Easter Week {Day 7}

The Day of Silence

How hard this day must have been for Christ's family and friends- He was gone.

Today is a great day to reflect on the changes we want to make to live more Christ centered lives and become more like He is. 

I remember the first time I read this story... still hits hard everytime.

Forgiven Forever


Lisa sat on the floor of her old room, staring at the box that lay in front of her. It was an old shoe box that she had decorated to become a memory box many years before. Stickers and penciled flowers covered the top and sides.

Its edges were worn, the corners of the lid taped so as to keep their shape.

It had been three years since Lisa last opened the box. A sudden move to Boston had kept her from packing it. But now that she was back home, she
took the time to look again at the memories.

Fingering the corners of the box and stroking its cover, Lisa pictured in her mind what was inside.

There was a photo of the family trip to the Grand Canyon, a note from her friend telling her that Nick Bicotti liked her, and the Indian arrowhead she
had found while on her senior class trip. One by one, she remembered the items in the box, lingering over the sweetest, until she came to the last and  only painful memory. She knew what it looked like--a single sheet of paper upon which lines had been drawn to form boxes, 490 of them to be exact.
And each box contained a check mark, one for each time.

The story behind it..........

"How many times must I forgive my brother?" the disciple Peter had asked Jesus. "Seven times?" Lisa's Sunday school teacher had read Jesus' surprise answer to the class. "Seventy times seven."

Lisa had leaned over to her brother Brent as the teacher continued reading. "How many times is that?" she whispered. Brent, though two years younger, was smarter than she was.

"Four hundred and ninety," Brent wrote on the corner of his Sunday school paper. Lisa saw the message, nodded, and sat back in her chair. She watched her brother as the lesson continued. He was small for his age, with narrow shoulders and short arms. His glasses were too large for his face, and his hair always matted in swirls. He bordered on being a nerd, but his incredible skills at everything, especially music, made him popular with his classmates.

Brent had learned to play the piano at age four, the clarinet at age seven, and had just begun to play oboe. His music teachers said he'd be a famous
musician someday. There was only one thing at which Lisa was better than Brent--basketball. They played it almost every afternoon after school.

Brent could have refused to play, but he knew that it was Lisa's only joy in the midst of her struggles to get C's and D's at school.

Lisa's attention came back to her Sunday school teacher as the woman finished the lesson and closed with prayer. That same Sunday afternoon found brother and sister playing basketball in the driveway. It was then that the counting had begun. Brent was guarding Lisa as she dribbled toward the basket. He had tried to bat the ball away, got his face near her elbow, and took a shot on the chin. "Ow!", he cried out and turned away.

Lisa saw her opening and drove to the basket, making an easy lay-up. She gloated over her success but stopped when she saw Brent. "You okay?",she
asked. Brent shrugged his shoulders.

"Sorry," Lisa said. "Really. It was a cheap shot."

"It's all right. I forgive you," he said. A thin smile then formed on his face. "Just 489 more times though."

"Whaddaya mean?" Lisa asked.

"You know...what we learned in Sunday school today. You're supposed to forgive someone 490 times. I just forgave you, so now you have 489 left,"
he kidded. The two of them laughed at the thought of keeping track of every time Lisa had done something to Brent. They were sure she had gone past 490 long ago.

The rain interrupted their game, and the two moved indoors. "Wanna play Battleship?" Lisa asked. Brent agreed, and they were soon on the floor of the living room with their game boards in front of them. Each took turns calling out a letter and number combination, hoping to hit each other's ships.

Lisa knew she was in trouble as the game went on. Brent had only lost one ship out of five. Lisa had lost three. Desperate to win, she found herself leaning over the edge of Brent's barrier ever so slightly. She was thus able to see where Brent had placed two of his ships. She quickly evened the score.

Pleased, Lisa searched once more for the location of the last two ships. She peered over the barrier again, but this time Brent caught her in the act. "Hey, you're cheating!" He stared at her in disbelief.

Lisa's face turned red. Her lips quivered. "I'm sorry," she said, staring at the carpet. There was not much Brent could say. He knew Lisa sometimes did things like this. He felt sorry that Lisa found so few things she could do well. It was wrong for her to cheat, but he knew the temptation was hard
for her. "Okay, I forgive you," Brent said. Then he added with a small laugh, "I guess it's down to 488 now, huh?"

"Yeah, I guess so." She returned his kindness with a weak smile and added, "Thanks for being my brother, Brent."

Brent's forgiving spirit gripped Lisa, and she wanted him to know how sorry she was. It was that evening that she had made the chart with the 490 boxes. She showed it to him before he went to bed.

