I was truly touched and inspired at the Good Friday service at my home church Holy Trinity tonight. I love these 3 days and I knew I needed tonight. To get my head out of the world and in the Spirit, I spent time this afternoon reading the crucifixion story in all four Gospels. Wow, I need to do that every year! Our church chose to share John’s version and the prophecy of Isaiah 53. Even though I have read Isaiah’s prophecy many times and even sung it in Handel’s Messiah for years, I’m still blown away. It is always, always made new. Life-breathing, yet again.
At one point our pastor highlighted verse 2b of Isaiah 53: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Not quite the picture we often see of a handsome, brown eyed Savior! I admit that I’ve never paused on that verse before. As one who often feels like I don’t have the right clothes or the hippest hairstyle to go out on stage to speak & sing, well, this passage inspires me greatly. Friends, we don’t have to have the perfect look to do extraordinary things. Jesus, who did for all of humanity, far beyond any of us could ever imagine, “had no beauty or majesty… nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”.
The scourging, the blood, the outrageous pain. All so that we could spend eternity with Our Lord?! There are no words that can ever fully express my gratitude for receiving the freedom that comes through His stripes.
Lord Jesus, may You continue to give me the patience and strength to live a life honoring Your love for me.
One of the things I love to do on special days of the Church year is to look up in Scripture the details of why we are celebrating, or commemorating, that day. So today I spent a wonderful, quiet time in God’s Word looking up the events of the Last Supper in each of the four Gospels. I absolutely LOVE how God always shows me something new even though I have experienced many Holy Thursdays. This year, today, I’m seeing how the washing of the feet is only in John’s Gospel. Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t speak of it at all. Or how “Take and eat; this is my body……This is the blood of my covenant…” is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s accounts, but not John’s. And John chose to record so much more of Jesus’ dialogue during the Last Supper than the other gospel writers. There is a ton!
Yet even though I was a bit “academic” spending time comparing Gospels, Our Lord still found a way to warm my heart and touch me personally. It was in John 17. Here Jesus is praying to the Father – yes, His own words – and He is praying for us. You and me! No, it’s not where he’s instructing us on how to pray as in the Lord’s Prayer, but rather He Himself is praying.
Do you sometimes wonder how other people pray? What words do they use? Do they stay on one subject very long? Do they readdress God by saying “Father” or “Lord” in between phrases? I know there’s no right or wrong way to pray, but I admit those questions have crossed my mind over the years. Well, here in chapter 17 of John’s Gospel we get to look right into the heart of Jesus and hear His voice praying to His, and our, Father. He had you and me in mind when He prayed “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am.” (vs.24)
So as you close your Holy Thursday, you might want to turn to this chapter and read how Jesus prayed for us – how he was thinking and desiring eternity for us – the night before He knew He was to be crucified.
I need to have someone come to my home every morning 7:00-10:30 to help with my medical care, shower and getting dressed for the day. I am blessed right now with a good season of caregivers. Jan, Nicole and Lisa (they take different days of the week) are the loveliest people! Although I’m very grateful that there are people that enjoy doing this type of work, after 365 days multiplied by almost 25 years, I would love to get up on my own. How great that would be! What a joy! When writing about how pure frustration in training caregivers was the catalyst for me learning to praise God, I wrote in my new book “Still I Will Praise”:
“One day I was sharing my struggle with my friend Joni Eareckson Tada (speaker, singer, author and founder of the International Disability Center). Being quadriplegic for over forty years, she understood my struggle of training new caregivers, and she told me one of her strategies. When the caregiver comes through the door, she says, ‘Lord, I don’t have a smile for this woman who’s coming in right now. But You do.’ So I began praying this way and added, ‘so please smile through me.’”
How we can apply this in all situations! Thank you, Joni! If we don’t have a smile for someone, let’s ask the Lord to smile through us. Now if I can just REMEMBER to do it!
Here’s a clip from the opening chapter of “Still, I Will Praise”. I’m hoping during the week to give you a little something to think about… check back often!
