1502) Flying Feathers and Careless Words

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TWO OLD STORIES:

     A woman whose tongue was sharp and unkind was accused of starting a rumor.  She was brought before the village rabbi to be reprimanded, but she protested: “What I said was all in fun.  I was only joking.  Besides, it was others in the village who carried my words forth.  I am not to blame.”

     But the victim cried for justice, saying, “You’ve soiled my own good name!”

     “I can make amends,” said the woman accused.  “I’ll just take back my words and you can excuse me.”

     The rabbi listened to what she said, and sadly thought as he shook his head, “This woman does not comprehend her crime, so she will do it again and again.”

     And so he said to the woman accused, “Your careless words cannot be excused until you bring this feather pillow to the market square.  Cut it and let the feathers fly through the air.  When this task is done, bring me back all the feathers; every last one.”

     The woman reluctantly agreed.  She thought, “The wise old rabbi’s gone mad indeed!”  But to humor him, she took his pillow to the village square.  She cut it and feathers went flying in the wind.

     She ran and ran, this way and that way.  She tried to catch this feather and that feather.  But for every one she picked up, a hundred blew farther and farther away.  Weary with effort she clearly discovered that the task could not be done.

     She returned with very few feathers in hand.  “I could not get them back,” she said, ” for they have scattered over the land.”  She sighed as she lowered her head and said, “I suppose that is like the words I can’t take back from the rumor I spread.”

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     Socrates was visited by an acquaintance of his.  Eager to share some juicy gossip, the man asked if Socrates would like to know the story he’d just heard about a friend of theirs.  Socrates held up his hand to silence the man and asked, “Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to say is true?” 

     The man shook his head. “No, I actually just heard about it, and …”  

     Socrates cut him off.  “You don’t know for certain that it is true, then.”

     “No, I do not know if it is true, ” said the man.

     Socrates then asked, “Is what you want to say something good or kind?”  

     Again, the man shook his head. “No.  Actually, just the opposite.  You see …”

     Socrates again lifted his hand to stop the man from speaking.  “So you are not certain that what you want to say is true, and it isn’t good or kind.  One more question remains, though, so you may yet still tell me.  Is this information useful or necessary to me or anyone?” 

     Defeated, the man replied, “No, not really.”

     “Well, then,” Socrates said turning away, “If what you want to say is neither true, nor good or kind, nor useful or necessary, please don’t say it at all.”

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Proverbs 6:16-19  —  There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Proverbs 16:28  —  A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.

Proverbs 26:18-20  —  Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!”  Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.

Ephesians 4:29  —  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

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PRAYER BASED ON THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT, AND LUTHER’S SMALL CATECHISM EXPLANATION :

O God, you command us not to bear false witness against our neighbor.  May we so fear and love you that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor; but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way; through Jesus Christ,  your Son, our Lord.  Amen.

1501) A Foolish Donkey

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By Wayne Rice, Illustrations for Youth Talks, Youth Specialties, 1994, page 138.

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The donkey awakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life.  Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride.

He walked into town and found a group of people by the well.  “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought.

But they didn’t notice him.  They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind.

“Throw your garments down,” he said crossly.  “Don’t you know who I am?”

They just looked at him in amazement.  Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move.

“Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself.  “I’ll just go to the market where the good people are.  They will remember me.”

But the same thing happened.  No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market place.

“The palm branches!  Where are the palm branches!” he shouted.  “Yesterday, you threw palm branches down for me to walk on!”

Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother.

“Foolish child,” she said gently.  “Don’t you realize that without Him, you are just an ordinary donkey?”

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 “Jesus plus nothing equals everything; everything minus Jesus equals nothing.”

–Tullian Tchividjian

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Matthew 21:1-9:

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her.  Untie them and bring them to me...”

This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:  “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them.  They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.  A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

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I Peter 2:9-10  —  You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

I Corinthians 2:1b-5  —  When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.   For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31  —  Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things– and the things that are not– to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

I John 3:1a  —  See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God.  And that is what we are.

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In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

–Stuart Townend (lyrics) and Keith Getty (music)

Hear this song at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ch6eXkQWU8

1500) “Mean” Parents

By Erma Bombeck (1927-1996) in If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What am I Doing in the Pits?, 1978.  Bombeck wrote about homemaking, motherhood, and marriage.  Her syndicated column, “At Wit’s End,” appeared in more than 900 newspapers.  She wrote 12 books, nine of which made The New York Times’ Bestsellers List.

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July 2, 1984 Time magazine cover

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Many kids think they have mean mothers.  Some mothers are mean.  But many times, what is percieved by children to be meaness is, of course, deep and tender parental love that is merely insisting on necessary boundaries and limits.  Erma Bombeck describes such love in this little piece called “A Mother’s Love.”

