Saturday, May 31- Planting Flowers

     The church I
currently serve has a Mother’s Day tradition. It is, from my experience, A. a
tradition many churches have and B. a GOOD tradition! And what IS that tradition?
They give out flowers to the women of the congregation. And instead of cut
flowers, that last a day or two and then end up in the trash, they give out
potted flowers…suitable for planting. This Mother’s Day…yet another Sunday I
couldn’t BE at church!…they gave out beautiful flowers.

     That means that
both my wife and my mother-in-law can home with a potted flower. We put them on
the deck and kept them watered and alive until we got a larger pot and some
potting soil. Along the way, we also got another potted flower, so we bought
TWO larger pots and larger bag of potting soil!

     A couple of days
ago, the weather was nice and we were sitting out on the deck, enjoying the day
and visiting with a couple of church staff members who just “happened” to come
by! I thought that might be a good time to plant the flowers. So I got everything
out and got to work.

     As I prepared the
pots with the potting soil and planted the flowers, I was transported back to
Southern Illinois in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I have shared before that I
grew up out in the country. We had a HUGE garden and so planting, tending and
growing were a big part of who we were. (To this day, I can do a pretty good
job of keeping outside plants alive and flourishing. INSIDE plants, however,
seem to be on the “endangered species list” if they are under my care!)

     My parents,
especially my mom, instilled a great love of nature in me. I was taught to
appreciate the beauty of the earth. I was taught to appreciate the diversity of
nature. And I was taught to cherish life. And as we would plant seeds (or
seedlings), I would imagine the process that was to come- 1. they go in the
dirt (from which WE were also made!), 2. the sun and the rain nourish them, 3.
they begin to sprout and push up through the soil, 4. they grow to maturity and
5. they produce the “fruit” for which they were intended.

      What an amazing parallel to our “growth cycle”
as Christians! We start at the bottom, wallowing in the dirt of everyday life.
The sun (Son?) and the rain (Living Water?) nourish us. We begin to sprout and
push up above the pull of the world. We move closer and closer to spiritual
maturity. And we begin to produce “fruits”. I am convinced that this IS the
cycle foe which God intended us.

     Where are YOU at
on that spectrum? If you are not as far along the continuum as you would like
to be…or think you should…don’t fret. It is NOT a sprint- it’s a marathon.
And WHERE you are on the journey is not nearly as important as THAT you are on
the journey. Are you on the journey? Are you making progress? Is it FORWARD
progress? Then hang in there- you are moving the right way. Now, begin to
discern what your fruits are. As you continue on the journey, God will reveal more
and more of what those fruits are and how you might best use them to serve Him
by serving others!

     Thanks for stopping
by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again
tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

     Tomorrow- Breathing
Hospitality: I Care!

Friday, May 30- Oh, the GNATS!

     I don’t know about
where YOU live, but where I live…there is a problem! It is such an insidious
problem that it affects everything I do outside. AND…there seems to be no
answer in sight! The problem is, of course…gnats! Since Spring actually came
(and where I live, that has been an…uneven process!), the gnats have been
horrible!

     What IS a gnat?
Well, according to Wikipedia (and we ALL know that Wikipedia is infallible-
everything they print is 100% accurate!!), the gnat is- “any of many species of tiny flying insects in the Dipterid suborder
Nematocera, especially those in the families Mycetophilidae, Anisopodidae and
Sciaridae. The common gnat is the species Culex pipiens
.” Got that? “Clear
as mud, Pastor!”

     They are
everywhere. If you walk in the grass…or near the grass…forget about it! You are
going to be swarmed! (Wikipedia also said that it is the male gnats that often
assemble in large mating swarms…or “ghosts”. So the next time they swarm me, I
can call it a ghost…while I swat the daylights out of my head and run like a 4
year old being chase by a bee!) But if you are outside…period…you are going to
be impacted by these nasty little devils. (And I choose that word carefully!)

