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Thanksgiving Inspiration

What will you give thanks for?

 

The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” – Henry Ward Beecher

For more of my photography, including inspirational posters like this one, visit my photography website:  https://dondetrick.smugmug.com/

 

 

Pivot Leadership Book Review

PIVOT LEADERSHIP Cover Display MockupMy friend Angela Craig is a community organizer, among other things. Angela noticed people in our community that were making a difference. People that were giving sacrificially to help others. People who were doing good. And she noticed that not everybody noticed these people who were doing good things because they were the right things to do, whether anybody noticed or not.

So Angela started an awards program that has grown into one of our biggest annual community events, filling our local theater with people eager to honor local heroes and hear their stories. The Give Good Awards recognizes people who are making a difference in the lives of others and in so doing making our community a better place for all. Angela should probably win the award for making the biggest difference. But she is too busy making a difference by taking steps to help others, which is a reward in itself.

Angela possesses core values and convictions that compel her to serve others and make a difference. And she has learned that big projects can be broken down into small increments, making them doable. You just have to be willing to take that first step. And she’s written a book about taking steps to accomplish our dreams and become the leaders we wish to be. I’ve read it, and I like what I read. It made me feel encouraged to keep moving ahead.  In simple terms, this is what the book is about, in Angela’s own words:

The principles of Pivot Leadership are simple. Small steps = Big change. Taking one small step can significantly change your direction. Vincent Van Gogh said: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” When you take many small steps, it can drastically impact and change your leadership and your future. 

I encourage you to read the book for yourself. It is filled with practical steps and application ideas that you can actually accomplish. It’s not just another self-help book filled with high ideals that are unachievable for the average Clark Kent. Nor does it preach you into a state of guilt for being a slacker or failing to measure up. Instead it leverages what you do have with insight and coaching that will encourage you to move forward.

Benjamin Franklin said “Small strokes fell big oaks.” In her book Angela teaches us how to pivot, how to take the small steps and make the small strokes that will effect great change.

In business this is sometimes known as the “Kaizen Effect.” Kaizen is the Japanese word for continuous improvement. Even though Angela doesn’t call it that, she helps us understand how little changes, small steps, can help us improve our mileage on the journey of life, and arrive at our dreams and destinations.

She shares what she has learned from others and her own experience to make a difference in your life, in your community, and in your future.

I like Angela and I like her book. I think you will, too.

You find out more about Angela and read a sample chapter here: www.angelalcraig.com

Book trailer video here: http://youtu.be/Tye4AcY4qPc

You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Pivot-Leadership-Small-Steps-Changes/dp/1633931110/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1439246340&sr=8-1&keywords=pivot+leadership

Dealing With Life’s Most Persistent Question – Part 4

Sunset Snoqualmie River looking west from Meadowbrook Way SE BridgeJesus is the master teacher. He often taught by asking questions, and sometimes answered a question with a question. So what was Jesus teaching us when he asked the ultimate question of suffering?

Jesus’ final words on the cross reflect the over-arching question of the human race, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?” If Jesus could ask God such a persistent question, I think we can honestly do so as well.

The answer may not be what we expect—but silence is an answer. Silence does not mean God is hard of hearing. It often does mean that we are not prepared to listen, or hear the real answer. Or it means that we will understand later.

Someone said, “Life must be understood backwards; but it must be lived forward.” So we search for answers and keep moving forward. Often, the understanding does come later as we gain more clarity to the sequence of events. As the picture becomes clearer, the meaning of our pain, suffering, or questions becomes evident. Or not–either way we must learn to wait and trust and learn.

In the 13th chapter of John, Jesus is in the process of washing the disciples feet. Peter does not understand why Jesus would do such an undignified and servile task. He asks, “Lord are you going to wash my feet?”

We can be sure Jesus was not just doing this because he didn’t like the disciples’ dirty, stinky feet and wanted them cleaned up. There was a deeper reason, and the Bible tells us the sequence of events, even details like the timing of the last supper, a basin of water, and a towel.

Peter’s question was a plea for understanding mixed with a bit of embarrassment and indignity that Jesus would do such a thing. This scenario remains a good reminder for us when we question God’s dealings in our lives, wonder if He cares, and ponder the big “Why?”

Jesus responded to Peter’s question with this very important principle – one that we would all do well to remember:  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:7 NIV)

Now. Do not understand. Later. Will understand. This sequence applies to learning about almost everything. Foreign concepts at first seem incomprehensible to us. Later they make perfect sense once we understand. Good teachers know there are no “dumb” questions, especially at first. And Jesus is the best teacher.

