Sunday, April 24, 2011

He's Alive!

When I saw Dolly Parton sing this song on the CMA awards in 1989, I assumed that she had written it. I recently learned it was written by Christian musician Don Francisco.

I discovered the work of Don's wife, Wendy Francisco, in 2009 through Dog and God, which points out some simple but important concepts about what God's love is like.

God created us and He loves all of us. Jesus associated with people who were judged by others to be sinners, but every last one of us are sinners. Jesus died for sinners so that our individual acceptance of His death for our sins and His resurrection means we can be made right and be with Him in the place he has provided for us. This is what we celebrate at Easter.

If you like, follow along with the lyrics below.

He's Alive – Don and Wendy Francisco
The gates and doors were barred
And all the windows fastened down
I spent the night in sleeplessness
And rose at every sound
Half in hopeless sorrow
And half in fear the day
Would find the soldiers breakin' through
To drag us all away

And just before the sunrise
I heard something at the wall
The gate began to rattle
And a voice began to call
I hurried to the window
Looked down into the street
Expecting swords and torches
And the sound of soldiers' feet
But there was no one there but Mary
So I went down to let her in
John stood there beside me
As she told me where she'd been
She said they might have moved Him in the night
And none of us knows where
The stone's been rolled away
And now His body isn't there

We both ran toward the garden
Then John ran on ahead
We found the stone and empty tomb
Just the way that Mary said
But the winding sheet they wrapped Him in
Was just an empty shell
And how or where they'd taken Him
Was more than I could tell

Something strange had happened there
Just what I did not know
John believed a miracle
But I just turned to go
Circumstance and speculation
Couldn't lift me very high
'Cause I'd seen them crucify him
Then I saw him die

Back inside the house again
The guilt and anguish came
Everything I'd promised Him
Just added to my shame
When at last it came to choices
I denied I knew His name
And even if He was alive
It wouldn't be the same

But suddenly the air was filled
With a strange and sweet perfume
Light that came from everywhere
Drove the shadows from the room
And Jesus stood before me
With his arms held open wide
And I fell down on my knees
And I just clung to Him and cried

Then He raised me to my feet
And as I looked into His eyes
The love was shining out from Him
Like sunlight from the skies
Guilt in my confusion
Disappeared in sweet release
And every fear I'd ever had
Just melted into peace

He's alive yes He's alive
Yes He's alive and I'm forgiven
Heaven's gates are open wide

He's alive He's alive He's alive
I believe it He's alive
Sweet Jesus

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Copy Cat Here Again

The Altar

Devotional by David Hampton
Reprinted from the 2011 Lenten Reflections journal of Wells UMC, Jackson, MS

O God, you are my God; early will I seek you ...

Psalm 63:1

Read Psalm 63
A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah

The cooking crew for the monthly men's breakfast gets to the church early. Got to get those grits cooking.

Last month, I couldn't sleep so I just came on down to the church a little earlier. As I went through the building turning on lights, I slipped into the sanctuary, as I have done several times on those men's breakfast mornings.

You should see it at that time. It's dark and quiet. The lights come through the stained glass giving muted light with color. You can hear the pews creak and pop to the point that I have had to look around to see if someone is there, but it is just the old, well-used wooden pews talking back.

You can hear the world outside, but even it seems quieter that early in the morning, almost as if the world is being respectful.

I knelt at the altar where I have knelt so many times with so many prayers throughout the years. I think of the thousands who have done the same and all of the things I have witnessed at that place. I've seen grief and joy, laughter and tears, all the emotions that come with our deepest cares, concerns and celebrations in life.

Most of all, I have seen grace upon grace.

There are holy places to which people make pilgrimages. As we travel through this lenten time, we will make our "pilgrimages" in many ways, seeking out holy places of refuge on our way to the cross. May I recommend a place on Bailey Avenue with creaking pews, worn out carpet with juice stains and a wooden rail beneath a cross.

It is, indeed, a holy place and there are plenty of spots available anytime. Especially at 5 a.m.

Lord, thank you that you are with us always wherever we may be, but especially for those holy places where your presence is especially felt and where we find comfort. Help us during this lenten time to earnestly seek You.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lenten Reflection for Monday, April 11, 2011

Wanna Be
“This is the message He has given us to announce to you:
God is light and there is no darkness in him at all.”
1 John 1: 5

Searching for Light in my life, I started listening to Contemporary Christian music. Lyrics from a DC Talk song go, “I wanna be in the Light as you are in the Light, I wanna shine like the starts in the heavens. Oh, Lord, be my Light and be my salvation, cause all want is to be in the Light.”

These lyrics and others quenched a thirst in my soul and made my inner light brighter.

The earthquake that hit the Indian Ocean a while back wobbled the earth’s axis and changed time so the day will be shorter. Another time, time changed.

Jesus died and was raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of God. The common era came about around that time. His time on Earth was filled with darkness.

He took on our day-to- day struggles and became total darkness, thus absorbing our broken spirit. He gave it all, ultimately expressing his victory over darkness even before He gave up his spirit by saying, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.

Right then, he made “The Word became flesh,” mean something. A repentant man being crucified beside him died in darkness and was raised in Light that day.

Any darkness within us can be expressed to God and He will understand. none of us, even the worst, is totally swallowed up by darkness, but we have to reach for the Light. We are sick, He is well. He has achieved victory over darkness by resurrecting the darkness into Light. God is in all. We can say as believers and seekers that our redemption waits as Jesus’ redemption waited. He waited in darkness and death. He was raised in Light and Life. We wait in darkness and death. We wanna be in he Light and because of that we are in the Light.

Prayer: Thank you God for sending Jesus, the light of the world, to save us from our sins. Help us keep the candle burning deep in our souls, knowing one day you will take our spark and make an eternal flame.

Melanie Morrow

*Melanie’s article is reprinted from the 2007 Lenten Reflections journal of Wells UMC, Jackson, MS

Here's a peaceful video filmed at Bellingrath Gardens about this time last year.