Thursday, September 30, 2010

Little Seeds

Little Seeds
by Melissa Campbell

Who can understand the everlasting,
The going on from earth-bound to forever,
The breaking free from time and space?

And who can comprehend,
How the life in a seed so small,
Can yield itself in death,
To bring the greater glory?

Who understands the love of a Father,
Who considers suffering a badge of honor,
And gives His Son as sacrifice?

And how do we adjust,
To the inevitable, bitter-sweet release,
That comes too soon for some,
Snuffing rhythmic breath,
Cutting off all glory seen,
Replacing hopes and dreams,
With fading memories,
And raging grief?

And how do we explain,
The slow delay of healing,
The painful stretch of waiting,
Lingering, watching,
A body once healthy, perfect,
Struggle to remain,
Knowing someday it will betray us,
And leave us gasping for breath?

Death leaves an empty place that no one can fill...

...but God.

In the depth of our pain, He meets us.
When there seems to be no way, He moves us on.
In the darkness, He shines hope,
'Till we have nothing left but holding on.
God takes our senseless suffering,
The ugly mess of dying,
And makes something holy, beautiful,
Eternal, Divine.

Our God is a raging fire,
And He has given us the choice,
Will we shine like stars in the universe,
Or burn with eternal regret?

The answer lies in how we choose to live now.
Will we hold on to our lives,
Or lay them down,
As they were meant to be...

...holy given, little seeds?

Can we learn to let go,
And discover great grace, 
More than enough to overcome, 
To make it through, 
To become the dream of God fulfilled...

...His Sons and Daughters, 
Full of beauty, full of glory?

With Christ we can.  
All He asks is that we dare to believe, 
And look within, 
Not to ourselves, 
But to Him--the Beautiful One, 
And our Hope of glory. 

In the last month I saw a friend lose her strong, beloved dad to cancer, and I joined with a mom to grieve and celebrate a teenage son--a happy-go-lucky kid--who couldn't see the light, and believed a lie--that there was no way out but suicide . Today I feel the pain of my daughter's friend and team-mate as she buries her mom and best friend--so young and full of life--she was only 38, taken away abruptly in an ATV accident.

Death is all around us, and threatens to overwhelm us. But God is near. He sees. He knows. He cries our tears. He says that death will not be the end of us! And I believe it.  There is greater glory in knowing Jesus Christ. The head of the enemy has been crushed beneath His feet, and ours as well.  Death no longer has a hold on us.  We are alive to God.

If you look closely, you will see many who have already begun to shine.

Photo Credit: flickr - Darren Shilson

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Holy Ground

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries. 

- Elizabeth Barret Browning
I read this quote on a beautiful blog I found today--a treasure chest of Spirit-words and thoughts so real and full of life, so like my Jesus.  I spent hours there without realizing it, my (bare) feet propped up, my cup of pumpkin tea turning cold, and the ground beef I was thawing for dinner, waiting patiently to be transformed into Sloppy Joe's.
While I listened and read, I smiled.  Cried.  Prayed.  Became immersed in this place where the Spirit of God hovers.  I didn't want to leave to cook dinner--I was already full. 
Still feeling the afterglow--my heart is warm and my face is bright with the light of it--and having our evening meal over and done with, and the dishes washed and put away, I thought I would share this gem with all of you.  

The name of the blog is Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp.  I encourage you to take off your shoes and get ready to taste and see The Holy for yourself--through the eyes of a woman who obviously lives to discover the glory of God in everything and everyone around her.

Note:  In addition to the quote, and the warmth in my heart, I borrowed the music as well--piano bliss by David Nevue.   If you like, you can check out my play-list at the end of my blog or visit David's web-site.

Photo Credit: flickr - jenny downing

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Like the Rain - Part I

Deep calls to deep.  Somewhere in my sleep, I struggle to grasp the sound--whispered kisses just a moment ago, and the sweet, gentle nudge of a butterfly-thought touching down, before it flutters through my consciousness to disappear.
I drift dreamily on the memory, then suddenly wake with fear.  Have I missed an invitation?  Or was it just my imagination?  The sound of a distant storm perhaps?  My heart's desire sounding loud?

