From our Smoky Mountain home up on the mountain – down in the ‘holler – by the ‘crick’ . . . to wherever you and yours may be this Christmas . . . we wish you the Gift of the One who left Heaven for earth 2,000 years ago to bring “Peace on earth, good will to men” to everyone who chooses to accept the only eternal promise of hope and joy this world has.
Last week, some 5,000 miles north-by-northwest, found me gliding through freshly fallen snow. Shortly thereafter, some 35,000 ft. above terra-firma, found me zooming through the skies at 600 mph in high-speed-aluminum tubing. This afternoon, some 2,000 ft. up in the Great Smoky Mountains, found me shuffling through fall’s fallen leaves . . . fictional Star Trek travel fantasy a mere century ago.
Walking on the moon is old history. Today, there are people are living above the earth in a high-tech mini-condo, and some everyday citizens (admittedly wealthy ones 😊) are taking short jaunts into space for a quick, high-altitude adrenaline rush.
As mind-boggling as today’s travel would have been to Lewis and Clark trudging through the wilderness in the early 1800s, imagine the travel future our children will experience … living on the moon … up close and personal exploration of our solar system’s other planets … traveling the expanses the Milky Way … ???
Yet, each of us has already accomplished 2 of the 3 legs of the most mind-boggling travel journey of all … Heaven to Earth. The last leg of the journey remains to travel, and has but one of two final, forever destinations . . . the choice is ours alone to decide.
It was already accomplished some 2,000 years ago, and multitudes have since followed:
“In My Father’s house there are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I, am you may be also.” – John 14:2-3
The third leg of our journey has been paid-in full for anyone who accepts the offer and trusts the One who has already made it. Mind-boggling? … For Sure! … Prove it! … Can’t! … that’s why it’s called Faith. Hope to see you there someday.
Keep Looking Up . . . His best is yet to come! . . . Mind-Boggling!
The photograph was taken the on a wilderness-wander the other day portraying the ambivalence of life’s journey . . . there will always be sunshine above, and tumultuous rapids below. The picture depicts sunshine’s Hope.
A recent totally unexpected, upsetting event threatened capsizing in discouragement’s rapids, but Grace kept me upright. A quote came to mind reminding me not allow yesterday’s failures to destroy today’s joys;
“To live above with the folks we love, that will be glory. To live below with the folks we know, that’s another story.”
Years ago, lamenting to a pastor friend how my life’s foremost, self-imposed failure had affected others and Christianity’s name, he compassionately, but candidly told me,
“It’s not about you Fred. You’re not that important. God and others will survive your failure”.
His words uncovered the root of all sins I’ve struggled with throughout my life . . . ‘I’m important’ self-pride.
Watching the rising sun evaporate clouds off the mountains this morning, a subtle, Divine duality of pride stuck me . . . in my own and the world’s perspective, I’m truly “not that important”. But I . . . the one who wandered away . . . God has undeservedly and sacrificially deemed “most important”, leaving the 99 to carry me back to the flock on His shoulders.
While we proudly take pride celebrating our country’s precious independence and freedom this 4th of July, may we ever remember it’s Him who has been carrying our nation on His shoulders, and endeavor to continue let Him do so in His way, not ours.
The unfiltered eyes and minds of children see things adults have forgotten to notice, and perceive the simple beauty of their significance.
I’ve shared this story at Easter before, but some stories are worth re-reading. Jeremy’s Egg portrays Easter’s meaning through the eyes and mind of a child with a precious understanding that no sermon has ever revealed to me. May it bless you as it has me, and continues to bless and humble me to strive to have the unfiltered vision and simple trusting faith of a child.
“Let the little children to come to me, and do not hinder the, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. – Jesus
Thank you Jeremy . . . Thank you Jesus . . . Happy Easter!
Ida Mae Kemple
Jeremy was born with a twisted body, a slow mind and a chronic terminal illness that had been slowly killing him all his young life. Still, his parents had tried to give him as normal a life as possible and sent him to St. Theresa’s Elementary School.
At the age of 12, Jeremy was only in second grade, seemingly unable to learn. His teacher, Doris Miller, often became exasperated with him. He would squirm in his seat, drool and make grunting noises.
At other times, he spoke clearly and distinctly, as if a spot of light had penetrated the darkness of his brain. Most of the time, however, Jeremy irritated his teacher. One day, she called his parents and asked them to come to St. Theresa’s for a consultation.
As the Forresters sat quietly in the empty classroom, Doris said to them, “Jeremy really belongs in a special school. It isn’t fair to him to be with younger children who don’t have learning problems. Why, there is a five-year gap between his age and that of the other students!”
