The Gate

Today’s post is about an inspiring encounter my dear friend Brandilynn had this Easter weekend. 

As I drove towards Tarpley, Texas on Easter weekend; an overwhelming sense of emptiness filled my heart. Like an empty cup turned upside down; I felt nothing left. I was excited for the weekend, yet felt afraid I wouldn’t fit in with the group. They all knew each other well and I was just new to this church group. They were like one big happy family that joked and bantered back and forth with inside stories I had yet to understand. The old familiar thoughts entered in. Was I good enough? Could I measure up? Would I be on the sidelines looking in? Could I make a difference? I asked God to equip me as I rounded the corner to “The Gate” that would forever change my life. I sat in front of this huge black iron gate that towered above me. As I entered the code and the gate opened; I couldn’t shake a sense of something great is about to happen.

 

I quickly unpacked my bags and got settled in. Everyone began arriving at the second of two cabins on the Lake Front Hill Country Getaway. …and so began my journey to receiving the greatest fulfillment in a group setting I can remember. This group is different I told myself. Everyone busily got situated into both cabins and later that night we sat around eating burgers and listening to Pastor Mark share a message on what it means for God to get the glory in your life. He shared that this weekend was about focusing on the Lord and leaving the worldly cares behind. We delved into discussions about God and Jesus in a way that felt different. James had been discussing feelings of LACK in the previous church meetings.He shared to take those feelings and just ask God…  “Hey, what is this Lord”?!  It amazed me that it could be simplified so easily into one action.

Problem: Feeling lack (of any kind)
Solution: Holding that up to God and asking him about it

Pretty easy concept! How I missed it all these years is beyond me.

That night, I had a lot of time to think about what God was doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours of sleep. I felt strangely energized as I met up with the others in the group. The day unfolded perfectly as we talked around the picnic table. Later we hiked a mountain that later became known as “Won Shoe Mountain” and at night sat around the fire in God’s presence. We laughed and cried and sang and talked. A sense of wonderment came over me when I realized that in our group of twelve. Like the disciples, Jesus sat among us! I could feel his presence like never before. I could feel LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, JOY, HONOR, HUMILITY, COMPASSION, FAITHFULNESS, COMMITMENT, ANOINTING, GENTLENESS, ENCOURAGEMENT, and DISCERNMENT, to name a few. I was amazed to hear, as we went around the campfire; the thoughts that others had formed about me. Nothing but the love of Jesus could allow them to see into my heart that way. As each person took their turn my mind ceased to function and my soul leaped forward. I realized this is a taste of heaven on earth, as I felt unending love in that moment. A sneak peak into the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God has in store for us all as we (in time) enter into the heavenly gates.

NO LACK existed!

The next morning I awoke feeling satisfied that I had opened my heart, mind, soul, body to God in a way that surpassed previous moments. I felt closer to God than ever before in a way that humbled; yet excited me. I drove out and back up to the gate with new purpose and an overflowing cup. I sat in front of the Gate for a moment… NOT wanting to leave.

I understand now entering the code to the gate…. symbolic for saying, God, I am here… ready to be in your presence. I leave everything behind at the gate entrance and enter into your kingdom and majesty and righteousness. I realized I had left ALL worldly things at the front of the gate. We can’t bring those things into his presence.

In closing, leaving you with one final thought. When you are sitting in front of that Gate… staring up and deciding whether to enter…  or sit back in the worldly things… will you decide to enter into God’s presence and feel his majesty and love surround you and change you in a profound way. Letting the world fall away off of you… your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. To renew and bask in the presence of God that seems to change you down to the very cells of your body… to fill your heart so full it is bursting with Love, Adoration, Kindness, and Acceptance for everyone and everything around you. …but even greater still a deepening love of the Lord your Father in heaven that cannot be contained or explained.

…as I drove out the gate… I looked on the side of the road and could see the worldly cares I had left when entering, still sitting piled up; that I had dumped right outside the gate. I paused for a split second in thought as my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I drove away… leaving the pile still sitting there. I won’t be needing those again I thought as sweet tears began flowing down my cheeks. A sense of an atmosphere shift lingered with me in the car. A heart overflowing and a feeling of pure love beyond measure.

To those that don’t know God….  the code you enter to “The Gate” is Jesus. Ask Jesus into your heart and the gate will open for anyone who will ask.

All the love in the world to you.

-Brandilynn Edgerton

Eggciting

Last Easter, a few of the ladies in my Bible study and I celebrated Easter with the women and children at our local women’s shelter. The message we shared was about the three eggs of Easter.

