Not so Empty Tomb

Karla Flower

Usually I imagine myself watching from afar with the other women on the day Jesus was crucified and buried.  This year, I feel as if I’m in the tomb.  We don’t know much about day two of that weekend — Saturday — the Gospels all seem to leap from Friday to Sunday.  But we know it certainly wasn’t a busy day.  In fact, all activity had come to a screeching halt because it was the Sabbath.  On Friday Joseph of Arimathea had hurried to get the body to the tomb, burial preparations had been made and sabbath prep done, so by Saturday the women who were always busy suddenly weren’t.  So there was Jesus in the tomb, abandoned, cold, dead, buried and alone.  Stillness and fear pervaded that Sabbath.  But that doesn’t mean God wasn’t at work in the midst of that stillness.

This year so much has come to a screeching halt and life as we know it has ceased to exist.  We may feel helpless due to our inaction or inability to stop this global crisis, and may feel that time has either accelerated out of control or perhaps stopped altogether.  As we find ourselves entombed in places of isolation, aloneness, loss of livelihood, illness or despair over the loss of dear loved ones — let us remember that we are not left there alone.  God is at work even now.

Today in the stillness of Holy Saturday, let us draw a deep collective breath as we remember the words of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux,

“May today there be peace within.  May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.  May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.  May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love that has been given to you.  May you be content with yourself just the way you are.  Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.  It is there for each and every one of us.”

 Thank you, Little Flower.  For we know that this place is only for a brief time and that transformation is just around the corner.

A song for today, with gratitude to Ana Hernandez who shared her gift of music with us at the Marble Women’s retreat recently.  Here is her rendition of this powerful battle hymn to carry us through:

“Don’t be Afraid” is by Scottish composer/activist John Bell. Ana’s arrangement is available on iTunes and YouTube, and the album, Sending You Light, by Fran McKendree and Ana Hernandez, is available on iTunes, Spotify, Soundcloud, etc… and on Ana’s webstore here:

https://ana-hernandez-105676.square.site/product/sending-you-light-by-ana-hernandez-fran-mckendree/1?cs=true

By Karla Hendrick

A Message of Hope this Friday

tree photo

Spring is usually my favorite time of the year. I love the tiny yellow green buds dotting the bare branches of winter and their promise of abundant new life.  I took a picture of such a tree on a brief walk the other day.  (As I live in New York City, I practiced social distancing and wore a mask.) It was a gray and cloudy day and part of me wondered why I was even bothering to take the picture with the light so dull and flat. But I wanted a reminder of hope and as I looked through the lens the clouds shifted, and patches of blue appeared in the sky.

Since that day, I have gone back to that picture again and again and here are a few thoughts that came to mind. One, the patches of blue reminded me that blue skies are always there, it’s just that clouds sometimes obscure the blue.  Two, if I wait and look, the blue in the sky will appear even if it wasn’t there just a moment ago. Three, the tiny green buds that promise abundant new life are as plentiful as God’s promises about new life.  These verses came immediately to mind:

Isaiah 43:18-19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
Revelation 21:5 Behold, I make all things new.
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

I was curious about just how often God talks about new things. According to OpenBible, it’s 100 times. I guess it was a point that God wanted to emphasize. That’s a good thing. I need all the reminders I can get sometimes.

https://www.openbible.info/topics/new_things

And the ultimate emphasis on that point would be Easter Sunday. As I thought about that this favorite verse came to mind:

Job 8:21 He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.

During these dark days, sometimes I wonder how laughter and joy are even possible.

Then I remind myself, I don’t have to know how.

Our God is the God of the Impossible. Our God is the God of the Resurrection!

Let’s hold on to hope and faith and trust that God will provide.

 

Shared by sisters Patricia and Eileen Wu

Maundy Thursday

Harp strings flutter their touch through me –
Soothing my soul.
“Holocaust” symphony –
That does not flutter.
It seeps into you –
behind your eyes,
within the wailing wall of your heart.
How could such beauty and gentleness
in the twinkling music
Co-exist with the knowledge of such terror –
knowing that this could happen is horror.
Living it is unspeakable,
And yet, must be spoken.
Was the harp played in a German home
as Jewish families were herded to their death?
Could beauty and this horror co-exist?
Not with the knowledge of the terror –
only in blindness,
cold, dark blindness –
stone silence of deafness.
You can’t hear a harp
and hear their anguished cries
with the same ears.
You’d go mad.

Susan Ceely Phillips

Turning Point

IMG_4347

A time when a decisive change in a situation occurs, especially one with beneficial results.
A point at which significant change occurs.

Imagine a dancer.
You choose.
A ballerina spinning with supreme control.
A modern dance interpretation.
A jazz gyration.
Swing dancing in synchronized, yet wild enthusiasm.
A powerful footfall through hip hop.
Do it yourself rock n roll.
Salsa swirling.
Hindi twirling.
Imagine the dancer
and the turning point.

Turning, spinning, whirling
Now and then
Or on and on.
But, each turn has a point
When a decision occurs in the dervish
To continue to repeat the cycle
Or to move into a new step,
A fresh pattern,
A solo exhibition,
A cling or clash with a partner,
A fusion with the corps,
Or to just stop.

