Oh How He Loves You and Me

How much does God love you?

When God says, “I love you to the moon and back,” does he mean all the moons in a bazillion zillion galaxies? No, that can’t be right…not enough moons, not enough distance.

When God says, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways,” does he then complete his poem with a certain number of ways in a prescribed number of lines? No, that can’t be right…not enough ways, not enough lines.

No, when God says I love you the Father sends his Son to the cross, the Holy Spirit grieves at the thought of the cross, and the Son stretches his arms out wide upon the cross and says, “This much. This is how much I love thee. Not to the moon and back, but to the depths of infinity and the breadth of eternity; and not in ways that might be counted, but in ways that measurement cannot surround or contain.”

No, when God says I love you the Spirit of God says of God the Father and God the Son: “But the LORD was pleased to crush Him… (for) as a result of the anguish of His soul, he will see and be satisfied; and by his knowledge the Righteous One, my Servant, will justify many.”

♫Oh how he loves you and me. Oh how he loves you and me. He gave his life. What more could he give? Oh how he loves you. Oh how he loves me. Oh how he loves you and me.♫

Need a little reminder? Listen to Vanessa Williams.

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Wave and Do Not Rage Against the Coming of the Light

I sit quiet observing…listening.

Her breath is shallow, loud. Then nothing…

one second, two seconds…

nine, ten, eleven…

It’s back again, shallow, loud, piercing the quiet of the night.

Again. And again. Yet again, she breathes. She is not alert. She does not respond. She breathes.

I await. Her reward draws near. Peace is here. Greater peace beckons. My Mother is dying, but she lives. She lives as she has always lived. With contentment.

The little girl in her always remembered the sweet words of the nuns, “Jesus, dear Gladys, follow Jesus.” And she did. She did. In youth. In life. In dying. Until and into greater life.

My mind prays. It hopes, pleads, demands…yes, though I wish otherwise, demands…

“Now? …

Now? …

Now?

Lord? Father? Now?”

And she breathes. Content. Waiting.

My thoughts wander. They remember the poem. By Dylan Thomas.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
old age should burn and rave at close of day;
rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
because their words had forked no lightning
they do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray,
do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And I write:

Walk, run, go gentle into that good night.
Yes, old age could rave at close of day and
rage, rage against the coming of his light.
But wise men at their end know light is right,
because their hope awaits the rising,
they walk, run, go gentle into that good light.
So you, my Mother, there with your glad right,
sing, bless me now with your sweet peace, I pray
walk, run, go into that good light.
Wave, wave facing the coming of his light.

Shorter. Less skilled than Dylan’s. But right.

Her hand lifts ever so slightly…

gentle as always as she waves…

she waves to the coming of his light.

P.S. This was penned in the o’dark thirty hours of Monday morning. At 4:07am Tuesday morning, Mom celebrated in the arms of her Savior. As the Apostle Paul was once moved by the Holy Spirit to say, “Absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”

Do you share this sweet confidence?

To My Brothers and Sisters In Christ

So into this crazy, mixed up world walked a Savior. Oh he didn’t have to come. He didn’t lay aside his deity to do so. But—and man oh man this is an important but—he did make sacrifices.

He planned something. This is salvation. Messiah. God for us.

He became something. This is incarnation. Immanuel. God with us.

He paid something. This is crucifixion. Ransom. God covering us.

He didn’t have to do any of this. But he did…and so much more.

In fact, as though even the Word of God needs footnotes, the Apostle John added a last verse to his gospel: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” If you’ve read John’s historical narratives of Jesus, you should be impressed enough. Yet, there was more. And there is still more.

The footnotes are not done, because Jesus is not done…not hardly.

Into this crazy, mixed up world walked a Savior. Then he reached out. He saved. He rescued. He recruited. He befriended. He even partnered with the folks inhabiting this crazy, mixed up world. He’s still doing it. And every time he rescues and partners with someone, he creates a new footnote. He’s been creating footnotes for a long time. I’m a footnote. You are either a footnote or a footnote waiting to happen. Perhaps John is still writing…

“And Jesus sent his Spirit to North America unto the region of Washington. Passing through Silverdale he saw a man working on a car, for the man was a mechanic. Jesus, through the Spirit and his word, said, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you a mechanic of men.’ At once the man left his shop and followed Jesus.” 

Who knows? God does. He sees your faithfulness. 

