The Cross Around My Neck

IMG_2129In its little velvet box, the gold cross on a chain appeared small and fragile. But I saw a royal insignia, a medal to wear into the fray, the emblem of a conqueror. It took three months of minimal payments on layaway at the jewellery store before I owned it. Working part-time and on a limited budget, buying a gold necklace seemed extravagant, but I knew it as a necessity. You see, my life was a battlefield, with my marriage gasping out its last dying breaths and my family scattered and struggling. Yet in the midst of the smoke and ruin God showed up, like a bright flower blooming in devastation. I needed the cross necklace as a banner for going into battle.

Before this, God and I were old friends who had lost touch. I thought of Him with affection and respect, but not someone I talked to often. Then His Spirit began stirring up a hunger in my soul. Like a starving woman, I consumed the bread and wine of His Word, longing for more. His voice drew me into deep, prayerful conversations. I craved time with others who knew Him, whose encouragement fortified me for what was ahead. I knew that God was preparing me for combat.

So why wear a cross around my neck? Some saw it as an archaic icon of a gruesome form of public execution, even a talisman to ward off evil. To me it symbolized the One who died on such a cross with His arms spread wide in love and sacrifice. I had come to believe that Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God, gave His life willingly on that cross, was buried then rose from the grave to conquer death and sin, offering forgiveness and eternal life to those who believe in Him. I wore an empty cross, not one with Jesus still nailed to it, because I knew He was alive, just as I knew the battle I was facing would be fought in His strength.

“Stay focused; do not lose sight of mercy and truth; engrave them on a pendant, and hang it around your neck; meditate on them so they are written on your heart.”
(Prov.3:3 The Voice)

When I stood before a courtroom judge to fight for an equitable end to a dead marriage, I wore the cross.
While toxic chemicals flowed into my body to fight a life-threatening disease, I wore the cross.
As I battled abandonment, poverty, loneliness and more, I wore the cross.

Every morning as I fastened the chain around my neck, I felt fortified. It was only a little piece of gold, but it gave me a focus, a touchstone to wear into the day, reminding me that I faced the challenges ahead in the strength of Jesus, who overcame death on the cross. He promised in His word, “My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor.12:9)

Jesus brought me through those long ago battles and for now the fields are green and peaceful. But I still wear the gold cross, although brutal in its origins, because it is the highest badge of honor displayed for the ultimate sacrifice given upon it by my Savior.

“It was God who brought us to life with Him, forgave all our sins, and eliminated the massive debt we incurred by the law that stood against us. He took it all away; He nailed it to the cross. But that’s not all. He disarmed those who once ruled over us — those who had overpowered us. Like captives of war, He put them on display to the world to show His victory over them by means of the cross.” (Col. 2:13-15)

 

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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A Channel of Thanksgiving

IMG_0734 - 2I remember …  my father coming home, tall and handsome in his navy uniform, setting down his duffle bag full of gifts from far away places and sweeping me up in his arms. I remember my mother, lovely in a fresh summer dress, pearled and perfumed, her face aglow for her returned husband. I remember and I am thankful for parents who loved each other and us.

I remember … three sparkling moments when my babies were placed in my arms for the first time. Perfect, precious miracles carried within for months, now lodged in my heart forever. I remember the gift of motherhood and I am filled with gratitude for these children, birthed and nurtured.

I remember … a time of sorrow, stress and loss when my world tilted off balance. Every day I clung to God because I was too weak to face it alone. Always He met me in those hard, dark places, revealing the facets of His character like diamonds in the dust. I remember and I am thankful for God’s revelation of Himself to this lone, hurting woman.

Remembering is a channel of thanksgiving, a recounting of all the ways God has shown Himself to me. The urgent needs of the here and now can overwhelm but when pause is taken to remember His faithfulness, provision and care, peace comes. Yes, I remember when I didn’t know how I could afford to feed my children. Someone unaware of our need sent enough cash to get us through, but I remember it as God who provided.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds,” says the psalmist. (Ps. 9:1 NIV) His desire was to tell others about God’s wonderful deeds but I want to remember to tell myself. When life gets overwhelming and doubts arise, I need to recall the myriad of times and ways God broke in with undisputed evidence of His love for me. When I recall, then I trust. Again and again. Remembrance is a temporary focus that needs to be called forth often in order for it to benefit the present.

This was Jesus’ purpose when He instituted The Lord’s Supper. (Luke 22, 1 Cor.11) He knew it was the last time He would share a meal with His disciples before His crucifixion. He wanted to give them symbols to help them remember, representing His sacrificial death to redeem them from their sins. Using everyday emblems, He took bread, broke it and said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Then He took a cup of wine, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” So whenever they ate bread and drank from the cup in His honor, they would proclaim Jesus’ death until His return.

Jesus knew what fickle, forgetful memories we have so He gave us a way to always remember what He did for us. The magnitude of His gift of eternal life and forgiveness by His sacrificial death cannot be remembered without a sense of overflowing gratitude. That is why in some Christian traditions, partaking of the Lord’s Supper is called Eucharist, from the Greek word eucharisteo, meaning thanksgiving, with the root word charis. meaning grace, and the derivative chara, for joy.

My thanksgiving flows from a remembrance of grace-filled joy, undeserved mercy, overflowing love, all coming from the beneficent hands of my Father God and my Lord Jesus Christ. I desire thanksgiving to be the atmosphere of my days.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  (2 Cor. 9:15)