There, again!  I am more awake now.  Words dip down and skip across my soul, daring me to follow.  I hesitate.  Running won't do the trick.  It's my heart He is after.

In the thick of the fog He lingers, wooing me to draw close, to turn and get lost in the searing fire of his gaze.  I wait, contemplate, long to look into His eyes again, but only get as far as His Spirit within.

Startled, I jump at the crash.

Thunder explodes violently overhead, shaking the house like a pair of cymbals.  Then a torrent of raindrops slap hard against the window pane.  A storm it is, loud and angry now.  But instead of hiding away, or falling back to sleep, I lay there waiting.

I turn to the clock--it shows 4:44.  It's that time again, Lord.  Is there something You want to say?  You know I long for You, to hear the beat of your heart--to pray.

I think about the surging power of the storm outside, about the beauty and strength of The Lover.  Like a cloud His Spirit hovers.  I feel the heat of His burning.

Another flash of lightning.  Another thunder clapping sound.  Then I see what I missed before:  A narrow opening standing in the middle of the floor, so very fascinating.
Am I hallucinating?  I blink and look again, at what appears to be a door.  Electric waves of vibrant color pulsate with life...and something more.

A second invitation?

Afraid, I close my eyes, hold my breath and apologize for cowardice.  My heart beats loud.  Then I hear the words from a love song.  He is singing.

"It's just you and me here now.  It's only you and me here now."
My fear melts away,  as I rest in the knowledge of Him.

The door--Lord, is this You?  I think of John in Revelation 4:1 and 2, and his summons to go up higher, to walk in a new dimension where other lovers and prophets of old, like Enoch, Moses and John all went in the Spirit so freely.

I want to go there too.

With faith I step out, and find myself treading the waters of unbelief.  I strain my eyes to see the way, then a Beacon--a brilliant Light--breaks open the darkness.  Truth, like lightning, strikes all around me.  The Lover wraps around me like an ocean.

His Spirit carries me across.

What a mystery!  This God amazes me!  Who speaks in my ear continually of the love and desire He has for me, of how He counted the cost, and without a second thought, embraced the cross, gave up everything, to be with me now.

I am hidden in Him, no longer seen, but tucked here in His side where the narrow place opens wide.  I can see.
Papa bends low toward my thirsty cry, and Yeshua, moved by the glance of my eye, breaks open the heavens to pour The Spirit out.

Living water fills me up inside.

I lift my face to His and smell the scent of rain, from this secret place I shout His name, "Yah!", and hear the sound...

...of abundance.

Photo Credit: flickr - Jeff Hunter

Lyrics: Only You by The David Crowder Band

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Drink Offering

River of life
Breaking out
Gushing forth
Not a trickle
A deluge
Running over the edge
Poured through One
More than enough for all
Soaking the ground
Turning dead things green

Freely given
Freely receive
Spirit to spirit
Drink it in
Quench your thirst
Satisfy your soul
With abundance
Dance, shout
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me in this way, just as the Scripture says." - Jesus
(He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

Photo Credit: flickr - Hygiene Matters

Scripture: John 7:37 taken from The Message. Copyright � 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.  As taken from Bible Gateway.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Worship is the submission of all our nature to God.  It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness, the nourishing of the mind with his truth, the purifying of the imagination by his beauty, the opening of the heart to his love, the surrender of the will to his purpose.  -William Temple
Worship is the giving of myself to another in exchange for the hope of knowing by experience, the essence of what I have given myself to.  It is the willingness to be compelled by a strength not my own, even to the point of being swallowed up by it. 
Worship is what I do when I am face down in my tears, eating the sandy grit of need, and when lying in a daisy field looking up into the clouds, feeling joy surge through my veins like electricity.
Worship is what I do with the best and worst of me. 
Worship can be messy.  There is no way to stop it's dripping all over me.  The more I bow the knee, the more it saturates me, until I am drunk, giddy, free of my insecurity and bound to be...different. Worship changes the substance of who I am, and eventually, becomes me.