Maybe it was you the Spirit of Christ used to speak with the mechanic…or was he a teacher, a cook, a doctor, a neighbor, friend…adversary…

Maybe it was you he used to plant a seed.

Maybe it was you he used to water the seed.

Maybe it was you he used through a small act of kindness, a soft word of encouragement, or a silent moment of connection. 

Who knows? God does. And sometimes we do. Sometimes people tell us. I hope and pray the following notes encourage you. If you donated time or treasure, if you prayed, if you are in any way connected to West Sound Church and the greater body of Christ you were and are part of the Christmas Hope project for the Kitsap Jail…and you made a difference. The following are excerpts from thank you notes we received on Tuesday following the Saturday delivery of the gift bags. The bags were small in size, but apparently big in hope. Of course, names have been left out to protect the privacy of folks dearly loved by the Savior.

Dear sisters and brothers of West Sound Community Church, I am an inmate here in Kitsap County Jail. Today at dinner time we all were surprised to receive the gift that you all put together for us. Thank you for having such beautiful hearts and being so charitable to people who are looked down upon. It is a good feeling to know that there are people out there who love us for us. Yes, the candy was awesome, but the love you bestowed upon us was incredible. Thank you and God bless.

I was just reading a book called Small Things (? word was hard to read). It’s about ________ (not sure) and how they’re God’s way of showing us that he is there even in the small things of life. Thanks and God bless you all.

Thank you! Chocolate is much appreciated! Merry Christmas!

Dear West Sound Church, thank you for your thoughts and care. Please keep us in your prayers. Much love and respect.

Huge thank you to the sisters and brothers of West Sound Community Church. God bless. Inmate (identifying numbers and letters)

West Sound Community Church, thank you for the goodie bags. Please pray for me and all of us in here.

Many blessings for the church and thanks for everything.

Thank you guys for the holiday gift bags. It shows that even in times of stress and need __________ (?)  Thank you.

I just wanted to say thank you for thinking of us. It really made our night. Bless you and your church. Season’s greetings and Merry Christmas.

Thank you for the holiday gift. God bless.

The best and happiest of holidays to everyone who contributed.

Thank you. Very thoughtful. Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much for the Christmas gift. It made all of our days and we are truly grateful.

Thank ya’ll from the bottom of my heart. We all loved the care package very much.

Thank you very much for the holiday treats. Very thoughtful and greatly appreciated.

May the bright shining light of the Queen of Heaven be upon you forever.

Thank you very much. That made us all feel very good.

God bless you all. Thank you for your kind hearts. Thank you. God bless.

Thank you West Sound Community Church for making our time a little easier this holiday season. Hoping you all have a very merry Christmas! And also, if Art and Michelle and Auntie Coral are there, please tell them I love them. 

Thank you so much for the wonderful surprise gift of candy and chips. It’s quite a treat to get…given our situation. God bless.

Thank you for the bag. God bless!

Thank you for the gifts to the inmates. It made people in here feel better in bad situations. Bless you.

Thank you very much for your thoughts and consideration…not to mention the candy. It really does mean a lot to know there’s people that care and understand that we all make mistakes, but we are all souls in need. God bless.

To whom it may concern: My name is _______ _______ and I’m currently incarcerated at Kitsap County Jail. I want to thank you so much for the gift bags you donated to us. It’s such a huge blessing that God placed such a giving and caring heart in his children. May God bless you abundantly. Have a wonderful Christmas! May God be with you this holiday season.

West Sound Community Church, thank you so much for the wonderful baggy full of yummy goodies! I do greatly appreciate the wonderful surprise and wanted to relay my thanks to you. It takes a great person(s) to think of others during these times. I do have family here in Kitsap County so this gift made a great impact and brightened my day. Thank you and God bless.

There was also one written in Spanish. Please excuse me for not being able to distinguish many of the letters and words, so I thought it best not to attempt a copy.

Finally, this last one brought me to my knees…

It’s nice to know that though we are fallen we are not forgotten. Thank you for reminding us that there is still a little hope left in this world. Thank you very much.

Project Christmas Hope…that is the life-changing message of God’s love through Jesus Christ. You leave these kind of footnotes…you leave love, you leave eternal dividends. Well done my friends. I hope you are encouraged as a result of your encouragement ministry.

It’s Almost Christmas

I love Christmas. I worship Christ.

In the following very brief video one of my favorite pastors, Chuck Swindoll, reminds us not to let Christmas become mundane. Instead, he concludes with, “It’s Christmas. Run to Bethlehem!”