“I’m sure you will agree that in difficult seasons we don’t feel like praising God. We’d rather wallow in our misery. We feel more comfortable griping, complaining, faultfinding and being crabby. Let’s face it: in unpleasant situations, praising God is not our natural instinct. That’s what the writer of Hebrews calls a “sacrifice of praise” (13:15). A sacrifice of praise means that we offer honor and praise to God whether our circumstances are good or bad, whether we feel like it or not. It’s a discipline. So if it’s unnatural, if it’s a discipline, then ugh, why do it? Because our praise brings us to the heart of God. Ps 22:3 says that God inhabits the praises of His people. In other words, when we praise, God shows up! Praise and worship put God where He belongs (on the throne) and us where we belong (in submission). I’ve come to understand that when we take our focus off our own concerns and annoyances and place it on what a great God we serve, the weight of our problems lightens and our faith begins to soar.”
– from Chapter 1 “Let’s Get Started”
Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to go back to the James A. Musick Prison Facility in Irvine, California. There by the grace of God go I, right? Any of us could have circumstances that could lead us down a tough road. After spending close to two hours with 100 incarcerated women, mostly moms, talking about the deep power that is found in praising God in the darkest of times, well, there were lots of tears and HUGE smiles of hope and even relief. These pictures are from my friend Jana Alayra’s phone in not so great lighting, but hopefully you get the idea. For security reasons, we are not able to photograph faces. But let me try to paint the picture for you… Some dark eyes, some light blue, some wide-eyed, some piercing and cold. Some leaning forward wanting to hear every word you have to say, some leaning back with their body language saying, “Yeah right, you’re full of hot air.” But after sharing a recent story of how I learned the power of praising God even when I don’t feel like it, it was BEAUTIFUL to see how the Holy Spirit brought joy and twinkling to these eyes. I’m smiling now as I write remembering how they laughed and smiled and how many tissues were given out as I sang.
Toward the end of the presentation when I asked the women if they had things for which they were now able to praise God, it warmed my heart to see how many hands went up. Answers included “my children”, “the cool tile floor”, “the opportunity to be here”, “God’s healing” and it was interesting to hear how many people said, “My mom”.
Thank you Kathie Wickam and Jana Alayra for your help in transportation. If you don’t know Jana’s awesome music ministry, check her out at www.janaalayra.com. She has been ministering at this facility for years and I hope to do the same. Continue to keep the incarcerated on your radar – pray, visit, write. Take a look at Matthew 25:37-40. I praise God that I had the opportunity and look forward to returning again soon.
This week before we celebrate Easter, we “celebrate” Good Friday, the day we remember Our Savior’s death on the cross. I always thought it was strange that we call it Good Friday. It sure wasn’t good for Jesus. Yet we receive the eternal, yes ETERNAL, benefit of His horrific suffering and resurrection. Thank you Father, for thinking this all the way through, so that this tough life on earth is not eternal. And thank you amazing Jesus for taking such intense pain for me. Thank you, thank you.
Tough, crazy times we are livng in. Be wise. Stay calm. How?!? Heb. 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for our soul, firm and secure.” Paul is reminding us of the anchor of God’s faithfulness. Like many of you, I have faced some pretty scary storms. I have come through to the other side intact because of the strong, stabilizing anchor of God’s faithfulness. Yes, these are crazy times but God’s promises aren’t any less valid today than they were in previous centuries. Our security is not dependent on a strong economy… it can’t be. Paul urges us in 1 Timothy 6 not to put our hope in wealth, but in God, “who richly provides us with everything.” Look at what He did for us on the cross!!
His peace always be with you!
God is sovereign. God is almighty. God is intimate. His mercy penetrates deep into my core. Always enamored by His creation – ocean, stars, sunsets, sunrises, flowers, twinkling eyes, warm smiles – this CD began as a desire to point the listener to God’s unbelievable architecture. As the work continued, the word “mercy” kept appearing in various songs. It stopped me in my tracks every time. How can Our Lord who created this outrageously beautiful universe care about me so intimately that He would give eternal compassion to this sinner? It blows my mind.
I have learned a lot about God’s tenderness during these years of being in a wheelchair. As you listen to my new music (For clips go to https://www.reneebondi.com/shop/mercies-in-disguise/) I hope you’ll be enveloped by His mercy. It’s there, it just may be disguised by something you never imagined.
P.S. Look for photos on the making of the CD in a blog to come.