Turning Point
A time, a point when a decisive change, a significant change, occurs, especially with beneficial results.

Easter – a “turning point”, both grand and minute.  I pray that it’s lovely and kind, either way.

 

Susan Ceely Phillips

It is Well with my Soul

For our Sunday musical reflection this week, we will be highlighting a favorite hymn of so many, “It is Well with my Soul.”  As we go through dark times in our lives, for many this hymn brings them calm and hope.  Today we share two beautiful versions of the song, one with voice and one with piano.

 

In 2009 Vicki Carter reached out to a close group of women friends asking they send the name of their favorite hymn. They did. I created a cd of my playing those hymns and each woman received the cd as a Christmas gift. Attached is my version of It is Well With My Soul on piano.

Here are the lyrics….

 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

Shared by Vicki Carter

Hope

 

Hope Sun 1

I barely can sense it’s shiver of awakening.

But.

I stop in stillness,

Searching for the shimmer.

In a drawn down lip-line,

In a shallow breath,

In a tear-drop caught in its passage.

My consciousness whispers that it’s there.

My footsteps inch toward it.

It must be!

Because.

I hope for it.

By Susan Ceely Phillips

Hope Sun 2

 

Rain

Picture1

I have always envied my friends who love to live in rainy places.  There’s the friend who said, “I Iove to fall asleep to the sound of rain drops falling on my window sill.”  I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t understand it now.

I think I have always suffered from Seasonal Affective Disorder.  The dreary days affect me.  Rain and fog make me want to stay inside under the covers, waiting for the sun to reappear and draw me out of my bed like metal pulled up by a magnet.  The sun is my magnet and I am pulled up by it.

But this year, this Lent, I have made the decision to approach rain differently.  Rather than focus on the wet sogginess of it, I am going to focus on the life force water is, and how important rain is for replenishing this dry earth.  I am going to be my own internal magnet and pull myself up and out into the pouring drops cascading from the heavens or gently falling around me.

I am going to reach out my hand and feel the wetness, lift my face and let the drops fall on it without being concerned about makeup or mascara.  I am going to let the drops fall on my hair with abandon.  I am going to open my hands and heart and transform my ideas about rain, asking God to help me.

Why?  Because Lent is about transformation; it is about turning back or turning around altogether.  It’s about turning.  Lent is about change.

This Lenten season we are living through a time that no one would have expected.  Even in our current situation, what change or turning is God moving you toward this Lenten season?  How might you open your hand to a whole new attitude or idea or behavior or perspective on something that might seem so “fixed” within you?  Nothing is too fixed for God.  Nothing is too concretized for the Holy Spirit to enter in and initiate a great turning within and without.

Blessings on your journey of transformation and turning.  And may you stay safe in these difficult times.

Shared by Reverend Elise Brown

Picture2

Sometimes, Heaven

DSCN0296

Sometimes, Heaven is right under your feet –

shoes off, velveteen blades

caressing your sole – soul.

Sometimes, Heaven hides behind your furrowed brow –

waiting –

for the right moment

to crawl down your cheek

in a single tear

into the light of day.

Sometimes, Heaven floats on the gentle currents above –

that shelter you

from the treachery

of the undertow below.

Sometimes, Heaven hammers at the door of miscommunication –

clambering for

and scrapping with the truth.

 

Sometimes, Heaven soars.

Sometimes, Heaven screeches.

Sometimes, Heaven caresses your cheek.

Sometimes, Heaven slams you against the wall.

 

But, sometimes – sometimes –

Heaven is just that.

Susan Ceely Phillips

 

Sustenance

Weather not always balmy

obstacles appear

amid swirling wind and storms

former experiences illumine

strong ropes:

faith, hope, love

Biblical passages apply over centuries

these guide

provide balance

become sources

of courage and strength

when mountains overwhelm

grasp ropes tightly

 

 

I Corinthians 13

“ And now these three remain: faith, hope, love. But the greatest

of these is Love.”

 

 

Lynn Doll

©2020

CHALLENGING TIMES? INDEED!

We are encouraged and strengthened by Bible verses that help us go through challenging times – times such as the present – that test every part of our character. During times such as what we are experiencing presently, it is important that we engage our mind and our heart with these good Bible verses to aid us as we go through these hardships. They will encourage us to keep pressing forward with a positive attitude.

Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you,  do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,  I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.”

Romans 5:4 “And endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Jeremiah 29: 11-13 “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes,  and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious,  and it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Psalms 9:9-10 “The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

Philippians 4:6 “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Proverbs 3:5-8 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.”
 It will be a healing for your flesh and refreshment for your body.”

Psalms 46:1-2 “God is our refuge and strength,  a very present help in trouble.
 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.”

Psalms 50:14-15 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call on me in the day of trouble;  I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

Psalms 23:4 “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”

Galatians 1:3-5 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”

I pray that we will repeat these verses over and over so that we will be encouraged and have the Word of God deep in our heart.

 

 Agatha