"We can keep track of every time I mess up and you forgive me," she said.

"See, I'll put a check in each box--like this." She placed two marks in the upper left-hand boxes.

"These are for today." Brent raised his hands to protest. "You don't need to keep--"

"Yes I do!" Lisa interrupted. "You're always forgiving me, and I want to keep track. Just let me do this!" She went back to her room and tacked the chart to her bulletin board.

There were many opportunities to fill in the chart in the years that followed. She once told the kids at school that Brent talked in his sleep and called out Rhonda Hill's name, even though it wasn't true. The teasing caused Brent days and days of misery. When she realized how cruel she had been,
Lisa apologized sincerely. That night she marked box number 96. Forgiveness number 211 came in the tenth grade when Lisa failed to bring home
his English book. Brent had stayed home sick that day and had asked her to bring it so he could study for a quiz. She forgot and he got a C.

Number 393 was for lost keys...418 for the extra bleach she put in the washer, which ruined his favorite polo shirt...449, the dent she had put in his car when she had borrowed it.

There was a small ceremony when Lisa checked number 490. She used a gold pen for the check mark, had Brent sign the chart, and then placed it in her memory box.

"I guess that's the end," Lisa said. "No more screw-ups from me anymore!"

Brent just laughed. "Yeah, right."

Number 491 was just another one of Lisa's careless mistakes, but its hurt lasted a lifetime. Brent had become all that his music teachers said he would. Few could play the oboe better than he. In his fourth year at the best music school in the United States, he received the opportunity of a
lifetime--a chance to try out for New York City's great orchestra.

The tryout would be held sometime during the following two weeks. It would be the fulfillment of his young dreams. But he never got the chance.  Brent had been out when the call about the tryout came to the house. Lisa was the only one home and on her way out the door, eager to get to work on time.

"Two-thirty on the tenth," the secretary said on the phone. Lisa did not have a pen, but she told herself that she could remember it. "Got it. Thanks." I can remember that, she thought. But she did not. It was a week later around the dinner table that Lisa realized her mistake.

"So, Brent," his mom asked him, "When do you try out?"

"Don't know yet. They're supposed to call." Lisa froze in her seat.

"Oh, no!" she blurted out loud. "What's today's date? Quick!"

"It's the twelfth," her dad answered. "Why?"

A terrible pain ripped through Lisa's heart. She buried her face in her hands, crying. "Lisa, what's the matter?" her mother asked.

Through sobs Lisa explained what had happened. "It was two days ago...the tryout... two-thirty... the call came... last week." Brent sat back in his chair, not believing Lisa.

"Is this one of your jokes, sis?" he asked, though he could tell her misery was real. She shook her head, still unable to look at him.

"Then I really missed it?" She nodded.

Brent ran out of the kitchen without a word. He did not come out of his room the rest of the evening. Lisa tried once to knock on the door, but she could not face him. She went to her room where she cried bitterly.

Suddenly she knew that she had to do. She had ruined Brent's life. He could never forgive her for that. She had failed her family, and there was nothing to do but to leave home. Lisa packed her pickup truck in the middle of the night and left a note behind, telling her folks she'd be all right. She began writing a note to Brent, but her words sounded empty to her. Nothing I say could make a difference anyway, she thought.

Two days later she got a job as a waitress in Boston. She found an apartment not too far from the restaurant. Her parents tried many times to reach her, but Lisa ignored their letters.

"It's too late," she wrote them once. "I've ruined Brent's life, and I'm not coming back."

Lisa did not think she would ever see home again. But one day in the restaurant where she worked she saw a face she knew. "Lisa!" said Mrs. Nelson, looking up from her plate. "What a surprise."

The woman was a friend of Lisa's family from back home. "I was so sorry to hear about your brother," Mrs. Nelson said softly. "Such a terrible accident. But we can be thankful that he died quickly. He didn't suffer."

Lisa stared at the woman in shock.

"Wh-hat," she finally stammered.

It couldn't be! Her brother? Dead? The woman quickly saw that Lisa did not know about the accident. She told the girl the sad story of the speeding car, the rush to the hospital, the doctors working over Brent. But all they could do was not enough to save him.

Lisa returned home that afternoon.

Now she found herself in her room thinking about her brother as she held the small box that held some of her memories of him. Sadly, she opened the box and peered inside. It was as she remembered, except for one item--Brent's chart. It was not there. In its place, at the bottom of the box, was an envelope. Her hands shook as she tore it open and removed a letter.

