His Grave Was Assigned

It was a beautiful, sunny day; one of the first days of spring. A man was in one of the raised flower beds on his knees pulling weeds. I noticed the dirt was exposed and only flowers, trees, and bushes grew there.

Joseph of Arimathea had a beautiful garden. We wandered through, working our way downhill to the tomb.

Isaiah 53:9, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in his death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth.”

New American Standard Bible, May 21, 2022

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(Jesus was crucified between two criminals. Yet, he was buried in a rich man’s grave. Joseph of Arimathea gave him his own grave, see Matthew 27:57-60.)

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There was a grape press facing the tomb. Just as the juice is pressed out of the grapes, so was Jesus’ blood pressed out of his body. Wine comes from the juice; life is in the blood.

The grape press in the Garden of the Tomb.

The original round stone and a replica were destroyed in two different wars. The second replica was resting in a garden bed to protect it.

A replica of the stone that covered the tomb.

There was a group ahead of us. We enjoyed the garden as we waited.

Only a couple people could enter the tomb at a time. There were 2 spaces carved out. Joseph made room for his wife! It looked like a pillow was carved out of the rock.

The tomb where they buried Jesus.

(I felt like I was visiting a hotel with a sign that said, “Jesus slept here.” Why wasn’t I in awe? God raised Jesus from the dead in this place.)

But God and Jesus left the space two thousand years ago. I thought I would feel something like I did at the “Wailing Wall.”

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The Wailing Wall was segregated. We walked down the women’s side. I waited for a space to open. When the Jews leave the “Wailing Wall” they walk backward for several steps. It was as if they didn’t want to leave the place where they felt the closest to God.

Women walked behind the white partitions to approach the “Wailing Wall.”

Some of our group had requests written on paper. They tried shoving them in the crevices.

(“What would I request? A husband for my daughter? No, I prayed that prayer when she was a tiny girl. We are just waiting for the answer. I think I will just touch the wall.”)

I stretched out my right hand and it felt like a magnet pulled it forward. You could feel the prayers of God’s people. They shimmered like heat waves and the invisible cloud was a foot thick. It wasn’t something you could see but it was something you could feel.

God spoke to my heart, “Pray for the Jews!”

I did and I continue to do so.

(The voice of God sounds like your conscience. You hear it clearly but no one else does.)

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It was a somber week. My friend laid her dad to rest today. Yesterday, my thoughts kept returning to my Dad who served in the Korean War. I thought of Matt G., Levi A., and John Ginger P. who came home safely from deployments and died on American soil. So many things I do not understand.

The verses I wrote down were sober.

Isaiah 56:5, “To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.”

New American Standard Bible, May 22, 2022

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Isaiah 63:9, “In all their affliction He was afflicted and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, and He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.”

New American Standard Bible, May 24, 2022

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Jeremiah 2:25, “Keep your feet from being unshod and your throat from thirst…”

New American Standard Bible, May 27, 2022

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Jeremiah 2:3, “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.”

New American Standard Bible, May 27, 2022

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Jeremiah 3:12, 13, “Go and proclaim these words toward the north and say, ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the Lord; ‘I will not be angry forever. 13) Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God…and you have not obeyed My voice.’…”

New American Standard Bible, May 28, 2022

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Jeremiah 5:19, “It shall come about when they say, ‘Why has the Lord our God done all these things to us?’ then you shall say to them, ‘As you have forsaken Me [God] and served foreign gods in your land…'”

New American Standard Bible, May 29, 2022

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Nahum 1:7, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

New American Standard Bible, May 30, 2022

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Jeremiah 9:1, “Oh, that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!”

New American Standard Bible, May 31, 2022

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Today the children killed in Uvaldey Texas were laid to rest in the graves assigned to them. I would not have chosen this. I know they will be remembered. I know God will carry their families through the rest of their days.

Each day I will put on my shoes, drink my water, and pray for them. I will seek the Lord and acknowledge my iniquity. I will obey God and serve only Him. I will take refuge in Him even in times of great grief.

Because Jesus is no longer in the grave assigned to him!

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Frittering Away Their Days

Turning the page on my DayTimer, I found it was the last one. Yeah, I planned to print off the pages for July last Thursday.

A food journal is on one side and a regular journal on the other. It’s more of a diary than a planner now. I have a line down the middle of the 2nd page. It is easier to record activities and reads like a newspaper.

