Stories from the family

IDentification

By Dawn Taylor
4.25.2021

I woke up thinking about Jesus and his plea, "Father, if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground."  (Luke 22)

Was there any other way besides the Cross?

The waiting. He knew the time was approaching for God's ultimate plan of salvation, but he still grieved and called out in prayer as the day drew near. This morning, I thought about God, the Father. He had the power to take a shortcut, but He knew what was necessary to bring about ultimate salvation for all of humanity. He loved each of us so much that the earth shook when he turned his face away and Jesus died on the cross.

I'm probably going through one of the biggest trials of my life and I didn't see it coming. But God did and He has been providing hope and comfort. Most often, it's when I think of friends and family praying for me, that my tears start flowing. If only there was another way. Pleading earnestly that God would change the path that's been set before me. He has the power, but He also knows the bigger picture.

So often, my mind returns to the same theme...personally draw close to the potter (God), who knows the ultimate design for our lives, trust him to shape us, hold us and then be intentional in sharing life with others so they may be encouraged to find comfort in the words of scripture. Without him, we're just dust. We're all on a journey and God's given us the tools we need to handle the bumps in the road. The question is, are we using them? Abide in Him and we WILL bear much fruit. (John 15:5)


These are words I shared this morning during a testimony time at church, which I journaled as I woke up this morning. I am so grateful for all of those praying for me and would love to collect scriptures and prayers in the Well Wishes tab on this site. It seems like an easy place to go for encouragement...so please consider sharing some of the verses you have thought of for me as you've prayed.

May we all be encouraged!!

The Boxer

By Solomon Taylor
4.04.2021

God has never lost a fight.

I realized that tonight as I was praying for a friend of mine. They had been running into the same questions that Paul was asking about why we do the very things that we hate. On Easter, of all days, they felt hopeless that things would ever get better. So we prayed, and I started thinking about God’s track record.

All throughout the Bible, in every single fight He was ever in, God has never lost a battle. He cleared the way for a little runt of a nation to claim the best and most prosperous land in the area. He destroyed hundreds of thousands of enemy soldiers overnight. He sent a column of fire down to consume a sacrifice to show up a false god for what it was. And when Satan thought he’d finally struck a mortal blow to God by killing His only Son, that same Son came roaring back with a knockout of an uppercut. Today is Easter, the day we celebrate that final blow, the death of death itself.

And yet we still stumble. We still screw things up as royally as we can possibly manage. Why?

Because God wasn’t in the fight.

Going back to that knockout analogy, it’s a lot like a tag team boxing match. We’re in the ring for as long as we want to be, but to be honest, we suck. After centuries of trying, the best we could produce were the Pharisees. You know, the ones who got Jesus murdered. That’s the absolute best we’ve been able to come up with without God.

So we’re in the ring, and the enemy is beating the crap out of us. No wonder we’re hopeless. We don’t stand a chance in that fight. Our pride is the only thing keeping us from tapping out with our undefeated Champion over there. For whatever reason, we want to stick around in the ring. Maybe to prove that we’re just as good, or even better. Maybe because tapping out is a sign of weakness and defeat. Maybe because the enemy is so braggadocios that we’re convinced they’ll beat the Champion just as easily and we might as well spare Him the humiliation.

That’s where surrender comes in. But not to our enemy. That’s where we crawl over to the ropes, face down and bleeding, to have the courage and the humility to tap out with our Partner.

And now it’s His turn.

And the enemy can’t seem to land a hit anymore. The Champion is almost toying with him now. Punches and kicks are flying everywhere, every loophole is being exploited, every trick the enemy knows is coming out in that moment. The Champion dodges every single move with hardly a movement of His own.

Then the enemy throws an uppercut, and the Champion doesn’t budge. For a moment, there’s a gleam of triumph in his eye as the enemy’s fist connects with His jaw. But the Champion still doesn’t budge an inch. Staring His enemy in the eye, He reaches up, grabs him by the wrist, throws him over His shoulder, and slams him into the ground. Instant knockout.

God has never lost a fight. We just have to humble ourselves enough to let Him fight for us. But if we do, we will never lose. And that’s where our hope comes from.

Happy Easter, it’s the day our God conquered death itself.

Matthew 28 | John 20 | Magdalena's Story

By Rachel Schober
3.31.2021

I hear a soft knock at my door. I stand, take two paces and unbolt the latch.
“I heard you coming, Mara. You’re not very quiet in the dark.” I sigh, reaching for the bundle of spices and cloths I’ve prepared. “It doesn’t matter: I couldn’t sleep anyway.”

