The Face of Christ

A short, roughly-cut black beard, olive brown skin weathered from spending most of his time outside in a warm middle eastern climate, a strong, straight nose and dark brown eyes. From what history tells us of the appearance of men during the time of Jesus, this is an approximate description of how He might have looked. Imagination might embellish with deep creases around His mouth from smiling, slight shadows above His cheekbones from a nomadic lifestyle short on sleep, and eyes like His Father’s, full of compassion and love.

This beloved face is described by the prophet Isaiah 700 years before Christ’s birth, as “having no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Isa. 53:2 NIV) He was an ordinary-looking man of His time, with no distinguishing physical features to set Him apart. Although prophesied as the Messiah, He wore none of the usual emblems of royalty, making His true identity visible only to the discerning eyes of faith.

Three of Jesus’ disciples saw His face in a new light when Christ revealed His glory to them. “There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light.” (Matt. 17:2) Peter, James and John were privileged to see Christ in His glorified state, with the light of His holiness shining from His face.

As the time of His crucifixion approached, Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Luke 9:51 NKJV), facing the completion of His earthly mission with determination, even as He knew the inevitable outcome. Isaiah records the prophecy that the Messiah’s face would resolutely be set like a flint (Isa.50:7) toward the suffering He must endure. Before the crucifixion, His captors spit upon, beat and disfigured His face until it was marred beyond human likeness (Isa.52:14) Those who once knew His familiar face no longer recognized it. Nor did they expect to see it again after His death, yet He was resurrected to life, whole and identifiable by the many people who encountered Him before He ascended to heaven.

The features of Jesus will not always be a mystery to us. Some day we will behold Him in heaven, where we will see His face clearly. “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part: then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” ( 1 Cor.13:12) In the meantime we have a purpose to fulfill, given to us when we first believed in Christ, our risen Savior. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor.4:6) We are to let this light shine from our own faces to a hurting world.

Do you want to see the face of Christ? Then look into the faces of those who love and serve Him here on earth, perhaps even your own face, and you will see the resemblance.

Bring the Boy to Me

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The desire of a parent to do whatever it takes to protect and care for their child is a primal one.

A Sense of Place


IMG_2005-001There is a phrase echoing around in my mind, easier to describe than to define. A sense of place.

It is warm golden pine needles carpeting the ground, spicing the air with each cushioned footstep; shafts of sunlight dropped down through tree columns, alive with dancing dust and insects; a rhythmic sound, swelling and receding, growing louder as the ocean’s edge comes into view; once beyond the trees, drawing in big breaths of salt-rich air, then kicking off my shoes and burying my toes in the sand, more fully alive here than anywhere else.

By the ocean is where I derive my strongest sense of place, a locale for joyful contemplation when all goes well and for comfort when solace is sought. I don’t live near it anymore but in some tender corner of my heart it will always draw me. I was happiest there as a child and dream of living near it again someday.

“Place is where meaning, belonging, and safety come together under the covering of our best efforts at unconditional love,” writes author Randy Kilgore. “Place beckons us with memories buried deep in our souls. Even when our place isn’t perfect, its hold on us is dramatic, magnetic.”

Place, that idyllic memory evoked by emotions connected to it. For me it has become more a person than a physical setting. Yes, my heart responds to some places more than others, where special memories have their roots or beauty stirs me. At some point those places may be changed or even destroyed, but the Person who gives me the most secure, eternal sense of place will be forever present.

Jesus Christ said, “Abide in Me, and I will abide in you.” (John 15:4 NIV) What a strange concept that must have been to the disciples listening to Him. Abide? Live in? Take up residence in Jesus? When read in context of the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15, abiding in Jesus makes sense. He is our vine, our source of spiritual nourishment so we, the branch, can bear spiritual fruit. Important as spiritual fruit is, it is not the main reason for Jesus wanting us to abide in Him. His desire is for intimacy with His beloved child, a sense of connection only achieved by living as close to Him as possible. Abiding — when our inner spirit, the truest essence of who are, takes up residence in the heart of Jesus. It sounds a bit spooky, even supernatural. True spirituality is a mystery, but the practice of it is simple. Spend time with Jesus. Seek, long for, thirst after, engage, know, hear and respond to … Jesus. Find Him in His Word, talk to Him in prayer, listen for His voice in your spirit, live in Him.