What have you worshiped lately?

Photo Credit: flickr - .j.e.n.n.y.

Friday, September 17, 2010


by Melissa Campbell
What does it mean to be windblown?

Surely not the drifting along
On random paths
Or living without a purpose
But the catching hold
And holding on
Of riding unseen currents

It is not being driven
To the heights of achievement
Or being chased by angry storms
But the yielding, bending
Leaning into arms of strength
That lift me up and let me soar

Windblown is exhilaration, a dancing rhythm
Breathing in--sometimes fast, sometimes slow
A breath that is not my own
It is listening to that still small voice
That isn't still
Or small at all

Windblown is hoping, being
Seeing others
Through the eyes of innocence
Touching the substance
Of things to come
And being changed by their existence

Windblown is reaching, resting
Sometimes wrestling
Often questioning
The wisdom of living a life so free
But in the end
Forsaking all for another taste of The Holy

Windblown is playing, praying
Rising up on wings to fly
Living life as it was meant to be lived
Understanding how the journey
Is the reason why
I was created

Windblown is learning to love with abandon,
And in the end, spinning,
Turning to find myself in God.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.  ~John 3:8

Click to read the article, Windblown, by Wayne Jacobsen

Photo Credit: flickr by Doblonaut

John 3:8 as taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. As taken from Bible Gateway.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Pruning

The Pruning 
by Melissa Campbell
The cutting came with painful and persistent precision, the first blow unexpected and out of the blue.  Not understanding, I hung my head, waiting to see the bigger picture, hoping to make some sense of the news.

Cold winds brought the winter in, and with it another blow.  I looked for mercy but there was none.  I cried out for a savior, but He was strangely silent.  I had been betrayed and abandoned.  I was sure of it.  But how could the One Who Loves allow this violent mutilation of what was once His beautification of me?  The burning of my branches, the stripping away my leaves?

When it seemed I would die from the wounding, a glimmer of light shone on my naked tree-skin.  Oh, the shame of it, the baring of my soul, no longer covered in glorious color, no longer stretching high to touch the clouds.  Grief.  Lament.  A river of tears.  And fear.  Who was to be trusted?  Surely not the One who wounded me.
In the midst of anger and rage, a desperate thirst for grace, I discovered I would rather die than lose me.  But there was no hiding it.  I was a stump, a bare and broken remains of what I used to be.  Still I lived.
I could understand the loss if my branches were dead.  But this was a cutting of all that was good.  My trunk had grown so stately and strong, persevering through the harshest of storms, and reaching up joyfully to the One who planted me.  In the waking of the dawn, and in the cool of the evening I sang His melodies.  I was just learning to be free, or so I thought.
I took pride in my leaves, fluttering gracefully in mid-air, and my agile branches waving, bending in the wind.  When the blistering sun rose high above me,  I felt not the burn of its brightness, but reflected its glory, and became willing shade for those who needed rest.
No sign of former glory now.  The One with the knife was patiently thorough, removing all evidence of growth, leaving behind only scars and ugly wounds running free with sap.  I am alone now.  No friend enjoys my shade.  No bird rests in my canopy.  Even the One who wounded has ceased to speak to me.
The sun has blinded my eyes and seared my skin.  I can no longer look upon myself or within.  Is there evidence to who I really am?  Nothing left for eyes to see.  Some think I am still depressed.  They look at me and shake their heads, wondering how I can live content without branches.
But I am no longer attached to the opinions of man.  I yearn only for the One who wounded me.  I got tired of asking Him, "Why?" and admitted maybe He knows better.  One morning, I heard Him whisper, "Thanks for singing my song."
And then I remembered the words I used to sing, a beautiful prayer, learned from another lover, who hoped for fruit worthy of a king.
"Unmovable, unshakable.  Let my roots go down deep.  Unmovable, unshakable in you."
Now a stirring, not evident to onlookers, not clearly seen by me. A growing and going down deep of my roots, breaking through the rocks and barren brown of earthly soil, reaching low to where the streams of living water flow. If you listen, you will hear water gushing through my veins, a surging, splurging, healing me of my purging, the releasing and restoring of life, from a Source I didn't know existed.  This is the sound of humility.
In the midst of my despair I taste glorious hope.  I will become something more and something less than what I used to be.  Far greater will be my success in producing fruit for the kingdom, for now the blood of greatness runs through the heart of me.  New branches are just beginning to be seen, shooting out to drink in the light, and budding with new leaves.  I will be what the Pruner makes of me.  Selah.

