A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

A Simple Life, a Childlike Faith

The Prayer

posted by Linda G. Howard

We gathered around her bed, watching her shallow breathing.  We waited.  Mother, 84 years old,  had awakened with blood pouring from her mouth.  My sister, her caregiver, was unsure.  Had she seizured and bitten her tongue; or was she hemorrhaging?  She called Hospice.  Then she made a series of phone calls to family members to let them know the latest in our 40 month saga as our mother slowly crawled toward death.

As strange as it may seem, in the annals of my life, I will record those five days spent at the foot of mother’s bed with my feet propped on the railing, one of the most joyful times in my life.  Two daughters, a daughter-in-law,  three granddaughters, two great granddaughters and several children kept the vigil.  We slept little as our saintly mother labored to breath.  The shallow whisps of air would wane and then strengthen.  We laughed and cried.

We ate junk food; then we laughed and cried.  We talked to distant relatives on the phone; and with them we laughed and cried.  We ate delicious meals catered from restaurants owned by grandchildren.  When the meals arrived, we received the embraces of the new arrivals; and we laughed and cried.  We threw together meals to keep us from eating one more chocolate Easter egg.   Sharing our meals on tables piled with insurance forms and medical equipment, we laughed and cried.

At 3AM, the children taking the early morning shift at her bedside, stiffled giggles of exhaustion.  Each one of us crawled in the bed with her for a moment, just to feel her breathe on our faces one last time.  Just to touch her again before she left us for her heavenly home.  While we cried often, it was a strange mixture of joyful remembering and pain of separation that brought the tears.  We knew her faith.  We rejoiced in her destination, not her departure.

As Jesus and his disciples gathered for their last meal together, Jesus expresses joy.  How can that be?  Tomorrow he would face death, a terribly painful death of torture and shame.  Could joy really fill the room of thirteen men who had walked, listened, ate, laughed and cried together?  Oh, yes.  They laughed and they cried.  The imminent anguish the Lord faced was put aside for this last joyful meal together.

Then Jesus prayed a long, stirring prayer.  Father, the time has come.  Give glory to your Son so that the Son can give glory to you.

Confidence beyond the circumstances poured from the Lord, as he embraced with joy the future of the Church. You gave the Son power over all people so that the Son could give eternal life to all those you gave him.

No misgivings filled this conversation with the Father. And this is eternal life; that people know you, the only true God, and that they know Jesus Christ, the One you sent.

Strength and boldness poured from his inner being, expressing a completion of the task for which he was sent.  Having finished the work you gave me to do.  I brought you glory on earth.

It was a prayer for the men who sat in the room; but it was also a prayer for you and for me.  I pray for these followers, but I am also praying for all those who will believe in me because of their teaching.

Jesus prayed for me.  That night, in the middle of this joyous meal, he remembered me.  He prayed that all believers would be one.  Jesus prayed that we would abide with him and join him in heaven.

The passover, seder, meal is a meal of remembered redemption and release.  At times I stumble.  I fail everyone from my Lord to the clerk in the grocery store I see only once a week.  But in humility and with confidence, I can return to the place of laughter and tears.  From there, I can emerge with new strength and endurance because Jesus prayed for me.

In what ways would you alter your life if you fully understood that Jesus’ prayer was for you?   Would this make a difference in the way you relate to other about the Lord?

In the garden

posted by Linda G. Howard

For several decades, I’ve had one spot in our home where I pray.  It’s not a place set apart situated away from everyone–not a separate sanctuary.  This room is in the middle of the house, where we gather for family celebrations.  Yet, it is a place that has become holy to me because that is where I go each day to meet the Lord.

When we have overnight guests and they come into this room before I arrive in the morning, I miss my Holy Place.  Naturally, it’s not a problem to go back to the bedroom and pray; even though it is somehow not the same.  Putting a bit of guilt on myself, I sometimes feel as though the place should not mean as much to me as it does.  Then a few months ago, I heard Dr. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Atlanta, speaking about his holy place.  He believed that the places where we regularly meet the Lord become hallowed ground.

His logic makes sense to me.   Of course, God resides in all the earth and all places are his creation.  However, the place where I go to meet the Lord has great significant to me.  I’ve experienced the holiness of God there more times than I can remember.

In John 18 verses 1-3 (NCV), we read,

When Jesus finished praying, he went with his followers across the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and Jesus and his followers went into it.

Judas knew where this place was, because Jesus met there often with his followers. Judas was the one who turned against Jesus. So Judas came there with a group of soldiers and some guards from the leading priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.

On that first Maundy Thursday, Jesus and the Eleven went to the garden to pray.  Note that the passage says, “Judas knew where this place was, because Jesus met there often with his followers. ”  This was a place where Jesus loved to pray.  He and his Father met there often for conversation and intimacy.  This holy place was where Judas came because he understood that Jesus would take his friends there after the Seder meal.

This week as I read this scripture preparing myself for Holy Week, I was struck by the horror that Judas imposed on the Lord.  Only a close, personal friend can expose the deep reservoirs of our hearts.  The garden was a secret place that perhaps only the 13 men knew.  Down through the ages, the Church has dwelt on the kiss–the method of betrayal.  However, perhaps the place of the betrayal is equally horrible and ironic.

Soldiers, Temple guards,  and Pharisees armed with weapons and carrying lanterns and torches trampled into the garden.  These interlopers violated this most sacred ground where the Godhead met to commune in joyful love or deep sorrow.

