The season of hope is upon us! Here is the first of today’s messages concerning Holy Week!
The season of hope is upon us! Here is the first of today’s messages concerning Holy Week!
This is the continuation of Jerome’s story after the lights went out. If you missed the last edition or any before they can be accessed here or on “The Stories” Page:
Today Oliver picks up where Jerome left off.
The Good Shepherd Pt. 5
I remember sitting beside Poppie in his last wheezes. Nannie had dropped dead two days before in the kitchen. There was no one to call. No one would come anyway. So I managed to drag her body into the bedroom and close the door. I cried a thousand tears that night, but even my little girl wailing couldn’t cover over Poppie’s labored breathing from the other room. Without his oxygen he could do little more than sit and stare at the candle I kept lit on the mantle-piece in place of the television. He still thumbed his Bible pretending to read in the dark.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:…
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:…
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:…
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross….
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:…
That at the name of Jesus…”
He gasped between the quotations and always finished with “He’s comin’ soon little girl. Don’t give up.”
I stayed until I couldn’t stand the smell anymore. Three days maybe four.
Poppie had taught me the woods. I had a pack and a little tent. I knew I wasn’t going to survive in the city. So I walked straight out along the edges of 101 until it met with 68 then over towards the old 32.
I met Jolly’s boys (I never called them Bone Brothers, what a dumb name) one day while I was fishing the hollows with a hook and string and a bit of bread. The first thieving we did was for hunting and fishing supplies. I wanted a hunting pack but when Jolly realized it was quicker to steal food than hunting gear I ended up with a juvy chain gang. Still Poppie always said “You work with what you got.”
When the Good Shepherd came I pretty much thought it was God giving me a break. When the cops came and killed all my friends and arrested the only man who ever tried to help us I realized it was a punishment… just slow like God usually works.
I watched between the roots where the good shepherd had hidden me. I watched them strip off his clothes and march him off towards town barefoot and naked. When they’d gone I went and gathered my stuff. My tent was all covered with bits of brains and bones. The cops had taken all the food. But my pack inside my tent was safe. My boots were still inside.
I thought about heading deeper into the woods, but the key Jerome had given me was burning in my pocket. I headed towards town keeping well off the roads. He never told me which church it was I was supposed to hide in. Most of that first night I hunkered in shadows and ran between beams of moonlight. I tried three church doors before I found the right building.
I wandered through the deserted building. Something made me take my shoes off at the sanctuary door. I remembered the story of Moses and holy ground. Thinking maybe if I played it right God would let my people go, bring Jolly and the others back and let the Good Shepherd go.
I walked up to the altar steps feeling the plush carpet smoosh between my bare toes and I knelt down. “Jesus I’m sorry about what I let the boys do. I guess we deserved what we got, but Jerome… you sent him. Now he’s in trouble all because of us. Help him.”
That’s when I saw the dress in the box under the cross. It had blue flowers on a white background and a pin on the lapel that read, “helps committee”. It even fit. I found a matching pair of shoes in the bottom of the box. It was God’s plan and my choice.
I started visiting the jailhouse the next day. I introduced myself as Virginia, but no one cares what your name is when your pretty. They just trust your eyelashes. A few bats of the baby blues and I was in like Flynn. I had brought extra blankets the first day. The second day I brought a thermos of tea. The third I brewed up some coffee for Jerome and an extra thermos for the deputies.
“You all work so hard.” I cooed “It’s just not right that I bring coffee for the pastor and not for you fine men in blue.”
Word circulated that the pastor was going to be tried for treason against the town council on Monday next. The deputies told me that under martial law the penalty for helping the Bone Brothers would be death for the Good Shepherd.
On Sunday I brewed two thermoses of coffee and went for my usual visit. I had also sawed half way through my right heel. The guard smiled at me as I walked into the station holding up the thermos of coffee for the deputies.
“We just love it when you visit us Virginia!” the crew chief smiled.
I screamed as my heel came unglued. Hot coffee splattered the protective glass as the thermoses smashed against the walls where I flung them. I made sure to cushion my fall with the powdered creamer I had taken from the church. Fine white powder exploded beneath my left hip mixing with the puddles of hot brown liquid congealing around my dress.