If I could have said it so well, I would have. Instead, listen to Chuck, and remember, Merry Christmas…run to Bethlehem.

Indeed! The Little Boy Is Fine.

This penetrated my heart and found its way to my pen and my passions when I was a young pastor. Its impact on me has never diminished.

“Son, why don’t you ask the pastor your question?”

“What question, Daddy?”

“Well, you remember, the one about communion.”

“Oh, yeah!…Pastor…how old do we have to be before we can take communion?”

“Tell me,” asked the pastor, “Do you know what communion means?”

“Uh huh,” the little fella said, “Communion means that we are remembering all about Jesus.”

“That’s right,” said the pastor, “and can you tell me what we remember about Jesus?”

With this question, the pastor saw the little boy’s eyes fill with tears and begin to turn red.

With lips trembling, eyes gazing down, a deep swallow, a quivering voice, the little boy responded, “We remember that Jesus…died for us…Jesus was buried for us…Jesus was raised for us.” No longer able to hold back his tears, the little fella stood up and bolted down the hall. Running, escaping, he sought the sanctuary of his own room.

The pastor, confused, disturbed, awed, turned to the parents asking, “Is he okay?”

“Yes,” they replied, “Our little boy is fine.” 

Indeed! The little boy is fine. The tears? Tears of sadness from the heart of a child. And why sadness? Great is the pain, deep is the sorrow, when, like a child, one realizes the awful reality of our Lord’s sacrifice. Isaiah said of the man Jesus, “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the sons of men.” The gospels tell us a battalion of soldiers beat him without mercy. Upon his head the crown of thorns ripped skin until blood flowed freely, covering his face and drenching his hair. Again, Isaiah said, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows; and acquainted with grief.”

As the Savior  –very God of very God– he took upon himself the filth of human sin.  His garden prayer reflected his divine agony, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Upon the cross he died. And somehow, some eternally transcendent way, God the Son felt the terrible pain of separation –torn asunder, crushed, offered for sin, alone. Perhaps his garden prayer welled up more from his perfect holiness than from his human frailty. Thus, upon the cross, he cried, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Slowly the pastor walked down the hall to find the little boy whose tear-stained face lied buried in his bed covers. “Why are you crying,” asked the pastor.

The precious lad answered, “It makes me sad.”

“And so it should child,” the pastor whispered. “Remember your tears. God will honor you for this tenderness, for this love. Remember, too, his death is not all sadness. We must remember that God the Father thought it pleasing to offer the Son, so that you and I, and your Mom and Dad, and your sister, and so many others could accept him as our Savior. God loves us that much.”

Isaiah wrote, “He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous One, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities.”  What great love is this!

Indeed!  The little boy is fine.

Good Things In Small Packages

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I love that old saying, “Good things come in small packages.” Wedding rings come in small boxes. Pay raises come in small memos. Encouraging words come in small whispers. I like the old saying, because I like the truth of it: life is good when we get good stuff in small packages.

I was reminded of this when I read a small passage in the New Testament. It’s not a lot of words, but it sure contains some mighty good stuff. For me, it’s a gift from God in a quest for peace in a life filled with stress.

Here it is (Philippians 4:2-9): “(1) So then, my brothers and sisters, you are dearly loved and longed for—my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. (2) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (3) Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life. (4) Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (5) Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (6) Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. (9) Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Now don’t run off just because it’s addressed to two ladies with funny names in a country far away and a time long ago. Let me share the good things coming in this small package. There are six of them…and who wouldn’t love to possess them when life and relationships run wild with stress.

—to stand firm in one’s faith (verse 1)
—to be at peace with others (verses 2 and 3)
—to rejoice at all times (verse 4)
—to be gracious with everyone (verse 5)
—to dwell upon virtuous, beneficial things (verse 8)
—to consistently apply God’s truth (verse 9)

Now notice, in verses 6 and 7, the one thing we need to do: pray. However, don’t miss the power in this small package. Remember it was originally delivered to two ladies with funny names feuding about forgettable things. What do you suppose Euodia and Syntyche were being asked to pray about? Right. One another. And what should inform their prayer. The six wonderful things surrounding this encouragement to pray.