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 
~Phil 3:8-12 (NKJV)

 Listen to Tree and Found Faithful by Justin Rizzo 

Today, I am sharing this poem with One Word at a Time Blog Carnival, hosted by Peter Pollock at his blog,  The theme today is, Broken

 Photo Credit:  flickr - Kiwi Flickr
 Lyrics:  Tree / Found Faithful by Justin Rizzo

Monday, September 13, 2010

God Speaks

God speaks, not from a distant planet or some far away galaxy, but from beyond the limits of time and eternity.  Amazingly, I hear Him now in my spirit, when I get quiet enough to listen.

His voice is but a whisper, a download of inspiration, often drowned out by the clamor of human reasoning, but always resurfacing as brilliant thought.  Words that carry life and creativity are never silenced.

With one taste of the Word of God I became addicted.  His taste is sweet to me.  Like an alcoholic with a bottle or a honey bee gorging on nectar, I can't seem to get enough of His life-giving Spirit.

His supply goes on endlessly.   His river runs through the heart of me.  To all who are thirsty He gives Himself away like a cold Coke on a hot day.  The more He pours out of me, the more He fills me up, until I can't drink another drop. I am satisfied in knowing Him.

My knowledge of God changes as His Spirit reveals Himself to me.  He cleans up my thinking, makes a mess of my theology, laughs at my ideology, won't be boxed in by my religiosity.   He shines His light in me, and becomes my identity.  His banner over me is love.

There is no doubt about it.  I was made to know God experientially, up close and personally, with in-your-face, spiritual intimacy.  The way was opened with the price Jesus paid for me.  And when I believed, I was born again supernaturally, to see with the eyes of a child, the truth of kingdom matters.

When I bow to worship, the King reveals His heart to me.  And like water gushing forth from under the threshold, His Word washes me clean, breaks me free of my carnality, lures me into unity, until I am no longer running after God, but sitting with Him on the Mercy Seat. He makes my heart His home.

Jesus said I carry Him within me, His Kingdom and authority, the power to make heaven a reality, the boldness to put my feet on the head of the enemy.  My heart burns to make His name renown.  I no longer try to get His attention, for we are both looking in one direction, joined together in intercession, in behalf of the needs that are not my own.

He so amazes me, this God of ancient history who surrounds Himself with mystery.  Like a cloud He hovers over me, plants His seed where Deep calls out to deep in me, then waits and watches for fruit to grow.

It's funny. The more I know Him--the more I lose myself in the depths of who He is--the more there is to know.  And just when I think I have given everything, He opens my eyes to see things I don't quite understand, things I have yet to be and places I have yet to go.

Papa never intended I have blind faith, but faith that sees and lays hold of that which is not yet seen, faith that pulls on eternity and brings it into today.  God's Word has the ability to change the world around me if I will but listen and agree.

Photo Credit: flickr - Christine Zenino

A Nation Divided


I had a thought the other morning how God is both pro-life and pro-choice. Pro-life because He is the Giver of life--His hopes and plans for us are to thrive and prosper. Pro-choice because He loves unconditionally--without strings-- and gives us the opportunity to choose for ourselves life or death, blessings or curses. God's heart is for us, that we choose rightly according to His ways.  He wants to bless us  and make us a blessing to those around us.  He wants us to live abundant lives, to prosper and be in good health, to walk in peace and joy forever.

But often, without consulting Him for direction, we choose another path, one that seems right at the time, but ends up leading to our destruction.  God grieves when we make decisions that hurt ourselves and others.  Yet He longs for our restoration, and waits expectantly for our return, even sending His Son to come get us and heal our wounds.