Someday, when my children are old enough to understand the logic that motivates a mother, I’ll tell them…

I loved you enough to bug you about where you were going, with whom and what time you would get home.

I loved you enough to insist you buy a bike, that we could afford to give you, with your own money.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover your hand picked friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your bedroom, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes.

I loved you enough to make you return a Milky-Way– with a bite out of it– to the drug store and to confess “I stole this.”

I loved you enough to say, “Yes, you can go to Disney World on Mother’s Day.”

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, disgust, and tears in my eyes.

I loved you enough not to make excuses for your lack of respect or your bad manners.

I loved you enough to admit that I was wrong and ask for your forgiveness.

I loved you enough to ignore “what every other mother” did or said.

I loved you enough to let you stumble, fall, hurt, and fail.

I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your own actions, at 6, 10, or 16.

I loved you enough to figure you would lie about the party being chaperoned, but forgave you for it… after discovering I was right.

I loved you enough to shove you off my lap, let go of your hand, be mute to your pleas and insensitive to your demands… so that you had to stand alone.

I loved you enough to accept you for what you are, and not what I wanted you to be.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say ‘No’ when you hated me for it.  That was the hardest part of all.”

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MORE FROM ERMA BOMBECK:

Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen?  Three.  It takes one to say ‘What light?’ and two more to say ‘I didn’t turn it on.’

Insanity is hereditary.  You can catch it from your kids.

Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.

In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds.  I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.

Sometimes I can’t figure designers out.  It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.

When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it’s a mere formality.  It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no.  You’re going to get it anyway.

A child needs your love most when he deserves it least.

I brought children into this lousy, mixed-up world because when you love someone and they love you back, the world doesn’t look that lousy or seem that mixed up.

Grandparenthood is one of life’s rewards for surviving your own children.

You show me a boy who brings a snake home to his mother and I’ll show you an orphan.

When the going gets tough, the tough make cookies.

Don’t confuse fame with success.  Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.

The other night my husband took me to dinner.  We were having a wonderful time when he remarked, “You can certainly tell the wives from the sweethearts.”  I stopped licking the stream of butter dripping down my elbow and replied, “What kind of crack is that?”

If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.  

Laugh now, cry later.

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Bill and Erma Bombeck family, 1958

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Proverbs 12:24b  —   The one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Proverbs 3:11-12  —  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father discplines the son he delights in.

Proverbs 22:6  —  Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

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A PRAYER FOR THE FAMILY:

Almighty God, according to thy mercy relieve our distress and sorrow.  In thy goodness, spare us and our children.  Grant that in our homes we may keep and foster thy heavenly Word.  O thou who art good, kind, and bountiful, have compassion on us.  Grant us the necessities of daily life and keep our families securely in thy care, so that we may honor you forever and ever.  Amen.

–Philip Melancthon, reformer (1497-1560)

1499) Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

Best-selling author Philip Yancey writes about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus in his April 15, 2017 post at his website: http://www.philipyancey.com

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     We rightly celebrate Easter as the day that changed history, the essential foundation of faith for two billion Christians.  In the apostle Paul’s words, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  As I read through the accounts, however, I am struck by their understated nature, so different from Jesus’ birth story which had a bright star, angelic choruses, and foreign dignitaries bearing gifts.  The resurrected Jesus showed up in the most ordinary circumstances: a private dinner, two men walking along a road, a woman weeping in a garden, some fishermen working a lake.

     A ‘superhero’ would have dazzled the crowds with a showy miracle, or swaggered onto Pilate’s porch on Monday morning to announce, “I’m back!”  Jesus’ appearances show a different pattern: he mostly visited small clusters of people in a remote area or closed room.  Although these appearances bolstered the faith of those who already followed him, there are no reports of Jesus appearing to unbelievers.

     The appearances have a whimsical, even playful quality.  Jesus seems to enjoy going incognito, and passing through locked doors as a surprise guest.  He toys with the downcast Emmaus disciples, first feigning ignorance about the events in Jerusalem and then enlightening them.  He changes plans in order to spend the night, although as soon as they recognize him, he vanishes.  Now you see Jesus, now you don’t.

     The last chapter of John’s Gospel records the most detailed account of a resurrection appearance.  The eleven remaining disciples have already encountered Jesus, already absorbed the inconceivable fact that he has returned from the grave.  Even so, seven of them have left Jerusalem and made the seventy-five mile journey to Galilee, apparently to resume their careers as fishermen.  At first they fail to recognize the stranger on the shore calling out to them.  Who does he think he is, giving fishing advice to the pros? They follow the prompting anyway, and Jesus performs his only post-resurrection miracle.