Mrs. Forrester cried softly into a tissue while her husband spoke. “Miss Miller,” he said, “there’s no school of that kind nearby. It would be a terrible shock for Jeremy if we had to take him out of this school. We know he really likes it here.”
Doris sat for a long time after they left, staring at the snow outside the window. Its coldness seemed to seep into her soul. She wanted to sympathize with the Forresters. After all, their only child had a terminal illness. But it wasn’t fair to keep him in her class. She had 18 other youngsters to teach, and Jeremy would be a distraction. Furthermore, he would never learn to read and write. Why waste any more time trying?
As she pondered the situation, guilt washed over her. “Oh God,” she said aloud, “here I am complaining, when my problems are nothing compared with that poor family! Please help me be more patient with Jeremy.”
From that day on, she tried hard to ignore Jeremy’s noises and his blank stares. Then one day he limped to her desk, dragging his bad leg behind him.
“I love you Miss Miller,” he exclaimed, loud enough for the whole class to hear. The other students snickered, and Doris’s face turned red. She stammered, “Wh – why, that’s very nice, Jeremy. Now please take your seat.”
Spring came, and the children talked excitedly about the coming of Easter. Doris told them the story of Jesus, and to emphasize the idea of new life springing forth, she gave each of the children a large plastic egg. “Now,” she said to them, “I want you to take this home and bring it back tomorrow with something inside that shows new life. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Miss Miller!” the children responded enthusiastically – all except Jeremy. He just listened intently; his eyes never left her face. He did not even make his usual noises.
Had he understood what she had said about Jesus’s death and resurrection? Did he understand the assignment? Perhaps she should call his parents and explain the project to them.
That evening, Doris’s kitchen sink stopped up. She called the landlord and waited an hour for him to come by and unclog it. After that, she still had to shop for groceries, iron a blouse and prepare a vocabulary test for the next day. She completely forgot about phoning Jeremy’s parents.
The next morning 19 children came to school, laughing and talking as they placed their eggs in the large wicker basket on Miss Miller’s desk. After they had completed their math lesson, it was time to open the eggs.
In the first egg, Doris found a flower. “Oh, yes, a flower is certainly a sign of new life,” she said. “When plants peek through the ground, we know that Spring is here.” A small girl in the first row waved her arm. “That’s my egg, Miss Miller,” she called out.
The next egg contained a plastic butterfly, which looked very real. Doris held it up. “We all know that a caterpillar changes and grows into a beautiful butterfly. Yes, that is new life, too.” Little Judy smiled proudly and said, “Miss Miller, that one is mine!”
Next, Doris found a rock with moss on it. She explained that moss, too, showed life. Billy spoke up from the back of the classroom. “My daddy helped me!” he beamed.
Then Doris opened the fourth egg. She gasped. The egg was empty! Surely it must be Jeremy’s, she thought, and, of course, he did not understand the instructions. If only she had not forgotten to phone his parents. Because she did not want to embarrass him, she quietly set the egg aside and reached for another.
Suddenly Jeremy spoke up. “Miss Miller, aren’t you going to talk about my egg?”
Flustered, Doris replied, “But Jeremy – your egg is empty!” He looked into her eyes and said softly, “Yes, but Jesus’s tomb was empty too!”
Time stopped. When she could speak again, Doris asked him, “Do you know why the tomb was empty?”
“Oh, yes!” Jeremy exclaimed. “Jesus was killed and put in there. Then his Father raised him up!”
The recess bell rang. While the children excitedly ran out to the school yard, Doris cried. The cold inside her melted completely away.
Three months later Jeremy died. Those who paid their respects at the mortuary were surprised to see 19 eggs on top of his casket, all of them empty.
+ ^ Keep Looking Up . . . His best is yet to come!
Having the last word may be of benefit in a discussion, but of what benefit will your last words be?
As though it was yesterday, the last words my mother spoke to me before going Home at 93 still echo in my heart . . . “Later Freddy”. Those two words spoke, and continue to speak, the confident hope of eternal reunion someday.
Four words, cried out in inconceivable anguish, sealed that reunion on a cross 2,000 years ago . . . Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? . . . My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46
In the words of Pastor John Ortberg:
“The cross is the ultimate paradox: God experiencing the absence of God so that He can draw closest to us in our loss and grief.Jesus was in a sense never closer to us than when He was furthest from the Father”.
Wherever this Easter may find you, be it in trail or triumph, my prayer is you will find the confident hope of reunion in knowing the One whose last four words uttered in death, conquered it, and loved you into eternal life.
This picture sits on my desk reminding me how totally forgiven and loved I am, and the reunion that awaits