Sometimes, the consequences of our sin are so devastating that it seems we will never recover.   In our nation today we can look all around us and see the ravages of a war against life--one that is meant to take out an entire generation of human beings who would otherwise declare the glory of God in the earth.  I am talking about the hateful attempt of satan to discredit God and destroy what He loves--children.  Precious lives are being stolen every day by:  Abortion.  Addiction.  Poverty and disease.  Murder.  Slavery.  Even suicide.  I grieve over the loss of these lives, the devastation and empty places they leave behind in the hearts of friends and family.  God weeps over the pain of His children as well. 

What concerns me about many of the issues that effect the lives of children is that somehow the political arena has become our main focus and vehicle for change.   In the United States I see "Christians" putting their hope and trust, not in God first, but in their political candidates, new party establishment and proposed legislative changes.  This can be good--as a band-aid.  But why not get to the root of the problems?  What America needs is a change of heart!  

God has a plan to heal and restore us if we will but turn to Him---He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes.  Could it be that He has given us a king that will turn this nation back to her call to greatness, not by creating just policies, but by creating unjust ones that will bring us to our knees in repentance?

I am not addressing those who have no relationship with God, but those who do and claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.  As followers of Christ, we should know that laws do not have the power to modify our behavior, but they can reveal what is in our hearts.  The legislation that is being passed in our nation today is quickly making a farce out of our constitutional rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."  The shaking we are experiencing is reminiscent to the judgments of God against Egypt when the Israelites were enslaved there.  Could it be God is trying to wake us up and expose the sin within our hearts?  Could it be He wants to free us?

Consider the following:
  • When we devalue the authority of God in our lives, we empower foreign rulers to enslave us.  
  • When we love money more than we love God, we see the loss of homes, jobs, and 401K's while our economy quickly falls apart. 
  • When we take advantage of the poor and are unjust in our business practices, we see unemployment rise as our companies and technologies thrive in foreign lands.
  • When we love ourselves more than God and others we suffer broken relationships and divorce.
  • When we hide our sin and sexual immorality behind excuses, perversion invades our pulpits, schools and living rooms.
  • When we refuse to stand up for truth, lawlessness fills our streets. 
  • When we turn to religion instead of relationship with God we see addictions soar.
  • When we don't see our children as a blessing, we lose them to abuse, suicide, senseless murder, the sex trade and...abortion.  
The list goes on.  What is evident:  When the church is corrupt, so will be the nation!  A law or set of laws will not protect us or our unborn children from the consequences of our sin.   There is the principal of reaping what we sow.  What we are experiencing is of our own doing.  And God is shaking us in hopes that we wake up soon!

The answers won't be found in political uprisings or demonstrations, or in attempting to hold on to the current systems that govern our land--these systems are failing and falling right before our eyes.  The answer is simple.  Let go, and let God!  Long ago God spoke to a people He loved, and who had wandered away from Him to worship other gods and please themselves.  His message was recorded for our benefit.  If you look in the Bible and read 2 Chronicles 2:14 you will find God's words to us:
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
The message is clear.  God is giving us a choice to repent and see our nation be healed, or to continue on in a way that feels good to us, but leads to destruction.  Who has ears to hear the Spirit of the Lord? 

The Tower of Babel was built by a people who wanted to reach God outside of a relationship with Him.  God destroyed it, and confused their languages so they couldn't continue.  He is doing the same with "The Church" today.  So many denominations and churches hide behind their walls, all striving to look like God and prove that their theology is the only way to heaven--the evidence of this faith is dead works.  In writing to Timothy Paul said this about people in the last days:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, not thankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  ~2 Timothy 3:2-7
God's answer to us is :  Not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit.  If we want to save our babies, then please, let's get together on our knees before the Living God.  He will give us His strategies for walking free from the world's systems, and for building His kingdom of righteousness.  On earth as it is in heaven! 