     I know it’s bad
when I take the dogs out. The second they hit the grass, a cloud…or ghost…forms
around them. Then, suddenly, those poor dogs aren’t all that interesting in
what “outside” has to offer- they want to get their business done as soon as
possible and get back in the relative safety of the house.

     I am reminded of
one year when I was a kid. It was one of those years with the locust. I have NO
idea if they were the 7-year or the 10-year or the 14-year or whatever they
were, but they seemed like to 1,000-year! They were everywhere that summer. And
when they landed on you…you KNEW it!

     The gnats, the
locust- there is ALWAYS something out there to bother you. No matter who you
are, no matter what you do…there will be something there that will try and trip
you up. Life is NEVER going to be all kittens and moonbeams. We want to think
it is, especially as Christians. You know- you accept Christ and then your life
will just fall into place- no worries, no strings attached!

     But we all know
that is simply not true. Life is hard. There are always roadblocks. So the key
is NOT whether you can avoid the trials and tribulations- you CAN’T. Instead,
the key is how you react to those trials and tribulations. You can choose to “swat
the daylights out of my head and run like a 4 year old being chase by a bee” OR…you
can choose to stand your ground and not let yourself be intimidated by the
things of the world.

     With all of the
experimental and, frankly, painful treatments, I have undergone over the past
year, I have had this lesson hammered home in a major way. You have two choices
in life. You can hide from or avoid the things that are unpleasant or painful,
knowing deep-down that they are NOT going to go away, regardless of what you
do. OR you can draw a line in the sand and insist that you will not be swayed,
knowing that God stands beside you- guiding you, encouraging you, protecting you.

     Thanks for stopping
by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again
tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

     Tomorrow- Planting
Flowers

Thursday, May 29- The Amended Picnic

     So…what did YOU do
for Memorial Day? I pray, quite sincerely, that you spent some time that day…every
day…remembering those who have gone before us who helped make us who we are.
While we shouldn’t…can’t…dwell in the past, we would be remiss if we FORGOT the
past. I am thankful for the countless folks who gave their lives that I might
enjoy the freedoms that I do!

     I also hope you
got to do something you enjoy. It was, after all, a NATIONAL holiday! (Although
I find that, more and more, a LOT of people have to work on national holidays!
I also find that I am somewhat of a hypocrite on the subject- I want people to
have the day off…but I also want to be able to go to the gas station and the grocery
store!)

     We had a rather
quiet day, which is NOT a bad thing, for my money. We all thought a picnic
sounded good. But between the temperature, the humidity, the stinkin’ gnats
that are EVERYWHERE and the fact that true picnics are a little tough for my
wife’s parents (who live with us) these days, we got creative. Or should I say,
my wife got creative! (She is, after all, the true “brains” of the operation!)

     We have a marvelous
porch on the front of the house. It is the entire width of the building and is
glassed in. It has two doors to the outside, both of which have glass that can
opened to reveal the screen and the fresh air. It also has louvered windows all
the way around, so you can shut them to keep the weather out or open them to
let the fresh air in! So we opened everything we could open and turned on the
ceiling fan for good measure.

     We then wheeled a
table out onto the porch. (If you read this site regularly, YES…it WAS “the
magic table”!) We dragged in lawn chairs from out on the deck and used the
couch that is on the porch for seating as well.

     I ran to the local
grocery store and picked up fried chicken that I had ordered the day before. We
already had potato salad, chips and dip, mac and cheese and fresh veggies
(crudites’, if you will!) and iced tea from an event we hosted a few days ago.
So everybody fixed their plate in the kitchen. Then we took everything…including
the dogs…out on the porch and had our picnic!

     There was a time
in my life when that solution would have been…less than satisfying. “That’s NOT
a picnic!” But these days, I am grateful for alternatives. I am NOT a big fan
of sitting on the ground- 2 back surgeries. I am NOT a big fan of sitting in
the grass…GNATS! (Did I mention the GNATS?!) I am NOT a fan of sitting in the
sun very long- sensitive skin AND bald head! But I AM a big fan of spending
time with my family and enjoying their company. And that, my friend, is exactly
what we did!

