The Hope of Spring

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

On the way to our subdivision, trees line the road and, in many places, form an arch over you—lush and green in the summer. But in winter, the dark, bare limbs reach out with eerie arms against cloudy skies. It seems all life is gone out of them.

We bear the cold winds and the dismal colors, believing full well that Spring will come. We’ve seen it over and over every year, so we have confident hope it will come again.

Sure enough, the weather gets warmer, the first daffodils bloom, and we know that Spring is coming. Soon, the forsythia waves its yellow arms at us.

Then, just as the daffodils begin to fade, the dainty weeping cherry bushes sprout their pink blooms. Suddenly pear trees and cherry trees join the pink and white display along with new lime-green  growth on trees and bushes.

Slowly leafy growth moves up the taller trees, then the red bud trees dress in their purplely-pink accents. It is glorious! The hope of life has come. Likewise…

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior! Waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus, my Savior! Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus, my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Savior! He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord!

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes;

He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

How wonderful that we had a late Easter this year—just in time to put us right in the most beautiful Spring ever.

For the beauty of the earth, For the glory of the skies,

For the love which from our birth Over and around us lies:

Lord of all, to Thee we raise This our hymn of grateful praise.

A blessed Easter Resurrection Day to you all.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Points of View – Healing the Paralytic

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

A family attends a wedding. The teenage daughter sees a fairy tale wedding with a handsome groom and beautiful bride in a Cinderella gown. The middle school brother eyes the snacks and cake. The mother notices all the special touches and the well organized work in putting it all together.

The dad wonders, “How much did all this cost?”

We all have our points of view about things—this includes the synoptic Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

For instance, let’s look at the healing of the paralytic man. The man can’t walk, so four friends carry him to Jesus for healing. The problem is they can’t get in the crowded house where Jesus is teaching. The friends are so determined that they carry his pallet up the side steps to the roof and let him down through the roof right to Jesus. 

Jesus notices the faith of the friends to go to all this trouble and says,

“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5

Listen to the thoughts of the teachers of the law as they watch this startling scene unfold.

“Why does he [Jesus] talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 5:7

Knowing these thoughts, Jesus says, 

“Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘You sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that  you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, I tell you get up, take your mat and go home.” Mark 2:8-12

When the paralytic does exactly that, the crowd is totally amazed, and we hear no further comment from the teachers of the law. 

Now here’s the point of view from each of the writers: Mark is from Galilee where this event takes place. Flat roofs are made with mats of branches spread across wood crossbeams. On top of the mats is a thick layer of clay packed down with a stone roller. Hence,

…they made an opening above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat… Mark 2:4 

Luke, on the other hand, is from Greek territory and is primarily writing to Gentiles. Their roofs are generally made of tiles. In order to make sense to his readers, Luke describes the scene this way;

…they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd… Luke 5:19

As for Matthew, the lowering of the mat from the roof was not of particular interest to him. He is more concerned with the other parts of the story, so he doesn’t even mention the roof!

This is one of many incidents where it is helpful for us to read each account because we might learn fresh perspectives from each one. I will relate a few more in coming weeks. I hope you enjoy.

~ Joyce ~

 

Nehemiah – Celebration!

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

As we close our 6-week study of Nehemiah, it is time to celebrate! Many Jews have returned from the exile, the temple has been rebuilt, the wall rebuilt in spite of great obstacles, and the people have returned to the Word of God and consecrated themselves to follow Him. (Nehemiah – A Time of Consecration)

To celebrate this grand occasion, Nehemiah plans a huge processional. He calls out the Levites to come into Jerusalem—

… to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. Nehemiah 12:27

These were small harps, not sit-on-the-floor kind of harps like we have today. Think David-on-the-hillside kind of harp—one he could sling over his shoulder.

 

 

 

 

 

Groups of singers had built villages around Jerusalem. They, too, were called in to practice and form two large choirs. The two choirs met at a designated gate and split apart. One choir led the procession going south along with Ezra and half the leaders. 

