Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Unexpected Christmas Gift

Today’s Reading: John 18:40-19:1 (NIV)

40 “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in a rebellion. 1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

Good morning!

I received an unexpected Christmas present yesterday. Meredith’s parents found a wrapped Christmas package in her closet with my name on it. My friend passed away last July. The gift was delivered to my daughter’s home, and last night, as I sat scrapbooking with my family and friends, I began to unwrap the package.

The paper had been torn in a couple of places where her kitty cats had been playing underneath the tree last year. The design on the red and gold wrapping was that of Christmas teddies dancing around a beautifully lit tree. A tag on the package was addressed to me from Meredith. How do you thank someone for a gift they have given you when they are no longer physically here?

I carefully cut the paper with scissors, hoping to preserve the wrapping for a background in my scrapbook. Meredith loved to scrapbook as much as I do, and she had volumes of pictures carefully mounted in her books, pictures of home and kitty cats, Minx and Patches. She took pictures of her two precious nieces as they grew from tiny babies into beautiful young adults. She chronicled all her trips, work related and fun vacations. One of the last trips she made for fun was a trip to London. When she returned, Meredith told me that this was a trip I must make someday. I hope to see the sights just as she captured them on paper and film. Inside my package, she gave me a carrying case designed to hold scrapbooking d├ęcor: brads, buttons, flowers and beads. It is something she knew I would and could use with all my scrapbooking tools. What caught me by surprise was the inscription on the face of the plastic case. It says, “Close to my heart.” She couldn’t have known what that simple phrase would mean to me on a day like today, several months after her passing. Her gift of friendship and love is something I will cherish the rest of my life.

The unexpected gift was slowly and meticulously being opened by the Roman soldiers as they shredded the flesh of our Savior. A common criminal was let loose into the streets and the sinless Son of God was filleted in the courtyard for all to see. As He spilled His blood, new life was poured out for all. It is a gift that none of us had wanted to receive in this manner; but it was the One gift we would cherish every day of this life and in the life to come.

The unexpected Christmas gift is yours. Jesus died because you are closer to His heart than anything else in the world. He cares more about saving you than saving Himself. He died to give you a brand new life in Him. I know that one day I will greet Meredith with a holy hug and thank her for her gift to me, as we stand together in the heavenly realm, praising the One who gave us new life in Him. She is home, and I am headed that way. One day, we will share the unexpected Christmas gift together in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Under control

Today’s Reading: John 18:38b-39 (NIV)

38b With this, [Pilate] went out again to the Jews and said, “I find no basis for a charge against [Jesus]. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

Good morning!

Pilate thought he had everything under control. He could simply go to the people, give them a choice, and let them decide what to do with the Nazarene. In his mind, he figured he would relinquish personal responsibility over the one known as “the King of the Jews.” How much control do you think Pilate really had over Jesus’ life? How much control did the people really have in determining Christ’s fate?

Jesus was being charged with loving unconditionally. He healed the sick, raised the dead to life again, and demonstrated the Father’s love for all people. He taught us how to pray. Jesus saw through the schemes of religious hypocrites, calling out sin for what it is, and offered a whole new life to all those were willing to let go of the past and begin again. Do you think Pilate had as much control over the life and death of Christ as he thought he did? Do you think the people had ultimate control that day?

It is easy to believe we have more control over the direction of our lives than we actually do. And sometimes, we allow our circumstances to imprison our hearts. In captivity, we feel a false sense of security. Have you ever allowed yourself to be held captive by something? Maybe you are imprisoned by a painful memory that keeps you from living life to its fullest measure. Have you lost someone you love? Do you find it hard to go on living without them? Do you suffer with a physical infirmity? Do you feel like you are stuck at the bottom of a deep pit, afraid to climb out because the light at the end of the tunnel is scarier than the darkness that surrounds you now?

