Curves Ahead

I walked a different stretch of beach this morning, and noticed a curve in the island’s shore, a bend I’d not noticed in the past. I had been part of the curve in my usual walk, but oblivious to its gentle shift and sweep. From this vantage I could see the scalloped shore, recognize where I had traced the water line but had not recognized the pattern. Perhaps in my own life’s walk I fail to recognize the curves, the shifts in direction that lead me to new perspectives. When I met my husband, it seemed an uneventful encounter. When we first visited this island, so many years ago, it was pleasant, but not dramatic. When I walked into the island church the first time, I felt welcomed, but not aware of its import in my life. I’ve come to recognize that God moves in directions I can’t see, helps me select small bends in the road that I can’t recognize, steers me in paths that best suit my soul. Sometimes I balk, reluctant to move as He guides, but gently at times, firmly at other times, He accompanies me according to His will. Dear Lord, it is comforting to know that my walk today may include a bend in the road; I’m grateful that your hand will lovingly direct me to all that is best for my eternal soul. Amen.

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New RoomNew Room

I found a beautiful shell on the beach today, tiny intricate spirals that gradually and gracefully grew into concentric circles.  The creature within must have grown slowly, sealing off each successive chamber and moving on into larger circles.  How fortunate he was!  Able to abandon old failures and move into a fresh room with new hope and a clean spirit.  But I too have that gift of a clean room; thank you, God, for the chance you give me each day to move into a larger, cleaner chamber, one wiped free of sin and failure, open to your future and closed to my past.  May I willingly move in your direction and leave the flawed past behind. Amen.


He Has RisenHe Has Risen

 Prayer for Easter

      Dear Lord, every Easter card shows flowers blooming, bright sunshine, and smiling disciples. But it wasn’t that way, was it, Lord. It was chilly and dark when the women went to the tomb. In their scarves they carried gums and spices to undo the abuse and torture your body had suffered two days earlier. So much fear! The boulder blocking the tomb, the soldiers guarding it, the Roman soldiers patrolling and then, to add to the fear, an earthquake.

      They whispered to one another as they walked. Hopeless. Disappointed. The loss of everything they believed. Jesus wasn’t powerful as He seemed. He could heal and restore and feed and make people believe—but it all came down to this—a broken body in a borrowed tomb. Here was the hard truth; Jesus was a mortal man like every other man. Shivering in the darkness, bent over as they hurried, eager to have this business finished, to show their respect for a dear friend who had taught them so much.

      It’s ironic, Lord, isn’t it, that none of the followers coming to the burial site in small, separate groups, expected an empty tomb. Though Jesus had told them repeatedly, at least nine times, that he would rise from the dead, they didn’t believe him. In fact the only ones who heard Jesus’ message were the Jewish rulers. The high priests and Pharisees warned Pilate Jesus spoke of rising from the dead. They heard the message, though his followers didn’t. To prevent their stealing the body, Pilate posted guards.

      When they reached the tomb in separate groups, there was no sudden epiphany, no delirious shout of joy over what had taken place. No. Fear, confusion, disbelief overwhelmed the followers as they scuttled back and forth, reluctant to believe the angel’s message. Only John announced his belief as did Mary Magdalene after Jesus spoke her name. It took hours, days, weeks in some cases, before skeptic followers could believe in the living Jesus. Even those who saw Jesus in person were reluctant to believe!

      And what of us, Lord, what of our disbelief? All the Easters since that first morning and we continue to wonder, still question if it’s real. Like those followers we grope in the chilly darkness, doubting the value of life, despairing of purpose. We go to wrap the dead, not celebrate the living. The search is the same, Lord, a hunt for meaning. Strangely enough it is only an empty tomb that contains all we need to know. In that emptiness lies fullness and joy—promises kept and new life given.

      Easter isn’t a one-time event; it is a repeated search whenever we forget the promise or reject its premise. Each time we face that empty tomb, we find a living Lord who is among us, loving us, forgiving us. Dwelling with us until the end of time. Never has empty space held so much. On this Easter morning may each of us find our way to an empty tomb regardless of the pain or doubt that drives our search. With courage we look inside rediscovering the life that lies beyond. “He is risen!” So will we.

Sandra Ratliff

Safe HarborSafe Harbor

 I saw a photograph of the island taken from a plane.  How tiny it looks!  The beach is a white ribbon, the trees a narrow band of green dotted with homes, and the bay beach another narrow band of white.  All of it surrounded by water—waves rolling in with tiny flumes of foam visible in the picture.  I felt small and inconsequential, threatened by the vastness of the sea and those waves that bite at the land.  Then I realized all life is lived as an island in a sea; there is so much in our lives we can’t control, and so we try to keep our island safe and secure.  I think of all the hymns that speak of God as a refuge in storms, a haven when the waves of tragedy or despair or death roll over us.  Thank you, Lord, for being my security; no matter how the waves may wash over the island, you reach out your hand to me from the heights of Heaven.  I need have no fear for you are my safe harbor. Amen.