It is Finished

This past Friday my family and I had the opportunity to walk through Stations of the Cross, an annual Easter event our church puts on, which provides attendees an opportunity to walk through a fifteen station depiction of Jesus’ last hours on earth, to his death and resurrection. Being that this was the third year for our family to participate, I was focused on not taking it for granted. I wanted to take the time to reflect and pray; allowing God to minister to me where I am today and speak to my heart in new and fresh ways. So, I made a point to walk slowly through each station and really press in during the reflection time.

The first few stations were really, only minimally impactful for me. That all changed about midway through, when I came to the station with the standing cross with splatters of red representing Jesus’ blood, and a small cloth draped over it, representing the cloth Jesus wore at the time of his death. As I stood at the base of the cross, looking up at it; I began to picture Jesus on it, looking down at me, and I couldn’t help but wonder – If I could have been there that day, standing at his feet and looking into his eyes; what would I have seen in them? Would I have seen agony and anguish? Would I have seen a fiery, ‘Go get ‘em, Tiger’ look, something along the lines of- I’m dying for you now go and live for me?

As I pondered what his expression might have been, I saw none of those things in my mind’s eye. Instead, I saw misty eyes tenderly looking down at me full of sincere, piercing compassion – for all the heartache I have had to suffer, all the pain, for every hurt, for the affects of sin in my life – either by others or of my own choices. I began to cry. I couldn’t help but wonder how could Jesus, hanging in pain, be thinking of me; feeling compassion for my hurts and sorrow, for my pain and sin? But he did. And not only did he die thinking of me – he died thinking of you as well. Isaiah 53:4,5 says, “Surely he took up our infirmities (that’s mine and yours) and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds, we are healed.” He was thinking of you, he was thinking of me – he loves each of us that much.

And as Jesus was dying, He said the words, “It is finished.” These words ushered in at the end of His life, marked the end of us as we were, and the beginning of us as we were meant to be (L.Giglio). As Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our sin earns us death and separation from God; those are the wages we deserve. But Jesus willingly paid the price for our sin, and in so doing He gives us the opposite of what we deserve. For all who put their faith in Him, he gives the gift of forgiveness and right standing with him.

As we celebrate His resurrection, we celebrate not only our appreciation for Jesus’ love and grace represented on the cross; we also celebrate that when he rose again he conquered death, hell, and the grave. We celebrate that God does what he says he will do; He who promises is faithful. We celebrate that no matter how bleak things seem, we are never with out hope. We celebrate the amazing power of our God, power we have access to daily in our lives through Christ. And we celebrate the relationship we get to have with Him both now in this life, and in the life to come… there is nothing like it. And it all comes down to grace – God granting us what we can not earn and do not deserve – an amazing gift available to us all. Thank you, Jesus!

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

Advertisements

What a Gift!!

Two weeks ago we had our Shoreline Women Collide Retreat. Friday night was spectacular. After it was over, I was wired and tired, and I stayed up a little too late after the evening ended. I had to get back to the Shoreline South building early Saturday morning, and so before I drifted off for a quick few hours of sleep, I set my alarm to be sure I’d get up on time. Saturday morning rolled around, and I did something I never do. I turned my alarm off in my sleep. I don’t even remember it going off. All I remember is waking up in a panic, realizing it was almost time for me to leave the house, and I wasn’t even out of bed yet!! Now, I am a girly girl, so I knew I was in trouble. So I quickly hopped up and got to it, only to get hit a few minutes later with texts from others already on their way saying IH 35 was at a complete standstill. The dark side of me was happy that everyone would be late also. But the more level headed side knew I just had to get there in time to be available to help set things up for Saturday to be a great day. David and I checked the routes, and I headed toward the toll road instead of IH35, which is the opposite direction I normally drive in the mornings. The toll road is east of my house, and as you know, the sun rises in the east. As I eased up to the stop sign leaving my neighborhood, I saw one of the most beautiful sunrises I’ve ever seen. I was captivated by the beauty of it, so many colors and textures, and I knew – this was for me – a special God touch of love as I started the day. It was like God was saying, “I am with you, and everything is going to be okay.” And, it was – I made it in plenty of time for things to run smoothly.  I didn’t do anything special that morning to earn such a display.  It was a God gift, and it made my day.

