Saturday, April 16, 2022

I Am Thankful for the Scars

by Barb Batt

And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots. Matthew 27:35 NRSV

As I journeyed toward Good Friday, I tried to fathom how much Jesus did for me when he suffered and died on the cross. Sometimes when I am working with wood and get a splinter, it can really hurt. I can't imagine the pain of having a nail driven into my hands and feet, and then hanging from them. I was listening to a Christian radio station recently and the song "Scars," by I Am They, was playing. I want to share the following words from this song as I believe they really apply to Good Friday.

I Can See, I Can See

How You Delivered Me

In Your Hands, In Your Feet

I Found My Victory

I Can See, I Can See

How You Delivered Me

In Your Hands, In Your Feet

I Found My Victory
I'm Thankful For Your Scars

Cause Without Them I Wouldn't Know Your Heart

And With My Life I'll Tell Of Who You Are

So Forever I Am Thankful

I am grateful for the pain and scars Jesus endured for me. I am not worthy at all. 

What one word do you think of when you hear the words Jesus died on the cross? So many come to my mind such as grace, love, grateful, and amazing.

Father, help me see the Easter story through fresh eyes this year. Let me never take for granted all that you have done for me through your son suffering and dying on the cross. Show me how I can be a faithful disciple who loves and serves you well. In your precious name, Jesus. Amen. 


Friday, April 15, 2022


By Pat Russell

This Lenten season has been filled with violence. The violence of Ukraine has been overwhelming to watch on the news. I have closed my eyes or turned my head often. I have gone to sleep with tears oozing out of my eyes. I wake up in the night and see images of suffering.The reality is that this is not new and was going on in other parts of the world before Ukraine. What we will do to one another is unbelievable! My heart cries out, “Stop, Stop, Stop! For Christ’s sake, STOP!”

During Lent, I have been spending time in the practice of “visio divina” which means I gaze upon a painting and meditate on what the Lord says to me through it. Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and their Meanings, by John Drury, has been my text. This morning I gazed upon Ruben’s The Coup de Lance. It was created for an altarpiece in Antwerp. It is based on this portion of Scripture from the Gospel of John 19:31-34…

Since it was the day of Preparation the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity.  So, they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out.

In the past, I have tended to skim over the violence of the crucifixion, the violence of Jesus’ trials including what the soldiers did to him, but this year these scenes have stood out to me. They say to me, “God is no stranger to violence. He has experienced the core of humanity’s cruelty to humanity. Not only does he know betrayal and denial, but he knows torture and a slow, painful death. And even after death, he experiences bodily desecration.”

Drury says, “Rubens grasps John’s collision of brute force and redemptive self-offering and makes it visible. Christ’s body hangs limp and vulnerable. The mounted soldier is not giving it the usual prod which an unimaginative reading of the text would allow. Ruben’s poetic energy makes him rise from his saddle and thrust with the same concentrated fury as a hunter spearing a lion in his earlier sketch, A Lion Hunt.”

John, the Gospel author, writes that, “…at once blood and water came out.”  I remember how I reacted to this scene in the movie “Jesus.”  I saw the gushing of these bodily fluids over those below the cross and I wept. Even in death, our Lord pours out his very bodily fluids for us – the waters of his baptism that anointed his commitment to us, his blood of the new covenant “poured out for you.”
Our Lord was not spared the violence in this world. He does not stand apart and observe all that is going on, turning his eyes away because it is an insult to his senses. I don’t know what it looks like, but I believe that by the Holy Spirit, our Lord is present in all suffering. That does not make it easier or less horrible. I cannot draw any violence-easing conclusions in these days. I only know that the words “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” have a depth of truth I only partially grasp. And so, I accompany Him today as He heads into death, knowing He is accompanying the world in all its suffering.

Jesus, I would not turn my eyes away from suffering, but I do not want to watch in some obscene fascination. I want to see with Your eyes and yes, lower my eyes in prayer for those who are suffering immeasurably. When I look, I want to see You on the cross in all Your agony with them beside You; I want to hear You say, "Today, you will be with me in Paradise." Give me Your courage to be with the suffering, knowing all is not lost in You.

Good Friday Sunrise

By Pat Russell

Scripture:  Matthew 26:74-27:2

Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.

Sunrise is a significant time of day in Holy Week.  The first sunrise that comes to mind is, of course, Resurrection Day.  However, consider another sunrise – the sunrise of this day, Good Friday.  It was at this time that the rooster crowed, coinciding with Peter’s third denial of his Lord.  It was at this time that the religious leaders of the people reached a decision concerning Jesus – they handed him over to Pilate for a death sentence. It is a sunrise of betrayal!