Jesus did not scold Peter, and he did not embarrass him. He also did not fully explain or answer all of Peter’s persistent questions. But Jesus did establish this principle that applies in so many situations of our lives:  Life can be understood backwards, but must be lived forward.”  In other words, our perplexing questions about today may well give way to understanding later when more of the picture is revealed to us.

Until later becomes now, we have to keep believing and exercise our faith when we do not see or understand, and wonder, “why?” After all, that is what faith consists of, “The substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 8 Easter Sunday

empty tomb easter = hopeEaster is all about hope. Hope when things seem hopeless. Hope when life’s challenges hit you like an avalanche of trouble that freezes your ability to move forward by its icy grip. Hope when your dreams are shattered. Hope when your confidence is shaken. Hope when your faith is hanging on by an invisible thread to the only life preserver keeping you from drowning in a sea of despair. Hope that does not deny reality, but sees beyond the current circumstances to a time when your shattered dreams and shaken confidence will be resurrected with fresh vision and vitality.

Hope will sustain you during moments of crisis and seasons of suffering. It will provide you with determination to overcome disappointment. It will instill courage to keep you talking that next step on your detoured pathway. And it will inspire perseverance to keep believing in your destiny despite the persistent questions that troubling circumstances throw your way.

Above all, hope in the resurrection of Christ provides a narrative and context for every situation of life. It provides an over-arching and eternal perspective on every puzzling picture we view and try to interpret this side of heaven.  Faith in a risen Savior makes all the difference. “Because I live, you shall live also” Jesus said (John 14:19).

Paul put it this way:  “And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Corinthians 15:18-19 NLT).

Maybe you have watched the television series, Resurrection. In it, people in a small Missouri town are amazed to discover people walking around who had died years ago, looking just like they did before they died. One of the main characters was a pastor, but there isn’t much theological or biblical truth in the show. In typical Hollywood fashion, the resurrected people will probably turn out to be aliens.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a fable about aliens, and it is not just a story that history forgot. It is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago because Jesus rose from the dead and lives today. Peter was an eyewitness to those events, and his testimony provides encouragement and hope to us, despite our circumstances, to keep believing:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.  (1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV)

HAPPY EASTER!

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 7 Silent Saturday

Green-Wood CemeterySaturday of Holy Week was a Sabbath of silence. And silence can be deafening. Grief is best articulated in sobs. Peter wept bitterly and suffered in silence because what he said secretly by cursing and denying Christ was the exact opposite of his stated public intention. His friends having silently scattered, few were left to witness Jesus’ death on the cross. The astonishment of incredulous circumstances left them mute to ponder their own silent questions in secret.

Silence provides time for reflection. The din of constant twenty first century noise creates a chronic state of auditory anxiety that many people accept as normal—so much so that some cannot sleep without ambient noise from a television or radio. Finding a place of silence may require intentionality, and no place is as silent as a graveyard. The death of Jesus had created silence and left Jesus followers alone to reflect on the events of the past days and their own actions. Silence, solitude, and Sabbath are necessary components of spiritual formation. If we don’t create these opportunities on our own, God may allow interruptions to our plans and schedules in the form of disappointments and detours which require cessation and silence for a season. Thus, we often suffer in silence and in secret during these opportunities for grace and growth.

But silence and secrets are sometimes interrupted by the urgent need for speaking and action. Jesus’ body was hurriedly prepared for the tomb because of the approaching Sabbath. The disciples having fled, Joseph of Arimathaea went to Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus. Each of the Gospel writers record this fact and more:

  • Matthew (27:57) tells us that Joseph was wealthy and a disciple of Jesus who wrapped Jesus in a clean new cloth and placed him in his own newly prepared tomb for burial while two women (Mary Magdalene and the other Mary) watched.
  • Mark (15:43-45) records that Joseph was a member of the Jewish high council, and that he courageously went to Pilate and requested the body of Jesus.
  • Luke (23:50-54) states Joseph was a good and just man, and he had not agreed with the decision of the high council to turn Jesus over to the Romans for judgment.
  • John (19:38-42) provides even more detail, calling Joseph a “secret disciple” and revealing his partner Nicodemus (another secret disciple who came to Jesus by night -John 3) helped him retrieve and prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

Silence gives way to song.  The silent suffering of incredulity was interrupted by the dawn of a new day and with it the resurrection of Jesus. Seeing Jesus alive and well turned on the light of revelation and dispelled the doubts of incredulity and grief. Followers of Christ have been singing about it ever since, not in secret silent solitude, but in open jubilant communal praise and worship.