My task list is long but I have no energy. After 2 loads of laundry and writing 2 posts, I shopped online. David’s birthday is next Wednesday. No luck.

Derek came home for lunch and turned on the TV. I decided to play computer games until he went back to work. That turned into playing until I won. The afternoon slipped away and guilt moved in. I’m as bad as the young widows Paul warned Timothy about.

1 Timothy 5:13, “…frittering away their days on…trivialities…” The Message

* * * * * * *

2 Chronicles 20:15, ‘For the battle is not yours, but God’s…’ …Why then do you discourage yourself into defeat, trying to win the battle in your own strength? You engage in a fruitless cycle of repentance, resolutions, struggles, defeat, and discouragement, which leads to more repenting. The only sort of spiritual conflict that’s ever successfully won, is the one God fights for you.” The Word for You Today

I’m adjusting to a new normal. In 2009, we lost our first parent. Since then, we lost 2 more. Burying our parents became our new normal.

This week, we buried our niece’s father. I thought it would be years before that happened. Yet, we’ve lost many classmates. Burying our peers is becoming a new normal.

“As you and I follow Jesus in our new normal, we’ll continually climb out of the familiar because that’s life. We may not always know what’s ahead, but we can be assured we’re on good ground if we’re following Jesus.” “Adjusting to a New Normal” Suzie Eller, Proverbs 31 Ministries

In 11 weeks, Derek will come home for lunch for the last time. An empty nest will be my new normal. I’m sad and excited all at once. I’ll miss him, but I already have plans for his room.

Dad would have been 86 today. I still miss him. Happy Birthday in heaven, Dad.

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Stay Right There

July 4th

We were invited to a cookout and David had plans to work in the yard. But after yesterday, we canceled all plans and stayed home. We realized we needed rest.

1 Timothy 1:3, “…Stay right there on top of things so that the teaching stays on track.” The Message

Jesus took naps. He slept in one of the worst storms His disciples encountered, (Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:38)! He taught everywhere He went – on the mountains and in the valleys.

“We don’t change the world because we shout over good news on the mountain. We change the world because we bring good news into the valley.” “You are God’s Distribution Center,” 1 Min Motivation, Steven Furtick

Our family is walking through a valley. When one of us hurts, all of us hurt. Grief doesn’t end when the funeral is over. The hardest work starts then. You have to deal with all the “stuff” left behind.

Jesus doesn’t just walk through the valley with us – He carries us.

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

If You Have a Heart

July 3, 2018, 3:00 a.m.

The only clothes I set out were a jean jacket and a pair of shoes. *Sigh* I decided dressing could wait and started writing. Halfway through, I stopped and ordered shoes for Derek’s wedding.

“Sacrifice, and then celebrate. Don’t get it the other way around. …All sacrifice and no celebration means no strength. It’s the danger of deprivation.” “Sacrifice, Then Celebrate,” 1 Min Motivation, Steven Furtick

I got up at 3:00 to write for 4 hours before leaving for Terry’s funeral. It was a sacrifice worth making.

Terry had two daughters from his first marriage. I’m sure he would have loved a picture of all three girls together.

That picture exists now. Sadly, they were on motorcycles riding to the cemetery. Just the way he would have liked…

“When Jesus arrives on the scene, He doesn’t diminish her distress or sidestep her sorrow. He just weeps with her as they walk to her brother’s tomb, (John 11:33-35). …Think about it – Jesus knows Mary’s weeping will soon turn to joy. He knows that He’s going to bring her brother back to life, and all the tears will be trumped by cheers. But Jesus doesn’t use the hope of a better tomorrow to avoid the imminent pain of today.” “How to Hold a Hurting Heart” Alicia Bruxvoort, Proverbs 31 Ministries

* * * * * * *

Philippians 2:1-2, “If you gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – (2) then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.” The Message

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Christ Thought of Everything

Grief. The family is walking through the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Everyone grieves differently. Four members of the same family can start in four different stages. Some are in shock and cannot cry. Others can’t stop crying.

There are so many decisions – so much to do:

  • Find the best pictures.
  • Pick verses that reflect their life or were favorites.
  • Remembering everything for the obituary.
  • Choosing a final resting place.
  • Dispersing all the stuff.
  • Re-homing the animals.
  • Explaining everything to his granddaughter.
  • Which songs?