And yet, Jesus, who will die on this day of betrayal, is centered in his mind and heart upon obedience to his Father.  He is not panicked by the accusations, by the crowds, or by the desertion of his friends.  With love He takes into consideration those around him.  He enters this day, after a night of torture, with a calmness that has the authorities baffled. 

We call this GOOD Friday.  How can this be, when the day begins with betrayal and ends with death?  In the midst of evil, something good is happening for each of us. In the midst of betrayal Someone good is making a way for the sunrise of betrayal to become the sunrise of Resurrection. 

As you consider this day from sunrise to sunset, dwell on Jesus’ attitude towards those around him.  Imagine yourself in the presence of Jesus on this day.  What does He have for you?

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Long, Last Conversation

By Cathy Ramsey

 This devotional comes from a pamphlet written by Christopher Hall (“A Different Way”) and published by Renovare. I think it will help us visualize Jesus’ last conversation with the disciples before he died for us on the cross and was resurrected. I found this extremely meaningful during Holy Week.


The apostle John records a last, long conversation Jesus had with his disciples. It occurred in the upper room on the night that Jesus was later betrayed and arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. In this last talk, Jesus emphasizes truths about God and himself that he wants embedded in the disciples’ minds, for these are people who will speak and write on Jesus’ behalf after his ascension into heaven—bearing witness to who he is, what he has accomplished, and what he is still doing in the world through the Holy Spirit.

This last conversation wasn’t easy for the disciples. How so? Well, among other things, Jesus starts the discussion by announcing he is leaving, and nobody is happy about this.

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going. (John 14:1–4)

For many of us, these are comforting words, words of encouragement, words that keep us going during times of testing, loneliness, pain, illness, or grief. Not so with the disciples. Jesus’ teaching about leaving and coming back made little scriptural or theological sense to them. Why? They expected a Messiah who stays. God’s anointed one comes to reign, to end Israel’s subjection to Roman rule, to heal, to defeat Satan, to conquer death.

For Thomas, Peter, Phillip, and the rest of the apostolic band gathered that last evening with Jesus in the upper room, their messianic expectations were grounded on the promise of the prophets that Israel’s Messiah would come and rule in Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 2:1–5). All the nations would stream to God’s anointed on Zion. This present evil age would end. The age to come would begin under the leadership of the anointed king of Israel, the promised Messiah. 

Jesus had fulfilled the disciples’ messianic (pertaining to the Messiah) expectations up to this point. Why now this talk about leaving? Why was he going away? Where was he going?

We perceive the disciples’ confusion in the question Thomas poses to Jesus: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Thomas is puzzled, confused, frustrated. “Lord, you’re not being helpful,” he seems to be saying. “Why are you leaving? Where are you going? Messiahs don’t leave. They stay.”

Jesus’ response to Thomas doesn’t clarify matters, though it is a saying well loved by Christians. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:6–7).

Philip, who sometimes seems a bit out of his depth, responds on behalf of the entire group: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8).

As Jesus replies to Philip, we sense a hint of impatience in his voice, toward Philip and all the apostles. They should understand by now. “Jesus answered: ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9).

Could Jesus be clearer? When we look at Jesus, we see the Father.

What is God like? God is like Jesus. Jesus invites us to look at him and see God. He promises us that if we take a good look and drink him in, we will find God. For some of us, our first big step toward spiritual healing, spiritual wholeness, and spiritual sanity will be a big step toward Jesus. You may consider taking the next three to five years to just read the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John— over and over again. There is no need to rush. Hidden icebergs of ingrained, false patterns of thinking and living will slowly crack and melt. Christ’s healing light will shine into the hidden nooks of our personality. Darkness will recede. Distorted and destructive views of God will fade. A new picture of God—one in line with Reality—will slowly set in and stabilize.

I repeat again: What is God like? God is like Jesus.

This first step toward Jesus will be hard for some of us, for we have been hurt in the past. We may have been wounded by what people have taught us about God. We may have been injured by other “Christians,” both in what they have said and in what they have done.

Take your time. Thankfully, there is no rush in spiritual formation. It is the slowest of all human movements. Jesus never tires of saying to each precious image-bearer, “I want to embrace you and make you like me. I want to teach you a different way.” Jesus’ invitation is for everyone. No one is left out.