During the Easter season of 1874, while having his devotions one evening, Pastor Robert Lowry reflected on the events associated with Christ’s resurrection, especially with these words recorded in Luke 24:6, “He is not here, but is risen.”

Being a musician, Pastor Lowry sat down with the pump organ so common in homes of that era, and wrote the inspired words and music of “Christ Arose.” The silence of Saturday’s Holy Sabbath gave way to the lyrics congregations have joyfully sung on Easter ever since:

Low in the grave He lay, Jesus, my Savior, waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord!

Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus, my Savior; vainly they seal the dead, Jesus, my Lord!

Death cannot keep his prey, Jesus, my Savior; He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord!

Refrain:

Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 4

 

Mt Si Meadowbrook Farm Path Double Rainbow Clouds 3-31-15What if God is using your disappointments and detours to help you discover your destiny? Like seeing a rainbow suddenly appear after being pelted by driving rain, we may discover our destiny after enduring a cloudburst or a seemingly endless season of life’s stormy weather. The rainbow was God’s symbol of hope to Noah following the storm to end all storms. Jesus and the cross become our symbols of hope during seasons of suffering.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Where are you looking for help? What symbolizes hope for you? Does your mind have a vision of hope to keep you secure when facing the tormenting passion of fear?  How do you deal with the fearful dread in your heart when the thunder roars, the rain pours, and your roof leaks?  What do you do when the worst-case scenario interrupts your plans with unemployment, cancer or broken relationships?  Do you start looking for people to blame, or do you start looking for hidden blessings, opportunities to receive God’s grace and opportunities for you to grow? What gives you hope and encouragement? The hopeful heart looks to Jesus. And the hopeful heart is not a trembling heart.

Think about how Jesus felt on Palm Sunday–His trust and obedience to His Father’s will was a stronghold for His mind and gave Him courage to act appropriately instead of jumping off the donkey and running to hide in some remote cave.  Facing the worst-case scenario of all time – agonizing death, cut off from His Father, bearing every horrible, disgusting sin the world has ever known – Jesus pressed on.  He rode into the city with a quiet confidence and dignity because He had knew that His destiny and hope for suffering mankind came by way of His suffering on the cross.  And the cross of Christ made all the difference for you and me:

The cross is where history and life, legend and reality, time and eternity, intersect. There, Jesus is nailed forever to show us how God could become a man and a man could come to God.[1]  ~   Malcolm Muggeridge

Remember, as long as we live, the road to our destiny is always under construction. We should not be surprised when there are detours and delays along with disappointments. The key is staying with Jesus through those dark nights of the soul. It is easy to fall away and lose hope. It requires faith to hope for and receive what we do not see.

What have you hoped for? Have disappointment or discouragement kept you stuck in the waiting room of disappointment? What is the next step Jesus is leading you to take? That step may be marked, “Detour,” but it could you to from that waiting room to your destiny.

[1]Malcolm Muggeridge (1903–1990) Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992).

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 3

DonD I-90_Gridlock_near_milepost_63_on_8-21-11_BWLife’s darkest corridors are detours–places of waiting and wandering along an unfamiliar path where negatives often develop.  Yet those dark rooms are also often God’s appointments for building His character in our lives, accomplishing His purposes, and leading us into the bright light where we can clearly see the path ahead.

Disappointment and discouragement become opportunities for grace and growth if we look for them during those dark hours and days of waiting or wandering. These detours become the hidden pathways on our journey where we discover things about ourselves and also about God that we would never discover in the full light of day. We should be grateful, because God uses detours to direct us and also to protect us.

When I took the above photo on Interstate 90 about an hour east of Seattle it was a warm summer afternoon and I was anxious to return home after speaking that weekend in a church on the east side of the state. It was not to be as I anticipated because we spent hours just waiting on the freeway. And those other drivers and I never knew the reason for the delay. But I know for certain that whatever the cause, the delay and detour of my schedule was for the good and protection of someone. Hopefully our delay prevented disaster for someone else, and perhaps for us.