     I used to think
that, for an event to be “successful”, certain things had to be present. And if
those things WEREN’T present, then there was NO chance for success of
enjoyment. But I have learned that it is MUCH less about the picky little
details and much more about why you are doing it and with whom you are doing
it. In other words, life is about relationships. And those all stem from…should
stem from…a relationship with God. That relationship informs your other
relationships. And for me anyway, a lack of that relationship ALSO informs the
others.

     I pray you had a
safe, healthy, happy Memorial Day! Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a
blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with
Jesus!

     Tomorrow- Oh, the
GNATS!

Wednesday, May 28- The Apocrypha

     How did the Bible
come to be? That is a LOADED question! I could write pages and pages…chapters
and chapters…volumes of books on that subject. Meanwhile, my goal for this
daily blog is 500 words! So…here is the “Reader’s Digest” version!

     The books of the
Bible, especially the New Testament, were “chosen” over a period of years by a
variety of groups. (To say that Emperor Constantine and his bunch sewed the
whole thing up in 325AD at the First Council of Nicea is a bit of a stretch!
They DID, however, establish the Nicene Creed so…that’s something!) Many
Biblical scholars point to the Council at Carthage in 397 AD as the time when
the New Testament as we know it was fully established.

     The councils who
considered this topic tended to follow the following guidelines to decide whether
book was chosen for the New Testament:

1. Is the author an apostle or did they have a close
connection with an apostle?

2) Is the book being accepted by the body of Christ at large?

3) Does the book contain consistent doctrine and teaching?

4) Does the book offer high moral and spiritual values that reflect
a work of the Holy Spirit?

     The Early Christian
church had three criteria for determining what books would be included (and
left out) of the Canon of the New Testament. (“Canon” literally translates to “reed”,
which was used as a measuring rod. So the current version of the Bible is
called the canon because it is seen as the measuring rod or authority for
truth.

     400 years after Jesus
ascended into Heaven, people began to use the Greek word “biblia” (books) to
describe the collection of sacred writings. It’s where the word “Bible” comes
from.

The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written by about 40
different authors from all walks of life (kings, fishermen, a tax collector,
tent maker, etc.) over a period of 1,600 years. The Old Testament has 39 books,
divided into 4 divisions: the Law, the History, the Poetry and the Prophets. The
27 books of the New Testament are arranged into four divisions: the Gospels,
the History, the Letters and the Revelation.

     So, that’s the
Bible. But what of the books that DIDN’T make the cut? Are they lost to
history? In large part…no. Many of those books still exist and can be easily
found, both online and in print. Collectively, those books are called the Apocrypha.
Technically, the definition of the word is “statements or claims that are of
dubious authenticity.” The word finds its origin from the Latin adjective “apocryphus,”
meaning “secret or non-canonical”, as well as the Greek adjective “apocryphos”,
meaning “obscure” and the Greek verb “apocryptein”, meaning “to hide away”.
Depending on how you specifically view “Apocrypha”, there are as many 200-300
books out there that “didn’t make the cut”.

     I have had many
conversations about these books over my years in the ministry. I have heard
people, clergy and laity alike, who can’t tell the difference between reading
Apocryphal books and the worst idea they have ever heard. I have also heard
people, again clergy and laity alike, who nearly insist on including them in “required
reading”, lifting them up as “gospel” (every pun intended!)- “They are in print…AND
agree with my agenda…so they MUST be true!”

     I tend to fall
somewhere between those two extremes. (And if you know me very well at all,
that CAN’T come as any big surprise!) I have read many of them (Seminary
offered several as required reading!) and found them interesting. I have NO
problem with reading them. I do, however read them through a particular lens.
They are NOT part of the Canon…the Bible. And it wasn’t one person, or even one
group of people, who shaped that Canon. So I struggle with simply writing the
choices off as the agenda of one man or a handful of men.