     For fishermen, a net bulging with fish likely impresses them more than a paralytic standing up or a demoniac shaping up.  Impetuous Peter jumps into the water to get a head start on the overloaded boat headed to shore.  When the rest arrive, the seven haul in their catch and gather around Jesus.  He has cooked breakfast, and they sit around the glowing coals like a family, as they did in the good days before Jesus’ death…

     The very ordinariness of the resurrection appearances makes them all the more believable.  In one sense Easter changed everything; in another sense life went on as before, even for the first witnesses.  In Jesus’ resurrection they had a glimpse of the new reality, an advance clue to God’s restoration plans for a broken world.  In the meantime they felt abandoned and confused, their leader more absent than present.

     I like these scenes because they reflect not only the disciples’ reality in the first century but also ours in the twenty-first.  John Goldingay at Fuller Seminary puts it this way: “Things stay the same, then Jesus appears and intervenes and things change, then things go back to being the same, then Jesus intervenes again.…  Life involves an unremitting sequence of sadnesses and losses, but they are interwoven with appearances of Jesus, who shows up to make a difference.”

     Yes, Easter changed history, though not in the way we might long for.  This morning’s news is reporting yet another terrorist attack.  Yesterday I learned that a friend died of a tumor that had grown inside his skull for twenty years.  I prayed through a list of three other friends who have brain tumors, and a long list of those battling cancer; today I will pray for friends whose marriages hang by a thread, and tomorrow for parents who feel helpless as they watch their kids self-destruct.

     Much as the disciples experienced with Jesus, sometimes we sense God’s close presence, and sometimes not.  Occasionally we, too, feel like giving up and resuming our old, familiar lives.  Perhaps Jesus rationed out his appearances to help prepare his followers for what awaits them.  As the disciples sit bewildered around the breakfast fire, Jesus reminds them that the kingdom he has set in motion cannot be stopped— neither by his death nor by their own.  The gates of hell will not prevail against the church he is leaving behind.

     Much had not changed on that first Easter: Rome still occupies Palestine, religious authorities still have a bounty on the disciples’ heads, death and evil still reign outside.  Gradually, however, the shock of recognition gives way to a long slow undertow of hope.  The disciples’ transformation occurs at Pentecost, a few weeks later.  At that event the “Spirit of Christ” descends on them and a new awareness dawns.  Jesus has not left them after all.  He’s loose, he’s out there, he lives on in them and in all who comprise “the Body of Christ.”  Including you and me.

     Easter puts Jesus’ life in a whole new light.  Apart from Easter I would think it a tragedy that Jesus died young after a few brief years of ministry.  What a waste for him to leave so soon, having affected so few in such a small corner of the world.  Yet, viewing that same life through the lens of Easter, I see that was Jesus’ plan all along.  He stayed just long enough to gather around him followers who could carry the message to others.  Killing Jesus, says Walter Wink, was like trying to destroy a dandelion seed-head by blowing on it.

     Jesus left few traces of himself on Earth.  He did not marry, settle down, and begin a dynasty.  He wrote no books or even pamphlets, left no home or possessions to enshrine in a museum.  We would, in fact, know nothing about him except for the traces he left in human beings.  That was his design. 

     Like the disciples, I never know where Jesus might turn up, how he might speak to me, what he might ask of me.  Easter set Jesus loose—in us.

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Breakfast with the Apostles, James Tissot (1836-1902)

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Matthew 28:8-9a  —  The women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said.

John 21:4…12a  —  Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus…  Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

Matthew 28:20b  —  (Jesus said), “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I Corinthians 15:1-8  —  …I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved,if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

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Lord, the sea is so wide and my boat is so small.  Be with me.

–Prayer of a Breton fisherman, Britanny, France

1498) “Lord Jesus, Receive My Spirit”

Welsh Stained glass window, 1822, Church of St. Stephen, Old Radnor, Powys.

Welsh stained glass window, Church of St. Stephen, Old Radnor, Powys, Wales

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            The sixth and seventh chapters of Acts tell the story of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  Stephen was, “a man full of God’s grace and power, and he did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8).  This brought Stephen much attention and much opposition.  Before long, he was arrested and charged with blasphemy.

            In the first verse of chapter seven, the high priest asked Stephen if the charges were true.  Stephen responded by proclaiming the story of how Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah.  It was a great speech, but not what the chief priests wanted to hear or believe.  Verse 54 says it made them furious.  The story concludes with these verses:

            But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”  At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”  When he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:55-58a…59-60).

