The Costco Butcher

(I know Easter has already passed. Tell that to my internet connection that keeps kicking me offline when I want to be online. I am behind, but I decided to post my Easter thoughts at this late date regardless.)

On the Saturday before Easter, my husband took me on a date to Costco.

Yes. Costco.

And yes, it was a date.

We don’t have a lot of time to ourselves, so stealing away to a place that offers free samples of tasty treats, great deals on all kinds of cool stuff, and GLUTEN FREE DOG FOOD should certainly be on the top of anyone’s Top Ten Date Ideas, right? I know, you’re jealous of my life…

So we made our way through the humongous Six Flags over Groceries and Stuff, and eventually walked through the meat department. There is something to be said at finding a pork loin that is almost three feet long…I cut it into thirds so it would fit in my pan…

But as I looked over the selection of meat, I saw the butcher walking through the meat department. He was wearing a white uniform and what probably started as a white apron. The apron was now very blood-stained, bearing the marks of the butcher’s workmanship. It wasn’t the first time I had ever seen a bloody butcher’s apron, but this time it got my mind going.

The following morning, I was again reminded of the butcher in his bloodied apron. It was Easter Sunday, and I was thinking about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As I thought about the soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross, my mind was filled with images of them being splattered and stained with His blood. His sacrifice was not a neat and tidy job. It was truly a bloody and torturous death. And in much the same manner as the butcher bore the bloodstains of the slaughtered animals, so would the soldiers have borne the stains of the Savior on their bodies and clothing. I wondered how they felt? Did it cause them any fear? Did they feel nothing at all? Were they even aware of WHO they were killing?

My memory of the blood-stained butcher is stamped in my brain. Even stronger in my mind is the image of my slain Savior who died at man’s hands to offer the final sacrifice for sin. There is no longer any suitable offering for sin…Jesus completed His work at Calvary. Not only was the sacrifice sufficient, but in rising again and being ascended into heaven, we see the work of Christ complete as He now is seated at the right hand of the Father.

There is nothing left that any of us can do to make His sacrifice more effective or more complete. He bore the payment for sin in His own body that I might live. Freely live a life of hope and grace and mercy and love. 

Hebrews 9:11 ff

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things,
but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly
since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all … to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

 

 

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Pondering…

I  haven’t slept well this week. Of course, that means I am unusually tired. And crabby. And lacking in creativity. But I look at writing as a form of stimulation and exercise for my brain, so to those of you who choose to wade through my blog today…I may have to apologize.

If you could READ with your eyes closed, I would walk you through some of the sounds of this week…

For example, I am currently listening to an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in the other room. What does his eruption sound like? So glad you asked:

He is bellowing and billowing out “NO!!! NO!!! NO!!! WAAAAAH!!! WAAAAH! OOOOOWAAAAH!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!” at the top of his angry toddler lungs. Just close your eyes and imagine you are sitting with me…listening to his angry outburst…

Ok. You can stop now. That was just excruciating, I know. I even turned on the attic fan to drown out the noise, but…we can all. still. hear. it.

Now, how about imagining that you are sitting on my deck…

It is night time and the sky is dark. Thunder claps are all around us accompanied by bright flashes of lightening. The rain is pouring down, and the wind is howling. The tall trees are swaying in circles. And the hollow oak, aka the Raccoon Condo, is swaying eerily.

Can you picture it? The oak tree is HUGE. How it still stands is a mystery, but we love that tree with its crooked branches that look like Rudolph and the critters that creep out as dusk settles. Of course, Joe Bear and Día view the critters as appetizers…

I just hope that if that tree topples, it is from a wind from the south…it could do some serious damage in a storm from the north.

But after the storm dies down, if you close your eyes, it sounds like rushing waters over a large waterfall…almost thundering. As the water level subsides, you can hear the creek in its normal trickle, almost like it is chuckling as it trips over the minuscule “waterfall”…a “waterfall” that I think is a man-made hiccup to keep the creek from getting too high during heavy rains.

