Has the torch started to flicker just a little in your hands,

a torch passed by some folks who sacrificed to make a difference?

Commit yourself to a holy, new fire

so the flame that has been fueled by the lives of those who ran before us

can burn more brightly than ever in your hands.

The Work of His Hands

The touch of the Master's hand is all around us. We see it in the order, beauty, and dazzling variety of creation. The great expanse of space, with its billions of stars, along with the incredible world of the microscopic are all testimony to an Orderer of great creativity. God has left his fingerprints all over his world so we can know that he has been here and will not abandon the work of his hands.

Since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
-Romans 1:20

Painting the Resurrection

Jesus Christ is risen today, Alleluia!
Our triumphant holy day, Alleluia!
Who did once, upon the cross, Alleluia!
Suffer to redeem our loss, Alleluia!

Joyful words for Christians around the world as we celebrate Christ the Savior's resurrection.  Please take a moment to watch this short video, an inspired depiction of the moment Jesus emerges from the tomb.

Wishing all a happy and blessed Easter.

Holy Week Woes

Dreading the days leading up to Good Friday, I found inspiration and hope in an unlikely place. It’s odd how a painting can be an answer to prayer.

I’d been dreading the prospect of Holy Week. The story of the last week of Jesus’ life is so sad to contemplate. Thirty-three is too young to die. Crucifixion is a horrendously painful death. But more than anything, cutting closest to the heart for me was thinking of how Jesus had to face rejection.

Knowing how something is going to come out doesn’t make it any easier to bear. I can barely tolerate having a great dinner idea rejected (“Honey, there’s this great new restaurant ...”). How would I take it if everything I believed in seemed to be destroyed before my eyes? I felt like a wayward disciple, asking myself, “How am I going to get through Holy Week?” As a prayer, it was one of those grumbling kinds.

Then I went down to Philadelphia to see an exhibition of paintings by the American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner. One painting in particular helped me with my Holy Week dread, a painting of that saddest moment of all on Good Friday, when Mary and John are coming back from the Crucifixion. The day has ended. All seems lost. Despair is written on their faces. And yet the painting is beautiful.

Here’s what the artist said about it: “It has often seemed to me that when bowed by some sorrow, nature seemed more radiant than ever...” 

Sorrow can shake me, devastate me, rattle me unspeakably, make me feel lost. And then like a piece of foil catching the light, it can startle me with some truth. If I can only hold on. Standing in front of that painting, I wanted to tell Mary and John, “Things will be better than you can ever guess in just a few days. Just hold on.”

The Resurrection was around the corner, its beauty inherent. In that moment I could tell myself the same thing about any of my sorrows: “Hold on. Trust. Love. Life will change soon, soon, soon.”

-Rick Hamlin

Rick Hamlin is the author of 10 Prayers You Can't Live Without.

The Beautiful Flower In The Broken Pot

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to out patients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. "Why, he's hardly taller than my eight-year-old," I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face, lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, "Good evening. I've come to see if you've a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there's no bus 'til morning."

He told me he'd been hunting for a room since noon but with no success, no one seemed to have a room. "I guess it's my face... I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments..." For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: "I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning."

I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. "No thank you. I have plenty." And he held up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn't take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury. He didn't tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was preface with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children's room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won't put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair." He paused a moment and then added, "Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don't seem to mind." I told him he was welcome to come again.

And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they'd be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious.

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. "Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!"  

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.

Recently I was visiting a friend, who has a greenhouse, as she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, "If this were my plant, I'd put it in the loveliest container I had!"

My friend changed my mind. "I ran short of pots," she explained, and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn't mind starting out in this old pail. It's just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden." She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. "Here's an especially beautiful one," God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. "He won't mind starting in this small body."  Now, in God's garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand. 

-Author Unknown

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. - Hebrews 13:2

For This Child I Prayed

My husband and I sat at our dining-room table filling out the forms that would decide the future of our family. For two years, we’d tried to have a child. But infertility forced us to rethink our plans. We’d prayed and prayed about what to do and every sign had led us here, to this form that would officially start the process of adopting a child from Russia. Now I felt an incredible, powerful surge of confidence that we were doing the right thing. I signed the bottom and wrote the date, March 17, 2004.

That confidence carried me through the grueling months ahead. Costs for background checks, processing fees and other requirements were high. Putting together the documents that described us, our home, our health and our finances took months of paper chasing, visits from a social worker and repeated trips to government offices. Finally we completed everything and waited to hear from the adoption agency.

Then the Russian government changed its international adoption laws. What should have been a few months of waiting lasted more than a year. Had we really followed God’s will? I started to wonder about the sense of confidence I’d felt the day we signed the forms.

In the spring of 2006, we got a call from the adoption agency. “There’s a boy in one of our orphanages in southern Russia,” the person said. “We’re e-mailing you the pictures.”

He was a sweet little redhead, two years old. It was love at first sight. We made our travel plans. Halfway across the world, in Volgograd, Russia, my husband and I found what we’d been praying for. The boy was shy at first, but soon he was playing and cuddling with us. I held him and didn’t want to let him go.

“He has some minor medical problems,” the orphanage director warned, reading through the boy’s file. “We don’t know who his parents were. He was abandoned when he was just a few weeks old.” I looked at my husband. Did any of that matter? He was meant for us, wasn’t he?  The director peered down at the boy’s file again. “He was found by a police officer,” she said, “on March 17, 2004.”

-Pamela Freeman, Guideposts

"Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not." Jeremiah 33:3

Those Are My Principles

Comedian Groucho Marx quipped, "Those are my principles. If you don't like them, I have others."

I have principles. And sometimes I follow them. Well, usually. I also have opinions. I have opinions about politics, yard sales, health food and fortune cookies. (Actually, more about the fortunes than the cookies.) But they're opinions. I COULD be wrong about some of those things.

And I have opinions about four-year-olds. Like the one who came screaming out of the bathroom to tell his mother that he dropped his toothbrush in the toilet. He watched her fish it out and toss it into the garbage. That is when something occurred to him, something about when a toothbrush ought to be discarded. He ran to the other bathroom and came out with his mother’s toothbrush. Holding it up, he announced, “We better throw this one out too then . . . it fell in the toilet a few days ago.”

That confirms at least one of my opinions about four-year-olds.  But it also points to something more than an opinion – a principle. In this case, the principle is about the importance of trying to do the right thing, even if you’re a few days late in doing it. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. put it well: "The time is always right to do what is right." And one like it is this: doing the right thing, even in little things, is never a little thing. And that’s not just an opinion. It’s a principle that works.

-- Steve Goodier, LifeSupportSystem