The ocean shore gives me a sense of place because of significant personal epiphanies occurring there. But I have learned that my truest sense of place happens in my spiritual abode, the heart of Jesus, a place of love. “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now abide in My love.” (John 15:9)


© 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.



Not-So-Fond Farewells

IMG_1739The quicker, the better is my motto when it comes to saying good-bye to someone I love for a long time. I dread the moment when I will have to release them from my arms and watch them walk away. It feels like a part of my heart is being torn out, leaving a big aching hollow. I am not so fond of farewells.

This summer has been one of good-byes. My daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter moved to Africa for 3 years with little prospect of trips back home. And after I said good-bye to my son when visiting him in a distant city, he sent me a note within the hour saying he missed me already. Every parting takes a piece of my too-tender heart with it which, I’ve come to realize, is the price for loving completely.

Of all the imperfections and missed marks in the world, this is the one I find the most arduous, sometimes to the point where I don’t want to say hello because I know a good-bye must follow. We say too many good-byes in this transient society where jobs require transfers to other cities, and rending divorces result in constant partings between parents and children.

The truth is, we were not designed for good-byes. In the perfection of this world before sin entered, God made man and woman in His own image. And God walked companionably with His creations in the garden in the cool of the day. (Genesis 1 – 3) God’s original intention was for an everlasting relationship with man, no good-byes required. Don’t you think it wrenched His heart to send Adam and Eve out of the garden? To say good-bye to the creatures He designed for relationship with Himself? The sin which broke man’s connection with God continues to throw good-byes in our path, causing hearts to break a little with each one.

So I wonder, how do I navigate those good-byes? Do I withhold myself, protecting my heart from painful partings? Not possible. I love those I love without reservation, making vulnerability part of the package. So I’ve decided to live in the good of the moments I have with each one I love. Some moments may be longer and some shorter before parting but each one is precious in and of itself. After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days saying good-bye to His disciples because they were so slow to believe and understand what He had done. During that time He made special memories with them, walking and talking on the road to Emmaus, visiting them in the upper room, making them breakfast on the beach. The disciples would have those memories to warm their hearts when He was gone.

Good-byes are an infinitesimal portion of my time spent with those I love. I choose to make that time rich, full of love and laughter, shared experiences, long talks and lots of hugs. It will still be hard to say good-bye but only because our love for each other will have deepened in the time we are together. Good memories don’t need good-byes.



© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. 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.


2007_0922MB0161They appear on the horizon, giants of the windswept prairie harvesting energy in their steel wings. Wind generators standing in tall rows along a golden ridge stretch into the distance, their mighty blades revolving to catch the unseen power of the wind. No doubt there is much written about the technology and science of wind turbines but the romantic in me simply enjoys the beauty of immense blades swirling in an adagio dance against the blue sky.

A grouping of wind turbines is called a wind farm, erected to harvest the power of the wind. Prevailing winds blowing over areas of open land turn the turbines connected to a generator, which converts the kinetic wind energy into electrical power. A dry explanation for a force evoking awe when I stand beneath those sweeping blades and hear the deep, resonant swoosh of their passing.

I wonder, when the force of God’s Spirit moves through me, what does it produce? Is divine energy being channeled through my limbs, my mind, my heart, for the benefit of others? I am small and weak without much strength to my own credit, like a windmill on a windless day. But when the Holy Spirit of God empowers, He moves me to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ, according to His purposes. His empowerment is not for my own benefit, but for the purpose of reaching others with the truth of the gospel.

Just before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV) Reading through the book of Acts, the power of the Holy Spirit is clearly evident in the lives and ministries of the early disciples of Christ.

It is easy to be impressed by the spectacle of enormous rotors revolving by the power of the wind and forget the energy they produce feeds into a greater power grid. There is a complex system delivering the kinetic energy produced by wind turbines into the utility grid distributing electricity for our use. A stand-alone wind turbine may produce a small amount of power for domestic use but wind farms provide bulk power to a system beneficial to all.

