Thursday, March 25, 2010

Heart Thoughts from Helen

Of Palm Trees and Parades

Palm fronds: a leaf from a palm tree, used as a symbol of victory or success

“They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” (John 12:13 (NIV)

When I think of palm trees I think of gentle breezes, blue green waters, and sand between my toes and the sun on my face. I think of a picture of my husband leaning against a palm tree on a Caribbean beach just a couple years ago. I don’t usually think of palm trees as symbolic of Jesus ‘victorious entry into Jerusalem except at this time of the year. I don’t usually consider palm trees and parades in the same thought. They are, however, pertinent to the Passion of Christ.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (John 12:13 NIV)

Most folks loves a parade. In McCormick, the small town in which we lived for eleven years, parades drew the town’s people en masse. Some of our grandchildren enjoyed these parades as demonstrated in many photographs we’ve taken during that time. Instead of palm fronds, candy is strewn all across the street. It’s a festive time. From where we lived, just two blocks off Main, we could walk to the parade. Older people brought lawn chairs and sat out in front of the old train station/ antique store. Christmas parades, Gold Rush Festival parades, July 4th parades. What is it that gathers a crowd to a parade?

One of my greatest desires as a girl was to ride a horse in the Christmas parade in Sumter. As a teenager my dream became a reality. I loved every minute of it: from the long ride into town to the lining up at the end of the parade (we all know why the horses are last on the list of entries), riding down Main Street on the crisp December day. It was thrilling. Don’t ask me why.

“See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech. 9:9)NIV

Jesus chose a colt, the foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:2; Zech.9:9) to ride in a parade into Jerusalem. The same Jerusalem that He wept over not long before transformed into a victory procession for the King of Kings. I’m thinking of a donkey on which His mother, Mary, rode into Bethlehem prior to His birth. No parade for her. And then there’s that white horse in Revelation 19 whose Rider is called, Faithful and True. Now that will be a parade you don’t want to miss.

People placed palm branches before the KING before they knew how He would reign. They didn’t know what victory would be won the following week. But He did!

Palms branches prior to His Passion,

Palm branches before the brutality,

Palm branches: symbols of victory and their owners showing no shame shortly thereafter.

The palms of hands that struck Him bear no resemblance to the “Hosanna” palms strewn before his humble yet regal ride through the city for which He wept. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often I have longed to gather your children”.

And now they gather…but not to be drawn together under His wings as little biddies for refuge.
Palm branches, praises sung, prayers prayed, preparation for a preponderance of agony, a parade of people pleading for a Savior.

Oh, the pathos of the week to come. Then, that same gentle Jesus made a whip and did some holy house cleaning in the Temple. “My House will be called a House of Prayer, but you’re making it into a den of robbers” (John 21:13)NIV

After I rode on horseback in the Christmas parade years ago, I had to turn around and take that horse back to the barn, brush, water, feed him and then go home. The parade was over but work prevailed. After my grandchildren watched the parades in town, ate all that candy and one or more got down off their Poppy’s shoulders, we went home to do whatever needed to be done.

What happens after the parade? You do whatever comes next.

What did Jesus do after the parade? He purged the Temple; He prepared for pain. He poured water in a basin, took up a towel and washed feet. I wonder if Jesus needs to purge our temples today. Not just the local church, but THE Temple of the Holy Spirit, my body, in which He dwells?? Perhaps our feet need to be washed from walking in the world.

Will you celebrate this Palm Sunday singing Hosannas to the king of kings and then be shocked when He proceeds to ‘clean house’ before He can use you in His service? Will you, like Peter at first refuse to let Him wash your feet? Will you fall asleep when He wants to meet with you during the wee hours of the morning? Or will you run scared at the first sign of danger? Will you betray Him like Judas, or deny Him like Peter? Will you be available to care for His family like John? What will happen to the palm branches after Palm Sunday? What will you do after the parade?

O, Holy One of Israel, impress upon my heart the meaning of it all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Heart Thoughts from Helen

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets,
Abuser of the messengers of God!
How often I’ve longed to gather your children,
Gather your children like a hen,
Her brood safe under her wings---“ (Luke 13:34, THE MESSAGE)

I have a framed card with a hen gathering her chicks under her wing. It was given to me by a dear friend a number of years ago. At the time I taught large couples Sunday School Class and had developed a deep and lasting love for them. They represented my ‘chicks’ and I did love having them all under my wings. Their hopes were my hopes, their grief’s grieved me; their spiritual growth sent my spirit soaring. I learned much more from them than they ever learned from me.

Nothing pleases a mother more than to have all her ‘chicks’ gathered around her. From the above verse I guess you could say that Jesus felt the same way about His children.

Yesterday, we visited my mother who resides at National Health Care in Sumter. Not long after Dennis and I arrived my older sister and her daughter joined us. Mother will be ninety-four on April 25. In recent days she’s experienced some mental confusion and her only remaining sighted eye is failing her. Thus we all gathered to evaluate and encourage.