            Do you notice anything about these last words of Stephen?  Stephen’s last words are very similar to the last words of Jesus, as he was being executed; also, after a mob demanded his death because they did not like what he had to say.

            Jesus had prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Stephen, while being stoned to death, prayed for those throwing the stones.  “Lord,” he prayed, “Do not hold this sin against them.”  At the end, Jesus prayed, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”  Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

            This is no coincidence.  Stephen was a follower of Jesus and was trying to pattern his life on what he had been taught about Jesus.  Not only does Jesus teach us how to live, he also teaches us how to die.  Stephen shows everyone what it means to believe in Jesus in life and in death.  He had learned from Jesus, and so he dies like Jesus, with a prayer of forgiveness on his lips, and a prayer of hope.  “Lord Jesus,” he prayed, “receive my spirit.”

            There is an old expression—you have probably said it yourself.  When things are hopeless for someone, and when they don’t have any chance of making it, we sometimes say, “He doesn’t have a prayer;” it is so hopeless, he is so out of luck and out of options, there is not anything the doctors can do anymore, and not even God can help him now.  He doesn’t have a prayer.

     This might be a familiar expression in our everyday speech, but it is not a Bible verse.  You will not find such ultimate hopelessness anywhere in the Bible for anyone who is still trusting in God.  With God, we always have a prayer, even when things are most hopeless and we are most helpless.

            It would be hard to find a more hopeless case than Stephen, standing alone against an angry mob, all of whom were picking up large rocks to throw at his head.  It was by all outward appearances a hopeless predicament.  He was, in fact, just a few moments away from death.  Anyone looking at Stephen that day could certainly have said, “That guy doesn’t have a prayer.”

            But, with God, we always have a prayer, even in death; and with his dying breath, Stephen prayed a prayer he learned from Jesus: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit,” and he died.

            Stephen died just like Jesus showed him how to die; not without hope, but with a prayer.  And Stephen had learned not only that prayer from Jesus, he had also knew and believed the promise from Jesus that was behind that prayer.  Jesus had said:

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God.  Believe also in me.  For my Father’s house has many rooms, and I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And I will come back and take you to be with me, so that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).

     Stephen knew that even though his body was being destroyed, his spirit would survive and be going on to that place Jesus prepared for him.  His body would soon be in the ground, but his spirit would go to be with Jesus where he would receive a new home and a new body. 

            A cemetery can be the most hopeless place on earth.  Where are things more hopeless?  There is another old expression that says, “Where there is life, there is hope.”  But there is no life in a cemetery.  It is all death.  We go to cemeteries to bury the dead or to remember the dead.  It is a place of no life and no hope—at least from all outward appearances.

            But it is always comforting to see in the Bible what happens when Jesus gets near a cemetery; or a funeral procession or a death bed.  He doesn’t stand around like there is no hope or there is nothing to be done about it.  Jesus goes to work, giving life to the dead—bringing to life a dead little girl from the bed where she just died, stopping a funeral procession and waking up the young man in the casket, and calling Lazarus out of the tomb in the cemetery in which his dead body had been decaying for four long, hot days. 

            Jesus himself was, for a while, the resident of a cemetery where his body was placed.  He was “crucified, dead, and buried,” as we say in the Creed.  But not for long.  For Jesus, and all who believe in him, the cemetery is just a temporary stop along the way.  So now when we go out to that cemetery to bury our dead, we say these words:  “In the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, we commend to Almighty God our loved one, and we commit their body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

            Remember both parts of that blessing.  We commit the body to the ground, but we commend to Almighty God our loved one.  Just as Jesus prayed, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit;” and as Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  We see a body, in a casket or an urn, in a vault, in the ground.  But we believe in “The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”  Believe that, and it will be for you.

            Remember Stephen’s prayer.  It is not hard to memorize, but read it over and over again for the next several days until it is firmly planted in your mind.  “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  It is a wonderful prayer, and someday, like Stephen, you are going to need it.  Maybe even yet this day.  We never know.  But the time will come when you will need it— perhaps in some road ditch as your blood and your life seeps from you, or in a hospital emergency room as everything is fading away and all is getting dark, or maybe years from now in some nursing home when you have forgotten everything else. 

     Even on that day; you will still have a prayer; this prayer:  “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

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Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.

–Stephen, Acts 7:59b

1497) It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

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     Shadrach Meshach Lockridge (March 7, 1913 – April 4, 2000) was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, a prominent African-American congregation in San Diego, California, from 1953 to 1993.  He was known for his preaching across the United States and around the world.