The purpose behind the Holy Spirit’s power being made available to mankind was not to be a spectacle or to perform miracles for miracles’ sake. His power was given for the express purpose of enabling believers to be more effective witnesses. As conduits of the Spirit’s power, believers perform the vital function of pointing others to the source of the power, Jesus Christ.

The power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in the fruit seen in our lives; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22) When the world wonders how a marriage lasts for 50 years, or why a business person puts honesty before profit, or a young man or woman chooses a life of purity, the Holy Spirit is displaying His power. Then those who witness this power, ask the all important question, “Why?” And once again the wind of the Spirit moves a heart upward.

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. 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.


Along the Road

EmmausTravel has a way of drawing out internal things. As the body is engaged in getting to a destination, the mind has time to ponder and explore, away from daily routine. On a seven mile journey by foot from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a few days after Jesus’ crucifixion, two of His disciples discussed the internal things closest to their hearts.

Shoulders slumped, feet scuffing the dusty road, faces sad and perplexed, their demeanor spoke their discouragement. They had put their hope in Jesus of Nazareth as the one who was going to redeem Israel, but he had been arrested, crucified and buried, and his body probably stolen, for his tomb was now empty. With the road stretching before them, their conversation was tinged with sorrow and confusion.

In the aftermath of a life-shattering event, we want to study it from all angles, dissect the details, try to figure out the why and how and now what? Somehow it gives us a sense of control to analyze the facts and search for some answers, preferably with someone who can commiserate with us.

Processing a traumatic event turns the focus inward. The two walking to Emmaus were so absorbed in their discussion, they probably did not notice a fellow traveler until he came alongside them. Wrapped in a robe, dusty and windblown, like themselves, they did not recognize Jesus. Even though it was Jesus they were discussing, seeing Him in person was the farthest thought from their minds. Although He had spoken of it often, His resurrection was outside their realm of possibility.

When we are caught up in our own problems, trying to cope with an imperfect reality, we can miss Jesus walking beside us. Life narrows our vision to focus on looming bills, a serious medical diagnosis, a fractured relationship. Even when we fail to recognize Him, He is beside us through all the difficulties because He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)

Still disguised, Jesus gently chided the two on the road for being foolish and slow of heart. In modern terms, He admonished them to “look at the big picture”. Then painting the big picture in words, “He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27 NIV) And they still were not aware it was Him.

When all I can see are the problems right in front of me, the best thing I can do is adjust my spiritual lens, go wide angle and take in all of who Jesus is, what He has accomplished and what He has promised for the future. His story is woven throughout the Bible from the first word to the last. Reading it reminds me of the providence of God so clearly demonstrated in the life of His son Jesus, so I can trust Him for my life too.

The two travelers warmed to their wise companion as they walked. They strongly urged him to stay with them and have a meal. “He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.” (Luke 24:30-31)

This part of the story touches my heart, because it was in the act of thanksgiving and sharing bread that Jesus revealed Himself. And He will continue to reveal Himself as we practice thanksgiving, focusing on the One who has given us all things. We are called to give thanks in all circumstances. (1 Thess. 5:17). Thanksgiving points us to Jesus, our true north, who guides us into all truth.

Finally they put the two together. Jesus, the man who walked to Emmaus with them, once dead and now alive, was the Messiah. fulfilling all the prophecies in Scripture. Their hearts burned within them with this revolutionary knowledge.

The story of the two on the road to Emmaus is our story too. Often blind to the presence of Jesus right beside us, we listen to His story in Scripture, but until we thank Him for His body broken and His blood poured out for us, we cannot see who He really is. When we finally recognize our constant companion, our hearts will burn within us — with love, with gratitude and with worship.