The first egg was empty. It represented the empty tomb.

The second egg had a marshmallow chick in it. It represented the sweetness and fullness of God’s love and new birth.

The third egg was a chocolate egg that was wrapped in gold foil. It represented restoration. After empathizing with the women concerning their current situations, and encouraging them that God could and would restore their lives, my friends and I handed each of the women a golden egg. The Holy Spirit moved hearts and tears began to fall. It was a beautiful experience!

The way I celebrated this Easter was very different from last year’s celebration. Instead of meeting with abused women in a park, I spent the weekend with my pastors and church family at the Yellow Rose Ranch. The weekend was so amazing and life giving it would take many blogs to share about it, so I will just refer back to the three eggs of Easter,

The empty egg: Although there was no Easter sermon, the message of Easter was everywhere as relationship with Jesus and the victories He has given us were present in every conversation.

The full egg: The sweetness and fullness of God’s love was mirrored in action as each person considered others better than himself/herself and truly loved his/her neighbor. Serving one another was easy because it was out of love and not duty. Protecting one another was natural because we truly cared and wanted what was best for each other.

The golden egg of restoration: There were some precious times, usually around the camp fire, when we spoke words of encouragement to one another. My church calls this “kisses from heaven”. As we affirmed each other and made agreement with the restoration God has for us, the Holy Spirit moved hearts and both laughter and tears fell. It was beautiful!

Two different Easter experiences, but the same three eggs: Victory in Jesus, the fullness of His love poured out to others, and the beautiful restoration that He brings to our lives.

Because the tomb was empty, our hearts are full!

Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters”(1 John 3:16 NIV).

The Good Friday Journey

I haven’t yet had the privilege of walking where Jesus walked, but the contributor of today’s testimony has. I pray you will be blessed as you read  Mary Zatkalik’s eye-witness account of a “Good Friday” celebration in Jerusalem.

I will never forget my three-week stay in Israel and specifically, the time spent in Jerusalem.  My husband and I chose the Windmill Hotel because it offered a Seder experience at sunset on Passover.  Also, we could walk to the Old City of Jerusalem, just blocks from the hotel, and sightsee.

The Old City boasts of archaeological history and its narrow streets feature vendors selling beautiful gifts, colorful fresh produce and braids of freshly baked bread.  We learned where the various gates to the city were located to allow us entrance, and we prayed at the Western Wall.

I will forever remember the Friday afternoon which happened to also be Good Friday.  After lunch in the hotel, we meandered over to the Old City where we entered through the gate and immediately we were swept up into a whirlwind.  I felt out of control when my feet barely touched the ground because a mass of people carried me with them to their destination.  I still remember the panic on my husband’s face because he, too, was taken away by the crowd but at least it looked like we were headed in the same direction.

The event taking place, “The Way of the Cross,” sometimes refers to the “Stations of the Cross.”  A fancier name, the “Via Dolorosa,” depicts the suffering journey of Jesus as He walked down those narrow streets of Jerusalem to face his crucifixion and death on the cross for the sins of mankind.

Catholic churches offer the Stations of the Cross in their Good Friday services.  As a child, I remember the quiet reflection and prayer times with my mom where we physically moved from one station to the next within the sanctuary of the church meditating on the journey Jesus took from The Last Supper to His death and burial.

For clarity, these are the Biblical meditations:

  • Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples
  • Jesus in the garden
  • Jesus betrayed by Judas, then arrested
  • Jesus condemned by the Sanhedrin
  • Jesus denied [by Peter]
  • Jesus judged by Pilate [sent to Herod Antipas, then returned to Pilate]
  • Jesus scourged
  • Jesus took His cross
  • Jesus helped by Simon
  • Jesus crucified
  • Jesus [temporarily] prepared for burial
  • Jesus placed in the tomb

It’s one thing to sit in a quiet church and recite prayers at each station, but it’s a whole different experience to be there with passionate believers where history approximately took place about 2000 years ago.  I heard the sounds of voices crying out in worship and I stared at the cross carried vertically above the crowd.  My heart gripped with emotion that Good Friday.

I am ecstatic to have had the experience of being a part of that passionate movement that day.    I tasted the excitement of Via Dolorosa.  The roar of a crowd at each “station” gave me an appreciation of not only the scene but the original journey on that road to Calvary.  I am not only thankful to have participated, but thankful that I survived!

Mary Zatkalik