     In his classic message, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming!,”  Lockeridge expressed the pain and seeming defeat of the day of Jesus’ crucifixion, while hinting at the victory to come.  Christians celebrate the cross because the story does not end on that fateful Friday.  It does not end at the cross.  The irony of the cross was that the very instrument Jesus’ enemies used to defeat Him, became His greatest victory.  Little did they know when Friday ended that what would happen on Sunday would change the course of the world’s history.

     Here is a portion of that famous sermon by Lockridge.  As you read it (or hear an audio recording of it as Lockeridge himself preached it at the link below), just remember that regardless of what today brings, regardless of today’s problems, challenges, or defeats; Sunday’s coming! 

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It’s Friday.  Jesus is praying.  Peter’s a sleeping.  Judas is betraying.  But Sunday’s comin’. 

It’s Friday.  Pilate’s struggling.  The council is conspiring.  The crowd is vilifying.  They don’t even know, that Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday.  The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd.  Mary’s crying. Peter is denying.  But they don’t know, that Sunday’s a comin’.

It’s Friday.  The Romans beat my Jesus.  They robe him in scarlet.  They crown him with thorns.  But they don’t know, that Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday.  See Jesus walking to Calvary.   His blood dripping.  His body stumbling.  And his spirit’s burdened.  But you see, it’s only Friday.  Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday.  The world’s winning.  People are sinning.  And evil is grinning.   

It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross.  They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross.  And then they raise him up next to criminals.  It’s Friday.  But let me tell you something.  Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday.  The disciples are questioning.  What has happened to their King.  And the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved.  But they don’t know, it’s only Friday.  Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday.  He’s hanging on the cross.  Feeling forsaken by his Father.  Left alone and dying.  Can nobody save him?  Ooooh, it’s Friday.  But Sunday’s comin’.

It’s Friday.  The earth trembles.  The sky grows dark.  My King yields his spirit. 

It’s Friday.  Hope is lost.  Death has won.  Sin has conquered.  And Satan’s just a laughin’.

It’s Friday.  Jesus is buried.  A soldier stands guard.  And a rock is rolled into place.  But it’s  Friday.  It is only Friday. 

Sunday is a comin’!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cikenKl92Og

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FRIDAY:

Luke 23:44-46  —  It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  When he had said this, he breathed his last.

SUNDAY:

Luke 24:1-6a  —  On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had preparedand went to the tomb.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.  In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!”

John 20:19-20  —  On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.  The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

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EASTER PRAYER, 1766, by Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): 

Almighty and most merciful Father, before whom I now appear laden with the sins of another year, suffer me yet again to call upon Thee for pardon and peace.  O God! grant me repentance, grant me reformation.  Grant that I may be no longer distracted with doubts, and harassed with vain terrors.  Grant that I may no longer linger in perplexity, nor waste in idleness that life which Thou hast given and preserved.  Grant that I may serve thee in firm faith and diligent endeavor, and that I may discharge the duties of my calling with tranquility and constancy.  Take not, O God, Thy Holy Spirit from me; but grant that I may so direct my life by thy holy laws, as that, when Thou shalt call me hence, I may pass by a holy and happy death to a life of everlasting and unchangeable joy.  Amen.

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1496) Daddy DeGaulle’s Little Girl

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One of the great men of French history had a daughter with a disability.  His faith saw him—and her—through.

From the article France and Down Syndrome, by Eric Metaxas, at http://www.breakpoint.org, May 15, 2017.

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     Late last year on BreakPoint, I told you about an extraordinary bit of censorship by the French government. See: 

http://breakpoint.org/2016/12/a-smiling-child-with-down-syndrome/ 

     What was censored was an ad featuring a smiling, happy child with Down syndrome.  The ad, entitled “Dear Future Mom,” told potential mothers about the joy and love that these children can and will bring into their lives.

    So, why was it banned?  Because the French government believes that the ad is “likely to disturb the conscience of women” who had aborted their babies after learning that the child had Down syndrome.

     Now I’m going to tell you a story about a Frenchman who saw things very differently:  Charles de Gaulle.

     You probably weren’t expecting to hear that.  To most Americans, de Gaulle was, as one writer put it, “an obnoxious, overly ambitious man who, in the grand French manner, strutted even when sitting down.”

      He may have been some or all of these things, but there was a side of Charles de Gaulle that few people know about, and that side revolved around his love for his daughter, Anne.

     Anne was born on New Year’s Day, 1928, the third of Charles and Yvonne de Gaulle’s three children.  In De Gaulle’s words, Anne was “un enfant pas comme les autres,” a child not like the other children.

     As you’ve probably guessed, Anne had Down syndrome.  Only it wasn’t called “Down syndrome” back then.  The children were called “mongoloids,” and, as a recent story by Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute in the Catholic World Report told readers, “it was common [back then] for French families to place disabled children permanently in hospitals that were woefully ill-equipped to care for them.”