     I believe that the
Bible is the inspired Word of God. Notice the word “inspired”. People wrote the
words down, to be sure. And because of that, they each put their spin on
things, to be sure. But I cling tight to the understanding that, beneath all of
that, God’s guiding hand was on each and every writer and translator.
Therefore, I also cling tight to the understanding that, if a book is NOT in
the “finished product”, that was God’s plan.

     “So, Pastor- can I
reads the Apocrypha…or not?” Absolutely you can. Just read it with the
understanding that it is NOT part of the Bible for a reason. You will find
interesting stories in the Apocrypha. And if you go into it understanding the
context of those “extra-canonical” (outside the Bible) books, you will not have
a problem!

     Thanks for
stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back
again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

     Tomorrow- The
Amended Picnic

Tuesday, May 27- Good Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

     Are you familiar
with the song Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap? No? It’s from those well-known Easy
Listening artists…AC/DC! (I once saw an interview with Angus Young [leader
guitarist] and Brian Johnson [lead vocalist]. Young was asked to describe
Johnson’s vocals. He thought for a moment, smiled and said…in his marvelously
unique Scottish/Australian accent, “It’s really more like screamin’ than it is
singin’, isn’t it?!”) The song is not necessary one that I would want to lift
up in this space…except for the chorus, which is simply, “Dirty deeds, done
dirt cheap.” I had an experience this past weekend that made me think of that song-
particularly the chorus. It wasn’t because it was about a dirty deed done dirt
cheap. Instead, it was because it involved a GOOD deed done dirt cheap!

     Let me preface
this story by saying that I have a habit…apparently a BAD habit…of taking my
phone out of my pocket as I’m getting in the car and setting it in my lap. (Can
you already see where this is going?) Over the weekend, my wife, my younger son
and I went to the local Walmart. We got what we needed and then headed to the
check-out lanes. As the cashier was ringing things up, I went to get my phone-
my phone case is also my wallet. It was not in the pocket in which it was
supposed to be. I checked other pockets…every pocket. No phone! About that
time, the cashier said, “$78.45.” I had $37 in cash with me!

     I ran…and I do
mean ran…to the car. I knew that, if it was there, it would either be on the dashboard
or…on the ground outside the car, having fallen off my lap when I got out! I
got there, looked…nothing! Aaawwww SNAP, son! So I ran back in, wondering what
to do next. As I entered the store (This by the way, is a rather…intimate…Walmart!),
I thought that perhaps someone found it and turned it in. (I also realized that
the only OTHER option at this point was someone found it…and kept it!) As I
went around to get to the Customer Service counter, my son said, “There it is!”
I looked and, sure enough, there it was! I thankfully retrieved my wallet, paid
for our things (Bless that cashier’s heart, who had been standing there all
that time!) and went home.

     The moral of this
story is two-fold:

1. I should STOP putting my phone in my lap when I get in the
car!

2. There are LOTS of good people in the world. Sure, there
are a decent amount of…NOT so good people as well. And we are inundated with stories
about them. But the truth is that the good people outweigh the bad ones. The
world is NOT simply a horrible place populated with bullies, thieves, murderers…and
you!

     God’s creation is
good. Not everything in it is perfect, but it is GOOD. Do you see that on a
regular basis? Are you able to look past the CNN headlines and see the good?
Actually SEE it? It’s there, if you are willing to find it. Do that. Find the
good in the world…and celebrate it. BE the good in the world…and others will
celebrate it! Oh, and to the good Samaritan who found my phone/wallet and turned
it in…“thank you!”

     Thanks
for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back
again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

     Tomorrow- The Apocrypha

Monday, May 26- Darn Astronomers!

