I’ll forgive…but I’ll never forget!)

It does not delight in evil, (what goes around comes around…that’s what I say!)

It rejoices in the truth, (no one will ever find out…)

It always protects, (you’re on your own now…I’m done!)

It always hopes, (nothing will ever change…why bother?)

It always perseveres, (I just can’t do it anymore…I give up!)

It never fails, (good riddance to bad rubbish!)

That is quite the list and each of them presents us with a choice. If we’re honest, I think all too often we choose the latter… (I know I have.) True love is demonstrated when we choose to be patient and kind. It is seen in contentment and shown when we share what we have been given rather than keeping it for ourselves. Love does not push others aside so we can get there first and it does not pop off when we are the one who is pushed aside. Real love has a very short memory and takes no pleasure in someone else’s troubles. True love knows that freedom is found when truth is revealed and therefore has a reason to rejoice. Love says I won’t let anything hurt you, things will get better, and I won’t give up!

And then, after all other choices had been made, the revelation of perfected love was demonstrated for the world to see.

True love said, “It is finished!”

Springtime

sproutsCan spring be far away? The birds are getting noisy in the morning and the night time critters are creeping about, (Pepe Le Pew has been seen and…er…smelled). There is a fresh, clean, new aroma in the breeze and soon the snow will be melted and the sleeping flower beds will burst with new life. I love this time of year! It is so refreshing when you can step outside without the heavy covering of a winter coat, stretch out your arms, and breathe deeply the life in the spring air. And, did I forget to mention the rain? There is almost nothing on God’s good earth that can top that first spring rain! The rat-a-tap-tap on the roof of a gentle shower puts a smile on my face and settles my soul.

We are all nearing the end of a long, cold winter. Some of us have had to endure more than usual, but we here in mid-Michigan have not had it quite so bad…except for the cold. Some mornings were so chilling, you nearly froze in mid stride if you ventured out. But temps are predicted to be up above 40 for the next week or so with sunshine abounding – winter’s back will break this week! Those of you further south and east have had more than your share of winter’s woes to deal with and I feel for you, but the heavy snows and ice and cold will pass and you will survive, I have no doubt. The air will warm, the snow will melt, the ground will drink it in, and new life will rise!

The changing seasons are a constant reminder to me that problems and sorrows and struggles wither eventually in the wind. They stir our lives for a while and sometimes settle in for a season, but then are washed away as the rains of renewal water our long dormant soil…and then, new life begins to grow. Every problem has a solution; you will find it! The deepest sorrow can turn to joy; you will laugh again! Each struggle is a stepping stone; you will grow! Every long, cold winter is followed by a bright spring morning; you will live again!