     That’s not something that de Gaulle and his family did.  As de Gaulle put it, “God has given her to us.  We must take responsibility for her, wherever she is and whatever she will be.”  And so the family worked hard to make a place for Anne.

     While Yvonne worked on the logistics, Charles worked on the affection.  You heard that right:  the affection.  Anne was the apple of his eye.  As the article tells us, “The tall army officer, infamous for his air of haughty disdain as leader of Free France during World War II and later as French President, didn’t hesitate to unbend to play on the floor with Anne.”

     He sang to her, read her stories, and taught her how to pray.  Every night, Anne would “painstakingly . . . repeat each word after her father.”  In turn, de Gaulle would proudly tell his relatives that “she knows her prayers!”

     As Gregg tells readers, de Gaulle was well aware of how the Nazis treated children like Anne, and this, in turn, inspired his refusal to surrender to the Nazis.  His “act of resistance” was a way of “safeguarding his defenseless daughter from those who viewed her as sub-human.”  As he later said, “Without Anne, I could never perhaps have done what I did.  She gave me the heart and the inspiration.”

     The contrast between de Gaulle and his successors in the Elysée Palace is almost too painful to contemplate.  He refused to surrender to the Nazis to protect children with Down syndrome.  After Anne’s death, he and his wife established a foundation, staffed by nuns, to care for people “who are not like the others.”

     De Gaulle was a complicated man— most great men are— but one of his complications was his Catholic faith that enabled him to love Anne.  It was a love that, as Gregg put it, helped restore France’s honor; the same honor that was tarnished when, out of fear for hurting people’s feelings, it denied the humanity of the people de Gaulle worked tirelessly to save.

     To read Samuel Gregg’s outstanding article, “A Father’s Love: The Story of Charles and Anne,” go to:

http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Item/5594/A_Fathers_Love_The_Story_of_Charles_and_Anne.aspx

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Here is the video that was banned in France– it’s wonderful!:

http://www.liveaction.org/news/dear-future-mom-a-message-of-hope-from-children-with-down-syndrome/

Here is another:

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I Peter 2:21  —   To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

Ephesians 5:1-2  —  Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Galatians 6:2  —  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

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     O Lord, renew our spirits and draw our hearts to yourself, that our service may not be to us a burden but a delight.  Let us not serve you with the spirit of bondage like slaves, but with freedom and gladness, delighting in you and rejoicing in your work, for Jesus Christ’s sake.  Amen.  

–Benjamin Jenks

1495) Perspective is Everything

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“Home Sweet Home” Diane Dengel  (1939-2012)

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From an old story, told by Aaron Zerah in How Children Become Stars:  A Family Treasury of Stories, Prayers, and Blessings, Sorin Books, 2000.

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     A poor man lived with his wife and six children in a very small one-room house.  They were always getting in each other’s way and there was so little space they could hardly breathe!

     Finally the man could stand it no more.  He talked to his wife and asked her what to do.  “Go see the rabbi,” she told him, and after arguing a while, he went.

     And so the poor man told the rabbi how miserable things were at home with him, his wife, and the six children all eating and living and sleeping in one room.  The poor man told the rabbi, “We’re even starting to yell and fight with each other.  Life couldn’t be worse.”

     The rabbi thought very deeply about the poor man’s problem.  Then he said, “Do exactly as I tell you and things will get better.  Do you promise?”

     “I promise,” the poor man said.

     The rabbi then asked the poor man a strange question.  “Do you own any animals?”

     “Yes,” he said.  “I have one cow, one goat, and some chickens.”

     “Good,” the rabbi said.  “When you get home, take all the animals into your house to live with you.”

     The poor man was astonished to hear this advice from the rabbi, but he had promised to do exactly what the rabbi said.  So he went home and took all the farm animals into the tiny one-room house.

     The next day the poor man ran back to see the rabbi.  “What have you done to me, Rabbi?” he cried.  “It’s awful.  I did what you told me and the animals are all over the house!  Rabbi, help me!”

     The rabbi listened and said calmly, “Now go home and take the chickens back outside.”

     The poor man did as the rabbi said, but hurried back again the next day.  “The chickens are gone, but Rabbi, the goat!” he moaned.  “The goat is smashing up all the furniture and eating everything in sight!”

     The good rabbi said, “Go home and remove the goat and may God bless you.”

     So the poor man went home and took the goat outside.  But he ran back again to see the rabbi, crying and wailing.  “What a nightmare you have brought to my house, Rabbi!  With the cow it’s like living in a stable!  Can human beings live with an animal like this?”