Acts 28 is a wonderful example of how to survive grief or another trauma.

1. Build a campfire.

Acts 28:1-2, “Once everyone was accounted for and we realized we had all made it… (2) went out of their way to be friendly…they built a huge bonfire and gathered us around it.” The Message

The grieving need to look around make sure everyone is there. The friends of the family are to gather around the family. They are there to listen or just cry with you.

2. Take them home.

Acts 28:7-9, “The head man…Publius…took us into his home as his guests, drying us out and putting us up in fine style. … (8) Publius’s father was sick…Paul…laid hands on him and prayed, the man was healed. (9) Word of the healing got around fast, and soon everyone on the island who was sick came and got healed.” The Message

Send the grieving to your guest room for a nap. Or to rest and let their mind stop spinning. Take them out to eat to let them set the grief aside for a bit.

Friends can get you away from the grief for an hour or so. But, even in grief, look for ways to serve. Doing something kind for someone else lifts our spirits.

3. Meet their needs.

Acts 28:10, “We spent a wonderful three months on Malta. They treated us royally, took care of our needs and outfitted us for the rest of the journey.” The Message

Offer water and food. Loan them what they are lacking – an umbrella on a rainy day. Guard them like royalty. Be a buffer for them.

4. Realize their grieving is not permanent.

Acts 28:15, “Paul, brimming over with praise, led us in prayers of Thanksgiving.” The Message

* * * * * * *

Acts 28:20, “…I’m a hostage here for hope, not doom.” The Message

Time eases grief. It becomes easier to bear. You never stop missing your loved one but you find reasons to smile again. We start to see things differently.

* * * * * * *

Death is not the only hard time we will experience. Divorce, unemployment, accidents, and serious illnesses all take us through a valley.

“We want God to change the situation but not us. God wants to change us.” Pastor Monte Knudsen, 6-27-18

* * * * * * *

“…He wanted me to learn that His grace is sufficient in the pit. …God didn’t rescue Daniel from the pit; He delivered Him from the power of the enemy while he was in the pit.” Pastor Sarah Utterbach – Redeeming Love Christian Center in The Word for You Today, 6-27-18

God has a plan for our lives. We will not stay in this valley or pit forever.

Ephesians 1:8-9, “He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, (9) letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making.” The Message

* * * * * * *

Ephesians 1:11-12, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. (12) …He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.” The Message

Lean on your church family during hard times. They want to bear your burdens. Their prayers will carry you when you can’t go any further.

Ephesians 1:22, “…The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.” The Message

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

I Urge You to Eat

Stephanie’s father died of a heart attack – 2 states away. (She had rushed to his side after the first heart attack.) She was alone because her husband is deployed.

We received the news while driving to Cedar Rapids Saturday. On the way home, I called her. Alone in a motel room, she was happy to let me ramble for an hour. I told her every funny story I could remember about him.

What do you say to someone suddenly responsible for a cattle ranch, 2 llamas, and several pets? You tell them to eat.

Acts 27:34, “But I urge you to eat something now. You’ll need strength for the rescue ahead. You’re going to come out of this without even a scratch.” The Message

Sunday, I called again to check on her…

“Did you eat today?”

“Oatmeal and yogurt.”

“Not enough. Go eat more.”

Monday, I texted, “Did you eat?” She was smart and replied, “Breakfast.” 

I left her alone while she made arrangements with the funeral director. The Red Cross was able to locate her husband and get him home. After he arrived, I stopped nagging her. I figured he could make sure she ate.

Making funeral arrangements is difficult. I know God will be with her every step of the way. I expect God to bless her even during this journey of grief.

* * * * * * *

Acts 27:1, “As soon as arrangements were complete for our sailing to Italy…” The Message

Paul knew he needed to share the Message of Jesus in Rome. He talked about going to Rome, (Romans 1:15). God made arrangements for the Romans to pay for his trip!

It was not an ideal journey. He was in chains and the ship was lost in a 2-week storm. He ended up stranded on an island for 3 months.

How do you survive a difficult journey? Take the next step. Put one foot in front of the other. Each day, get up and do it again. Don’t ever give up.