He didn’t notice when I lifted his keys from the belt. I made sure I lamented loudly about my only good shoes as he mopped up the floor with towels from the back. He insisted I go in and visit while he cleaned up. I unlocked Jerome’s cell. I put paper in the latch of the doorway into the cell block. Then I put the deputy’s keys back on his desk.
“I’m just too upset to visit today deputy. I’ll come back tomorrow.” I hobbled out of the station.
It was midnight when Jerome knocked softly on the church door. I was packed and ready to go. It’s time someone else was told about Tyson and his martial law in Winchendon.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” John 13:1-9
Today is the day within Holy Week on which we remember the last supper of Jesus. I can easily find three sermons just in this passage alone and Maundy Thursday takes us all the way through the Olivet Discourse in John 16. This is one of the richest passages in all of Scripture; So I won’t even try in 300 words to take you into the deeps of Maundy Thursday teaching. Allow me to just leave you with a question.
Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet was His act of service to His disciples. Peter wanted to refuse because he thought himself unworthy to receive Jesus’ service. Is there any area in your life where you are not allowing Jesus to come with His power to serve you because you feel you don’t deserve it?
“Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the
Holy Spirit who lives in us.” 2 Tim. 1:14
It’s the last day of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week! We made it!
As I sought God this morning He sent me off with this warning from 2 Timothy. Every lesson, every experience is an opportunity for increased authority. Not every experience is good but if we love God and follow His purposes for our lives, He will work everything for our good. As we walk with God and as our authority increases we have to be careful not to lose that authority through careless living or careless relationships.
I have learned much on this journey. I know there is an enemy out to steal what I have gained. There is an enemy out to steal what you have gained to. Let’s agree today to guard this grace we have been given.
We are coming to the wind down of the Lenten fast. Holy week begins in just two days! I am very excited for this set of holidays. I feel like we are launching into a great deep of Holy Spirit power. I sense the lessons of this fast have equipped me for what lies ahead.
Lent Day 29- This day’s questions were: What are three of your core values? Is there any part of your life that is conflict with these values? What can you do about that?
“Core values are traits or qualities that you consider not just worthwhile, they represent an individual’s or organization’s highest priorities, deeply held beliefs, and core, fundamental driving forces. Core values define what your organization believes and how you want your organization resonating with and appealing to employees and the external world.
Core values are also called guiding principles because they form a solid core of who you are, what you believe, and who you are and want to be going forward.” Susan Heathfield
Lent Day 30-
John Maxwell writes, “No matter how hard you try you cannot consistently behave in a way that is inconsistent with how you see yourself.”
Who am I? is the question of the day but maybe that is a little too broad to be answered easily. So let me narrow the parameters for you a bit:
What five words would you use to describe yourself (* you cannot use words that define what you do such as contractor, nurse, or parent)?
Lent Day 31-
Today’s question for meditation concerns integrity. John Maxwell writes, “When values, thoughts, feelings and actions are in alignment, a person becomes focused and his character is strengthened.
Integrity is defined by dictionary. com as-
My biggest takeaway here is from day 30. Who am I? My five words are: Accepted, Able, Creative, Contented, Victorious. This is how the word defines me. It’s not always how I see myself. So I have some work to do to build faith in my identity in Christ.
What’s your biggest take away?
This is the fourth installment of Jerome’s story. What will happen before the end? not just the end..THE END? If you’ve missed the adventure you can catch up here.
The Good Shepherd Pt. 4
Oliver is the girl who sleeps behind the organ at the church. I have hidden her there these last two months. The world went dark in January. It went mad in May. I keep thinking of My daughter’s last words to me.
“You said in times of trouble it’s the minister’s job to release the blessing and the peace of God over a community.”
Oh how I have failed my community. How I have failed my God. I have preached myself to exhaustion but no one has listened. Those I thought true believers have been unmasked. The leopard’s have shown there spots of hopelessness raking their claws of self-preservation through the fabric of society. The town is in shreds and this little white church and its rag-tag remnant is all that’s left of the island of decency and even that is hidden beneath the veneer of gunpowder and lead.