The other choir headed north with Nehemiah and the other half of the leaders. When the priests blew the trumpets, the procession began. Apparently, many (at least the choirs and leaders) processed on top of the wall. Others may have walked along side the wall. They planned to meet at the temple with all the wall builders and their families joining in.

I can just imagine the fun and excitement as the children skipped along, loving the vibrant musical atmosphere of singing and playing. Perhaps some women brought their tambourines as they danced behind the processional route.

Both groups finally met at “the house of God,” the temple.

And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. Nehemiah 12:43

It is good to rejoice and be thankful, to celebrate wonderful happenings—weddings and anniversaries, birthdays and graduations, promotions, retirement, even in a quiet sort of way, we celebrate a life well-lived at the death of a dedicated loved one.

It is good to celebrate other accomplishments: learning to walk for the first time, learning to walk after an accident or surgery, moving a grade up from a C to an A, overcoming a sinful deed or an aggravating habit, having a breakthrough in a tedious project or completing a project, searching diligently for the Lord’s will then sensing that He has opened the door! Or even the simple joy of finally cleaning out a closet.

We may not have choirs and instruments or even parades at our victories, but let us determine to find something this week to celebrate and to give God thanksgiving and glory.

~ Joyce ~ 

  

 

 

Life Verses – Hope and a Future

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

For several years, I taught elementary music in public schools.

Singing all day every day eventually paid a toll on my voice, so I backed down to teaching part-time. Still, my voice just couldn’t hold up, so I retired from teaching.

At various churches, I had directed children’s choirs. A position became available to lead and coordinate children’s choirs part-time. My voice could manage these small doses once a week.

After nine years, I considered retiring from that position as well. Working and rheumatoid arthritis had worn me out. Meanwhile, the Lord had begun moving me in a new direction—writing!

Any life change, positive or negative, is a challenge full of hesitation and questions. Is this really the way the Lord is leading? Am I in His will?

One Sunday, in the midst of these “ponderings,” the front of the church bulletin read:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

A few weeks later, I heard a radio preacher teach on this subject with Jeremiah 29:11 as his text.

The day came to take the big step. I sat in church with the resignation letter in my sweaty hands. Part way through the service, up popped the scripture for the day on the big screen. Of course you can guess what it was—Jeremiah 29:11.

I smiled and thanked the Lord for this affirmation.

 He has plans for all of us, wonderful plans, if we only seek His face, whether we’re headed to college, deciding on a mate, considering a job change, dealing with a difficult relationship, trying to make a decision, or yes, considering retirement.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Jesus taught us to ask, to seek, to knock and: it will be given, you will find, and the door will be opened. (Luke 11:9) Pray for it, friend!

~ Joyce ~

Life Verses – Wait on the Lord

 Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Another life verse:

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles… Isaiah 40:31

This verse became a mainstay for me when we were going through a long ordeal with our son. By “long”, I mean years. My strength waned often as we tried many avenues, only to run into stop signs.

I really prefer the King James Version which uses the word “wait” instead of “hope.” When we hope, it does require us to wait and anticipate, but the message the Lord kept sending me was that I must wait on Him. Wait on His timing.

Waiting is not something most of us do well. We want it today or this week or this month, but waiting for years is a big stretch, especially when coupled with one heartbreak after another.

And so, we hope in the Lord as we wait, trusting (ooh, there’s that word again), trusting that the Lord will renew our strength.

The promise comes next—”They will soar on wings like eagles.”

In the midst of all this waiting and hoping, I did a good bit of study about eagles. Quite interesting creatures. When they are ready to fly, they go up to the highest point they can find and wait for just the right draft of wind. Then they spread their wide wings and soar on the down draft with perfect ease.

It’s a lovely picture, but I knew we had a ways to go before we could soar.

Late one night, I sat (praying) in the dark on the steps leading up to our second floor. Above our front door was a horizontal piece of glass. From my vantage point, I could look out the top glass to see three street lights.