Photo Credit:  flickr - Frank Kovalcheck

2 Chronicles 7:14 and 2 Timothy 2:3-7 as taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. As found on Bible Gateway.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Wine of Weddings

Photo: Lori Branham-flickr Kjunstorm (CC By 2.0)

"In wine one beholds the heart of another" 

- Anonymous


My husband and I attended a wedding in May of this year.  For months our oldest daughter and son-in-law had been helping their two friends prepare for this major life event. Having celebrated their own marriage recently, they were eager to return the overwhelming love and support that had been shown to them in the weeks and months leading up to their "big day."

I remember it well.  The day began similar to this one--rainy, but much colder.   I had always envisioned Kayla's wedding day bright with sunshine, but we woke up that morning to gray clouds and a spritzing of snow.  It didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirits--we had prayed for God's peace and joy to rest upon us.  And He did.

The wedding took place at St. Paul's, a massive stone church built by Irish immigrants 100 years earlier.  I had never been in the building prior to the rehearsal.  But it was beautiful.  

And as we approached, two old and heavy wooden doors invited us into the celebration.  They were hung with huge grapevine wreaths, covered with a delicate mix of green and pink hydrangea, roses, and Hyperion berries.  Their long ivory ribbons danced on the wind and reached out to welcome guests.  We ran in our heels and gowns, eager to get out of the cold, misty rain.

I remember how warm the interior felt, not just in temperature or because of the number of people--and there were lots--but in the atmosphere.  The vaulted, medieval-style cathedral was pregnant with anticipation and joy and something else, something that eluded our grasp like a butterfly fluttering away and daring us to catch it.  It was an invitation to take part in something bigger than we were, something divine and other-worldly.  Nick and Kayla radiated with the joy of it.

The same warm presence waited for us at the reception following the ceremony.  Candlelight, flowers and wedding pictures of parents and grandparents in vintage frames greeted us in the elegantly decorated hall.  We clapped as the bridal party--including our younger two beautiful daughters--made their appearance.  People commented how beautiful and intimate the day was, in spite of the frigid weather.  It was a wedding designed for a Princess.  

I saw everywhere a reflection of Kayla, in the smallest detail--from the gorgeous flowers cascading down the sides of Eiffel Tower vases in the table centers, to the bejeweled "A" wedding cake topper she made herself, to the Steeler Terrible Towel groom's cake she picked out for Nick.   Her touch was on everything.  And I saw God-- in so many of even the smallest details.  I realized how the One who created us, and lives within us, was there among us.

So here we were again, in another time and and another place seven months later--just across the street from where Kayla and Nick were married--attending the wedding of two of their best friends.  Another old stone church with vaulted ceilings and bright, stained glass windows, it could barely hold the friends and family, neighbors and co-workers who came, eager to witness the marriage of this couple.

My husband and I sat two pews back on the groom's side.  Candles flickered.  The familiar scent of hydrangeas and pink roses wafted from the altar.  A violinist began to play as the groom and his friends--my son-in-law included--all handsome in their black tuxes and clean shaven faces, walked across in front of us.  I couldn't help but be affected by the wall of masculine strength and solidarity that stood next to Andy, supporting him and the woman he loved.

I watched faces as one by one the bridesmaids walked from under the Gothic arch at the back of the church.  Each woman was uniquely beautiful and smiling expectantly as she carried her bouquet toward the front altar.  

I looked at Kayla and remembered her own walk down the aisle on the arm of my husband, she a stunning beauty, and he, quite handsome in his tux.  She was Daddy's girl for 25 years, but now was all grown up and joined to another.   I was so proud that day.  I wondered what she was thinking now as she waited for Brittney.

A pause in the music interrupted my thoughts.  The organist sounded the call for all to stand.  And there she was, radiant, glowing, gorgeous.  The room brightened as we watched Brittney take her final steps as a single woman, leaning lovely into the strength of her father.  Andrew, with love in his eyes and tears rolling down his cheeks, couldn't take his eyes from her as she kissed her Dad good-bye and walked to him.  

I got stuck in that moment.  All through the ceremony--in their taking hands and pledging vows, exchanging rings, and giving themselves to each other before God and guests--I couldn't lose the picture of Andy's face when he saw his bride.  I wondered if God looks at us like that--with tears in His eyes.  