We can look at the circumstance surrounding Jesus’ trial and try to place blame upon those who seemed to have authority over His life at that time. If we’re not careful, we may miss out on a tidbit of truth. Jesus came to free human hearts from the captivity of sin. We had fallen far and away from the One who loves us more than life itself. Christ came to restore a right relationship between God and man forever. He knew how the people would react, how some would try to control the course of His life, and how He would free them from their own self-controlled imprisonment. There comes a time when each of us must let go of the things we think we control and trust the Lord to lead us forward by faith. He has the power to heal, forgive and redeem us. He can pull us out of the pit, if we’ll let Him.

Will you surrender control and let Jesus heal your heart today?

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Judgment call

Today’s Reading: John 18:38a (NIV)

38a “What is truth?” Pilate asked.

Good morning!

In the Christmas movie, The Preacher’s Wife, Pastor Biggs visits a young man in jail who has been arrested and is being charged with robbery and attempted murder. Billy tells his pastor that he was just an innocent bystander, having returned a video to the store across the street when the robbery occurred. He ducked behind a car to protect himself from the gunfire, and after the shooter drove away, the shop owner mistakenly identified Billy as the gunman. Pastor had to make a judgment call whether to believe Billy’s story. He asked Billy if he was telling the truth, and looked him straight in the eye. Pastor knew where to look to see the truth – it is revealed in the eyes.

“What is truth?” Pilate asks. The truth was standing right in front of him; yet, Pilate, blinded by the culture and his own human philosophies, could not see Jesus for who He is. The truth would have set him free that day, free from his life of sin and shame. The truth could have healed Pilate completely, if he had only been willing to open his heart to the Lord. There they were, the two of them, staring at each other. Pilate missed seeing the Truth that day. He was so busy making a judgment call that he missed out on seeing and knowing the Savior of the world.

Do we somehow miss seeing the Truth today while debating who Jesus Christ is?

The truth cannot be defined by the popular vote. If one believes that all truth is relative, then there is no standard with which to judge right from wrong. Pilate wanted to bring this matter to a resolution. He was forced to make a judgment call, knowing his opinion would impact the public’s opinion on his leadership skills. The choice he made that day about Jesus would affect his life, his family's life, and his future.

What will you do with the Truth today? Would you choose to look beyond what the culture says; would you be willing to step above the popular opinion and take a stand for the Truth? If Pilate had simply looked in Christ’s eyes with an open heart, he would have known the Truth, and the Truth would have set him free forever.

Please don’t miss out on seeing the Truth while making your judgment call.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Purple hair days

Today’s Reading: John 18:37(NIV)

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

Good morning!

Sometimes the truth rears its ugly head in the morning. I try really hard not to spend too much time in front of the mirror because it reveals things about myself I’d rather avoid. The mirror does not lie about my weight or my age or the fact that I am definitely sporting purple hair. How did that happen? I was trying to save a little money at the hairdressers, which should be a good thing in this New Year. Okay, so the gray turned pink and then it turned purple, but I thought last night, if I just went to bed and slept on it, that it might actually fade overnight. NOT! And now it is time to go to work and face the professional world with purple hair.

Well, I’m really not all that concerned about it. After all, I did help my boys color their hair every color of the rainbow when they played soccer in school. And our Rachel had a healthy green streak running the length of her beautiful blonde hair for several months when she was a teenager. It was a fashion statement. Here I am, at 50 years old, with purple hair. This just shouldn’t be happening.

Purple was my favorite color growing up. I loved wearing deep purple velvet dresses at Christmas, and I had a pretty lavender bedspread on my bed. Our parsonage bedroom is lavender, it’s such a soothing color. I now blend in well with the parsonage walls. Purple is the color of advent, the season of waiting. Purple is the color of lent, of repentance. I have a feeling I’m going to be doing a lot of waiting and repenting today. So, I guess purple hair is not such a bad deal for someone like me!

Sometimes the truth is hard to see. Pilate was doing his best to trip Jesus up in His testimony. Jesus made an unexpected verbal twist and placed the onus right back on the rich Roman ruler. Jesus came into the world to testify to the Truth. The people who longed for Truth above all else, chose to listen and obey. As a matter of fact, Jesus is the Truth, and even Pilate knew that, deep down inside.