As I prepare my heart for Resurrection Sunday, I understand the betrayal of a trusted friend.  I know how gossip and hearsay can cut like a knife. Most people do.  However, when God allows the holy places in our lives to be trampled by the enemy of our souls, those are the times that our hearts may cry in unbelief, even questioning His faithfulness.  Yet, in the presence of the empty tomb, God’s redemption erases our doubts, unbelief and questions.

When have you seen God turn great sorrow into eternal joy in your life?  If you are still walking under the shadow of betrayal, can you see God’s redemptive hand in your situation?

Joe’s Going to Camp

posted by Linda G. Howard

During Memorial Day weekend each year, about 200 Special Gathering members go to Vero Beach for a spiritual retreat called Camp Agape.  For four days, we learn about the Lord, play and hangout with each other.  There are go-carts, a water slide, putt-putt golf, boat rides and swimming.

Joe is 45, short of statue.  His wavy,  brown hair that gets wet from perspiration and sticks closely to his head.  Even though he has no physical disabilities, his child-like enthusiasm exposes that he is developmentally disabled.

Joe was so excited about Camp Agape that he filled out the application form himself.  He hand-delivered the envelop to me with an enormous grin on his face.  “Joe’s going to camp,” he proclaimed with enthusiasm.

I opened the envelop to insure that all the blanks were filled in properly.  All the blanks were full.  The only problem is that he had no idea how to fill in the blanks.  Therefore, he put lots of letters but no words.  I called his family and explained to them what had happened.

Sending them a new form is no problem.  They will be sure that the blanks are filled out correctly–if Joe doesn’t find it first.

Of course, I can understand Joe’s enthusiasm for Camp Agape.  The Acts of the Apostles tell us that the early church: prayed, hung-out together and learned from the Apostle’s doctrine.  After a long day in the Florida sun, we gather for evening chapel.  During praise and worship as we all lift up our voices in praise to Him, I look around and feel the spirit of our church fathers surrounding us as heavenly witnesses.  I feel the pleasure of the Holy Spirit as the Church gathers to pray, learn and fellowship.

Is there a time that you feel especially connected with the Lord ?  Who are the people with whom you like to hang-out?  Do you think there is value in getting away to seek the Lord with other Christians?

Betrayal

posted by Linda G. Howard

"Judas' Betrayal" by Caravaggio

When our daughter, Carol, was 14, she had a good friend in California.  They had met on a Teen Mission trip.  Her friend wanted her to come for a visit in California.   She even bought Carol a plane ticket.  

Arriving at the airport early that morning, Carol and I sat in the airport waiting for the time for the aircraft to load.  Then, she realized she had lost her ticket.

We went to the airline clerk to ask what needed to be done.  She curled her lips in a frown.  

“Nothing,” she said, “you can’t get on the plane without a ticket.”  

Then she smiled, “However, what’s your name?”  Carol told her and she grinned, “Someone found your ticket and turned it in to us.”

All of us have gotten ready for a trip or extreme effort only to have something bad happen along the way.  But few of us have confronted the type of betrayal that Jesus faced on his journey to our redemption.  

The scriptures tell us that on the night before his crucifixion, Jesus understood that one of his disciples would turn against him, turning him over to the authorities. 

Jesus even knew the person was Judas.  Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t hurt for Jesus to have one of his closest friends turn him in to be killed.

After Judas had left the seder celebration, Jesus had prayed for the disciples and The Church.  Then he took his disciples to a garden. 

Judas knew where the garden was because Jesus and his followers went there often.  Judas brought soldiers and guards to the garden along with the Jewish leaders. 

They had lights and weapons. 

Jesus asked, “Who are you looking for?”  

"The Scourging" by Caravaggio

When the temple guards told him, Jesus said, “I am he.”  

The guards and Temple leaders fell to the ground. 

Simon pulled out a sword and cut off the ear of one of the men.  Rebuking Peter, Jesus healed the ear.

The soldiers arrested Jesus and took him away.

Jesus had 12 close friends.  As was the custom of the day, they lived with him and learned from him.  They heard God speak through him.  They had come to understand that this man was truly God — the Messiah — their long-awaited deliverer.  

Yet, one of them was so evil that he brought the Temple leaders to Jesus so that they could kill him.

There are going to be people in our lives who are going to hurt us.  Friendship is risky.  People will turn against us.  One study says that we can only have 35 friends at one time in our lives.  Of that 35 there will be 10 to 12 who will share a close relationship with us.  

But does your friendship extend to Jesus?  Do you consider yourself one of Jesus’ closest friends? If he were living in your town, would you be one of the 12?  Could you give up everything to follow him?

Each of us has a responsibility to love Jesus with all our hearts and minds.  I cherish the fact that the apostle used the greatest in fashioning Christ’s church never met Jesus when the Savior was living on earth — Paul.  

They never shook hands.  

It wasn’t Paul’s privilege for them to touch heads as Paul opened the sacred scrolls and Jesus explained the meaning of a passage in the plain language of the people.

Paul wasn’t present that last, holy night when the 12 men shared their last meal.

"Paul in Prison" by Rembrandt

Yet, Paul had an intimate relationship with Jesus.  From Paul’s writings, we know that he comprehended the heartbeat of this Savior.  He felt the guiding hand of the Jewish Messiah as Paul traveled into distant lands.  He was embraced by the comforting arms of his Lord as he sat in prison.

Judas was a friend who betrayed Jesus.  However, Paul’s life teaches us that we can have an intimate, loving relationship with the Friend, Jesus.  

And Jesus will help us to remain loyal to him because he loves us more than we could ever imagine.

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