But oh how I love the sound of the creek…soothing, tranquil, peaceful. Almost heaven on earth…

And that brings me to this morning. I slept poorly last night, and awoke earlier than I would have liked, but I was pondering this morning. Literally. The lyrics of an old hymn were playing in my mind…

Ponder anew, what the Almighty can do,
if with His love He befriend thee

Those words just kept playing through my thoughts as I pondered all the wonderful and awesome things God has done…in the past, in the present and even those things that are promised for the future.

Salvation, paid for at Calvary…sins not just covered, but cleansed away…miracles happening in lives of people who were without hope just days ago…a future at home with our Savior, our Almighty heavenly Father…

My head was kind of like that creek…gushing and trickling, making such a joyful noise at the many awesome works that have been done by our Creator.

And so, as I awoke, I pondered anew…and was filled with awe. When you close your eyes, and consider the many things that God has done, continues to do, and promises to do in the future…do you run out of things to ponder?

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation!
O my soul, praise Him, for He is thy health and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Praise Him in glad adoration.

Praise to the Lord, who over all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings, yea, so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how thy desires ever have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?

Praise to the Lord, who hath fearfully, wondrously, made thee;
Health hath vouchsafed and, when heedlessly falling, hath stayed thee.
What need or grief ever hath failed of relief?
Wings of His mercy did shade thee.

Praise to the Lord, who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do,
If with His love He befriend thee.

Praise to the Lord, who, when tempests their warfare are waging,
Who, when the elements madly around thee are raging,
Biddeth them cease, turneth their fury to peace,
Whirlwinds and waters assuaging.

Praise to the Lord, who, when darkness of sin is abounding,
Who, when the godless do triumph, all virtue confounding,
Sheddeth His light, chaseth the horrors of night,
Saints with His mercy surrounding.

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him!
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from His people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

 

Ugly Treasures

I like to dabble in photography, and I take thousands of pictures, hoping to take that perfect one. Some are special. Some are blurry. Some are awful.

But honestly, I have a really hard time deleting my images. They are kind of like those boxes of mementos that I keep–treasures that somehow are too precious to discard but for some reason are still stuck in a box rather than out on display.

This week, my little buddy Froglegs became so excited and animated because he saw this very large yellow butterfly.

“Hurry, Nana! Get your camera! Come see this butterfly. It’s HUGE!!!”

I obviously have my little buddies well-trained at identifying those picture-worthy subjects. I hurried in to get my camera, hoping not to miss it.

It was a very windy day, and the poor butterfly was really flexing his muscles to hang onto the butterfly bush. (That bush is a topic for another blog post.) I snapped several pictures, but the wind was interfering with my shots.

And then, my battery died. Great. Just great.

Later in the day, I uploaded the photos to my computer to check them out. I felt a mixture of semi-satisfaction and disappointment. I don’t believe a single one of them was clear that didn’t also feature a weed, the neighbor’s trash can, her newspaper or the brand-new asphalt on the road. It didn’t look like any of them were frame-worthy.

Bummed would be an understatement.

I left the photos alone and did nothing. I moped a little. It had been a somewhat unpleasant day and I had a lot of mulling over going on. I had so many thoughts running through my head, and honestly, blurred pictures didn’t stack up too high on my list of significant failures.

But…as the day dragged on, the pictures became an escape for me. I was bound and determined to turn them into something semi-beautiful. After all, it was a gorgeous yellow swallowtail, the loveliest shade of yellow. It was stunning, to be honest.

So I messed around with my Canon photo editing software. I don’t even have Photoshop. As I experimented, God started bringing so many thoughts and verses to mind. And a-tweaking I went.

The mundane and ordinary became sublime. When looking at it through a different set of “eyes” I could see beyond the failures of the photos. Just take a look…

Can you even see the asphalt? Do you see the weeds? Or the garbage can and newspaper?

No. And you know what? These photos are a great example of what the blood of Jesus does to us…God does not see us as those miserable creatures bound by sin. We are not hopeless, ugly wretches.

We are His treasures. Loved and beautiful. Full of life and hope. When we are able to look at our lives through God’s filter of redemption and unconditional love, we can see ourselves as He sees us.

I pray that today, you will see yourself through His eyes of forgiveness and redemption.

