It’s an appropriate word for today as all this week, I have been frustrated and asking myself how we have gotten so far from the Gospel.
On this Good Friday especially, we need to remember that Jesus came to fulfill the law. It was finished on that cross in Calvary. Just before he was sent to die, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
This was consistent with the answer he’d given the Pharisees when they asked him:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
We get so wrapped up in our politics and religion and being “right” that we forget to love people.
How have we come so far from the Gospel?
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
I have a reputation of having a “glass half empty” personality. It has turned into somewhat of a joke. A few years ago, some friends gave me a half full/half empty glass. I maintain that my glass is not half empty — it’s the wrong size glass. Or, whether is half empty or half full, there’s room for more wine! Jokes aside, it sort of stings when people say that about me. It’s not that I’m not optimistic — it’s that I have been bitterly let down by people over the years, so I try to protect my heart by trying to expect less. Truth is, I still expect a lot from people and continue to be let down because people are people. We are flawed. Imperfect. Incapable of being everything that others expect or desire. There will come a time when we will always let each other down, despite our best intentions.
The Gospel implications are that while people will always let you down, Jesus never will. I think about what Jesus must have been feeling on that day so many years ago as he prepared to have his last meal with his friends who he knew were going to let him down. He knew what the next 24 hours or so were going to bring. And, while he knew that in his divinity, he would defeat death, in his humanity, he still had to endure the physical, emotional and spiritual pain that awaited him on that cross. I often wonder if he was afraid. He had to be. And, yet…he did it anyway. He did not let us down.
I’ve been reflecting a lot over the past week or so, since I found out my friend had passed away. I’ve been looking through old photos and remembering fun times spent with he and his wife. As I sat there on my living room floor the other night, laughing and crying as I went through photos and cards and old ticket stubs that I’ve saved over the years, I realized how many amazing people have been a part of our lives. Each person is somebody God saw fit to put in my life at a particular time and place. Some are lifelong friends. Some are people I’ve met as an adult who have become like family to me. Others are people I’ve lost touch with over the years. But, each has made me the person I am today.
My cup isn’t half full or half empty. It overflows.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
This is my dear friend, H. The story of the beginning of our friendship is summed up in the scripture below. We lived through some seriously hard stuff together and I
think that am positive that were not for Jesus in our lives, we may not be friends today. But, we are. In fact, she is like a little sister to me and I know she will be in my life forever.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2, ESV
How do you pick one verse for this word? There are so many things to rejoice in throughout the Story of God. And how do you choose one photo? That’s what I tend to take photos of the most — the things that make me rejoice in God’s creation. Family. Friends. Pets. Nature. The Beach. Music. Sunsets. Art. Good Wine. Bacon. It’s all worthy of praise and proof that God cares about all of the details in our lives (and I have pictures of all of it).
That being said, I’m going with baseball.
Sunset over Nationals Park
© 2012 Stephanie L. Brown
1 Thessalonians 5:16
I also want to share a song that always makes me rejoice. I dare you not to dance.
These words are wrecking me this week.
It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about as I grieve the loss of our friend. While I find great comfort in the fact that he is now with Jesus, sadness overwhelms me when I think of his wife facing the rest of her life without him…raising their daughter alone. The tears flow when I put myself in her shoes.
And, then I realize that I’m doubting the Gospel. She is not alone. None of us are alone. Jesus died to ensure it.
© 2012 Stephanie L Brown
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39, ESV)
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 Corinthians 5:1 (ESV)
I’ve been taking a lot of comfort in this verse these past few days. Knowing that our friend Kevin, who was taken much too soon, is at home with Jesus is the only thing that makes it bearable.
Full moon over the Palouse.
© 2010 Stephanie L. Brown
This one was easy….especially in light of the fact that just last week, my beloved and I celebrated 20 years of marriage.
Firefly Festival, 2012 © Stephanie L Brown
The voice of my beloved!
Behold, he comes,
leaping over the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Behold, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
and come away.
O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the crannies of the cliff,
let me see your face,
let me hear your voice,
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
Catch the foxes for us,
the little foxes
that spoil the vineyards,
for our vineyards are in blossom.”
My beloved is mine, and I am his;
he grazes among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
or a young stag on cleft mountains.
(Song of Solomon 2:8-17 ESV)
I’m a few days behind. I struggled with the word dream on Tuesday. Nothing was coming to me. Nothing was inspiring me. Later that day, my husband and I received terrible news that one of our closest friends had died suddenly.
That night, as I drifted in and out of fitful sleep, a verse from Job just kept running through my mind:
…the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD… (JOB 1:21)
I dreamed that when I woke up in the morning and went downstairs, everything was gone. All of our furniture and pictures on the walls….all of it. It was just a blank slate of a house.
I don’t know what any of it really means. I just know that our friend is gone and it feels empty. Just like the house in my dream.