It’s hard to hide purple hair from the world. I can see it plainly in the mirror and I’m certain it will be noticed by others. Maybe I should wear my red hat to work, just to accentuate my actual age. Some may believe it is not normal to have purple hair at age 50, but God continues to recreate a new normal in my heart each day. The truth is, without Him, I would be lost forever. He gave His life so that I could live free in Him, with or without purple hair. I have a feeling Jesus might actually like my purple hair, especially if I allow Him to use it as a living witness of His love for me. After all, He has never given up on me through the years. And even though I seem to be His problem child, Christ continually loves me still. The Father not only knows the number of hairs on my head, He also knows their natural color, which is something I’m not completely sure of these days. If He can love me with purple hair, He can love you too! And He does! God looks beyond the hair and sees the heart. I wonder if my heart is purple today.

I guess it could be worse – I could be bald! Thank you Lord, for purple hair days.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Heaven's tea party

Today’s Reading: John 18:36(NIV)

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

Good morning!

On New Year’s Day, I sat on a pillow on the floor in my granddaughter’s bedroom. Her room is upstairs, and the view from her window overlooks the street where she lives. On a clear day, one can see the circle drive at the end of her street, and, if you look in the opposite direction, you can see where her street merges with the main thoroughfare that runs the length of the subdivision. Emily sat next to me, on her very own pillow, with legs crossed Indian style. She wore a shiny tiara upon her head. We sipped hot tea in our pajamas and enjoyed a slice of warm, delicious strawberry cake, while admiring the new tea set that she had received as a Christmas present.

A beautiful transformation occurs every time I enjoy a cup of hot tea. I think of all the many tea parties I have had in my life, and the places where I’ve been while enjoying this delicious taste treat. Tea was a big deal where I grew up. We enjoyed a glass of iced tea almost every night for supper after we drank our milk. In the winter time, hot tea was a welcomed treat after playing outside in the snow. We enjoyed watching the cubed sugars melt away in our teacups. The tea party is a timeless tradition, and one I have never quite grown out of. I have several tea sets in my home today, and enjoy sipping hot tea from a special cup while sitting in front of the fire place every weekend. If you come to visit me, I will be sure to brew a pot of hot tea just for you.

Emily went on and on about a young man in her preschool class. “Nanny,” she said, “Benjie Barlow is my best boyfriend and he will be my best boyfriend forever.” With furrowed eyebrows, I looked at my four year old granddaughter and asked, “So, you plan to marry this Benjie?” “Oh no, Nanny!” Emily was emphatic. “And why not?” I asked, taking another sip of the hot tea. “No babies, Nanny. I do not want to have any babies.” Somehow, I found that hard to believe as Emily clutched her brand new baby doll underneath her arm. “But, Emily,” I said, “I’m hoping one day to be a great grandmother.” “Silly, Nanny, you are a GREAT grandmother.” Emily’s words didn’t skip a beat. I find it amazing how a little child can melt the heart of a grandmother with one simple sentence. For one brief, fleeting moment, my mind was suspended in time, seeing what could possibly be in twenty-five years or so. I was dreaming of the life my Emily might have in a world where I would either be much older or have passed on to my eternal home. Emily reminded me that true greatness does not necessarily come through the passing of generations, but it exists in the here and now. For a four year old, my granddaughter borders brilliance, don’t you think?

Pilate asked Jesus a question, and Jesus answered him directly. His kingdom is not of this world, but of the world to come. What we see in Him now, is only a mirrored reflection of the magnificence He will be in our eternal home. What a tea party we have to look forward to, when Jesus takes His place at the right hand of the Father forevermore. Come and dream with me as we imagine how great our forever will be in the awesome presence of our Savior and King.

Grace and peace,

Deb Spaulding

Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO

www.songofdeborah.com

___________________________

© Copyright 2009, Deb Spaulding

All rights reserved

Articles may not be printed in any “for profit” publication without further permission by the author. Articles may be freely distributed via e-mail, reprinted in church bulletins or in other non-profit publications without further permission. Please keep this copyright and Web Site information intact with copied articles. Articles are sent originally to subscribers only. You may have received a forwarded or reprinted copy.