The first page read:

Dear Lisa,

It was you who kept count, not me. But if you're stubborn enough to keep count, use the new chart I've made for you.

Love,
Brent


Lisa turned to the second page where she found a chart just like the one she had made as a child, but on this one the lines were drawn in perfect precision. And unlike the chart she had kept, there was but one check mark in the upper left- hand corner. Written in red felt tip pen over the
entire page were the words: "Number 491. Forgiven, forever." 

Easter Week {Day 6}

Good Friday

I find often in life that it is easy to be happy with where we are-

Working to grow is just so hard and sometimes may not seem worth the effort.

There was, however, someone who new it was worth it and that we were worth it!

He is just waiting for us to take the step forward to work towards a better life- one He can show us how to live and become.


The Pearls 


The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with  her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them; a circle of glistening white  pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy, can I have them? Oh, Mommy,  please!"
Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked  back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl’s upturned face. "A  dollar ninety-five. That’s almost $2.00. If you really want them, I’ll  think of some extra chores for you an in no time you can save enough money to  buy them for yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get  another crisp dollar bill from Grandma."

As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17  pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to  the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten  cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at  last she had enough money to buy the necklace. Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere -Sunday school, kindergarten, even  to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a  bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed,  he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story.  One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?"  "Oh, yes, Daddy. You know that I love you." "Then give me your pearls."   "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princess - the white horse from   my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you  gave me. She’s my favorite." "That’s okay, Honey. Daddy love you. Good   night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, "Do   you love me?" "Daddy, you know I love you." "Then give me your pearls."  "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one  I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow   blanket that matches her sleeper." "That’s okay. Sleep well. God bless  you, little one. Daddy love you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

A few nights later, when  her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed  Indian-style. As he came close, He noticed her chin was trembling and one  silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?"  Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And  when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy.  It’s for you." With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy  reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other  hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a  strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had had them all the  time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.   So like our Heavenly Father.

Easter Week {Day 5}

The Day of Fellowship

As we think of all that Christ has done for us through his perfect example and Atoning sacrifice-  here is a story to remind us of the realization of what He did for US.

For YOU 

for ME

 
The Room 

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room.    There were no features except for the one wall covered by small index card   files. These files stretched from floor to ceiling and went endlessly in  both directions. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my  attention was one that read, "Boys I Have Liked." I opened it and began  flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names on each one. I then realized  where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog  system of my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and   small, in every detail. A sense of wonder and curiosity mixed with horror   stirred within me as I began opening files and looking at their contents.    Some brought joy and sweet memories, others a sense of shame and regret so   intense that I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.   A file named, "Friends" was next to the one marked, "Friends I Have   Betrayed". The titles ranged from he mundane to the weird, "Books I Have   Read", "Lies I Have Told", "Comfort I Have Given", "Jokes I Have Laughed  At", "People I Have Hurt". Some were almost funny in their exactness.  "Things I Have Done in Anger", :Things I Have Muttered Under MY Breath at My  Parents".
Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes,  fewer than I had hoped. I was overwhelmed by the volume of life I had lived.  Could it be possible that I had the time in my young life to write each of  these thousands or millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth, each was written in  my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked, "Songs I Have Listened To", I realized   the files grew to contain the contents. The cards were packed tightly, yet   after two or three yards I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it,   shamed, not so much of the quality of the music, but more by the amount of   time I knew it represented. When I came to the file marked, "Lustful   Thoughts", I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out inch by   inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at the   details. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. A rage   broke through me. "No one must see these cards. No one must ever see this   room. I have to destroy them." In a frenzy, I yanked the file out. Its size   didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. I took it out and   pounded it on the floor. Not a single card would come out. I desperately   pulled out a card and tried to rip it, but it was as strong as steel. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a sigh, then I saw it.  The title, "People I Have Shared the Gospel With". The handles were  brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle  and a small box fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on  one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to cry. Sobbing so deep it hurt my  stomach. I fell on my knees and cried out in shame. The rows of shelves  whirled around me. No one must ever know of this room. I must lock it up  and hide the key. But as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please,  not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus! I watched helplessly as He began to open  the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. In the moments that I could bring myself to look at  His face, I saw sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to go to the worst  boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at  me with pity in His eyes. But this wasn't a pity that angered me. I dropped my head and began to  cry again. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me. Then He got up  and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, he  took out a card and one by one He began to sign His name over mine. "NO!: I  shouted, rushing at Him. All I could find to say was, "NO, NO", as I pulled  the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on those cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so   alive. The name JESUS covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the cards back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign  all the cards. I do not think I will ever understand how he did it so  quickly. But, the next instance it seemed, I heard Him close the last file  and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is  finished", I stood up and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on  the door. There are still cards to be written. --

Easter Week {Day 4}

The Day of Rest

We all have bad days- it's part of life

When those days come who do you turn to?