God has promised that what has gone wrong will ultimately be made right; in fact, recreation and renewal has begun. Christ has come. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Still, we wait. God is weaving new clothes for us on the loom of redemption.

A Word of Encouragement from Jesus

You are my beloved. You are my dear, dear girl, my dear, dear boy. Come to me. You have been laden too long with burdens too heavy for you to carry. Give them to me. Trust me. You are loved. You are safe. I will not harm you. It is time to release your life into my light and love. Come home. There is a fire waiting and supper prepared. Once you’ve eaten your fill, we will begin our journey together. A different way awaits.


Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Because He Lives

By Marilyn Travis

Every year at Easter time I think of my Mom. She suffered with several serious health conditions that made her life difficult, yet she lived in the hope given to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Her suffering is over and I rejoice in the knowledge that she is living in Heaven with Jesus.

Mom was a character. I’ve told many stories about Mom. Stories such as Mom taking Robert and I, when we were little, downtown to wait for Dad to walk out of his office. While waiting we chewed gum and threw it onto the sidewalk, making predictions about who might step on it and what their reaction would be.

Once Mom and Dad invited their Bible study group over for dinner, then served them spaghetti and meatballs with no silverware, just breadsticks. Everyone was issued a trash bag to wear over their clothing during dinner. Ice cream with a cookie was served for dessert. I can still hear the laughter!

When Mom got her first power chair she really had some adventures. Once, in a very nice restaurant, she caught a tablecloth with her chair and pulled it onto the floor along with everything on the table. Luckily nobody was occupying that space. She also got trapped in the Men’s room during a dinner, having bumped the door open and entered. She soon realized her predicament but she couldn’t open the door in the other direction to get out!

I could make this a very long document if I recalled all of Mom’s antics. She was a joyful person. She loved life, family, friends, music, her piano and baton students, and cats. She also loved her Lord Jesus Christ.

I have always been inspired by Mom’s spirit of joy. She raised two children with developmental disabilities, owned and operated her own baton, piano and instrumental studio, worked as an etching artist for Van Briggle Pottery, led several MS groups and Bible studies and still found time to explore nature with Dad in their motorhome. She accomplished these things while battling MS, breast cancer, osteoporosis, mini strokes, thyroid and blood pressure issues. She was often almost defeated physically and spiritually by her debilitating health issues.

Mom said she never asked, “Why me?” but rather, “Why not me?” She trusted the Lord to get her through each day and considered each day to be a blessing. She said every person can do something for the Lord. She opened her home to Bible studies even when she wasn’t feeling well enough to attend herself. She trusted her friends to get themselves a snack and take care of everything. There was no need to cancel or change locations just because she couldn’t participate. She was thankful to have a home she could offer. She taught me to look for blessings every day.

In the two or three years before Mom’s death she spoke often of her excitement about Heaven. She could hardly wait to get there! She asked me to imagine having booked the dream vacation of a lifetime. Imagine that dream vacation was already paid in full, would never end, and all I had to do was go. ”That,” she said, “is what Heaven is to me.”

Two of Mom’s favorite Bible verses were from Isaiah.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

I am so very thankful for my Mom. The song "Because He Lives" has been running through my head all week. It has been a blessing to me. I hope it will bless you as well as we wait for Easter morning to rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ!


Tuesday, April 12, 2022


By Phil Wood

Mark 15:33-39  At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)…

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”

This year during Lent, I’ve been thinking a lot about death – not in any morbid sense, but the subject has been on my mind for a couple different reasons.

First, I lost my younger brother on March 6, the first Sunday of Lent. After many years of dedicated service to God, mixed with long periods of suffering and pain, Mark now romps with the angels and saints in the presence of the one who is Lord of all. His transformation is complete. And mine got a little closer in the process.

Second, death is really a tough subject to avoid as Good Friday looms before us during this holiest of weeks on the Christian calendar. As we near the cross, we must face the fact that Jesus died a lonely, forsaken, brutal death.

Even though, in hindsight, we know he conquered death and rose again, we have to acknowledge that he did, indeed, die – as all of us must. We have to deal with the grief. We have to deal with the remorse of knowing he died to save us from our sin.

And, eventually, we must conclude that there is a lesson to be learned here – one we really don’t like thinking about. In his book, Wondrous Encounters, Richard Rohr writes, “We all find endless disguises and excuses to avoid letting go of what really needs to die for our own spiritual growth.”
In his book called Our Greatest Gift, Henri Nouwen writes, “Jesus lived less than forty years; he didn’t travel outside his own country; the people who knew him during his life scarcely understood him; and when he died, only a few of his followers remained faithful. In every respect, his life was a failure. Success had left him, popularity had dwindled…Still, few lives have been so fruitful; few lives have affected the thinking and feeling of other people so deeply; few have so profoundly shaped future cultures; few have influenced so radically the pattern of human relationships.”