     I have always been
a bit of a geek when it comes to…space. And by “space”, I do NOT mean how big
my closet is! Instead, I refer to “space” of the “outer” variety! I remember
distinctly sitting in front of our black and white console TV (my dad made sure
the tubes were all good by taking them down to Reese Drug Store and plugging
each of them into the tester!) on Sunday, July 20, 1969 and watching Neil
Armstrong become the first human to step foot on another celestial body. Armstrong,
Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins slipped the surly bonds of Earth and made
history.

     I followed all of
the NASA missions…still do. (Periodically, I get on their website to see the
latest images being beamed back from the surface of Mars!) I watched Star Trek.
I geeked out so bad my head nearly exploded when the original Star Wars came
out! (I don’t care if the call it Episode Four or A New Hope…it will ALWAYS be “the
original Star Wars” to me!)

     I have a
fascination with ancient cultures that seemed to understand so much about the
constellations and the movement of bodies in the night sky. Massive structures
were built that were PERFECTLY aligned to the rising of the sun, the setting of
the sun, the North Star, etc.

     I also have always
been interested in watching the night sky, looking for “shooting stars”. Of
course, we all know that they aren’t REALLY stars- they are buts of rock and
dust from the trail/tail of a comet. They enter the upper atmosphere and then
burn up. I remember laying out in lawn chairs on nice summer nights watching
for them!

     One of the MANY
things I love about my wife is that she is as interested in those things as I
am. (She has managed to foster that interest and yet NOT be a geek…unlike me!)
So ever since we started dating, April 29, 1977, we have spent hours and hours,
collectively, watching for meteor showers. And with the rise of the electronic
age and instant information, that pursuit has become MUCH easier…and harder!

     Before this past
weekend, the last 2 or 3 attempts at shooting star watching have been…less than
satisfying. We have gotten up in the middle of the night, driven out of town,
into the middle of nowhere (to get away from the ambient light of town) and
pulled off on the side of the road to watch. And over those 2 trips, spanning
at least an hour total, I saw 2 and she saw 1!

     And then, this
newest one was announced. A comet whose tail had never before been close enough
to have Earth pass through it was going to be, for the first time in recorded
history, just that close. The “experts” were predicting a shower of monumental
proportions. Well, we couldn’t miss that! BUT…I am a bit gun shy, based on
recent history. So we told our younger son that, IF it looked promising, we
would get him up at 2AM (the supposed peak) and go out to watch.

     So, I dutifully got up at 1:50AM and went
outside, in my shorts, t-shirt and flip flops, to see what’s what about you
know what! I went behind our house, because there are spots back there that
allow for no direct artificial light. I stood out there for almost 15 minutes,
during the “peak time” of what could have been the greatest meteor shower in
memory, and I saw…NOTHING! Oh, sure- the sky was crystal clear and beautiful.
Oh sure, I identified a few constellations. Oh sure, it was very peaceful and
quiet. But not ONE stinkin’ shooting star! Finally, I went back in and started
up the stairs to the bedroom, where I met my wife coming down, dressing and
with jacket in hand. “It’s a bust…let’s go to bed!”

     This event reminds
me of two things:

1. Predicting meteor showers, much like predicting the
weather, is MUCH less science than art. Nature is going to do what it what it
wants to do, regardless of what all the people with the fancy degrees say is
going to happen.

2. When we pin our hopes on other people, we are bound to be
disappointed…even hurt.

     Don’t get me
wrong, I do NOT mean to imply that we are always let down by other people- far
from it. There are LOTS of people in my life who consistently come through in
major ways…for me, for others, for God. There are LOTS of people in my life
that I know full well will always be there for me.

     Instead, people
are…well…people. We are flawed, imperfect vessels of clay. We try really hard, and
often we come through. But there are those times…! Our joy should be built around
God in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the ONLY one Who can offer us true joy.
He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is dependable. And He always
makes good on His promises, even the meteorological ones!