Jesus, Draw Me

Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer

I came across a beautifully poignant song while searching for something to comfort my soul. There are those moments in life that defy the comfort of simple thoughts and words, but when coupled with the right melody and instrumentation can speak a far clearer message than mere words unaccompanied.

If you are experiencing grief, or sorrow, or heartache, I pray that these words and their accompaniment will be especially touching to your soul.

Jesus, Draw Me Ever Nearer

May this journey bring a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labor thro’ the storm
You have called me to this passage
And I’ll follow tho’ I’m worn

Jesus guide me thro’ the tempest
Keep my spirit staid and sure
When the midnight meets the morning
Let me love You even more

May this journey be a blessing
May I rise on wings of faith
And at the end of my heart’s testing
With Your likeness let me wake

Let the treasures of the trial
Form within me as I go
And at the end of this long passage
Let me leave them at Your throne

Jesus draw me ever nearer
Jesus draw me ever nearer
Jesus draw me ever nearer to You
To You

2002 Modern M. Music (Admin. by Music Services)
Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Writer(s): Keith Getty , Margaret Becker

Scripture Reference(s): Psalm 23

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

Redeemed

Redeemed By Big Daddy Weave

Seems like all I could see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me, “Son
Stop fighting a fight it’s already been won”

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be
I am redeemed,
I’m redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, “Child lift up your head”
I remember, oh God, You’re not done with me yet

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be

Because I don’t have to be the old man inside of me
‘Cause his day is long dead and gone
Because I’ve got a new name, a new life, I’m not the same
And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain, ’cause I’m not who I used to be

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe every stain, yeah, I’m not who I used to be
Oh, God, I’m not who I used to be
Jesus, I’m not who I used to be
‘Cause I am redeemed
Thank God, redeemed

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

Please Pray–Update

I know so many of you have been praying for a young man, David Hanson, who suffered a devastating fall from a great height while working as a lineman. What the Lord has done and continues to do is nothing short of miraculous.

Wedding Joy on June 16, 2012

The original report was nothing less than hopeless. Doctors gave no reason to believe he could recover. The brain stem injury was extremely serious. Multiple fractures requiring multiple surgeries. It was overwhelming just to figure out how to begin to pray.

The family set up a David Hanson Update page on Facebook. In just a matter of a few days, nearly 3000 people had joined the page, praying and encouraging the family with passages of scripture, songs and words of hope and praise–even in the knowledge that David’s chances of survival were so very slim.

Daily, thousands of people have prayed all around the world. Total strangers to this young man and his wife. Coming together to pray for God’s will and His pleasure through this tragedy.

Initially, the reports gave no hope, yet still the people continued to pray. David tolerated various surgeries well. He has been, after all, a very healthy and strong young man.

But several days after the accident, there was that great gasp of excitement when Rachel posted her update:

I am very excited to give a good update today! David was initially not breathing on his own at all and needed the vent to sustain life. Two days ago, I thought I saw David take a deep breath on his own but thought, “That can’t be possible.” and dismissed it. Yesterday, I noticed his respiratory rate was changing a lot and thought that was funny because the vent should be giving a constant rate of respiration so I asked the nurse and she said David was breathing some on his own but not enough to sustain life because he would breathe fast, a little or none at all. Today, he has been breathing consistently on his own and they plan to wean him off the vent, Lord willing, in a couple days!! He is still in a coma but we’re praising the Lord for the great things he is doing.

You could truly feel the praises going up into the heavens as people gave thanks to the Lord for His mercy. It was the first big physical indication that there was healing going on inside David’s brain. Words truly fail me in expressing that joy that I felt when I read her post. I cried. I rejoiced. I prayed.

Of course, this battle is like so many…you gain ground, then lose some ground, then push ahead further. Then it’s time to regroup and plan the next attack. In just two short weeks, David has moved so far forward. And he has a long, long road ahead.

