The Watcher

Hello! My name is Ira. I am the youngest son of Simon ben Judah. My mother Miriam says I came out of the womb observant and quiet. Actually, all the other ladies present the day of my birth say they weren’t even sure I was alive – until, I whimpered my way into my Mother’s arms. I’ll admit, the meaning in my name fits me fairly well – ‘watcher of the city.’ I have been observing the people around me all my life. So, one day, when a man named Jesus had come to town, I had been incredibly curious to see what had the religious leaders so up in arms – and why so many other folks were saying He was the Messiah.

Staying true to my nature, I frequently had noticed the worried frowns which burdened my Father’s face. When it concerned this man called Christ, my father had seemed to always side with the leaders of our community. Their resentment against Jesus ran deep, and Father’s loyalty to the leaders ran even deeper. Until.

It had been like any other dry and dusty walk I had made into town many times before. However, as I had drawn nigh unto the city’s gates, I heard the commotion. The angry faces induced panic within me. Hateful insults had hurled like daggers at the woman being violently drug through the town’s streets. The leaders had been on a mission, not one of mercy like their counterpart Christ, no, they were on a mission of madness. The half-dressed woman, worn and broken, had been thrown down at the feet of Jesus. Little did the men know, their cruel and self-serving pursuit had been about to backfire. At first, I had wanted to turn away from the craziness, until I saw Him – Jesus. He had a blanket of grace and divine authority over Him, it was magnetic. He had stooped down to the ground, and I had wanted to hear what He might say to the men whose words had dripped with sadistic subtlety. They asked him, “Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now, Moses in the law commanded us that such should be stoned: but what do you say we should do?”

Jesus oozed with silent power as He began to take his carpenter’s fingers and construct words of conviction in the dirt. His silence incensed these men. Nevertheless, without pausing too long, they had continued repeating questions, not realizing they were attempting to bait the Creator of the World – with an empty hook.

Confidently, Christ stooped down once more, transcribing on the dusty canvas with worn knuckles. I wasn’t close enough to see, so I have no idea what was written on the ground, but as He rose, He uttered these words, “He that is without sin, cast the first stone.”The men, including my father, turned away, defeated. I watched the religious leaders walk away, carrying not only their wolf-like scowls, but their proud, cruel hands still clutched the stones of judgment.This day influenced me the most because, when Jesus turned to the broken woman on the ground, He had stooped once more, but this time His bending wasn’t too condemn anyone. His merciful bow was to lift her up, offering her hope and forgiveness with these words, “Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Now, go and sin no more.” There was such a gentle authority in His voice; I knew the same thing she did that day – surely He was the Son of God, the Savior of the world.From that day forward, she and I followed Jesus wherever He traveled. We learned, laughed, cried, fellowshipped with Him. And, oh how we marveled at His ministry. I found this man to be gentle, yet, revolutionary with His bold love, teaching and compassion. I witnessed the physically doomed healed of illness, beggars find their sight, lame men walk again, and, the outcasts without a place, find complete acceptance.

We followed Him all the way – even as this precious the Lamb of God willingly went to be crucified. As I gazed upon the jeering crowd, it broke my heart to see Him so abused and broken. They mocked, beat and eventually murdered the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, at Golgotha. The hands they drove nails into at Calvary were the same ones that healed, broke bread to feed the thousands, calmed the winds and seas, and brought hope to so many.I was truly who He made me to be, in the end – Ira, the watcher. Yet, I no longer held interest in watching the world. I would now, and forever be, a man with an eternal perspective – looking to the Author and Finisher of my faith. He will always be the gentle Savior who stooped down to make things right for the broken and lost, my Redeemer, the One who called me friend.

Symphony of Praise

Often I am much like Elijah and David, subject to moodiness when life seems to overwhelm. Nevertheless, my Father has such compassionate ways, remembering I am but dust. He knows how prone I am to scatter all about when the wind blows even a little. I believe this is why He makes His mercies new each and every day – He knows our infinite need of them! Certainly, the past few weeks have been no exception to this truth. So, this morning as I watched a Louis Giglio video clip for devotions, I was both amazed and convicted. I witnessed the stars’ percussion and string sections perform a praise concert with the whales, and instantly, my droopy heart was encouraged – and challenged.

Unlike man, the universe does not possess the indwelling presence of God’s breath within it, yet, all of its substance bellows a bold chorus of praise declaring His glory. God’s children have even more reason than the cosmos to be full of reverent, bold praise. Yet, we often come up short of where we truly should be.

The psalmist had no way of actually hearing these magnificent symphonies of praise as we do, yet, by faith, he believed all creation could sing praise, and insisted they do so! And should we truly rejoice in our Maker, believing He delights in us with unfailing love and enduring mercy, we would find ourselves filled with faith too. To fix our gaze on Christ and not our circumstance, being more prone to worship than wander, and much more fixed on praise than pouting, would bring about laudatory attitudes toward our Savior. And honestly, we were made to worship Him. We thrive when we do.