As I sat meditating, I couldn’t help but think of the three crosses long ago that stood at Calvary. I thought about God’s willingness to sacrifice his own son on the cross for our sin. In that moment, I knew that God understood my pain and cried with me. 

Thankfully, the Lord performed a miracle in our son’s life. He turned himself over to the Lord and continues to grow deeper in his faith today as a grown man with five (yes, 5) children!

…but those who (wait and) hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.

May you find the strength to wait and hope and soar on wings like eagles today.

~ Joyce ~

The Hope of Spring

Searching His Word                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Seeking His Heart

I trudged to the car. “Do I have to go to the Y?” I asked myself.

The last remnants of my cold were still hanging on. I felt tired from a long weekend with company, and added to that, my mother had a fall, then a fierce infection, and was very weak. “Yes, you have to go,” I told myself. “You’ve missed way too many days.”

So off I went. Daffodils stood proud in the neighbor’s yard  and there by the road, forsythia waved its yellow arms at me. The low-lying bushes had already grown their new green leaves and with all the rain, the grass stood up, lush and green.

“Thank you, Lord,” I whispered, a reminder that spring brings hope. All can be renewed.

I made it through the Y exercises and the aerobic pool. Mother was finally able to get up and I helped her dress. I had plenty of left-overs at home to fix an easy supper. All was right with the world.

It reminded me of my little Spring poem. Thought I’d share it with you again.

My Season

I spouted my leaves one summer day,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Small ones they were in the month of May.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I watched the Oak tree, big and strong,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Growing thousands of leaves all summer long.

   

Knock-out roses bore red blooms.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    “Where is my color?” I sat and fumed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Poppies, pansies, petunias, too                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        All stood out with colorful hue.

The season wore on with this color-filled scene,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But all I had to show was my same old green.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Fall came along, the oak leaves turned red.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      My leaves just shriveled and fell off, quite dead.

Winter time came with the cold and the snow.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The ice was so heavy, we bent our heads low.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Finally temperatures warmed my cold heart.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I lifted my head. “I’ll make a new start!”

      

Now the oak stands strong, though a bare-looking fellow,                                                                                                                                                                                                                            “But look at me, I’m blooming all yellow.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      “Of course you are,” said the Oak, “Don’t be so ‘pithia.’                                                                                                                                                                                                                             It’s your season now, for you’re a Forsythia!”

Happy Spring!

~ Joyce ~

 

What Color Is Faith?

 

Searching His Word
  Seeking His Heart

Faith. How many sermons, how many lessons or studies have you had on on this subject?

The usual definition of faith is given in Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. (KJV)

Or if you prefer:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (NIV)

So we could say there is that element of “hope” where faith is concerned, not just wishing but hope that is sure and certain. Now to the question in the title—What color is faith? Let me ask you this—what color do you see here?

Blue of course, but as you see there are different shades of blue—navy, aqua, true blue, sky blue. So it is with shades of faith. Hope is one shade of faith.

When Moses and the children of Israel were in the desert, they had an episode of victory over an enemy. The victory went to their heads and they felt emboldened to complain (as did their forefathers) about the manna, Gods’s very provision for them. Not only that:

…the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Numbers 21:4-5

Direct blaspheme against God could not be tolerated. God chose to send venomous snakes among them. When the snakes bit the people, many died. Finally, they came to Moses and confessed that they had sinned. They said,

“Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” Numbers 21:7

Moses did pray and God asked Moses to do a strange thing.

“Make a snake and put it on a pole; anyone who has been bitten can look at it and live.” Numbers 21:8

Strange. Making images of people or animals had been strictly forbidden. This required great faith on their part and trust that Moses had this thing right.

Ah, another shade of faith, namely “trust.” Sure enough, if they were bitten, Moses lifted up the bronze snake and if they looked at it, they lived.