A few days later, we saw the following update:

There hasn’t been a lot of new things with David lately. He has been having trouble tolerating the tube feeding. He has had a bronchoscopy and chest x-ray which are both clear…so no pneumonia, which is good. He is completely breathing on his own with some supplemental oxygen! But his breathing has been a little labored and congested. The last two days, he has been opening his eyes some (mostly slitted) but not really focusing on anything. He will squeeze my hand occasionally but not with commands but it is still really awesome. 🙂 He seems to calm down when his parents sing softly to him. He must find some comfort in hearing their familiar voices and the sweet words of hymns. Please continue in prayer. This battle is far from over.

It was like going over the top of a roller coaster when your stomach jumps. How easily I could have just given up hoping, yet the Lord God is the one who is directing this–He is the One who has the plan. Again so many prayed and praised and thanked the Lord, again encouraging the family, regardless of the ultimate outcome.

And again Rachel posted a sweet update that showed how encouragement so simply shared can lift spirits:

Kids are just the best! I was praying with a friend this morning and we both started to cry a little and her little boy comes up to me and said, “Are you sad? Jesus loves you!! Yes, Jesus loves you.” Sometimes it’s the little things that just make a day better. 🙂

Update: David is back on the ventilator for some support breathing because he has been laboring breathing a bit. He is still not tolerating the tube feeding and has been vomiting several times a day. They are wondering if he has a bacteria in his digestive tract. Last night, they did a CT scan of his chest to check for a blood clot in his lungs. We should get results this morning but last night, nothing serious was brought up, so I think he should be clear of that. Last night, when I saw him, he looked peaceful and was breathing evenly. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away…may we still remember that He is faithful, merciful and good even though every day seems to take us on a roller coaster.

I marvel at the grace and peace that the Lord has granted. Pain that I cannot truly even imagine in the lives of this newly married couple. Family members and close friends driven to their knees in prayer during this aptly labelled “roller coaster” ride. And yet, hope remains.

So often we hear and read about Christians and their divisiveness. How un-christian the Christians behave. People who bear the name of their Savior, yet who can’t seem to bear their brothers and sisters in that very same Savior. And yet, this situation with a critically injured young man has allowed the light of Jesus Christ to shine through the lives of thousands all around the world.

Mark Sutherland, a family friend who I do not know, shared a tremendous post of encouragement and exhortation for all of us:

For many of us watching this Divinely purposed situation unfold, it has been most thrilling to our hearts to see such a coming together of the Body of Christ, such wonderful distancing of ourselves from religious labels (that will blow off on our way up anyway), to support and surround other members that are in pain and great trial. Members that have hardly any other connection than that we are “members one of another.” To Him that gave Everything for us, be the praise!

So many people, all brought together through their faith in Jesus Christ, crossing so many man-made barriers to fellowship. United in their purpose of praying and petitioning Almighty God on behalf of a fellow-believer in need.

It was particularly uplifting to read posts from David’s parents yesterday:

Update from Joel Hanson (David’s dad) on 8/24/12:
“I just talked to Dr. Yasbeck who said David is more responsive the last few days and his eyes open spontaneously now. I asked if he is [e]merging from his coma and he said it is difficult to know that. He said he would not be surprised if David responds more, to voices and singing. He also stated that there is slight improvement in David’s right arm movement.
Things to pray for: David has been battling a fever, Dr. thinks it may be bronchitis or an infection in his digestive tract.
Good news: today David was transferred to [the] Rehab facility at 10:45PT.
With the Dr. sharing a more optimistic report this time, it was encouraging to hear a confirmation of what we have observed as David’s parents. We thank God for His mercies.”

From Annette:

Joel and I are very thankful to all of you who have been joining us in prayer for David and Rachel. Seeing a glimpse of the Lord’s body around the world is an amazing blessing. What joy it will be when we are all together with Him one day! Until then we want to be “trusting as the moments fly, trusting as the days go by, trusting Him whate’er befall, trusting Jesus…that is all.”

Yesterday, David was moved to a rehab facility to begin the next phase of his healing process. Interestingly, Rachel is a Physical Therapist. Ironic? Coincidental? I don’t think so. I believe it was all part of God’s plan in bringing these two lives together.