I follow Mara out into the darkness, pulling my scarf over my head. The wooden door creaks closed behind us. I turn left, following her lamp. Our footsteps crunch on the road, resounding off other buildings. Our bodies stir the still, crisp air. My red eyes sting as new tears run down cold cheeks. My breath cuts deep into tired muscles. The chill quickens our feet. My chest constricts between short gasps.

We see no one else. It’s so early that even the sheep still doze as we slip past. My mind is numb as we quietly walk together. My body moves but my mind is blank blackness. There are no words for what happened to our friend, our Master, Jesus. No words left to think. No feelings left to feel.

Walking to his tomb, carrying this burial bundle is the first work I’ve done since he died. I waited, ruminated, wrestled, wretched over the Sabbath day of rest. I was forced to sit with my thoughts: my grief, my shock, my anger, my despair. I couldn’t even busy myself with mindless cleaning!

Before I realize where we are, we stride under the archway, entering the garden. The lemon trees wave thick, fragrant leaves as we pass. Rosemary spikes point to the lightening blue sky. We follow the aisle of stepping stones interwoven with thyme sprigs, winding past rich rose canes, skirting mounds of cheerful narcissus and one-eyed violets. The tranquil air slows my pace: I breathe in and anticipate seeing the beautiful cassia tree that cradles my Master’s resting place: its fountain limbs sheltering the tomb entrance, covering the grief and darkness in a cascade of bright yellow discs.

As we turn right, into the space where His tomb lays, my eyes lift to the East, over the hill, to the sunrise...except it’s too early. My feet slow to a stop, my mind snaps awake. My hand reaches out for Mara. I find her arm frozen by her side. My breath stops. My eyes wide as they see a gleaming figure in white, his face as bright as the sun.

“Don’t be afraid!” he calls, reaching out a hand to us. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.” He beckons us forward, moving aside so we can approach the opened stone tomb. We stay where we are - mired in place, set in shock. He beckons again, breaking into a gleeful smile: “Come.”

His gaze is so inviting, so pure, so beautiful...my weight shifts forward, my feet glide together across the ground and up one step toward him. My eyes slide from the angel to the tomb doorway. I stoop down, tucking my head, inclining my shoulders to peek into the cave. It should have been dark and cold, but I see: light shining over the burial slab, light shining over the burial clothes, light shining … I am amazed to see an angel sitting at the head of the stone slab, another at the foot.

My hands push off the rock, my feet backpedal, my eyes find Mara. Her skin is pale, her eyes radiant. We clasp hands, warm skin grounds us in a supernatural moment.

“Now, go quickly,” the angel says, “and tell the others that he has been raised from the dead.”
I blink and the angel is gone. I blink again, his bright outline etched into my eyes evaporates as my eyes clear. I breathe in and crumple to the ground. I barely hear the spice jars clink, the oil jar topples over inside my bundle, the contents seeping out, staining the fabric, spilling over the ground, soaking into the soil.

“You go,” I gasp. “You must tell them. I can’t…” My words vanish as my eyes spill over again. My mouth opens wide, my chest rises, I breathe but can’t get enough air.

“Stay here,” Mara instructs me, her eyes round and searching. “I’ll be right back.” She squeezes my hand one more time then flees.
Her running recedes into stillness. My eyes fix on a clump of cheerful purple crocus. Their delicately striped petals blur into purple haze as my eyes cross, seeing double, then triple the number of blooms, then a purple watercolor swath. My ears pick up the subtle sounds of busy insects and birds going about their days. Life around me goes on but my heart is still empty. The gentle, grieving service I prepared to offer my Lord is also taken away. He is not here! Where have they taken him?!?

My brow creases, my nose sniffs, my jaw tightens, my eyes squeeze closed. Drops spill out for the thousandth time today and I am - again - at a loss for words or thoughts. I weep until the wells are dry again.

As my sobs subside, I glance over my shoulder, a subtle noise catching my attention. I see a man near the entrance to this garden room. He turns the leaf of a mulberry bush in his fingers, studying its intricate veins. He releases the leaf and stoops down to draw in the potent sweetness of blue hyacinth just in bloom.

“Dear Woman, why are you crying?” He asks without looking at me.

I grab my robe, scramble to my feet, swipe my face clean. “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where and I will go to him.”
He turns his face to me, leveling his gaze: “Mary.”

“My Master!” My heart leaps as I fall to my knees, reaching for his ankles.

He bends down, gently, firmly lifts my hands until I’m standing up. His eyes meet mine, with warmth and a deep gleam. “You cannot cling to me, dear one. I have not yet returned to my Father. I must go soon, but first go and share this news with my brothers.”

We stand together for a moment. All the weight from the past few days drops off my shoulders. I breathe more freely than I ever have - because Everything has changed. He came back from the dead! And He changed everything.
 

by Rachel Schober