It was towards the end of March that I made my first trip into Sandy Hollow to find the Bone Brothers. The gang of wild boys had been attacking our town for over a month and a war between them and Tyson’s men in blue was imminent. I couldn’t sit back and just watch grown men kill little boys anymore. So I left mother, Anna and our precious spring gardens in the care of Silhouette. I traipsed with nothing more than my Bible and a bag of food into the Hollow.
My Grandfather used to take the cousins fishing in the backwoods to the North and West of Winchendon. Then it was hundreds of square miles of swampy marsh and forest crisscrossed by dirt roads and cart paths carved out of the woods during the Revolutionary War. Buried here and there in the enormous watery wilderness was the occasional homestead or dairy farm. Otherwise it had been a deserted land perfect for hunters and anglers, frequented by both. The years had seen some development of the Hollow. Tarred roads had replaced some of the dirt tracks but miles of ancient wilderness still gave the Bone Brothers ample places to hide far from the prying eyes and killing guns of Tyson’s men.
It took me most of the day to walk to my Granddad’s fishing hole. I prayed along the way that God would grant me favor and let me run into the renegade troupe. I knew in the natural my chances were slim but faith told me I didn’t need chance.
I stood over the half-frozen waterway near the intersection of two of the oldest cart roads. I remembered Grandad stringing my pole. I could see him pushing the helpless worm on the hook and casting my line into one of the deep pools on the opposite bank.
“What now?” I asked Heaven.
I felt a sharp pain in my back. My knees buckled. My vision went white then black. Voices caked with the blood at the back of my head ran like wintry rivers through my mind. Then I awoke. My vision pulsated with the rhythm of the bleeding lump at the posterior of my skull. I leaned over and vomited on the pine-needly snow.
A fire chuckled to the left of me and lit a circle of silent dirty faces gathered to its warmth. An older teen stepped from the dark of the pine bower prison into the light. His skin was as dark as the gathering night. This was Jolly, the Bone Brother’s leader.
“I thought we should kill you but Oliver said you might do us a solid if we let you live.”
“Do you a solid? Who says that?” I felt my sarcasm rising.
“We could still kill you.” He lashed back but I could see the young black man was uncertain. Jolly was the guts of the crew but Oliver was the brains.
Maybe Jolly should have killed me. It might have ended differently had he. He didn’t. It didn’t. Now Oliver sleeps behind the organ and all my little Bone Brothers are dead, killed by Tyson and his men. I worked for over a month to convince the Brothers to come in. I Gained their confidence. I brought them food every week in a cart I pulled through the late winter snow to Grandad’s creek. They went from hitting me over the head to blindfolding me on the walk to their camp.That was Oliver’s suggestion. She paid dearly for “getting me an in”.
Oliver is one of “the girl bothers”. She is the Wendy to Jolly’s lost boys. Maybe I’ve gone the extra mile for her because she reminded me of Renee at that age. Her curly brown hair was always arranged in an intentionally messy bun that said “I care how I look. I just want you to think I don’t”. Unlike the men of the clan her face was always washed. Her clothes were neat. Her wit was sharp and her mind was ordered. She was sixteen. Her grandparents died after a month without food and medicine. At that point Oliver, real name Olivia, had taken to the woods. She came across Jolly and his fledgling band quite by accident but proved her worth by helping them catch their first game. When hunger and numbers made hunting implausible it was she who arranged the first raids. Her successful strategies kept her in leadership even when she opposed Jolly’s more violent offensives.
I preached to her. I preached to all of the starving waifs. I preached even harder from my pulpit at the Parish. I saw the Bone Brothers responding. I was shocked by the ease of their acceptance. I saw my congregation dwindling. I was shocked by their rejection of the classic faith. While the Bone Brothers engulfed the message of the cross as if it were a gourmet dinner many of the faithful in my own congregation treated the Word as if it were a mouldered crust. Many of their lives no longer found a place for the Good News to rest. When I preached that the Good news was good news even in bad times I lost townspeople and gained Bone Brothers. When I preached the need to endure to the end I lost my neighbors but stopped the Bone Brothers from raiding.