Sisters, or at least I and my sister and my mother and her sister, Aunt Margaret (now deceased) laugh a lot when we get together. Yesterday was no different even though the circumstances were far from amusing. Perhaps its inappropriate affect that causes us to ‘make light’ of what we can so that the obvious remains out of sight and out of mind. Rather like the pink elephant in the room. Nevertheless, my sister, Judy, Shery, and Mother and I laughed a great deal. Laughter and tears often trade places back and forth in unusual circumstances. My heart cries out for Jesus as He wept over Jerusalem, seeking to gather her as a hen gathers her chicks….but they would not…….

Is Jesus still weeping over those He can’t gather under His wings before He comes again? Are all His ‘chicken chillun’ (as my grandmother Goodson used to call us) gathered in under His wings? Are there any sisters or brothers clucking and running the other way? Don’t refuse and turn away. Can you see Him sitting on that hillside, weeping?

The way of love is never an easy way. Jesus wept over His city and, alone, faced the cross on their behalf…and ours.

If we set our hearts to Him as our example, we must be prepared to suffer. “It was the way the Master went: should not the servant tread it still?”

Beloved, let us love.

Lord, what is love?

Love inspired My life, and led Me to My Cross, and help Me on My Cross. Love is that which will make it your joy to lay down your life for your friends.

Lord, evermore give me this love.

-- Amy Carmichael

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Heart Thoughts from Helen


“Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: God appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory,” (1Timothy 3:16(NIV)

Lord, my heart is full. Can we walk and talk together a bit?

Friends, who come from Jesus, are a special grace! They come, tense with cares behind and before, and share heart to heart.

Comfort my friend, Lord.

Where eyes are dulled by pain; shine your light there. Where foreheads furrow in futility and fear; smooth the brow.

Yoke the load alongside Yourself. Master of the wind and sea, steady the boat.

Lord, like Moses, my shoes are off; my knee is bent. My head is bowed. The ground feels holy. You are greatly to be reverenced. “Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” (Hebrews 12:28 ASV)

Answered prayers that include ME! I stand amazed, humbled beyond words. How do You do that?

And, Lord, thank you that Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105) You’re doing it again, shining Your light on the path for those seeking guidance.

Father, you’ve strengthened my weaknesses, forgiven my selfishness. Thank you for this conversation made possible through Christ, My High Priest and Intercessor.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Heart Thoughts from Helen

“Take heed, be quiet, fear not, nor be fainthearted,” (Isaiah 7:2)

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, blizzards, mudslides, floods, gale force winds continents away are referred to as ‘natural disasters‘.

Fiscal fiascos everywhere including unemployment, bank failures, health care push, housing market gone bonkers in what is called ‘economic downturn’ or ‘recession’. We could call them ‘un-natural disasters’.

Elected officials at each other’s throats; backbiting while smiling simultaneously. They promise things they do not or cannot provide. Tea parties in the name of citizen revolt labeled ‘political unrest’. YA THINK!!!???

Wars in Afghanistan, troops still in Iraq, rumors of wars everywhere it seems. Unrest here, assassinations there. Braggadocios dictators ranting and raving.

Just that is enough to make us all tremble in terror or attack in anger at the state of the world. And that doesn’t even begin to mention the universal unrest and rumors of nuclear warheads wiping Israel off the face of the map as well as the United States. How in the world did the United States of America come to be called “The Great Satan”?

What about our battles on a more local level? I just read the book, STAYING TRUE, by our state’s first lady, Jenny Sanford. While the whole world rocks and rolls with the punches, the heads of state and their families undergo their own personal purgatory. And our state isn’t the only suffering state in that regard. Staying true remains a constant struggle for those in the political arena as well as those of us who are among the rank and file. Spiritual stamina strikes a shockingly loud cymbal crash when all else fails.

Locally, rains, snows, floods, families unemployed, children exploited, divorce, the guilty rich go free while the poor pay their dues in jail.

Nursing home patients sit/lie in wheelchairs, staring with unseeing eyes at the hallway hubbub. Hospital corridors winding around and around in a maze of misery for patients and visitors all waiting for some good news.

All this isn’t really new, you know. In the days of Isaiah, the same issues with slightly different twists took place in a far away part of the world that has huge implications for the worldwide community. Just when all seems lost and impossible and unbearable, the LORD God Almighty comes forth and speaks. In this instance, through His prophet, Isaiah: “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last”. But just prior to that He gives us some pertinent instructions:

• Take care
• Be calm
• Have no fear
• Do not be fainthearted

Is that a message for us today? Personally, I take it to heart and am reminded daily to implant it on my brain, carry it in my heart, and share it with whomever will listen.

I choose to believe!!! And because I believe I will last throughout eternity with the LORD God Almighty, because He says so!

In light of that fact, I attempt to ‘take care, be calm, have no fear, and not be fainthearted’, no matter the natural disasters, political unrest, economic downfall or personal failures and defeats, bad health, death and taxes. Our God Reigns!

And…”my life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3) ALLELUIAH!