Thursday, March 28, 2013

I Was There

The city buzzed with sights and sounds of spring as the chatter of excited voices spoke of awaited Passover festivities. Branches and cloaks lined the road in anticipation of the king's foretold arrival. I was there. 

I waved a palm branch as He humbly road past and on into the town. 

"Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” I shouted with the crowd. 

It was quite the triumphal entry for such a modest king who road in on donkey. However, just as He had told His disciples it would be, not everyone shared the same excitement and enthusiasm over His arrival. Threatened by His power, and fearing the people would overthrow them to follow the king, the chief priests, scribes and elders plotted ways to seize and kill Him. 

On the first day of the festival, the gentle king called together His disciples for one last supper. It was their final meal together here on earth. I was there.
As we reclined at the table, He spoke. 

“Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me”, He said. 
Surely You don't mean me, I scoffed. 

After dinner, He and several of the other disciples retreated to a garden at the foot of the mountain. Though He pleaded with them to stay awake and keep guard, the disciples slept while He prayed. A while later, a large crowd armed with swords and clubs entered the garden. They had come to arrest Him. I was there.

Earning my keep from a deal I made with the chief priests, I kissed Him on the cheek and signaled to the mob the One to arrest. They bound Him and took Him away for trial.

During the festival, it was customary for the governor to release one prisoner chosen by the crowd. The chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd to have Barabbas, a known criminal, released. I was there.

“Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” the governor asked. 

The One I hailed a few days earlier, I now condemned to die.

"Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" I shook my fists and shouted along with the crowd. 

The soldiers took Him away. They beat Him and mocked Him. They spat on Him and placed a crown of thorns on His head. And then they took Him to Golgotha, Place of the Skull; and driving stakes into His hands and feet, they hung Him from the cross and crucified Him. I was there.  

There they crucified Him….” – John 19:18 (NIV) 

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, 
so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) 

The humble king, who never sinned, hung on the cross for me. For you. Though I was not there in the flesh, it was for my sins He died. It was for your sins He died.

I was there.  We were all there.  

“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.”

 - Isaiah 53:5 (NIV) 

I was there the day You died/Stood and watched You crucified/And though I watched You take the fall/You still love me despite it all

On that day in the room/I put my hands in Your wounds/And though I doubted what I saw/You still love me despite it all

I put the nails in Your feet/Hammered Your hands to that tree/And despite it all Lord, You still love me/I put the thorns on Your head/Accused You while You bled/And despite it all Lord, You still love me/You still love me

When You died You paid my toll/Gave me life and saved my soul/Yet even when my faith is small/You still love me despite it all

When I’m called to come home/And I'm there before Your throne/To my knees I will fall/Cause You love me despite it all

I put the nails in Your feet/Hammered Your hands to that tree/And despite it all Lord, You still love me/I put the thorns on Your head/Accused You while You bled/And despite it all Lord, You still love me/You still love me

I was there. 

Heavenly Father, thank You for the sacrifice You made for me.  I cannot fathom the pain and agony You endured as my sin held You on that cross. Thank You for paying the price for my sins, so I may have eternal life with You. Thank You for the forgiveness and healing You give to all those who come seeking. I love You Lord. Thank You for loving me...despite it all. 

Despite it All lyrics 
© Angela Winterbower 2011 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Chickens Don't Fly

A few years ago, I decided to participate in the Easter pageant at my church. I had watched the pageant many times, and secretly coveted the beautiful and ornate angel costumes. I wanted to be an angel so bad I could taste it! As soon as the director posted the signup sheet, I jockeyed for position and quickly scrawled my name under the part I yearned to play. No longer would I sit in the audience and covet those costumes. No ma'am, this girl...THIS GIRL...was gonna be an angel! 

As a side note, one of my dearest friends was cast as Satan that year. Coincidence? I think not. Some of us are angels...others, well...not so much. But, I digress. It’s amazing what a pair of angel wings can do for a girl's ego.

Speaking of said wings...did I mention they were gorgeous?!? Certain they would share my awe and fascination; I rushed home after play practice to brag to tell my boys all about my wings.

My wings are soooo beautiful!...and huge!...and, and...pretty! 
They are decorated with hundreds of fluffy, white feathers, and...

No sooner did half my giddy, grandiose description leave my lips when my then seven year old, Jack interrupted and feathers began to fly.

“So you're telling me...
 you're playing the role of a big, fat chicken?”
he said. 

Excuse me while I scrape the remains of my ego off the floor. Dang. Obviously, at least one of my children did not inherit my angelic genes. (Just kidding. He actually turned out pretty good despite those genes).

While Jack's comments are funny when shared in the context of the story above, they take on a much more serious nature in relation to my walk with the Lord. I'd love to tell you that I'm the perfect Christian, an angel so to speak, but the reality is sometimes I'm just a big, fat chicken - sitting on my faith, like a mother hen on a bunch of eggs - clucking, squawking and bocking when God asks me to move, act or apply His word. 

Forgive those who hurt you. Cluck. Love your neighbor. Squawk. Serve others. Bock! 
I think I'll just sit here in my comfortable nest for a little longer, Lord…a cluck, cluck here and squawk, squawk there. Here a cluck, there a squawk. Everywhere a bock, bock! 

When I opt to nest on my faith, it becomes nothing more than something I profess, but never show...all talk, no action. And, after a while, people stop listening. Faith without action is can’t fly and soar...and is contained like a chicken in a coop.

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?
Can such faith save them? 
… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
 – James 2:14 & 17 (NIV) 

Thank God for the gentle nudges and reminders He gives to help us out of our spread our wings and soar! 

It’s time to get out of the nest. Chickens don’t fly. But, angels do!
And, I’d rather be an angel than a big, fat chicken any day! 