Jesus Loves Us, This I Know

Calvary’s mercy and resurrection grace are concepts a person often struggles with – they seem too good to be true. We question, “Is it really possible for someone to love me beyond my failures, beyond my weaknesses, beyond all my faults? Why would God leave all of Heaven, and forsake His throne to die for me – especially knowing who I truly am?”

We sometimes view His divine love from humanity’s viewpoint – and, perspective changes things.

We have all felt the disappointment of another’s failure to love us unconditionally, and, the heaviness of unmet expectations. But, Jesus was the friend who laid down His life for a friend, He sticks closer than a brother. He understands us in ways we may never comprehend, and loves us all the more. That kind of love penetrates the shallowness of humanity’s version of love and spurs us to love Him, others and ourselves in a deeper, more eternity-driven way. Truly, He is the way, the truth and the Life, and so much more than we can know. Sweet soul, from Good Friday to Resurrection morning and beyond eternity, trust you can rest in His love. No matter what. Jesus loves us, this I know!

Detours

I adore the precious way the Lord teaches my heart to be still and simply enjoy life. Today, while traveling with family, He stirred my soul with one such lesson. We had made one wrong turn which took us about 10 minutes out of our way. At this point, we had a choice – to be irritated at the inconvience, or, accept the invitation to grace.

Detour. Such a tiny word with immense potential to bring either good or bad. When given over to the Father, a detour can be used to grow us and bless us.

As we drove through the tiny town of Carlise, Pennsylvania, a bit of peace crept into my morning. This quaint city’s historical buildings and fun storefront displays make a person want to leisurely stroll through the town. Main street’s foliage bloomed with hues of purple, red, white, and green. It was a beautiful 10 minutes full of goodness. Life is much like this morning’s adventure. Our paths wind and roll us through detour after detour. But, if we could learn to see God in all of our moments, we would surely find, detours can hold the sweetest blessings.

I Surrender

It never fails when I sit still before the Holy Spirit, truly seeking a word from my Father, He always delivers. But often, those exacting conversations challenge me to be a doer of His Word, and not simply hear them. He calls for my obedience to do as He has asked. He beckons me to trust Him, even when I’m hurting, scared and unsure of His direction. He has promised a humble and surrendered heart is guaranteed His ample grace. Yet, in my flesh, I forget.

Obedience. Trust. Surrender.
When facing the winds of change, walking the tightrope of the unknown, these words become a challenge to implement into our lives. However, when blended together, they create a way of life sure to yield spiritual fruit, and the Father’s favor.

Author-speaker, Stormie Omartian challenges her readers with an exhortation echoing the Gospel’s truth, “[The] attitude of surrender means putting God first and submitting to His rulership. It makes all the difference in our lives…Jesus is Lord whether we declare it or not.” Paul admonishes in Romans 14, should we live, let us live for Christ, and should we die, let us die for Christ. Either way, we are His. To know we are His can bring the struggling soul great comfort. To focus on Christ, and His steadfast love, ushers in calmness beyond human comprehension. The right focus has great power to help us succumb to His will with more ease.

Oh that we would remain in His ways, obediently surrendered to His will – whatever it may look like. If only we could make obedient trust and humble surrender our goal, and not a last resort, His promise is to plant and not pluck us, to build and not tear down, to give us power over the enemy, and bring us into His good for our lives.

Expectant Hope

Upon hearing Mary’s news the tomb was empty, Peter and John hurried to see if it was true. Nevertheless, after finding Christ was indeed no longer in the grave, they returned home. But not Mary Magdalene, she stayed behind. Why? Could it have been because of her own personal experience with Jesus’ tender grace? Or, perhaps it was the way His heart had oozed forgiveness, prevaling over the enemy of her soul. Her hope and faith trumped her grief in those silent moments at the Savior’s tomb. Mary Magdalene’s story was one of freedom, one of victory. A believer can see why, against all odds, she remained – optimistic she may still see (and serve) her Lord. Through tears, she stooped down, once more to peek inside the abandoned tomb. Everyone else had deemed it a dark place of defeat, yet Mary must have believed differently. And, even though she may not have recognized Him at first, when He called her by name, she knew His mercy had found her again. How sweet His voice must have sounded to her broken heart.

Jesus could have chosen to appear to anyone else first. Yet lovingly, He found Mary – broken, humble, saguine Mary. There are a plethora of opinions as to the why He chose her; nevertheless, His Word vows when we seek Him early He will be found. Mary was there early, seeking Him with her whole heart. And, well, He always keeps His promises.

Mary Magdalene’s story reveals the glory of His grace and redeepmtion – from demons to deliverance, from tomb to triumph, and from brokeness to beauty – hope filled all the spaces in between.

In all truth, there have been more than a few times which required more patience, humilty, and faith than I could muster up. In the dark moments of life, it is easy to walk away like Peter and John did that day. But, what if we will would look for Christ amidst the grief? Should we, like Mary, bend down with expectant hope of Christ to show up and call out our name, we too will find living hope – expect it!