There is something mystical that happens when someone we love makes that final transition and passes from this life to the next. Something that we who remain experience in a very deep way.  A window is opened and we see a bigger picture.

At my brother’s memorial service I witnessed a long parade of people testifying to the impact he had on their lives, and realized that his work is only beginning to bear fruit and will continue to do so for generations to come.

On a cold, gray, Michigan day, I helped bury his ashes in the memorial garden just outside the doors of his church, and marveled that beautiful plants and flowers will be springing up there soon.

I think of the centurion at the cross whose life was changed by witnessing the death of Jesus. I think of the millions and millions of souls whose lives have been changed since that day because of him.

I think of the many parts of myself that I’ve had to let go of over the years, and those that yet need to die for something more beautiful to happen.

And it is well with my soul.

Lord Jesus, here we are, more than two thousand years after your death, still mourning, still overcome by the cruelty you experienced at the hands of people you created and loved so dearly. Yet you, Lord, even in your death, you were teaching us. You opened a window so we could see that without death, there is no resurrection. And without resurrection, nothing changes. By your Holy Spirit – now alive in us – we are strengthened to let die those things that hinder our relationship with you. We are set free to share your love to the culture around us, and send it forward from our generation to the next. Hallelujah! Amen.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Experience the Journey

By Donna Winchell

“Everything that happens to us in the world passes into us. It all becomes part of the inner temple of the soul and it can never be lost. This is the art of the soul: to harvest your deeper life from all the seasons of your experience”. Excerpt from BEAUTY by John O’Donohue

A powerful memory I have of the Lenten season was the experience of praying, meditating and retracing the steps of Jesus on His way to Calvary via the Stations of the Cross. The Stations lined the walls of our church which was adjacent to the school grounds and provided a chance each afternoon to be with Jesus. I admit it was an uncomfortable journey to experience; contemplating the horrors of what our Lord suffered, wondering why it had to be this way – “Still, it’s what God had in mind all along, to crush Him with pain. The plan was that He give himself as an offering for sin so that He’d see life come from it—life, life, and more life. And God’s plan will deeply prosper through Him.” (Isaiah 53:10 MSG)

 “Suffering, sorrow, injustice, confusion, and death can touch any of us, at any time . . . the Stations can offer consolation and comfort when we are grieving; healing and restoration when we are parched; inspiration and guidance when we are searching or lost or simply beset by the turmoil and temptation, isolation and insecurity that unsettle all our lives.” — From the introduction of Praying the Stations of the Cross: Finding Hope in a Weary Land

If you haven’t prayed the Stations of the Cross – sometimes referred to as The Way of the Cross, the Via Crucis or the Way of Sorrows – or if it has been a while; the Stations provide the perfect opportunity to keep vigil with Jesus while praying for inner transformation and compassion. By experiencing His suffering and sorrow we are reminded of Christ's love for us.

Today I would like to encourage you to meditate on Christ’s passion as a perpetual day of penance to help obtain grace and to grow in holiness. Be present in the moment. Focus on speaking honestly with Jesus. Accompany Him on this final day of His redemptive journey ……..

……… do you feel His pain of betrayal, abandonment, being despised. As Jesus falls the first time, the second and the third; let your heart look into His eyes; what are you seeing at those moments? Is Jesus telling you that He sees your own fears, your burdens, your loneliness, something else? Do you share your thoughts honestly with Him? Observe His response to the evil in the world, which teaches us how to look with tenderness and mercy on others. Place your trust in Him remembering that He suffered to save us.

Jesus loves us so very much that He was willing to be betrayed by Judas, denied by timid Peter, insulted over and over, pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities so that we might spend eternity with Him.

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” (Hebrews 12, NLT).

Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, we praise and thank You for the priceless gift of salvation made possible through Your death and resurrection. May we never forget the great price You paid for our sins. We know that by obeying the will of Your Father and going to the Cross, You displayed your immense love for us. Help us to remember Your perfect peace, resignation and forgiveness for others. We adore you, O Christ, and we praise You; because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this final week of our Lenten journey, I hope you will schedule a special time to pray, meditate and experience your own time with Jesus, God’s promised Redeemer; perhaps at these fourteen stations of the cross by Saint Alphonsus Liguori