Father God, please forgive me for the times I choose to sit idle on my faith. Thank You for loving me despite myself, and for nudging me and reminding me to be more than a big, fat chicken. As I choose to follow Your plans for my life, help me to spread my wings and fly – to have a faith not just in words, but in action as well.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chasing Stars

The year? 1987. My age? Twelve. Popular album releases: Michael Jackson's, Bad, and George Michael's, Faith. Popular movies: Dirty Dancing, Three Men and a Baby, and Lethal Weapon. Average price of gas: 89 cents per gallon!! And lest I forget, popular television shows: The Cosby Show and Growing Pains. Ah, the memories.

1987…sigh…I had a massive crush on television star, Kirk Cameron that year. Posters and photos of Kirk covered my bedroom walls. I was completely obsessed with him. Through the fuzz and static our rabbit ear antennae provided, I glued myself to the TV each week to catch a glimpse of Kirk on Growing Pains. So what if my eyesight was ruined for sitting too close? Fuzz, static and perfect vision were such a small price to pay for love. Besides, what if Kirk found out I wasn't watching? I couldn't bear breaking my soul mate's heart.

I once wrote Kirk a letter, and enclosed my school picture. Much to my dismay, he never replied. In retrospect, maybe the school picture was a bit much. After all, it was a rather frightening photo.

Sorry Kirk. I hope therapy wasn't too costly.

Like many teen girls, I thought if I could just meet my crush he would find me likable, lovable and worthy of his attention. If I could just touch him, shake his hand, or get his autograph, my life would somehow have merit. I had convinced myself that Kirk possessed some supernatural power to instantaneously grant me worth and make my life whole through one simple meeting, autograph, or touch. And so, I chased after a star in search of fulfillment.

Years have passed, and Kirk and I have gone on to lead separate lives. (I really think that school picture might have sealed the deal for him.) Though my infatuation with him has faded, my longing for love and worth has not. I'm still very much like that twelve year old girl back in 1987 on the chase for adoration and merit. Truth be told, I think all of us are like that…desperate for someone to love us and complete us. Hungry for that one touch; that one signature; that one meeting that gives us the fulfillment we seek. 

I've chased after a lot of stars.  I've even been incredibly blessed to meet a few. Just this past weekend in fact, I met Christian group, Selah. If you aren't familiar with these guys, you MUST check them out. They're the bomb!

But, you know what?  Even though I am absolutely elated to have met Selah and others, the joy and fulfillment that came from those meetings is just a temporary high.  After each autograph and handshake, I always end up right back at square one, and on the quest for more.  Who can I meet next?  Who will give me worth? Who will love me?  Furthermore, while I "know" the stars, I think it's safe to say they do not know me.  Even after we meet, I am still just another face in the crowd.   Unknown by the ones I have sought for worth.

Two thousand years ago, the Magi chased after a star.  But, it wasn't the star they were seeking.  It was what, or rather who, lie beneath the star.  

You see, what we seek and long for from others can only be provided to us by one. The One.  The One who laid under a star. The One the Magi sought.  Our Savior. Our Redeemer. The One who loves us and makes our lives whole. The One who gives us worth and knows us intimately.  

"…Long before He laid down earth's foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love."
- Ephesians 1:4 (The Message)

The Magi chased after a star until they found Him. And, when they arrived in His presence, they bowed down and worshiped Him.

“When they saw the star, they were overjoyed...and they bowed down and worshiped Him.” – Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV)

May we be like the Magi – chasing not the star, but The One who laid beneath it. For in Him, we are dearly loved and made whole.

Father God, thank You for loving us, for knowing us, and for giving us worth. As we travel down the roads in this life, Lord, let us be found seeking and worshiping You. Sign Your name on each and every day of our lives so we may be made whole and holy by Your love.  For You alone provide the fulfillment we long for.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

I'll Get It!

Have you ever watched a contestant on a game show face the decision of what door to choose for his/her prize? Usually, there is an amazing gift lurking behind one of those doors. The other door though? Not so much. The contestant's choice will determine their fate. Will they be handsomely rewarded or left empty handed? 

In life, we are constantly bombarded with choices. At the end of the day though, usually there is one choice that leads to the "prize" and one that doesn't.

"This door stands between you and fire.
Keep it closed."

Those were the words on a door in my old office building. Obviously, these words were meant to protect the employees if a fire occurred, but they are applicable words to our spiritual lives as well. Genesis 4:7 says, "…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." Each of us faces the temptation to sin, but we have a choice as to whether or not we open the door to it. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are told, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." When we open the door to evil, we walk freely into a territory that poses great threat to our spiritual well being. If we could put a sign on that door, maybe it too would read, "This door stands between you and fire. Keep it closed."

So, what’s behind door number two? The ultimate prize package! Revelation 3:20 says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."  Now that sounds like my kind of door! Jesus and food? I think I just hit the jackpot!
Excuse me just a sec, I’m gonna get the door!

Jesus is patient and persistent in trying to get through to us. He stands patiently on the other side of the door and allows us to decide whether or not to open it and invite Him into our lives. There's no fire on the other side of this door, and there's no prowling animal waiting to devour us. Rather, there’s a life filled with promise, hope, provision and peace. Perhaps the sign on this door should read, "This door stands between you and God. Keep it open!"

"Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven...." – Matthew 5:12

When God knocks on the door, I want to be the kind of girl who immediately springs from her chair, and shouts, "I’ll get it!" What about you? What door will you choose? Will you opt for the handsome reward or will you end up empty handed?

Heavenly Father, thank You for the freedom to make choices in our lives, and for the opportunities and blessings You provide. When we walk down the road filled with temptation Lord, please help us to open the door that leads to You and the glorious reward of eternal life You have promised.