“Peter teaches us that sometimes the greatest courage is in not giving up. It’s in rising from defeat, daring to walk with Jesus another day.” “When You Used to Be Brave” Elizabeth Laing Thompson, in Proverbs 31 Ministries

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

They Pour into the Streets Wearing Black

When I started my devotions, I thought, “I wish it were after Pentecost Sunday. We would be reading Acts, not Isaiah.” Then I picked up a newsletter Mom dropped off yesterday and read this:

“Bible scholars have said that even if we didn’t have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we would still have the Gospel in Isaiah, written five centuries before Christ: ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. …He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by His stripes we are healed. …The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. …For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.’ (Isaiah 53:3-8).” Gordon Robertson, “Frontlines” – April 2018

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Tonight is Bill’s visitation. I expect a line of people around 2 blocks waiting to get in. Isaiah 15 showed me God understands grief. He knows what we are feeling.

Isaiah 15:3-5, 8, “They pour into the streets wearing black. …everyone in tears, everyone in grief. (4) …sobs, shaking in grief. …trembles…” (5) …they weep…they cry their loss. (8) …Gut-wrenching sobs…heart-rending sobs…” The Message

After reading my chapters, I decided to bake the cookies for the funeral dinner. I measured the sugar and noticed it was lumpy. I sifted it to break up the lumps and saw bugs in the sugar!

I checked the canister – no bugs. They had to have come from the double sifter. I put the sifter in a pan with water and boiled it for 15 minutes.

I tossed that sugar and started over. You don’t have to sift flour for chocolate chip cookies. I decided to make them. But the chocolate chips were frozen! I put them in a bowl of warm water to thaw.

I washed dishes while I waited for all the ingredients to come to room temperature. Starting over with fresh sugar, I mixed up the cookies. Some of the chocolate chips had melted! They will be chocolate chip, streaked cookies.

I got out my new, cookie dough scoop to drop the cookies on the cookie sheet. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed the cookie scoop, dried it and slathered it with butter. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed it again, dried it and poured a tablespoon of oil in it. I rolled the oil around to coat all the surfaces of the scoop and dumped the extra.

6 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release! I just kept scooping and flicked my wrist to release the dough. (Can you get carpal tunnel from making cookies?)

I put the first sheet in the preheated oven and said, “I hope you’re watching, Bill, because this is freaking hilarious! I love you, man.” (See Hebrews 12:1.)

The first batch was darker than I wanted. I set the timer back 3 minutes. When I checked the second sheet, it was doughy. I added 2 minutes to the timer. The third sheet was fine.

I was putting in the fourth sheet when I heard someone at the door. I hit “stop” instead of “start” on the timer accidentally. The numbers were moving so I answered the door.

When I got back, there were 3 minutes on the timer. I started washing the baking dishes. The next time I checked, there were 6 minutes, 37 seconds on the timer. It took me about 30 seconds to realize my timer must have a “stopwatch” feature because it was gaining time!

I rescued the cookies. As I put in the last batch, I thought, “Bill, I am finished baking the cookies. The show’s over.”

I swear I heard him laughing.

Then I started laughing – the deep, belly laugh that works like medicine. Yes, there will be tears at Bill’s visitation tonight, but there will be more laughter. Deep, belly, laugh-until-you-cry laughter. Healing laughter. (See Proverbs 17:22.)

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

God Has a Plan

When my dad died, my friend, Jill gave me the best advice. “Plan on missing him for the rest of your life – because you will.” I planned on grieving and I’m not surprised when I suddenly miss Dad. Grief is a tunnel.

“The comfort we have from Christ’s revealed truth is not that it teaches us freedom from sorrow but that it teaches us freedom through sorrow….I am merely traveling through a tunnel….someday it will be all right.” George Matheson, “Streams in the Desert” May 8

Even when the worst happens, God still has a plan.

2 Kings 19:25, “Did it ever occur to you that I’m behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I’ve gone into action….” The Message

* * * * * * *

“The prophet Isaiah had declared that Assyria was (unwittingly) serving God’s purposes in punishing Israel. When that punishment was complete, however, Isaiah had a new message: a message of judgment for Assyria and of possible hope for the remnant of Israel and to Judah….” Chronological Study Bible Notes

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

Discover Cool Springs

Yesterday, before reading my Bible, I turned on a worship station. The first song was, “Oceans” by Hillsong United.

Grief is like an ocean. It’s vast and overwhelming at times. It comes in waves. Some waves knock you over. Some take your breath away. But, eventually, each wave recedes. If we keep looking up, we won’t drown.