Fast forward centuries later to a night when Jesus had a private conversation with Nicodemus, the Pharisee. In the conversation, Jesus said, 

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, [that detestable, deadly snake] so the Son of Man must be lifted up, [on that detestable, deadly cross] that everyone who believes  in him [truly looks toward him in faith] may have eternal life. John 3:14-15

Thus the deepest shade of faith—belief. And Jesus offers, not just life from a snake bite, but eternal life. 

So there’s our shades of faith—hope, trust, belief. In keeping with our recent theme of gazing, not just glimpsing at God, I leave you with another quote from Tozer:

“We learn that faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze of the heart at the Triune God.”

~ Joyce ~

 

David – Persistence, Patience, Hope

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

 

So what does one do when one is waiting for a replaced knee to heal? Exercise, rest, prop up with ice packs, eat, sleep, pile up ice packs, exercise, take pain pills—did I mention ice packs? Then, of course, spend time in the last thirteen chapters of I Samuel with David on the run from Saul.

Doesn’t everybody do that?

In my ample time for pondering, I’ve wondered if David might have thought about the time when Samuel came to anoint him as the next king of Israel. It was a a quiet little ceremony with family and a few friends. Did it seem like a far away dream to David now?

Here he was—conqueror of the Philistine giant, a leading soldier in Saul’s army, slayer of ten thousands, talented harpist in the kingdom, faithful follower. Why then, why did Saul pursue him? That’s his constant question for Saul.

In last week’s blog, David could certainly have taken Saul’s life, but he didn’t. Another time, David slipped into Saul’s nighttime camp and could have easily killed Saul with the king’s own spear, but once again, David spared Saul’s life. When Saul realized that it was David’s voice he heard across the valley and that David had proof (Saul’s own spear) that he had been within inches of Saul’s head, Saul called out with a sugar-dipped voice,

“Is that your voice, David my son?” I Samuel 26:17, 18

Saul realizes that once again David could have killed him. Somehow David continues to honor the position of the anointed one. David has more honor than the king himself. Saul appears convicted, but David doesn’t buy it. 

David must ask the questions we we all do at times. How did it come to this? What have I done to deserve this? Where are those wonderful dreams of what could be, what should be? Pity-party time.

Yet David perseveres in the midst of it all. He has not forgotten that he is a son of Israel, a child of the one-God. He has gathered together a small band of 600 soldiers, mostly riffraff like himself who have ended up in a runaway status for one reason or another. David manages to find refuge with a Philistine official, persuading the official that he is trustworthy. David and his men are given the land of Ziglag. 

When trouble brews with his own men, he still endures the challenge with patience and verses like these are tucked in the narrative every now and then.

But David found strength in the Lord his God. I Samuel 30:6

David didn’t live to hear Paul speak the following words, but David lived these words.

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but also we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

I’m learning with David that great victories don’t come quickly. Hope comes in baby steps. I struggle to lift a foot or the leg even an inch in exercises. It seems I get nowhere and one day, I can move two inches. Then after hundreds of attempts that knee pops right up where it should be. Victory in struggle! 

How many times must we learn these lessons? As many times as it takes!

~ Joyce ~

 

It Must Be Spring!

 

Searching His Word   Seeking His Heart

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

My Season

I sprouted my leaves one summer day,

Small ones, they were, in the month of May.

I watched the Oak tree, big and strong

Growing thousands of leaves all summer long.

 

Knock-out roses bore red blooms.

“Where is my color?” I sat and fumed.

Poppies, pansies, and petunias, too,

All stood out with colorful hue.

 

The season wore on with this color-filled scene,

But all I had to show was my same old green.

Fall came along , the oak leaves turned red.

My leaves just shriveled and fell off, quite dead.

Winter time came with the cold and the snow.

The ice was so heavy, we bent our heads low.

Finally temperatures warmed my cold heart.

I lifted my head. “I’ll make a new start!”

Now the oak stands strong, though a bare-looking fellow,

“But look at me; I’m blooming all yellow.”