     The rabbi said sweetly, “My friend, you are right.  May God bless you.  Go home now and take the cow out of your house.”  And the poor man went quickly home and took the cow out of the house.

     The next day he came running back to the rabbi again.  “O Rabbi,” he said with a big smile on his face, “we have such a good life now.  The animals are all out of the house.  The house is so quiet and we’ve got room to spare!  What a joy!”

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There is as much room for happiness in a small house as in a large mansion.

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I Timothy 6:8  —  If we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.

Proverbs 21:9  —  Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife (or husband).

Proverbs 17:1  —  Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Proverbs 19:1  —  Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

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Two things I ask of you, Lord;
    do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

–Proverbs 30:7-9

1494) So Soon

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“When Did I Become the Mother and the Mother Become the Child?” by housewife, mother, and author Erma Bombeck (1927-1996), from her 1971 book If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?  

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     A nuclear physicist once figured out that if a woman has a baby when she is twenty years old, she is (about) twenty times as old as that baby.  When the baby is twenty years of age and the mother is forty, she is only twice as old as the child.  When the baby is sixty and the mother is eighty, she is only one-and-a-third times as old as the child.  When will the baby catch up with the mother?  When indeed.

     Does it begin the night when you are asleep and your mother is having a restless night and you go into her room and tuck the blanket around her bare arms?  Does it appear one afternoon when, in a moment of irritation, you snap, “How can I give you a permanent in your hair if you won’t sit still?  If you don’t care how you look, I do!”  (My God, is that an echo?)  Or did it come the rainy afternoon when you were driving home from the store and you slammed on your brakes and your arms sprang protectively between her and the windshield, and your eyes met with a knowing, sad look? (NOTE:  This was written in 1971.  Not many people bothered to wear seat belts back then, so on sudden stops, parents would have to put out their arm to prevent their child (who was standing on the front seat) from going through the windshield.)

     The transition comes slowly, as it began between her and her mother.  The changing of power.  The transferring of responsibility.  The passing down of duty.  Suddenly you are spewing out the familiar phrases learned at the knee of your mother.

     “Of course you’re sick.  Don’t you think I know when you’re not feeling well?  I’ll be over to pick you up and take you to the doctor around eleven.  And be ready!”

     “So where’s your sweater?  You know how cold the stores get with the air conditioning.  The last thing you need is a cold.”

     “You look nice today.  Didn’t I tell you you’d like that dress?  The other one made you look too old.  No sense looking old before you have to.”

     “Do you have to go to the bathroom before we go?  You know what a big deal it is at the doctor’s, asking for the key and walking all the way down that long corridor.  Why don’t you just go anyway… just to get it over with.”

     “If you’re not too tired, we’ll shop.  Did you take your nap this morning?  When you get tired, tell me and I’ll take you home.  You know I can’t shop when you get so tired.”

     Then the rebellion.  “I can make my own decisions, missy.  I know when I am tired, and when I have the good sense to go to bed.  Stop treating me like a child!”  She is not yet ready to step down.

     But slowly and insidiously and certainly the years give way and there is no one else to turn to.

     “Where are my glasses?  I can never find them…  Did I fall asleep in the movie again?  What was it all about?…  Dial that number for me.  You know how I always get the wrong one…  Where’s my flight number and the times of my planes?  You always type it out for me and put it in the airline ticket pocket.  I can’t read those little numbers.”

     Then your rebellion.  “Mother really, you are not that old.  You can do things for yourself.  Surely you can still see to thread your own needle…  And you certainly aren’t too tired to call up Florence and say hello.  She’s called you fifteen times and you never call her back.  Why don’t you have lunch with her sometimes.  It would do you good to get out of the house…  What do you mean you are overdrawn?  Can’t you remember to record your checks when you write them?”

     The daughter isn’t ready yet to carry the burden.  But the course is set.

     There is that first year you celebrate Thanksgiving at your house, and you roast the turkey and your mother sets the table.

     The first time you subconsciously turn to her in a movie and say, “Shhh!”

     The first time you rush to grab her arm when she walks over a patch of ice…

     As your own children grow strong and independent, the mother becomes more childlike.

     “Mother, I did not take your TV Guide off the TV set.”

     “Did so.”

     “Did not.”

     “Did so.”

     “Did not.”

     “Did.”

     “Not.”

     “I saw your father last night and he said he would be late.”

     “You did not see Dad last night.  He’s dead, Mother.”

     “Why would you say a thing like that?  You’re a terrible child.”  (Your mother used to tell you there was no such thing as your imaginary friend, Mr. Ripple, and that always mad you so mad.)