     Thanks
for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back
again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

     Tomorrow- Good
Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

Sunday, May 25- Breathing Compassion: I Understand

     On March 20th, 1991, 4 ½ year old Conor Clapton, son of rock guitar legend Eric Clapton, slipped out of a 53rd story window, falling 49 stories and landing on the roof of an adjacent 4-story building. The housekeeper had been cleaning the window in the New York City apartment Conor shared with his mom. She left the window open to air out the room. Conor ran past her to the window…and fell out. Both Clapton and Conor’s mom were understandably devastated. 
     On January 7, 1992, not quite a year after Conor’s death. Clapton released the song Tears in Heaven- it is about the devastation of losing his son. The lyrics include these words:
     “Time can bring you down. Time can bend your knees. Time can break your heart, have you begging, “Please”, begging, “Please”. Would you know my name if I saw you in Heaven? Would you feel the same if I saw you in Heaven? I must be strong and carry on, ’cause I know I don’t belong here in Heaven.”
     Today we continue our current Sunday sermon series that will lead us through the weeks that I am “banned” from the real pulpit! Seriously, during my recovery and absence from the church I currently serve, there are incredibly capable and committed folks who will be “guesting” in the pulpit…and doing a marvelous job! I am eternally grateful to them for their willingness. So I offer this series NOT for their benefit…or frankly even yours! I offer it as a challenge to…ME…to get back in the saddle and push forward…Breathing Life. Each week, we will focus on some aspect of our faith that we can intentionally “breathe” into our day-to-day life, with the ultimate goal of breathing new life into our souls. So far, we have looked at breathing sight, breathing health, breathing wholeness and breathing faith. Today, we consider breathing compassion- I understand.
     What is compassion? It’s a deep awareness of the suffering and sorrow of another person, coupled with the strong desire to relieve it. It’s the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it. A synonym for compassion is tenderness, while the opposite of compassion is indifference.
     Luke 7:11-17 Soon afterwards Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his followers and a large crowd traveled with him. When he came near the town gate, he saw a funeral. A mother, who was a widow, had lost her only son. A large crowd from the town was with the mother while her son was being carried out. When the Lord saw her, he felt very sorry for her and said, “Don’t cry.” 
     So, Jesus is traveling from Capernaum when he comes to the city of Nain. Nain is 25 miles southwest of Capernaum and 10 miles southeast of Nazareth. He is traveling with the disciples…and a large crowd. Near the East Gate into Nain were a series of rock tombs. As Jesus nears the East Gate, He meets a funeral procession coming out of the city. Thee funeral was for a young man whose only surviving family is his mother. The young man had probably been dead for a day. It was heading toward evening when Jesus meets the procession…and the widow/mother.
     This woman was now completely alone and unprotected, being without a close male relative. There was a large crowd following the funeral procession. It was somewhat typical that mourners would be hired to increase the observance of mourning. Additionally, as the procession would pass, other people would customarily drop what they were doing and join in. The bereaved mother/widow would have been walking in front of the procession, so Jesus would have met her first.
     As He sees her, He also sees her pain, her loss and her grief. His heart goes out to her- He shows compassion. He tries to comfort her, “Don’t cry.” It brings us back to Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven- have you ever felt so much pain, loss and grief that you feel like you simply can’t go on? Have you ever felt like it didn’t matter? And besides, who would care? 
     Offering consolation is often a difficult thing. You try to make people feel better, but the initial cause of the grief is still there. But in THIS story, Jesus doesn’t just try to offer consolation- He removes the very cause of the grief.
     He went up and touched the coffin, and the people who were carrying it stopped. Jesus said, “Young man, I tell you, get up!” And the son sat up and began to talk. Then Jesus gave him back to his mother. All the people were amazed and began praising God, saying, “A great prophet has come to us! God has come to help his people.” This news about Jesus spread through all Judea and into all the places around there.”