Aquaintances?

or
Friends?

All I Would Ever Need
 I had always felt like a misfit in school. My friends, although good and true friends, were not in the crowd of popular kids in school. Besides, I was sure I was funny looking. I just didn't fit the mold. Parading constantly before my eyes was "the fun group" - the popular kids  always laughing and whispering, never sad or depressed, skipping their way through school, the best of friends. Teachers loved them, boys loved them, the whole school loved them. I worshipped them and wanted to be just like them. I dreamed of the day that they would accept me. My dream came true when I turned fourteen and I tried out for the cheerleading squad. To my surprise, I was chosen. Almost instantly, I was thrust into the "in crowd".   I felt like a butterfly coming out of a cocoon. I changed my hair and the way I dressed.  Everyone thought the change in me was fantastic - new clothes, a new group of friends and a new outlook on life. Almost overnight, the whole school knew who I was, or at least they knew my name. There were parties and sleepovers, and of course, cheering at the games. I was finally one of the popular kids. Everyone I had hoped to know, I knew. Everything I had wanted to be, I was. Something strange was happening to me, however. The more I was included with the "in crowd" the more confused I became. In reality, these people were far from perfect. They talked behind each other's backs while they pretended to be best friends. They rarely had a truly good time but smiled and faked it. They cared about what I was wearing and who I was seen with. But they didn't care about who I was, what I believed in, what my dreams were or what made me who I was. It was a shock to see them as they really were, instead of as I had "thought" they were. I began to feel a huge sense of loss and disappointment.  But worst of all, I realized that I was becoming just like them, and I didn't like what was happening at all. I had to get my life back in order. I concentrated first on finding out who my real friends were, the ones who listened and who really cared about me. They were the only ones who really mattered. I stayed with cheerleading because I really enjoyed it. But I stopped hanging around with only the popular kids, and I widened my circle of friends. I found out that my real friends had never left me. They were simply waiting for me to come to my senses. I finally realized that my original friends were all I would ever need.

Easter Week {Day 3}

The Day of Conflict

We are all brothers and sisters - do we treat each other as such?


Today we have the lyrics from a beautiful song by Janice Kapp Perry- one of my favorite songwriters!

His Image in Your Countenance
Janice Kapp Perry

With no apparent beauty that man should Him desire,
He was the promised Savior to purify with fire.
The world despised His plainness But those who followed Him
Found love and light and purity; A beauty from within.

(chorus)
Have you received His image in your countenance?
Does the Light of Christ Shine in your eyes?
Will he know you when He comes again because you shall be like Him,
When he sees you will the Father know His child?

We seek for light and learning as followers of Christ
That all may see His goodness reflected in our lives.
When we receive His fullness and lose desire for sin
We radiate His perfect love, A beauty from within.

(chorus)
Have you received His image in your countenance?
Does the Light of Christ Shine in your eyes?
Will he know you when He comes again because you shall be like Him,
When he sees you will the Father know His child? 

The ways of man may tempt us and some will be deceived,
Prefering worldly beauty, Forgetting truth received,
But whisprings of the Spirit remind us once again
That lasting beauty, pure and clear must come from deep within.

(chorus)
Have you received His image in your countenance?
Does the Light of Christ Shine in your eyes?
Will he know you when He comes again because you shall be like Him,
When he sees you will the Father know His child? 

Easter Week {Day 2}

The Day of Authority

This is the day Christ cleansed the temple- what things do we want to 'cleanse' from our lives?

Today's story is one we all can work on- no matter what the age.

This would be a great FHE lesson as you could act out the story!

The Feather

A peasant with a troubled conscience went to a monk for advice. He said he had circulated a vile story about a friend, only to find that the story was not true.

"If you would make peace with your conscience," said the monk, " you must first fill a bag with goose down and go to every door in the village, dropping a feather at each doorstep," 



The peasant did as he was told, then came back to the monk to tell him he'd done the penance for his folly.

"Not yet," replied the monk. "Now you must take a bag and return to each doorstep to gather every feather you previously dropped."

 "But the wind will have blown them all away by now" said the peasant.


"Yes, my son," said the monk. "And so it is with your vile words. Words are like goose downs quickly dropped, but try as hard as you can, you can never get them back."

Author Unknown

Object lesson- Find some down feathers and see how easy they are to blow away-