After the death of Christ, but before the resurrection, there was a process of waiting—another detour.  Someone has written,  “Disappointments, His appointments, change one letter and I see, that the thwarting of my purpose, was God’s better choice for me.”  Each day, countless numbers of people, among whom are committed Christians, experience disaster, disease, or death in their lives or in the lives of their loved ones.  Their initial response is often denial or unbelief.  Healthy people work through this process to arrive at a place of acceptance, hope and healing.

The unhealthy alternative is to allow disappointment to turn into cynicism and negativity.  The natural thing is for disappointment to lead to discouragement.  Discouragement leads to despair.  Despair leads to depression.  Depression leads to disillusionment.  And disillusionment ultimately leads to disengagement – isolation from everyone and everything that has the potential to hurt you.  This is a vicious cycle that can be interrupted by the loving intervention of friends or by simply learning to watch for God’s grace to appear and for ways to grow during that dark season of our soul.

Every seed must be buried in a dark place in order to sprout and grow. And it often is so with our hopes and dreams. The detour in your life may be the place of waiting or wandering where the seeds of endurance  germinate and you establish strong roots to sustain you for what lies ahead.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”   (Psalm 27:14)  I think about those words, first written by David more than 3000 years ago.  How many people have clung to that verse over the past 30 centuries? For most of them, the wait is over.  For us, the wait goes on and we are uncertain about when the detour on our journey will be over.  But we can be certain about the one thing that makes waiting and wandering endurable:  grace and growth – and the hope that God is using these circumstances to fulfill His purposes and our destiny.

Some Thoughts on Passion Week: Disappointment, Detours, and Destiny – Part 2

triumphal-entry-jesus-Palm Sunday:  From the high hopes of anticipation to the low slopes of disappointment.  In the journey of life, we all face this. We are disappointed when our expectations are not met, when they do not materialize, or circumstances seem to turn against us. Even God has experienced disappointment. But God always has a plan—just as He always has a plan for you.

5  Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6  And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:5-8 NKJV).

Did you notice the verbs in verse 6? God was “sorry” – he was “grieved in his heart.” Yet in spite of that, in the midst of a troubled world, Noah found grace. And God’s grace found Noah. If we will look beyond our own disappointment and discouragement, we will discover an opportunity for grace and growth.  God knew that the day would come when he would send his only begotten Son to provide an antidote for the sins of the world. And He knew it would be the most costly sacrifice ever made. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life”  (John 3:16).

Jesus said He came to seek and to save the lost according to Luke 19:10. He was in Jericho at the moment, and had just been accused of befriending sinners as he dined with Zacchaeus.  He knew that the road to Jerusalem from Jericho would lead Him to the cross. Yet He also knew that to fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies that he would need to make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on the colt of a donkey.  When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He was greeted by, “the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.”  Of course, they were expecting a political kingdom, not a spiritual one. Luke 19:11 “Now as they heard these things, He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.”

The expectation of the crowds was building. They thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately, so Jesus told a story about stewardship and the use of gifts bestowed upon those who serve in God’s kingdom.  It was really a story about Jesus and the way the kingdom would eventually come.

Would. Eventually. Come. Not, “would immediately come.” We are disappointed in life when our expectations are not met immediately, in the way we expect, or because we have the wrong perspective on our circumstances.

How about you?  Did you expect that the one who promised to “love, honor and cherish” would really do so until “death do us part?”  Did you expect to have the perfect family with 1.8 perfect children, all living in the perfect neighborhood in the perfect house with 3500 square feet, a bonus room and a 3-car garage for your Lexus SUV, motor home and boat?  Did you expect to have the perfect job with a perfect future and a perfect retirement?  Does it all seem like a cruel joke to you now, or have you just concluded that perhaps your youthful expectations were a bit unrealistic?

On that first Palm Sunday, the disciples and the crowds in Jerusalem all had the same expectation.  They believed Jesus was the Messiah and as such would soon overthrow the wretched rule of Rome and set up His earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem.  The crowds were welcoming Him as they would welcome a general returning from a victorious battle after winning the war.  So we can understand their disappointment when Jesus did not play the part.

After all, the crowds watched with amazement as He entered the temple and began throwing over the tables of exchange and throwing out the moneychangers.  “Now it’s happening” they thought.  “Now He is making His move.  And now that He’s taken care of business here at the temple, He’ll soon move next door and take the keys from the Roman Praetorian Guards.”

But He didn’t.  He just continued to teach and preach.  “What’s this, just more preaching?  No call to arms?  No call for a revolution?  Well, maybe He isn’t the One after all.”