This past week, I was again reminded of God’s love and grace in a special way. I had gotten upset with David and lost my temper. I even threw my nail file at him during the heat of the moment. The next day, I felt so guilty. I asked for David’s and God’s forgiveness and felt better, but through out the day David was being so sweet, and the guilt tried to creep back in. For a minute, I went there, but then I heard a little Holy Spirit whisper, “What are you doing? You’re forgiven, all of your sins – past, present and future. Jesus bore them on the cross.” And I knew, it was for me. It was as if God was saying again, “I am here I am with you and everything is going to be alright.” Another God gift, unearned, unmerited – my burden lifted.

In each of those two situations, God’s gift of grace shined through. He didn’t pull away when I was rushing before Collide and mumbling under my breath, or when I was feeling guilty about fighting with David. He simply met me where I was in the moment; and He loved me there. Grace came to my rescue. What a gift! It reminds me of Ephesians 2:8-9, ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.’

Maybe you are feeling panicked about something today, or feeling like you have messed up,  or perhaps you are feeling like you need a special God touch today; a reminder of His love and grace. My prayer for you is that you will have eyes to see his love on display in the world and people around you and ears to hear his whispers as he calls your name and speaks words of love and grace to your heart. He is for you, He is with you, and He loves you beyond measure; rest in the beauty of His love and grace today.

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Heart’s Cry

Last week marked my 37th birthday. Those who know me well know that my birthday can be a difficult day for me, because I have not always felt celebrated on my special day. Knowing this, David has always made a point to really communicate love to me in unique and special ways on my birthday, and this year was no exception. He really went all out. He arranged for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, invited some of our friends and family, and he even ordered and picked up gluten free carrot cake cupcakes for all. Really, if that were all he did I would have been blown away, but there was more. Not long after I arrived and settled in to my chair, a woman approached us from behind carrying balloons, a dozen roses and the ability to carry a tune. As she placed the roses in my arms she explained that she had been asked to sing a Birthday Gram to me… And then, in front of all who could see and hear, she began to belt out, ‘Because You Loved Me’, By Celine Dion; which is our wedding song. The restaurant came to a stand still as all eyes and ears were on her and as she wrapped up – spontaneous applause broke out from everywhere, and I felt like the most loved woman in the entire world.

I didn’t want to lose it in the restaurant, so I choked back the tears, but the truth is I was powerfully moved by David’s lavish display of love. Those in the restaurant were clearly moved as well. I believe it’s because love strikes a chord in the hearts of everyone. We all desire to be loved and valued; it is one of our deepest needs. And there is one who can answer that heart’s cry in all of us, and almost 2000 years ago he gave extravagantly – a precious, priceless gift for each and every one of us.

 John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son for us; that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Tying in with that, Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

 Isn’t it wonderful to know God loves each of us so deeply that he put his love on display in such a powerful way? And just as it says in Romans 8:32, he wants to graciously give us all things. He wants to meet not just some, not just a few, but all of our needs. So, if you have a need today, I would love to encourage you to bring it to the one who loves you lavishly and wants to meet you in your place(s) of need. He is able!!

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

Who Am I?

Recently, in my morning quiet time, I came across the story of Moses and the burning bush. I have read this story quite a few times, but it always speaks to my heart, so I thought I would share it with all of you. For those of you who are not familiar with Moses, he was an Israelite born in Egypt at the time of Israel’s captivity. He was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in the palace, apart from his people. He lived there in the Palace until, as an adult, he stumbled upon a fight between an Egyptian and an Israelite. He took justice into his own hands and killed the Egyptian man to protect the other, and so he had to flee to the land of Midian; where he settled, got married and started a family. It was there, one day in Midian as Moses was tending his father in laws flock that he came across the burning bush. As he stepped closer to it, God began to speak to Him from with in the bush. He spoke of his concern for His people, the Israelites, and of His desire to set them free. Then in Exodus 3:10 God said, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” And in verse 11, Moses replied, “Who am I, that I should go…?” If we were to keep reading we would see that Moses began to offer excuses and for each one, God reminded that he would go with him and give him all he needed to do all he’d called him to do.

 Many of us can probably relate to Moses; we feel afraid or inadequate to handle some of the various situations in our life; and so we ask ourselves similar questions – Who am I that I should start this business? Who am I that I should have a strong marriage? Who am I that God would heal me?

 If you are questionning your ability to handle new endeavors, old challenges, or feeling un-equipped to do all God has called you to do – I would love to remind you, just as God reminded Moses, that God is with you and has given you all you need to do all he’s called you to do.

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.