Archive for March, 2015

How to Prepare More than Baskets for Easter

By Kathy NickersonMarch 30th, 2015family, The BibleNo Comments

IMG_0836I love Easter baskets!  And I hope yours overflows with all things chocolate and chewy this year. But it is a good thing no little people are counting on me to fill one.

This week is crazy busy for me. We are getting ready to move our medical clinic from temporary quarters into our beautiful, new, expansive building. I wake up wondering if I ordered enough paper towel dispensers for the exam rooms. (I didn’t.) And I go to sleep wondering if I have time to get all the waiting room chairs recovered before the grand opening. (I don’t)

In the midst of that, I’m working with editors from the publishing house on my next novel. And, occasionally, I cook a little supper, do some laundry, and pay the bills.

But, I don’t want to miss this Holy Week. I don’t want to wake up Easter morning and realize I failed to contemplate the most important few days in the history of the world. So, I forced myself to slow down this morning and spend a little extra time reading.

I like to use one of my reference books to study each day of this week and see what Jesus was doing as He prepared to save the world. I put myself in the scene and try to imagine the cultural setting. I hear the sounds, smell the smells, and wonder how I would react if I were part of the crowd. Maybe one of the religious leaders He threw out of the Temple on Monday. Or one of the Gentile worshippers who sought audience with him through Andrew. Or maybe a poor mother watching from a corner of the Women’s Court as all the drama unfolded.

If you want to walk through this week with me, here are some suggested resources:

BibleGateway.com – this free website has daily readings you can sign up for plus commentaries and study helps galore.

A good study Bible – There are several available, and you can find them at your local Christian bookstore or online. If you live in my neighborhood, check out the HCC library. I’m using The Quest Study Bible by Zondervan right now. It is an older version, but I’m enjoying it. These Bibles usually have a chart somewhere to show you the events of Holy Week in a chronology of the gospels.

A Bible App – Your smart phone holds entire libraries! I use the YouVersion Bible app, which offers a variety of Easter reading plans, plus study helps.

Actual books – for future years, you might want to invest in some reference books, or you could find them at a good library now. Here are a few of my favorites:

The Life & Times of Jesus the Messiah by Edershiem

The Chronological Life of Christ by Mark E. Moore

The Christ of the Gospels by Shepard

No matter how you spend this week, I hope you will take a little time to come aside and contemplate. This is a week that changed the world forever, and I know it can change you and me.

That’s why we fill those Easter baskets in the first place!

 

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A Small Thing Can Make a Difference

By Kathy NickersonMarch 24th, 2015Marriage, work4 Comments

One family

This is one of the walls the amazing Eliza and crew designed in our church during our recent missions conference. The theme was One Family, so, of course, we hung portraits of our family from around the world.

The couple in the top left corner is among our heros of the faith, and I’ll tell you why.

John and Grace spent decades on the Ivory Coast translating the Bible. When they came back to the states, they opened their home and their hearts to scores of hurting people at their retreat center called Shiloh. The stories of their sacrifices are legendary, yet they counted it all as reasonable service. Grace went home to glory a few years ago. We helped John celebrate his 100th birthday during the conference, just after he took the microphone to testify of God’s goodness.

None of those heroic works are the things we remember when we see this portrait, though. Instead, we all see a different picture. A snapshot, really. We saw it every time they came to visit, and it never failed to move us and to remind us of what really matters.

It is the picture of John and Grace walking down the hallway at the end of a long day. And they are holding hands. Just like they always.

When the years had taken their toll, and the bodies could no longer offer much in the way of labor or service, that one simple act of devotion inspired us.

To reach out.

To hold on.

To love.

 

 

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Three Ways to Welcome Spring

By Kathy NickersonMarch 20th, 2015happy endings, mercy2 Comments

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Hello Spring, we are glad you finally came. A refrain from an old hymn comes to mind, taken from the Song of Solomon:

The turtle dove is singing now, the winter’s past and gone. Rise up my fair one come away; I’ll take you home to stay. (The Bride of Christ, J.F. Parker)

We know from years of experience, of course, that spring isn’t here to stay. Not in the natural or the spiritual world. Not yet. We could have a snow storm next week. And for certain this spring will melt into a July sizzle before it mellows into fall and then gives way to another frozen winter. The cycle will continue until Jesus comes again. (Come quickly, Lord Jesus.)

So, today, while it is spring in our section of the midwest, here are three things I plan to do to welcome the season:

1. Clean a Corner: Any corner will do. I shan’t have time for a full spring cleaning. But I can sort the coat closet. Or finally organize that “toss it in here” drawer by the back door. I may not have the stamina to sort out my entire soul this week, either. But I could tackle one small issue that has been prickling at me in prayer.

2. Blow Some Bubbles: For some reason, bubbles are closely associated with spring in my head. Easter baskets, possibly. The point is to go outside and do something I couldn’t have managed in winter. Sometimes, we have to take an action to demonstrate, or even activate, a change in our soul.

3. Buy a Boquet: Daffodils aren’t popping up anywhere but the florist’s yet. So I may bring some home from there. I love how something so beautiful emerges from a dead seed in the hard ground. It gives me hope for the whole world.