Willow

Ever since my childhood days, willow trees have been my favorite of the deciduous variety. They seem to hold a gentle power which can transport a person to another world. As a child, that was the only thing I had wanted to do – escape and have an adventure. So, years later, when I found myself living on property that housed a sweet Willow, I was ecstatic. Many times I would spread a blanket out under her long and flowing limbs and they would cradle my spirit within their warm embrace. My willow tree’s tears would softly fall around me, bathing me in her peaceful protection. As I would settle onto her strong lap, and lean against her sturdy trunk, it felt as if the arms of God held me tight, encouraging me to dream.

Willow’s long and weepy branches held wealth enough to buy me a first-class passage back to my childhood days, where adventures and dreams were as free as the air we breathe, and imagination was Mary-Poppins worthy.

The 180-degree circle of her graceful limbs sprouted green and yellow buds reminiscent of the bright beads on Bohemian-style necklace. Their magical potential to invoke dreams of other worlds and distant lands appealed to my inner lass. She had long been forgotten – lost among grown-up responsibilities and to-do lists.


When life barrels by us like a freight train carrying important cargo, I find myself wanting to make a quick getaway, as I did when I was a dark-haired, innocent little girl. Willow never disappointed that little girl tucked away inside this adult woman of God. She always allowed me freedom of expression – to cry, to laugh, to be angry, to be loud, and, to be quiet. She was a faithful friend, a sweet generator of dreams and a safe place for me to be me
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The Lord’s presence surrounded me many days, and gently covered me with Willow’s silent and steady shade. When the wind blew through her billowy branches, I felt safe and, oddly enough, accepted. She was a good tree, and I rejoice in the Lord for giving me the gift of my Willow. She was a sweet friend.

Hearing Aid

Sometimes our circumstances can be so deafening we lose our spiritual hearing. Nevertheless, daily prayer and studying of His Word will help to steady our souls, and open our hearts up to listening – even when it is something we may not want to hear. God has it all covered by His divine grace. He will never leave us – even in our “I-don’t-know-what-to-do” seasons. Trusting in His character and grace is where we can find solid ground. He uses every occasion to lead us to where we need to be. To trust our situations over our Savior will not yield the same spiritual fruit.To think, if Ananias had trusted in what He knew of the murderer, Saul, he would have never become the Apostle Paul’s defender. Or, what about Joseph? Had he tried to understand the injustice of his circumstance, instead of believing in the goodness of God’s will, he would not have made it to the Palace, and saved lives. Both ordinary men, both called to trust in God, and both used mightily.I am thankful He is the hearing aid my heart needs. He leans in close to whisper in our ear that it will all work out for our good, and His glory. It doesn’t matter if we know how it all works out, it only matters we trust He does. Oh, for the grace to trust Him more…

The List

Everyday I have the beautiful gift of being a Kindergarten teacher to some amazing kids. Daily, God uses them to teach me more than I could ever learn without them. Therefore, it was no surprise to me when one such lesson came during snack and story time. After reading the last page of one their selections, I asked them to tell me what they would say to Jesus if He were to visit them. Their answers were pure and, well, beautiful.

With Christ placing great importance on having a child-like faith, why is it we often are bent on making it complicated? Since Jesus admonishes our faith is to be like that of a child, it is safe to assume He is more concerned with its genuineness than size. Today, this truth found its way into real life, via my boys and their list. A list which inspired me, and challenged me. It made me think about things I’d like to say if He came to visit me too. I pray I would say,

“Thank you for creating me, thanks for birthdays (they’re fun.) Thank you for giving us reason to celebrate Christmas (and Easter.) Oh, and thanks for putting the sunshine out (it feels warm on my face!) I like you, Jesus (I’m glad you like me too!) I love you so much (I’d like to stay with you!)”

Yes. Yes. Yes! Give me that type of faith – the humble, honest and sincere kind. It’s Kingdom building, mountain moving, and soul-changing. And, it makes the best lists!!

He’s Just That Good

When the pslamist wrote, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death,” I have to believe he knew a little something about defeat – and, victory. I surmise this is why he finished the verse with confidence in God’s power to deliver and enable him. He knew where his strength and help resided. And, with certain faith, he clung to the truth of God’s character. He had seen the Father bring him through greater battles than the current fight he was facing. His heart found no better solution than trusting in the One who had proven to be faithful, again and again.

It is true, some days sneak up on a person, and before we know it, emotions overwhelm us. Our eyes spill tears our souls can’t bottle up any longer. Those days are trying; and, often, too many of them strung together, can be unbelievably discouraging. Nevertheless, looking to the One who understands tears in a Garden of Gestamane kind of way, trusting in the One who is holds Ressurection power, is a must. He delights in us; His merciful love is to rescue the struggling soul, always. So, on those onery, tear-stained days, remember, the Lord is your strength and portion forever – He’s just that good!

Rescue