     Three friends die in a car accident and they go to an orientation in heaven. They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning you, what would you like to hear them say about you?” The first guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say … ‘Look, he’s moving!’”
     A note of clarification: the Scripture uses the word “coffin”, but it would have not been a coffin as we picture them. Instead, the body would have been lying on an open stretcher, covered by a cloth and carries by four men. 
     The people in the funeral procession must have had faith in Jesus. When He touched the coffin…just TOUCHED it…the whole entourage stood still. According to the common thought of the day, by touching the coffin, Jesus was immediately and automatically rendered unclean- the worst form of ritual impurity. But you know what? Jesus simply didn’t care; those were man-made rules. They were theologically legal tenets, designed for those who wanted to follow the letter of law and NOT the spirit. 
     Jesus stops the procession and commands…COMMANDS….the dead man to get up. The adult son then easily sits up begins to talk. He is TRULY alive. He is breathing life. In this one radical, unexpected act of tenderness, Jesus gives this “boy” back to his rejoicing mother. THAT is a true, unadulterated example of compassion.
     The people present were filled with awe and began to praise God. Notice how the people identify Jesus- they call Him a “great prophet” and say “God has come to help His people.” They are SO close…and yet SO far! Regardless, the news about Jesus immediately begins to spread.
     Four special meetings took place at the city gate that day. 
1. Two crowds met- there is a HUGE contrast between the crowd following Jesus and the crowd following the widow. Jesus and the disciples are rejoicing God’s blessing while the widow and her friends are
lamenting a death. Jesus is heading in and the mourners are heading out. If you were to find yourself in one of those crowds- which one would it be? Would it be the one that is triumphantly entering the city, joyfully entering into greater contact with the world of the living? Or would you be heading out of town, pulling farther away, lost in grief, sorrow and sadness?
2. Two sons met- one was alive, destined to die, while the other was dead, but destined to live. 
One was an “only son” while the other was the “only begotten Son”. The One Who was destined to die can make you the one destined to live.
3. Two enemies met- Jesus Christ, the Prince of Life, met the “last enemy”- death. He met it…and conquered it. And because of that, death no longer had same hold on the family, on life.
He didn’t eliminate death, which is a natural part of life. Instead, He defeated its hold on us and offered us a different way.
4. Two sufferers met- Jesus could easily identify with the widow’s heartache. She not only full of sorrow she was, but alone with no resources. Jesus not only saw but felt the pain that sin and death brought into the world…and He did something about it. 
     So, is this a story about a grieving mother or is it a story about raising someone from dead? The answer is, “Yes!” It is BOTH of those things…and so much more! But the questions is this- where are YOU in the story? Are you one of the disciples? Maybe you’re in the crowd following Jesus? Maybe you’re in the crowd following the widow? Maybe you ARE the widow? Maybe you’re the son? Or maybe, if you are like me, the answer to that question depends on the day and time! We are ALL of them at different times.
     The song Tears in Heaven also says this- “Beyond the door, there’s peace I’m sure. And I know there’ll be no more tears in Heaven.” Jesus has the power to bring hope out of tragedy. He has the ability to bring life by the power of His Word. He has the power to take away our sorrow and ease our pain. He has the power to resurrect our lives and put them back on track. Why? Because Jesus has compassion. He has a deep awareness of our suffering and sorrow…coupled with a strong desire to relieve it. He has the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others AND wanting to do something about it. He has compassion and tenderness- the opposite of indifference. 
     Four weeks ago, we took the 1st step to breathing new life into our faith through our sight. Our eyes were opened to the endless possibilities of a life lived in Jesus. Three weeks ago, we learned the 2nd step- health. Once our eyes are open, the possibilities begin to come into focus. And when that happens, our health…spiritual health…improves. Two weeks ago, we considered the 3rd step- wholeness. A focus on life and health leads to a greater understanding of wholeness- physically and spiritually. Last week, we looked at the 4th step- faith. And today, we looked at step #5- breathing compassion. We’ve made one more step on the journey to breathing life.
     Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!
     Tomorrow- Darn Astronomers!