May first was the day I was followed. The daffodils were up. The way to Grandad’s creek was lined with forsythia in full bloom. Spring warmth had replaced winter chill. My cart felt light with hope and heavy with food. At the creek Oliver blindfolded me and led me to the pine bower. The Brothers had not raided in almost three weeks. I had been working with the town council on bringing the gang in peacefully. Everyone but Tyson seemed willing. The Sheriff’s blood lust had grown with his hunger for power. If only I had a few more weeks I may have been able to outmanouevre the badge and gun. As it was I was the one on the wrong side of the Quarterback sneak.
As soon as my blindfold was off that day the gunshots started. Bone Brothers crumpled in explosions of blood. Jolly fell with a shriek on top of Marcus a twelve-year-old orphan. The gang leader’s eye oozed vitreous jelly and blood. Tyson’s men were firing from every angle. Oliver and I were only saved because we were nearest the river’s edge. The deputies had no approach from that angle and most of the Bone Brothers were between us and the snipers.
I dragged the girl into the swirling icy water. It was spring-swift and cold with the last of the winter melt but deep enough to hide us. She struggled.
I shook her and said “Choose to live!”
Then I took her under, baptized her into the world’s end, that place between the valley of the shadow of death and the Blessed Hope. We hid in a bass pool beneath the roots of an ancient oak. I left her there when Tyson called me out.
“When I’ve gone, go to the Parish.Hide until I come.” I pressed my church key into her hand and waded to the deadly safety of the Bone Brother’s last stand and Tyson’s waiting custody.
I am finally sitting down to do some writing tonight. It’s 10:30 P.M. and my day has been marvelously full! It started with two prayer meetings and a pastoral care team meeting. Tonight I returned to the church for rehearsal and a leadership development meeting. The opportunities to serve God are growing and the time of answered prayer is coming quickly. Walking in the healings of this season is a must for me and for our church. It is so exciting to see the healing which has taken place in our corporate lives since the beginning of the year. Yet I know God has so much more.
Here is a review of some of the lessons He has begun to work into our lives.
Lent Day 25- On this day I wrote, “The grace of God is here with us right now. That grace is the power of God to do that which we could not do for ourselves. As we open ourselves to it grace trains us, schools us in how to live godly lives and those godly lives are for the here and now. You don’t have to wait until you get to Heaven to have victory over addictions or deep-seated wounds that cause bad behavior. The grace of God is present now to help you in this age. If grace can change me it can change you. Do not give up let His grace work on you a little while longer and you will see a change. You may have been born with a bent to sin but if you let Jesus in He will turn you around so that you have a bent towards righteousness. No one is beyond His reach. No one!”
Lent Day 26- On this day I wrote, ”
The question is not, “Will trouble or evil reports come?” The question is “What will we do with them when they arrive?”
We have some choices. We can:
1. Receive the evil report and give up. This choice leads us to fatalism…doing nothing because we believe that the evil thing is inevitable.
2. Receive the evil report and worry. This choice leads us to fear. With this choice we help the evil report to grow into a monster that consumes all of our life and feeds on our hope until we are nothing more than burned out shells. In this scenario we become paranoid self-fulfilling prophecies of the terrible things we fear.
3. Hear the evil report but refuse to accept it on the basis of God’s promises. This choice leads us to radical faith that wrestles with God until He grants us a blessing.”
What are you doing with life’s evil reports?
Lent Day 27- On this day I wrote, “All of our hearts, plagued by sin, lead us astray and away from God’s intended purpose; So God weaves a story, a plan, around us that is large enough and tough enough for us to come to life in. We are forced either to run from God or submit to “God’s fierce intention to use both crippling and blessing to redeem us from our self-redemptive and purgatorial stories.” The Sacred Romance P. 66 ”
Have you ever struggled with God’s plan? How did you work through it?
Lent Day 28- This day’s question was, “What area of life if better disciplined will bring you closer to your goal(s)?”
What here stands out for you?
I am so glad that we are in the review stage of this journey. Today was a make-up day at the office since we lost a whole day to Winter Storm Ukko. It was back to back meetings followed by back to back phone calls and admin. A quick jaunt home to walk the little white dogs was followed by two music rehearsals. Supper was followed by finances and now I am at last sitting down to write at 10 P.M. This review is a great way to end out the day!