David is settling in at his new “home”. They are going to take it easy on him this weekend and not progress things much, but next week they will start bumping up his Physical Therapy, working on getting him more independent with his breathing, and starting him on some drugs that should make him more alert and stimulate neurological recovery. I am very pleased with the competency of the staff there and look forward to working with them to help my husband come home! 🙂 I have a LOT of driving ahead of me in the next few months because he is 2 hours away from home and 2 hours away from my work so pray that my trusty Honda gets me the places I need to be and I have [the] endurance to keep this marathon up. Thanks again for all your prayers so far! It really is a miracle that David is at [this facility] and I feel bouyed up on God’s strength.

This post is already quite long, but I wanted to give as thorough an update as I could while also providing a glimpse into what the Lord has been doing, and CONTINUES to do. David’s brother, Nathan, shared a quote from Rachel early on that sums up beautifully what this entire battle is about:

We are reminded of our human frailty and how our lives are held in a fragile balance. If David could have one wish out of this whole thing, I believe with all my heart that it would be that souls would bow their hearts before the Creator and Saviour of the World and accept his propitiative work on the cross for their sin and make Him Lord of their lives.

Thank you all so very much for your prayers on behalf of David and his family. Please continue to pray. The needs are very great. May many lives be turned to the Lord Jesus through the testimonies of this family. Truly, our God is a most Awesome God!

Lies, Lies, It’s All Lies

Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever lied about someone else? How did you feel? Did you feel all warm and cozy inside? Or did you feel that unpleasant burning way down deep inside, where regret and guilt and shame started to grow?

I have a hard time with lying. I hate it. It isn’t that I haven’t been guilty of lying, but honestly, I am really bad at it. I can’t hide it from my face. I wasn’t blessed (or maybe cursed?) with a poker face. My husband has reminded me through the years that he just loves my eyes–they are transparent windows into whatever is in my heart–good or bad.

As I have gotten older, seeing the evidence of lies just breaks my heart. I have seen lives devastated by the dishonesty of others. So many people hurt by mean-spirited slanderers. People who “should know better.” People who try to cloak their wickedness in spiritual terms to somehow get away with it.

I am on the alert each day as little children observe my behavior, and hear my speech. I am to be a faithful example of truth and love in action. As little kids, we would say, “sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” You know, in that annoying, sing-songy voice.

Ummm, that isn’t true. I don’t care what we said back then. Words hurt. And they usually hurt more than broken bones. And a cast won’t heal it either.

Lest you think I am pointing the finger and forgetting about my own tongue-problems, I have had the tendency through the years to say the right thing in the wrong way at the right time for the wrong reasons to the right people on the wrong day. (It really was a big problem when I was younger and a lot less savvy than I am now.) My dad once told me to pull my tongue out three feet and cut it off. And that was when I tried to come to his DEFENSE! My own DAD!?!

I used to find it interesting that God chose to list liars in the same sentence as murderers. Wow. In my mind, lies were like misdemeanors and murder was like a felony. But God is the standard here, fortunately, and not me. He has His reasons for listing gossip and liars and those who practice witchcraft in the same breath. He can’t stand ANY of it. None. Nada. Zilch. And God is pretty exclusive about who He will allow in His holy tent, too.

Psalm 15

A PSALM OF DAVID.

Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?

The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

For me, it is particularly sorrowful when someone who claims Christ as Savior and Lord is characterized by their lying and slanderous tongue. How many people will be harmed? How many testimonies destroyed? How many will reject salvation because they don’t want to “be like that so and so?”

Is it any wonder that Christians are mocked and ridiculed as hypocrites? They tolerate this evil in their midst, inside local churches, yet have the nerve to point out evil in the marketplace.

Matthew 7:2-4

For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

We are a sorry bunch of saved sinners, aren’t we? When we participate in this type of behavior, we are trampling on the blood of our Savior. Sinning openly and without remorse. Do we forget that we are ALL purchased by that same sacrificial blood? Have we failed to realize that our Savior bore our LOAD of sin and shame in His own body at Calvary?

WE ARE GOING TO BE IN HEAVEN TOGETHER FOR ETERNITY…why are we living in such a contrary way to that abundant life that is offered to us, here and now? We have our time on earth to prepare for that eternity.

So, what next? I am getting out the bottle of soap…