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23rd of March

A FAREWELL FOR JO (AND THE HOPE FOR US ALL)


My dear friend Nancy, my neighbor, lost her sister Jo Monday night.

62 years old.  Vibrant wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend.

Heart attack.  Alive in the morning.  Gone by night.

There’s agony here around this farm, this Holy Week, as we march to Maundy Thursday, the day our Lord wept in a garden as he faced a cross the next day.  Tears are running, dropping here.  Hearts are breaking, aching here.  There will be no more swimming together in that pond next door.  No more skiing down those slopes up north.  No more of her head-thrown-back laughter.  No more of her megawatt smile.  No more of her hugs, her phone calls, her celebrations. No more holding her grand-babies born and those who will be delivered.

Praying yesterday for the grieving, I remembered the day I stood in the Garden of Gethsemane among the oldest olive trees known to man, dating back to the days of Jesus.  As I walked through the grove touching the wide, gnarled trunks rooted in the same earth our Savior trod, I could see Jesus kneeling by one of them on a night long ago, in the dark, waiting to be taken away, betrayed by one of his own.

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He prayed, in anguish . . .

Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.

Then, an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

After the heavenly visitation, Jesus was still in anguishAnd Jesus prayed more earnestly, his sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground.

Even after angels from heaven appeared to him?

Even after angels from heaven strengthened him?

Jesus—was still—in anguish?

How could that be?

I slow as I hover over the words, taking them in as a warming cup of coffee, a boost for my soul.

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 22:43-44 

I cling to what comes after angelic visitation that strengthened our Jesus in his flesh . . .

Being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly.

What is Jesus showing us, in his Garden of agony?  What is Jesus showing all of us who have touched the deeply grooved bark of life, twisted and turned by time and circumstance, thick with grief?

Jesus shows us he knows our agonies.  He feels them with us.  Death stings unspeakable suffering.

He knows.

Our Jesus agonized and earnestly prayed for me—for you—for all of us in the Garden of Gethsemane, which means “oil press”.

Jesus was hard-pressed.

Jesus poured out his prayers so he could go all the way to his cross and beyond for us—pressed in—pierced—poured out—so we would have an end to our agony of separation by death—so we could live a fullness of life with a hope and a future—now (Jeremiah 29:11).

Our Savior of all creation will raise these gnarled and grooved trees, once dead.  He will resurrect to be with him forever all who confess with their mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

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We, his people, will never perish but will find our permanent glory in his.   Oh, for the day!

But back then, in the dark of the night, in the Garden of agony?

Our same Savior knelt.

And wept.

And pleaded.

In anguish.

For the most bitter of all cups—death . . .

TO PASS HIM BY.

Jesus is the only Savior I can relate with . . .

Because Jesus is the only savior who relates with me.

I have prayed, in anguish, for healing, for comfort, for peace, for sustenance, for forgiveness, for provision, for strength, for wisdom, for so many other things—for myself and others.  I have poured out my heart.  Not to some universal energy, some nebulous entity.

I pour out my heart to a Person who understands anguish—a three-in-one Person—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who relate TO us, who relates WITH us.

And so, I don’t pour out my anguished heart and find it empty.  I pour out my anguished heart receive a FULL-filling from my God, with gifts lavished on us from the One who sees us and loves us and gives us all He is . . .

Love.  Joy.  Peace.  Patience.  Kindness.  Goodness.  Faithfulness.  Gentleness.

Wouldn’t we all love to be lavished with these?

Yes, there are agony gardens in life where we fall into dark nights of soul and wonder how we’ll make it through, hoping and praying we don’t have to go through.

Jesus knows.

He was there in the Garden of the hard-pressed, for us.

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Yes, there are our own crosses of agony.

Jesus knows.

He carried his and ours for all that’s broken in us and our world—so we could have hope in the here-and-now agony—so we can have hope beyond death.

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Good Friday is coming.  And why is it good?

Because the death of Jesus brings us life.

Resurrection Day is coming.

Beyond the agony, the stone will be rolled away and our hearts will be FULL-filled.

No more death.  No more agony.  No more tears.

There is a Hope and a Promise who takes us beyond all our deaths, our agonies, our tears.

There is a Hope and a Promise who takes us beyond this broken world, into his Perfect Love.

His name is Jesus. 

Perfect Love stretched himself out on wood.  He was hammered through so we would have hope.

His name is Jesus.

He knelt in a garden gnarled with agony, facing a cross for you and me.

His name is Jesus.

Who took the mocking, the stripping, the scourging, the crown of thorns piercing.

His name is Jesus.

Who took the carrying of cross, the outstretched nailing, the suffocating, the spearing of side.

His name is Jesus. 

The Father turning His face from our sins as they lay upon that Perfect Love, poured out for us.

His name is Jesus.

He who took all evil so we might be clean.

There is no god like Jesus.  There is no one and no thing able to save us from ourselves.

Just Jesus. 

Son of God.  Born in flesh.  Crucified.  The spotless Lamb.  The holy, whole payment for the sin of the world.  Our only hope for resurrection and restoration.

He gives us his word.

Taste and know now.

He is good.  Especially in our agony.

Oh, how He loves you and me!

Oh, how He waits patiently!

Will we turn to him today and feel His comfort as we wait for healing?

Will we place all our agonies at his feet and let his nail-scarred hands raise us up, embracing us in tender love?

Will we let Him walk with us through our broken-hearted days?

There’s a new day coming—a new dawn drawing near.  He has promised.

Who knows our day, but our Savior?

My dear friend Nancy, my neighbor, lost her sister Monday night. 62 years old.  Vibrant wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend.  Heart attack.  Fine in the morning.  Gone by night.  There’s agony here around this farm, this Holy Week.  Tears are dropping as blood to the ground.  No more swimming together in that pond next door.  No more skiing down those slopes.  No more of her head-thrown-back laughter.  No more of her megawatt smile.  No more of her hugs, her phone calls, her celebrations.

Until one day . . .

Resurrection Day!

Reunion Day!

Behold, our Savior Jesus Christ!

He IS making ALL things new, as promised (Revelation 21:5)!

He who conquered death is sure to resurrect!

Believe and follow the only One who saves!

We love you, Jo!  And we’ll see you in Paradise, one day, in that place where there’s no more sudden shocks, no more death-sting strikes, no more agony-tears dropped.  We’ll see you and be with you forever with our Savior who is our TRUE LIFE—forever.

So it is.  So it shall be.

Three days—from grave to glory—Our Savior who died and rose again—for Jo—and you—and me!

Wait, dear Soul, with the One who is Comfort! 

Resurrection is coming!

Hope is here . . .

Because even in our agony . . . in your agony . . .

There’s a day beyond Gethsemane . . .

Our hope rests on nothing less that the Rock who is higher than you—and me.

 

Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,

I call as my heart grows faint;

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

For you have heard my vows, O God;

You have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

 

Psalm 61:1-5

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Come stroll the trails with me on our 44 acre Midwest horse farm where I seek God in the ordinary and always find Him--the Extraordinary--wooing, teaching, wowing me with Himself. Thanks for visiting. I hope you will be blessed!

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