Lent Day 21- This day’s questions were: in your personal life, family life, corporate life, church life…
What has to change?
What is your mission?
What things in life need to change so that you can fulfill that mission?
As I come to the end of this journey I can truly say I am at peace with my position and mission. God has really affirmed the place where I stand.
Lent Day 23- On this day I wrote, “The Lord has shown me, though, that excellence is found not in reaching the goal ahead of everyone else or better than everyone else. In fact excellence does not deal directly with the goal at all. It deals with the way I walk this journey. Excellence deals with how fully I obey the calling of God. Excellence is found in being true to God in living. I see if I can just be true to the calling…if I can just focus on following God I will be satisfied and God himself will take care of the results. How liberating is that?!?”
And Lent Day 24- A day of quotes
“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.” ― Steve Maraboli
“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” ― Leonard Bernstein
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” ― Fred Rogers
And my favorite stress quote of all…
“We must have a pie. Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.” ― David Mamet
What point from these days stood out to you?
My God, inspire me
I can do so much more with you
Than I could do alone
Holy Spirit work through me.
Use me for your Kingdom’s name.- Lillian Lapoint
I am tossed around
And my heart becomes wounded
Yet so many think
There is no wound to be found
Lord please heal this heart of mine!- Deb Maciorowski
One day I feel flat
When my life is still and dry.
God’s breath fills me up,
To the shape I need to be
To bounce for Him with my all.- Lisa Johnson
I am tossed around
And my heart becomes wounded
Yet so many think
There is no wound to be found
Lord please heal this heart of mine!- Lisa Johnson
Here are some more photos from the day apart.
If you would like to join our artists in writing a verse inspired by C.cada’s March still life go right ahead.
1. Write your own poem about our still-life (any poetic form is acceptable). Entitle it C.cada March Still-life.
2. You may use the photo of our still-life in your blog.
3. Link back to this site so all of our readers can share in the fun of reading your post.
We continue today with our review of this season’s lessons. It’s been a season of great healing and growth. I hope as we approach Holy Week that you are finding new life and growth in Christ.
Lent Day 17- This days quotes:
This days question: What attitude are you wanting God to help you with?
Lent Day 18- This day’s opening question: What way of thinking do you want God to change in you
We humans have a need to consistently re-present ourselves to God in a mind-set of sacrificial living. We must constantly ask ourselves, “What area of this life needs to be given for love of Jesus.”
Such sacrifices always seem costly at the moment but as Jesus said, ” everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.” MA 19:29 NLT
The sacrifice will drive us into prayer and study of the Word, It will bring us out of the pathway that conforms with the world’s understanding. Our way will no longer follow the patterns of our upbringing, our families or our friends where those patterns come into conflict with the rightly divided Word of truth.
Through this season of Lent I feel my heart being prepared by God to walk in His miracles. I feel like He has given me a story larger than myself to live in, a story many others may struggle to believe. He is changing me so that I can live in the larger story.
How is God enlarging your story this year?
Lent Day 19- On this day I realize, I am romanced by a God who is wild and orderly all at once and so far beyond my ken that I stand everyday amazed by this Lover who has come seeking me!
When was the first time you encountered the God who loved you?
Lent Day 20-
I have been writing about the calling and the romancing of God these last few days. The Bible sometimes reads like a fairytale (with the exception of it being absolute fact). The call of a loving God beckons each of us to a happily ever after; But just like in every good fairytale there are dragons and dark castles filled with nightmares between us and the Love of our lives.
It is in discovering and conquering our dragons and monsters that we gain access to the plans of God and the intimate relationship that God wants us to have. One thing I have learned during this season of Lent is that sometimes our dragons lie invisible. Just beneath the surface of our hearts they rest slumbering under deep spells of denial. Yet even slumbering dragons have the power to keep us back from our dreams unless they are committed into the hands of the Savior who can defeat them all.
In light of this truth, What promises from God’s Word have the potential to propel you forward?
Which lesson from this review speaks most to you today?