And so the enthusiasm waned and the crowds disbursed.  Like a group of exhausted party revelers taking down the ribbons and deflated balloons, they picked up their garments and went back to business as usual. The lights went out on their bright hopes that this day would be different.

When the lights go out on our dreams and hopes, it’s always more comforting when someone is there to share the darkness of the experience.  Stay together during the tough times and the tough times won’t last nearly as long.  Jesus, too, understood disappointment.  When He went to the cross, nearly all of his friends abandoned Him.  Only a faithful few remained on that dark day to witness His death. Where will you go on the dark day of disappointment?

Semper Fi: Enduring Influence – Part 2 “Heroes”

Semper Fi = Enduring Influence“We’re looking for a few good men”

– The U.S. Marine Corps.

I remember frequently seeing or hearing that phrase as a boy growing up during the Viet Nam era. In print, television, or radio commercials, the message was the same: it requires something to be a Marine. It requires faithful service, and only a few meet that requirement.

Though not a Marine, our nation yesterday (4/11/13) honored a faithful hero. The Congressional Medal of Honor was awarded posthumously by President Obama to U.S. Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Kapaun, a hero who died in 1950 during the Korean War serving and saving the lives of his fellow soldiers.

Chaplain Kapaun heroically saved the life of a wounded soldier who was about to be executed by the enemy by running to and lifting the wounded man. Both were captured and sent to a POW camp, where the chaplain continued to serve as a representative of Jesus, frequently giving his own tiny ration of food so other soldiers could live. He modeled faith and virtue. While keeping hope alive for others, he died of starvation in that camp.Chaplain Kapaun US Army Hero - Congressional Medal of Honor - Korean WAr

One iconic image of Chaplain Kapaun captures his story. The photo shows him helping a wounded soldier, with his arm around his shoulder. In an online article in Time magazine, Chaplain Col. Kenneth W. Stice describes Chaplain Kapaun’s heroism:

“I’ve read his story and wondered what were the influences that shaped him to be such a man of influence, willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for others.  Well there’s the obvious formation of his abiding religious faith and practice. That is common to all chaplains.

But there’s also the influence of his family life – as one who grew up in rural Kansas, on a farm, within a tightly-connected community. It was in that context that he learned the value of hard and honest work, loyalty and support of neighbors, and simple a lifestyle with meager possessions.

Both of those streams of influence were absolutely vital in preparing him to endure captivity with such humility and courage, so that he became the inspiration of other POWs to carry on.  Chaplain Kapaun was consistent in his daily walk, and how he lived his faith.

The remarkable acts of bravery under direct fire in November of 1950 were reinforced through those daily acts of religious faith. All chaplains have the opportunity to make that impact on others with consistent living that was epitomized by Chaplain Kapaun’s example. His consistent walk and witness encourage me on my own journey of faith. But that same witness serves to convict me of areas that I need to be more faithful.”[1]

Did you notice how many times Col. Stice used the word, “influence” to describe this heroic man? I was touched reading about Chaplain Kapaun’s faithfulness and enduring influence. And I had to ask, What do all faithful heroes have in common? Here’s what I came up with:

  • They are present and available rather than absent and inaccessible. Can my loved ones count on me to be present and available–to be there for them when they need me?
  • They are alert and engaged, rather than pre-occupied and distant. Am I present when I am present, or neglecting my duty to pay attention to my family, my friends, my responsibilities?
  • They are courageous and sacrificial, rather than playing it safe out of harm’s way. Will I protect and serve others, or only myself?

The Marines are looking for a few good men who will be “always faithful.” It’s not a gender thing, anybody can be a hero to somebody by being faithful in who you are and faithful in what you do. Enlist today, your faithful influence will endure. Semper Fi!



[1] U.S. Army Chaplain Col. Kenneth W. Stice, “Medal of Honor: Chaplain Kapaun’s Heroism Feted Today. Time, April 11, 2013 at http://nation.time.com/2013/04/11/medal-of-honor-chaplain-kapaums-heroism-feted-today/ accessed 4/12/13.

Resurrection: Signs of Spring

Resurrection - Signs of SpringI saw it this morning, a lone neighborhood rhododendron protesting the stark dormant landscape by unfurling its pink and ivory petals. Against all odds on this dark and rainy day, it victoriously displayed the inevitable triumph of resurrection. Though all outward circumstances indicate winter still maintains its frigid clutch on the landscape, the rebellious rhodie down the street courageously emerged to reveal its delicate beauty, despite the cold. And despite the biting wind and rain, I watched famished bumble bees, laden with pollen, battle one another for the sweet nourishment it offered them following months of impoverished hunger.