     “You never want to visit with me.  You fiddle with those children too much.  They don’t even need you.”  (You used to wonder why your mother couldn’t read you stories instead of playing bridge.)

     “For goodness sake, Mom, don’t mention Fred’s hairpiece.  We all know he has one, and having you mention it all the time doesn’t help.”  (“Mind your manners, little girl, and don’t speak unless you are spoken to.”)

     The daughter contemplates, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  All the years I was bathed, dressed, fed, advised, disciplined, ordered, cared for, and had every need anticipated, I wanted my turn when I could be in command.  Now that it’s here, why am I so sad?”

     You bathe and pat dry the body that once housed you.  You spoon feed the lips that kissed your cuts and bruises and made them well.  You comb the hair that used to playfully cascade over you to make you laugh.  You arrange the covers over the legs that once carried you along.

     Her naps are frequent as yours used to be.  You accompany her to the bathroom and wait to return her to bed.  You get someone to sit with her so you can go out.  You never thought it would be like this.

     While riding with your daughter one day, she slams on her brakes and her arm flies out instinctively in front of you between the windshield and your body.

     My God!  So soon.

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Deuteronomy 5:16  —  Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

I Timothy 5:3-4  —  Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need.  But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

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O Lord God, whose will it is that, next to yourself, we should hold our parents in highest honor; it is not the least of our duties to pray for your goodness towards them.  Preserve, I pray, my parents in the love of religion, and in health of body and mind.  Grant that through me no sorrow may befall them; and finally, as they are kind to me, so may you be to them, O supreme Father of all.  Amen.

–Erasmus; Dutch priest, theologian, and teacher (1466-1536)

1493) Forever Strengthened

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By James P. Lenfestey, Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 15, 1988.

     He was eleven years old and went fishing every chance he got from the dock at his family’s cabin on a New Hampshire lake.

     On the day before the bass season opened, he and his father were fishing early in the evening, catching sunfish and perch with worms.  Then he tied a small silver lure and practiced casting.  The lure struck the water and caused colored ripples in the sunset; then silver ripples as the moon rose over the lake.

     When his pole doubled over, he knew something huge was on the other end.  His father watched with admiration as the boy skillfully worked the fish alongside the dock.

     Finally, he very gingerly lifted the exhausted fish from the water.  It was the largest one he had ever seen, but it was a bass.

     The boy and his father looked at the handsome fish, gills playing back and forth in the moonlight.  The father lit a match and looked at his watch.  It was 10 P.M. – two hours before the season opened.  He looked at the fish, then at the boy.

     “You’ll have to put it back, son,” he said.

     “Dad!” cried the boy.

     “There will be other fish,” said his father.

    “Not as big as this one,” cried the boy.

     He looked around the lake. No other fishermen or boats were anywhere around in the moonlight.  He looked again at his father.

     Even though no one had seen them, nor could anyone ever know what time he caught the fish, the boy could tell by the clarity of his father’s voice that the decision was not negotiable.  He slowly worked the hook out of the lip of the huge bass and lowered it into the black water.

     The creature swished its powerful body and disappeared.  The boy suspected that he would never again see such a great fish.

     That was 34 years ago.  Today, the boy is a successful architect in New York City.  His father’s cabin is still there on the island in the middle of the lake.  He takes his own son and daughters fishing from the same dock.

     And he was right.  He has never again caught such a magnificent fish as the one he landed that night long ago.  But he does see that same fish – again and again – every time he comes up against a question of ethics.

     For, as his father taught him, ethics are simple matters of right and wrong.  It is only the practice of ethics that is difficult.  Do we do right when no one is looking?  Do we refuse to cut corners to get the design in on time?  Or refuse to trade stocks based on information that we know we aren’t supposed to have?

     We would if we were taught to put the fish back when we were young.  For we would have learned the truth.

     The decision to do right lives fresh and fragrant in our memory.  It is a story we will proudly tell our friends and grandchildren.  Not about how we had a chance to beat the system and took it, but about how we did the right thing and were forever strengthened.

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Psalm 33:13-15  —  From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.  (There was no one else on the lake to see that father and son if they would have kept the fish, but the Lord would have seen them.)

Isaiah 29:15  —  Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lordwho do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us?  Who will know?”

II Corinthians 8:21  —  We are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of man.

Proverbs 10:9  —  Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.

Proverbs 11:3  —  The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

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O Lord Jesus Christ, let me praise Thee in the way Thou dost love best, by shining on those around me.  Let me preach of Thee without preaching; not by words but by my example, so that my deeds may bear witness to Thy presence in my heart.  Amen.

–Cardinal John Henry Newman  (1801-1890)