God reminded me of my life’s work, (playing for worship services), yesterday. I smiled when I looked at today’s assigned chapters. Psalms 84 is my “life chapter.”

When I was fourteen, I asked God to show me what was in my future. I opened my Bible to Psalms 84. My first job was the janitor at my church. After I married, I worked in the church office for a few decades. That chapter has been an accurate guide.

But in the middle are the verses about passing through the Valley of Baca.

“Baca…the ‘valley of weeping’…the last stage of the pilgrimage from northern Palestine to Jerusalem.” biblegateway.com

* * * * * * *

“Traversing joyfully the road to the great assembly, the happy pilgrims found refreshment even in the dreariest part of the road….God gives to his people the supplies they need while traversing the roads which he points out for them.” biblestudytools.com

* * * * * * *

Psalms 84:5-6, “And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; (6) they wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!” The Message

Today “Spirit Fall” by Chris Tomlin was the first song I heard. Grief has left me listless and tired. I just want to sleep. But after reading those chapters, I was ready to practice for Wednesday night’s service. God’s Spirit lit the fire again.

“…Like a mighty wind; light the fire again; come and breathe your breath on me….” “Spirit Fall” by Chris Tomlin

©2009-2018 thisyearsbiblereadingguide.com. All Rights Reserved.

My Father, My Father!

My “permalink” is showing the date. When that happens, Google search engines ignore the post because it is “dated” or “old news.” The option to change that is missing!

I sent an email to WordPress.com support but it may take a day or two before I get an answer. Discouraged, I considered giving up. Then I read these:

“…Christians like Samuel inspire us to pursue every opportunity the Lord gives us to advance His Word.” Voice of the Martyrs Magazine

* * * * * * *

“…Right now I feel a little lost. But He will fulfill His purpose for me….I’m going through this little thing with depression right now. But He will fulfill His purpose for me. I’m kind of confused. But He will fulfill His purpose for me….I’m in a position where I don’t seem to get much validation. But He will fulfill His purpose for me…..I got a promise!”

1-Minute Motivation – Steven Furtick – April 17, 2018

I’m not depressed, I’m grieving. My dad died on April 17th. Facebook kept showing me memories from that year.

  • April 13th – “Dad is spending the day with me tomorrow. I baked him a pie. The man loves his pie.”
  • April 14th – “Laura came to eat lunch with Dad and me. She told him he couldn’t have pie unless he ate the “healthy” sandwich Mom sent. He didn’t like the “healthy” biscuit Mom used. I gave him 2 pieces of pie and we hid the rest from Laura!”
  • April 15th – “Dad collapsed.”
  • April 16th – “Dad is in Iowa City.”
  • April 17th – “Daddy’s gone.”

2 Kings 2:11, 12, “And so it happened. They were walking along and talking….(12) Elisha…shouted, ‘My father, my father!…’ ” The Message

My father taught me many things but 2 came to mind today: 1) Respect men of God, and 2) Respect life.

Respect Men of God

2 Kings 2:24, “Elisha turned, took one look at them, and cursed them in the name of God. Two bears charged out of the underbrush and knocked them about, ripping them limb from limb – forty-two children in all.” The Message

* * * * * * *

“…Frequently, the age at which young men became warriors in ancient society was younger than in modern Western armies. The ‘boys’ of 2 Kings 2:23, like the ‘young men’ of Genesis 4:23, could have been armed and dangerous.” Chronological Study Bible Notes

Elisha was not taunted by school children but by a gang of armed young adults. Their lack of respect for a man of God cost them their lives.

Respect Life

2 Kings 3:27, “Then he took his son, his firstborn who would succeed him as king, and sacrificed him on the city wall. That set off furious anger against Israel. Israel pulled back and returned home.” The Message

* * * * * * *

“…the absolute condemnation of human sacrifice in the divine law of Judah and Israel (Exodus 34:20; Deuteronomy 18:10). Child sacrifice was so appalling and detestable that they fled what was to them a place of absolute apostasy.” Chronological Study Bible Notes

The best way to honor my father is to follow his example…

“2 Chronicles 26:4, ‘He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father…had done.’ (New International Version)…Your example will have more impact than all your exhortations….so set the right example.”  The Word for You Today, 4-17-18

…and to remember – God will fulfill His purpose for me.

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