How would you feel to be a single father with 2 boys, laid-off from work, and now out of savings? This is the story of Joseph at the Thomas House Temporary Shelter in Garden Grove, California. I recently had the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus and spend time working one-on-one with these families.
The staff and volunteers of Thomas House work with each family to assess the needs of the members (physical, emotional, spiritual and financial) and assist them in setting goals that will lead to long-term changes in their lives.
Approximately 15 families participate in a 6-9 month program. Families maintain or seek full-time employment, budget their income, pay bills and save 80% of their income after expenses. How great is that?? Families make long-term goals and meet with a staff member weekly to discuss daily goals and finances and plan the actions necessary to prepare for a stable future. They really know what they are doing at Thomas House!
Please pray for these families, that they will continue to look to God for direction and guidance. Any one of us could find ourselves in their shoes if our circumstances took a turn for the worse. As we head into November, a time of thanksgiving, let’s think of ways that we can help those less fortunate than us.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” -Matthew 25:34-26
Growing up, there was a song we often sang at church titled “Come to Me” by the Benedictine Monks of Weston Priory. Being young, the lyrics didn’t touch me as much as the music itself. I loved the beautiful rise and fall of the melody! As the years went by, I found myself singing “Come to Me” during some pretty rough patches of my life – lying on the exercise mat in physical therapy trying feverishly to get the small twitch in my shoulder to grow into full movement or watching my husband walk out on the sandy beach alone when I wanted so badly to walk hand-in-hand with him. Each time, I began humming the beautiful melody not thinking of the words. But soon in my head came the lyrics. “Wow – that’s what I sang all those years???” Weakly, I began singing the encouraging words of Jesus (quoted in Matthew 11:28) – Come to me all who labor and are heavy burden and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart. And you’ll find rest for your soul for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus called His yoke “easy” and “light”? A yoke appears to be a weighty burden, but it actually makes the workload light for the animal. Looking at an old picture of my grandpa steering oxen while pulling a plow I could see that the plow would be intolerable if it rested right on the oxen’s withers. But when you work an animal by means of a yoke, the weight he has to pull doesn’t harm him. The load becomes light.
Joni Eareckson Tada explained it best when she wrote in her devotional “Pearls of Great Price”: A yoke is not a contrivance to make work hard. It’s a gentle device to make hard labor light. Think about this as you read His word. A yoke is not meant to give pain but to save pain. Work is a fact of life. Burdens are inevitable. But you have a choice: either drag your workload under your own strength or put on the yoke of Christ.
How many times have I drug my work load under my own strength??? Many times. Right about the time I’m at my wits end thinking a project is way too hard or I want so badly to do my morning hygiene alone rather than with a caregiver, I remember, “Oops, I haven’t asked the Lord to help me carry this.” When I begin giving my load again to the Lord on a daily basis, sure enough, the project gets done in a timely way and my attitude is gentle when explaining directions to my caregiver.
Simply put, I find rest and much-needed strength when I put on Christ’s yoke.
Lord, I desire to be present to You in all things during the day. This way, I we will remember sooner to come to You in my labor and with my burdens. Thank You for helping me by carrying my load.
Last October, our 15-year-old sophomore son was elected homecoming prince to represent his class on the homecoming court. It was a sweet honor. I remember when Daniel was younger, I was concerned that he would one day be embarrassed to have a quadriplegic mom. So now, here we are in high school and we are in the stands watching him walk out on the football field as his name is announced during the halftime show. I was so happy for him as I heard the crowd roar.
Being a typical teen, I’m assuming he would much prefer for mom and dad to stay far, far away from the football field where his friends are gathering in anticipation of the big halftime show. Imagine my surprise when after the show is over he comes up with his friends to find Mike and me up in the bleachers. After grabbing the keys to our van so that he can change out of his suit, he leans over and gives me a kiss on the cheek. What?!? He did this not only in front of his friends, but those in the bleachers as well. Nobody, not even Mike, knew what that meant to me at that moment.
Early on in my injury I felt so uncomfortable going out in public in this wheelchair. But God took care of that. He has shown me in so many ways that I’m still beautiful in His sight and in the eyes of others.
Thank you Lord for knowing the hidden pain that no one sees and for sending me clear reminders that you care for my broken heart and the hearts of others.
All my longings lie open before you, O Lord;
my sighing is not hidden from you. Ps 38:9