Love.  Marriage.  Friendship.  Family relationships.  He gave us these wonderful gifts through which we can know Him, just like we know each other--as Father, Mother, Friend, Sister, Husband Brother.  Yes, we have much to celebrate!
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  ~Matthew 22:2
Brittney's and Andrew's reception was almost as special as Nick's and Kayla's.  We ate the same Chicken Cordon Bleu and wedding cake, made champagne toasts to the bride and groom, and danced to Your are so Beautiful--like we were the ones just married.  As a thank-you for attending, Brittney and Andrew gave each guest a miniature bottle of red wine with their names, the date, May 16, 2010, and the inscription, "Love is Forever," printed on the label.  I brought ours home to open later--along with a bag of extra cookies for the girls--and thought of another wedding wine.  I am not sure of the vintage, but Scripture tells the story of it.

Jesus and his mother and disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Sometime during the festivities--chalk it up to poor planning on the Groom's part, or maybe the guests were drinking more than usual that night, whatever the case--they ran out of vino.  And for some reason, Jesus' mother put him in charge of getting more.  

Jesus was hesitant.  After all, He was only a guest, not the groom.  He asked his mother why she thought this was any of their business.  He reminded her that "his time" had not yet come, alluding to a future wedding when He would welcome His own bride into the house of His Father, and pour out a deluge of spiritual wine--the living water of the Holy Spirit--onto all flesh in the celebration of it.

Jesus thought about the symbolism of what He was being asked to do, and heard in his spirit the Father giving him the go ahead to work his first miracle.   What could be more perfect than a wedding to demonstrate the radical reality change that was coming to these friends he loved?   He knew that religion was about to take a backseat to relationship as the way to connect with God.   

Union with The Divine--on earth as it is in heaven.  In only a few minutes this group of guests would experience a dimension of joy they couldn't achieve by drinking more wine.  They were going to see up close and personally how the Kingdom of Heaven crashes a party!

This is where the story gets a little crazy.  Jesus told the servants to refill the pots that normally contained water for religious ritual washings--the ones where guests dipped their hands before eating as a sign to all around that they were clean.   Jesus chose one of the servants to draw some water and take it to the master of the banquet to taste.  What a brave guy he was!  I am sure there must have been more than a little fear mixed with his faith as he lifted that cup for his supervisor to drink.   

His reward was amazement as he watched his master swirl, sniff, sip, and savor the new wine, and then look up in astonishment.  How could it be that the groom had saved the best for last?

Jesus' first miracle was a bold statement that most likely offended religious guests who symbolically used the water to wash their hands of sin.  Their holy water was now wedding wine, a symbol of joy and the drink of choice for celebrating life and relationship.  For us, it would be like the changing of our baptismal water into a pool of Jello shots.  No wonder the religious leaders hated him! 

No wonder I love him so!  In addition to attending weddings--and all the other family celebrations of this past year--I have realized a new freedom in Christ that tastes like I went from drinking old wash water to the sweetest of wines.   Words cannot describe the emotion of it.   But I'll try.  Joy bubbling up like a fountain!  Peace rolling like a river!  Love engulfing me like an ocean!  God is filling my soul.

I realize I no longer need to run after God because I am with Him where He is.  I no longer have to bow to a false spiritual covering because He has covered me with His love.  I no longer have to perform meaningless religious rituals because I have been washed in the blood of the Lamb.  I no longer have to worship God from afar because the kingdom of heaven is within me--I am seated with Christ on the Mercy Seat of my heart.   I no longer have to strive to earn God's approval because--well, because I don't.  I already have it

Back to Andy's tears.  The reason I got stuck in that moment is because God wanted to communicate something with me, something that totally blew my religious thinking out the window.  When Jesus saw me coming to Him--He looked at me like Nick did at Kayla, and Andrew did at Brittney, and he wept.  Then he laughed.  And so did I.  Now we celebrate life together as one.  Just like marriage, heaven touches earth.  The kingdom comes.  And we live happily ever after.  Selah.

Matthew 22:2  as taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. As found on Bible Gateway.