How are you celebrating spring?

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Singing to the Air

By Kathy NickersonMarch 15th, 2015mercy, The Bible6 Comments

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I was standing in worship tonight, and I had a startling clear moment where I thought like an atheist. Not that I suddenly stopped believing in God. But for one moment, I saw our worship service as it must look to someone who claims to believe God does not exist. We were laughable.

All of our singing and clapping and smiling and toe-tapping made us look like fools from that vantage point. We were singing to the air.

And I wondered what in that scene could possibly make an atheist so angry. If we are deluded imbeciles, why would the atheist care? Just leave us to our delusions and move on.

But, that is another post. When I came back to myself (Whew! Thank goodness for that!) I wondered how I would answer if someone asked how I knew I wasn’t just singing to the air.

The answer is pretty simple. It’s me.

Without the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at work in my life, I would be worse than a deluded fool. I would be mean and angry and loud and irritating and very, very ugly. All the time. I have all those tendencies as it is, but the Jesus in me overcomes them on most days.

So, I sang a little louder tonight. And I clapped my hands a little more. Because we were singing “Power in the Blood,” and I know that it is true.

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The What-If Game

By Kathy NickersonMarch 9th, 2015mercy, The Bible5 Comments

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As a writer, I’m really good at playing the What-If Game.

What if a mysterious stranger shows up at the lake cabin my lead character rents for the summer?

What if Madge smashes into an ice cream truck and gets sentenced to community service?

What if a small shepherd boy at the Nativity grows up doubting the miracle he saw?

This is a wonderful game for a writer. It guarantees I will have more material for books than I will ever have time to write.

This is not a good game for life.

I find myself playing what-if about lots of other things, too. What if we can’t make payroll next week?  What if my next book doesn’t even sell ten copies? What if my husband isn’t late getting home because the line was long at WalMart but because he is lying in a ditch along the highway somewhere?!

Good grief.

Today, I’m determined to change the rules of this game for myself. From now on in real life, I can only play the game with certain cards in my deck. Cards like these:

What if the Bible is true?

What if God is really for me?

 What if He will never leave me?

What if all things actually do work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose?

What if…

 

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Thank You, Mr. Dickens

By Kathy NickersonMarch 6th, 2015Friendship, happy endings, The Bible3 Comments

Sometimes, we show up for the day job and assume the casual conversations or routine chores are having no impact in the world. We wonder if anything we do or say will ever truly matter. Read on.

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Missions Conference 2015

 

When John Molina and his friend, Rene, came to visit the United States  in the 1990’s, they wanted to learn English. They had come on tourist visas, so they couldn’t officially study anywhere. Somehow, they ended up sitting in my high school literature class in our small, church school.

We were probably reading Great Expectations that semester. Or possibly Tale of Two Cities. I’m pretty sure it was some variety of Dickens. Not a great way to learn how to speak the English language.

I remember the first sentence John managed to put together in a conversation with me. I don’t remember how many of the words he actually spoke, but the meaning became clear. He was trying to tell me he was homesick, lonely, and frustrated because, “I cannot express my heart.”

Evidently, I asked John why he wanted to learn this language with all its tricks and twists. “Because someday,” he said, “I want to preach in English.”

Eventually John returned to Colombia. We heard from him through other people occasionally and knew he had married, started a family, and returned to the states to pastor a Spanish-speaking church. We were proud of him from a distance.

My husband and I moved, too. Away from the town where we had met John and into a slightly different circle of church friends from the ones who had connected us in the first place.

More than twenty years passed, and then suddenly John showed up at a missions conference at our new church. We were astonished but thrilled to reconnect. Even then, I failed to recall the reason John had struggled through my literature class.

I forgot until John reminded me. This week. Right after he preached his first sermon in English.

And I was there.

He expressed his heart perfectly this time.

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Sailing with Friends

By Kathy NickersonMarch 1st, 2015Friendship, mercy, The Bible3 Comments

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I’ve been reading about the Apostle Paul. Just finished the big shipwreck scene on the way to a Roman prison in Acts 27. Storms, near starvation, threat of assasination, destruction of the vessel, floating to shore on a wooden plank. Paul’s life was one big, happy party.

I’ve read these passages lots of times, actually. And I’ve grown kind of numb to Paul’s troubles. I know he makes it to shore. Plus he has a great testimony afterwards. But this week, I’ve noticed something amazing.

This story is completely written from the perspective of “we.” As in “Paul & I.” Most scholars assume the Gentile physician Luke wrote the book of Acts. So he must be the other half of the “we”. “We” sailed from such and such a port. “We” endured the storm, the threats, the starvation, and the shipwreck.

And, here is the thing: Paul went through these things as a prisoner. He boarded the ship under guard. Luke walked on board of his own free will. Nobody made him go to Rome. He could have hopped off the doomed ship at any port and said, “Never mind, I’m going to winter here where it is safe. I’ll catch you next spring.”

But he stuck around for the whole ride. Because, evidently, real friends sail together.

Even in rough seas.

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