As I write this afternoon, another late winter squall fiercely peppers my window with raindrops like bullets from a machine gun. Although the official announcement of spring  is only a few days away, today the coming of spring seems a long way off–except for the memory of this morning’s lone rhododendron. Like a brave sentinel, it boldly maintains its post within enemy territory.First Rhodie lower res large 3-16-13 Petal by petal it unfolds to reveal a spectacle so gloriously un-winter like that I threw caution to the wind and rain, jumping at the chance for a photograph. In the face of possible damage to camera or equipment, I gladly took the risk in exchange for a permanent reminder that winter does not last forever. Knowing the unpredictability of our Pacific Northwest weather, spring may not truly arrive for a couple of months. In the meantime, the photo is a vivid reminder of spring’s inevitability.

Last week another photo opportunity reminded me of the same principle as I captured a shot of a rose bush with emerging leaves next to dead and decaying blossoms from last season, alongside a bright red rose hip (top photo). That rose hip, like the emerging leaves, serves as a reminder of life. For some reason, possibly having something to do with our bumblebee friends, that particular blossom was pollenated. So unlike its dead neighboring blossoms, it has become pregnant with seeds, and grown fatter over the winter months. Unless pruned by the gardener, it will soon open to scatter its seeds, spreading life. Death and life. Winter and spring. We can’t have one without the other.

During this holy season in the weeks leading up to Easter, we are reminded of resurrection hope in the midst of challenging, wintery circumstances. Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). But before a resurrection, there had to be a death. The sunshine of Palm Sunday gave way to the wintery shadows of the Holy Week. The weather changed when the passionate crowds turned icy in their fickle rejection of the King they had warmly welcomed days earlier. And the entire world seemed captured by winter’s frigid, dark embrace, culminating with the seemingly not good crucifixion on Good Friday.

Can you imagine the questions peppering the minds of Jesus’ followers? They had no familiarity with machine guns or bullets, yet the questions must have relentlessly pounded at the window of their souls. Mary no doubt was reminded of Simeon’s ominous prophecy given years earlier, “a sword will pierce your heart” (Luke 2:35). She wondered, “Why my son? Why now?”

For the disciples, the last three years were re-lived, revealing persistent questions. “Where are the miracles now? Why are we powerless to do something? Why doesn’t God do something?” Where was the glorious revelation of the Heavenly Father, like the voice they heard at Jesus’ transfiguration? Why was His booming voice, “This is my beloved Son,” silent on that day? Why did darkness cover the face of the earth, like the dark questions brooding in their hearts and minds, enveloping their hopes and dreams in disappointment and fear? Why only shadowed silence?

“Why?” always takes precedence as the most persistent of all questions when things go awry. And it persistently remains the most troublesome question. Why did Jesus cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Forsaken by God – that seems the conclusion when winter covers the landscape and winter’s chill seems permanent. For the disciples it must have generated even more questions. Had God forsaken them? Is that what they had signed up for, given the last three years of their lives for, to be forsaken by God?

During times of winter questioning, it is best to remember the words spoken in an earlier season. The words of explanation, words of comfort, words of hope, spoken to give us perspective on the days ahead when our gardens are currently overflowing and beauty abounds. To remember, we must listen in the first place. What had Jesus told them earlier that would have explained these tragic circumstances? What has He told you, that might sustain and offer hope during a bleak winter storm? What did you learn in the light that you must remember in the dark?

Virtually every birth comes at a painful price. Whether the birth of a human child, or the birth of a dream, birth pains are part of the deal. So why do we endure it? That question trumps the question of pain and suffering. Why does the rose scatter its seeds in the spring? Why does the gardener plant tender young plants into cold soil on a dark and rainy day? Why did Jesus go to the cross? Because of the hope. The hope of new life, eternal life. The hope of something better. The hope of an entire landscape filled with warmth and beauty. The promise of a bountiful harvest.

Thus Jesus went to the cross. He endured the winter of suffering, so we can enjoy the spring of resurrection. That doesn’t mean we won’t have struggles here, or questions. It does mean we can courageously rise above them, like the rebellious rhododendron down the street. And maybe we can provide sweet sustenance to nurture a famished friend. Signs of spring are all around us. Sometimes you must search for them, or create them yourself, but they are there. Hope springs eternal. And eternal life brings hope. ©2013 Don Detrick