Stop going in separate directions and pray for the capacity to stand firm together.
Stop fighting to gain advantage and pray for the capacity to get back on the same page.
Stop pouting to receive sympathy and pray for the capacity to rejoice over the good in others.
Stop criticizing to inflict pain and pray for the capacity to be gentle toward others.
Stop dwelling on negative things and pray for the capacity to see what’s noble and right about others.
Stop banking on faulty opinions and pray for the capacity to see God’s much larger picture.

Imagine: the ladies with funny names start seeing one another through the far-sight of God’s eyes rather than the near-sight of their frustration.

Imagine: you start to see your life and relationships through God’s eyes rather than the stress of your frustration.

Imagine: you face conflict, but pray to resolve it rather than fight about it.

Imagine: you face loss, but pray to challenge it rather than retreat from it.

Imagine: you face stress, but pray to manage it rather than crumble under it.

Imagine, just imagine.

It may have been delivered in a small package, but it’s mighty good advice.

 

Stay Hopeful My Friends

In the face of the Terror at Boston one might be inclined toward despair… please do not do it. Rather be inclined toward hope. Yes evil tends to make a big splash. It erupts quickly. It hurts. It leaves terrible damage in its wake and lingering pain for years and years. Still it cannot vanquish that which is good.

I offer two lines of evidence:

First, watch the videos of the Boston attack. Not ten seconds passed before heroes chased confusion from their hearts and minds. They were true first responders. Some in uniform. Most civilian. Some, I’m sure, acted out of training. Others from instinct. All from character. They are the “good’ who run toward chaos when evil thinks to overcome.

Second, never stop considering the Lord. In the face of centuries of evil–some beyond description–he runs continuously to those in need of rescue. From ultimate salvation to a brief moment in time, he responds. This is why the Apostle John said, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

We witnessed darkness at the Boston Marathon, but we witnessed greater light in and through the heroes of the attack on the Boston Marathon. We have and we will witness darkness in our own marathons, but we can witness greater light in and through the ultimate First Responder. Stay hopeful my friends.

Jesus Loves Me This I Know

Too bad we can’t put music to our typed words in these posts. If we could, I’d accompany the following with the music:

♫Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.♫

And then I would change some of the pronouns for the second time through:

♫Jesus loves you this I know for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves you. Yes, Jesus loves you.
The Bible tells me so.♫

And then conclude by making it inclusive:

♫Jesus loves us this I know for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves us. Yes, Jesus loves us. Yes, Jesus loves us.
The Bible tells me so.♫

Yup, that’s what I thought I would like to do…right up until I witnessed the clip below. Now I just think I would like to share the voice of Whitney Huston as she sings one of my favorite songs of all time.

We miss you, Whitney.

Childlike Prayer

Proud grandmothers. You can’t blame them for wanting to brag about their grandchildren. Those little ones are the apples of Granny’s eyes and the blessings from Granny’s God all rolled up in sticky hands and sweet hearts. And sometimes the bragging is beyond beautiful because it is so deserving…

My sister, Barbara, sent me the text of an email her little granddaughter’s teacher sent to her son, Jeff, and daughter-in-law, Amanda. Here it is:

Hi Amanda,

I just wanted to take a minute and email you and let you know your daughter did the sweetest thing this afternoon when they got up from nap, I told the class I would have to leave as soon as Mr. ________ got there to take Mrs. ________ to doctor and she got down on her knees out of her chair and prayed for her right then. Of course that brought tears to my eyes. I just thought I would share that with you and your husband…

Oh man, you can’t blame Granny Barb for swelling up from pride over that. Little McKoy, as they say down in Georgia, “just blessed their hearts.” Such a spontaneous act of prayer comes from a heart fully dependent on and fully devoted to God. It’s called faith. It’s called worship. We learn about this kind of trust in Mark 10:13-16. Here’s what Mark recorded:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

The Lord loves this childlike faith. Notice I wrote “childlike faith,” not childish faith. We all know the difference. One is beautiful, pure, expectant. The other is manipulative, greedy, and indulgent. Little McKoy’s immediate turn to prayer erupted as naturally for her as her desire to hug her daddy’s neck when he comes home from work. She depends on both her Dad’s.

Have you thought about your “turning to God in prayer” quotient lately? Are you just as likely to drop to your knees in prayer as you are to start talking about your problems? Do you find yourself fully dependent and fully expectant in your walk with the Savior? If not, what’s the hold up? What roadblocks are you facing?

Could it be so easy…so simple…so childlike? Try dropping to your knees. Let McKoy show you how.

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