Easter morning started on a dark pathway

Early on Easter morning I heard children calling to each other in a family Easter egg hunt. Then I focused on morning prayers for those on my heart. As I brought these dear ones before the Lord, I wondered how many of those struggling with cancer, chronic health problems, some without even a diagnosis, others with painful relationships, some still in the pall of the death of their loved one – how many were coming to Easter morning, which is supposed to be joyful, only in dread, or duty?

How many felt like the women trudging to the tomb before the dawn light, hearts heavy, hope gauged away? Carrying spices and the weight of the world, everything in their lives spun off into terrible disaster.

Venice Beach by Jack H Thompson, Jr

As I lifted them to the Lord, I asked for the same, lightning clarity for them that Mary experienced.

That they might hear the risen Jesus call their name.

That they might find so much more than they are seeking.

Ibis and reflection by Jack H Thompson Jr

In truth, we all find more than we are seeking, though we aren’t always aware of it.

ducklings by Jack H Thompson, Jr

In a service during Holy Week, I thought about the Last Supper and the scene in the garden afterwards, when one of the twelve who’d walked with Jesus, seen him heal and cleanse and raise the dead, betrayed him with a kiss.
(Read the whole story here.)

Immediately, a painful scene from early in my life flashed into my mind, distracting me. I tore my focus back to the covered cross before me.
(In our tradition, the cross which hangs over the altar is covered during Lent.)

Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, FL
photo by Fred Sieger

In that moment, I sensed a profound truth.

Though draped and obscured much of the time in my younger years, the cross has always been there in my life. Jesus was with me, loving me and dying for me every time I sinned,

Every time another sinned against me.

Every. single. time.

Since I was conceived, the cross has been there, redeeming me. Redeeming my life from the pit.

There were times when that redemption worked to prevent greater evil.

Other times, it worked to turn what the enemy meant for evil into good.

Every. single. time

Long before I could say the word, the Lord was there, redeeming me.

Long before I gave the mental assent and welcomed him as Lord, he was winding his love throughout my life.

Long before I studied the Bible and committed verses to memory he was writing on my heart with a nail-scared hand.

It is a great mystery, but it was the greatest truth I have ever discovered, that I have never been abandoned. Never neglected. Never hurt without being comforted. Never wounded without a healer at work. Never alone.

Not. one. time.

God is not limited by time or space. He is not linear as we are, with yesterdays, todays and tomorrows.

So he can be present in all things.

And he is.

For me, and for you.

sunrise by Jack H Thompson, Jrwater landing by Jack H Thompson Jr
Venice Beach sunlight from a cloud by Jack H Thompson, Jr

If this Easter was less than joyful, my wish for you is that you, too will hear him call your name,

Be alerted to the presence of the Living One, who is life itself,

Find a new and fresh vision this Easter season, tunneling into the swirling reality of God-With-Us.

Emmanuel.

flowers by Jack H Thompson, Jr

God’s wisdom is something mysterious that goes deep into the interior of his purposes. You don’t find it lying around on the surface. It’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest—what God determined as the way to bring out his best in us, long before we ever arrived on the scene….
No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him. But you’ve seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you. The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along….We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand, personal way.

1 Corinthians 2:6‭-‬10 MSG

Craziness in an upside down world?

The world’s a mess. We may argue on the why and who, but no one is pleased with our state of affairs. Some ask how a good God can allow young children to be trafficked? Flooding muddy waters wash away villages full of people in Peru? Radiation from Japan not only wreak havoc there, but spread across the Pacific Ocean? Terrorists haunt major cities, even whole countries. Why the innocent suffer and the selfish and entitled seem to get more power, more wealth?

Warn and loved version

After I got my driver’s license, my Mom read to me from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers while I drove to school. When I moved into the dorm at the U of Houston she gave me my own copy. Through the years she sent new ones as I wore them out. Right now, my OM and I read from the last one she gave us, even though he has to hold it together to read.

What’s the draw for me with Oswald Chambers’ writing?

Wisdom so deep you never see the bottom.
So fresh you gasp.
So right you don’t argue, even if it flips you or turns you in your tracks.

Here’s an excerpt from a devo on prayer by Oswald (as he’s affectionately known by those who love his writing) on YouVersion.

Prayer alters a man on the inside, alters his mind and his attitude to things. The point of praying is not that we get things from God, but that we learn by prayer to detect the difference between God’s order and God’s permissive will. God’s order is—no pain, no sickness, no devil, no war, no sin; His permissive will is all these things. What a man needs to do is to get hold of God’s order in the kingdom on the inside, and then he will begin to see how to handle the riddle of the universe on the outside.

God has so constituted things that prayer on the basis of redemption alters the way a man looks at things.

Reflection Question: What might happen if I spent more time allowing God to change me and less time trying to change my circumstances?

    Quotations taken from Still Higher for His Highest and Our Brilliant Heritage, © Discovery House Publishers

I don’t begin to understand the permissive will of God.

The only part I can grasp is, I’m still alive because of it. He didn’t wipe me off the face of the earth the first time I did something not worthy of life.

That’s permissive will.

But there is no peace in that, alone. I’d always be wondering when I’d cross the line, when he’d say, “Enough!” and snuff me out.

Through Jesus, the way God reveals himself completely to the world, I intersect with God’s order, the kind prophesied in Revelations, where there is no more death and no more tears. No more cruelty, abuse, or broken people. No more sickness of mind or body, or spirit.

He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and be their God, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Rev 21:4 NASB

Because of his death and resurrection, I get a taste of God’s order now, and a promise of it forever.

Until I graduate and join my sweet mama in heaven, I straddle life on one side in a world run amok, in God’s permissive will, and on the other side the inner peace His presence brings, internal order, the all-is-well and all will be well of His spirit.

There is plenty I care about, much that I’m concerned about, people I ache for. But when I pray I’m not giving God a to-do list, or explaining how important something is and how, or why, he should act.

I am opening my mind to the Creator, to the power of his spirit to untangle my mind and smooth my peace.

Then I know how to pray for the sick and the hurting, how to react to ugliness and brokenness, how to take the next step.

How to live is an upside down world.

And you?