“Of course you are,” said the Oak, “Don’t be so ‘pithia.’

It’s your season now, for you’re a Forsythia!”

 

Well, there you are, my little spring poem printed once again for you. I just love spring. I always look forward to the early spring flowers and flowering trees and bushes taking their turn to say, “Look at me. This is my season to shine. My color makes me stand out from the rest!”

Most of the time when everything is green in the summer or brown and bare in the winter, one bush or tree looks about like the next one. But come spring, each one has a time to be spotlighted.

It’s a little like our lives. We go along day after day doing our regular green routine or having the dull, gray doldrums. Perhaps our lives have been stark and eerie as those bare winter-time branches. We seem lifeless and dead.       

But we have hope because  God taught us every year that spring would come again. Sure enough, the nutrients are simply stored away in us. Hope comes to fruition with the sunshine and rain and the warming temperatures to form the first buds. We realize not only that we are alive, but we come alive with His goodness and grace. We, too, have a season to shine. Perhaps it is some major accomplishment or breakthrough in a challenge. 

The question I have for you is this; when you see that beautiful Forsythia blooming, do you glory in the bush or glory in the God who made it? Even the bush itself waves its flowery arms up to the Father. Jesus taught us,

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and [here it comes…] praise your Father in heaven.” Matt. 5:16

There’s the lesson for today—hope comes alive in us, others see the hope in our hearts through good deeds or missions accomplished, and the Father is praised because of it. May we have renewed energy and fresh hope as we move into this beautiful spring. Soon we will be able to “stop and smell the roses!”

~ Joyce ~

It Must Be Spring!

IT MUST BE SPRING

I sprouted my leaves one summer day, small ones they were in the month of May.

I watched the oak tree, big and strong bearing a million leaves all summer long.

 Knock-out roses bore red bloom. “Where is my color?” I sat and fumed.

Zeniahs, Marigolds, Petunias, too, all stood out with colorful hue.

 

The summer wore on with this colorful scene, but all I had to show was my same old green.

Fall came along, the oak leaves turned red. My leaves just shriveled and fell off, quite dead.

Winter time came with the cold and the snow. The ice was so heavy, we bent our heads low.

Finally temperatures warmed my cold heart. I lifted my head; “I’ll make a new start.”

 

The oak still stands strong, but a bare-looking fellow. Oh, look at me, I’m blooming all yellow!

“Of course you are,” said the oak. “Don’t be so ‘pithia.’ It’s your season now, for you’re a Forsythia!”

Joyce Cordell – 2015

 

I couldn’t resist interrupting a final blog about Peter to insert this happy spring time poem. I just love Forsythia. Their joyful arms wave about this time of year to herald in the spring. And they’re blooming this week. I used to drive with my grandchildren and point out all the Forsythia along the way. I pronounced the word over and over until they could say it. Then they would begin to spy the colorful bushes. “There’s a Forsythia!” they would shout.

It amazes me how each tree and bush has its season to shine. Most of the time we hardly notice a Burning Bush or a Red Bud Tree, but when their turn comes, they shine with their reds and purples. Kind of like people. We go along doing our regular tasks, but every once in awhile, God uses our gifts in a special way that show our deep colors. You have a beautiful red or pink, or purple or yellow that is ready to come out in your season.

When I see the dark, stark branches of winter trees, I’m reminded that though they look quite dead, life is within them. God has shown us before that spring will come.  In a similar way, no matter how dead, dark, and dismal our lives may seem, He places life and hope deep within us. He always offers us hope.

I’m so grateful that God created our world with color. He didn’t have to, but it’s part of His nature to create and to create beautifully. As you travel along today, take in all the beauty and the shades of color around you. Soak in His presence through His creation.

As the trees and bushes put on their leaves of green, and rejuvenate and grow, may we too determine to grow deeper in Him, the source of our life, our strength, our hope. Happy spring!

~ Joyce ~