Leaning into the Wind

leaning into the windIt is not enough to feel the gusts rocking my car while I storm-watch on a west coast beach. I slam the car door before the wind yanks it out of my hand, then step in to the exhilaration of howling air and roaring water. The world is tumultuous with sound and energy, nothing static. Wind tears excited laughter from my mouth, tossing it to gulls balancing on invisible air waves who echo it back to me in their voice-like cries. The ocean sends surges from far out crashing to the shore, spume flying, froth foaming, sucking rocks and debris back with each retreat. I glory in sea spray stinging my cheeks, the press and billow of my rain jacket molded by fickle wind fingers. After scrambling over slippery logs my feet find firm, wet sand and I run into the wind. A wall unseen forces my straining legs to slow motion, my eyes to blur with wind-whipped tears.

Then I turn around. Instantly that which held me back is holding me up. My eyes clear, my muscles relax and I lean back into the wind. The force of the invisible exerts its power so I barely need to exert mine. How strange to lean back against something unseen, to feel the grip of moving air supporting me. It not only holds me up, it pushes me, propelling me along the sand in a direction of its own choosing.

Leaning seems like a passive stance, even apathetic. The distinction is in what or who is being leaned upon. During Jesus’ last supper with His disciples in John 13, a  snapshot moment gives a glimpse of a special relationship. Jesus has just predicted His betrayal at the hands of one of His own disciples. Although confused by this, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” sees his Lord visibly troubled in spirit. From his position reclining next to Jesus at the table, he then leans back against Him (vs. 25). The King James version says he was “leaning on Jesus’ bosom.” I love this picture. In the midst of perplexing, stressful times, this disciple leans against the One who loves him, instinctively giving Jesus support while seeking it himself. This is a moment of intimacy, of dependence and connection. Perhaps this gesture of closeness helped give Jesus the courage to say what He needed to say next, naming Judas as His betrayer.

I am a “leaner” most of the time, except when I rely too much on my own resources. But there is enough history behind me of having no choice but to lean on Jesus, resting on His bosom, that I know it is where I need to be when life tries to push me over. He is the wind I lean into; a mighty, unseen force girding me up when my heart and spirit are on the verge of collapse.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” Proverbs 3:5 truly speaks. My own understanding is finite, flawed and overly influenced by my emotions. When I lean with my back against the Cross of Christ, there l find strength, there I am sustained, there I discover that “underneath are the everlasting arms” of my Creator and Savior. Let the storms of this world bluster and blow. I will lean into the wind of His Spirit and be upheld.

Beauty Poured Out

pour outI wish I had an alabaster jar. A precious vessel full of extravagantly expensive perfume to pour upon the head of the One I love and worship. I would gladly sacrifice a year’s wages and much more to hear Him say, “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  

When I put myself inside the head of the woman who did this to Jesus in Matthew 26, the stately scripture story takes on an emotional passion. This is a woman who has spent time with Jesus, sitting at His feet, soaking in His words, receiving His loving gaze. Her heart is full of devotion for the One who has opened her eyes to the beauty of the Kingdom. Impetuously throwing off social propriety, she breaks into an all-male dinner party to lavishly anoint the head of Jesus with carefully conserved perfume costing a whole year’s earnings. The shock and indignation of the other guests does not deter her. Their negative reaction will not keep her from expressing her heart to her most treasured friend.

In the midst of the sombre events leading up to the crucifixion, this story brings a shaft of light to looming shadows. It is as if she can not help herself, this woman whose spontaneous act of worship pushes aside all protocol to demonstrate a full measure of love in the only way she knows how.

From out of the shadows she slips up behind Jesus as he reclines at the table, breaks the flask open and pours perfume over his head. Immediately the room is suffused with the sweet, heady fragrance of exotic nard. Then dribbling the remaining drops of scent on his feet, she kneels and wipes them with her unbound hair. (John 12:3)

Conversation comes to an abrupt halt. There is an embarrassed silence in the presence of such unbridled devotion, then the accusations fly. She is called wasteful by the disciples, derided for using something better spent to help the poor. But Jesus doesn’t see it that way. “She has done a beautiful thing to me.”  He sees her heart, her intense desire to make a sacrifice for him. “The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.”

It is doubtful she knows of Jesus’ approaching death or at least how close it is. But her heart has been moved by God to perform this symbolic act of consecration without knowing its full significance. What she has done to him will be remembered down through history, declares Jesus himself. Just as His coming act of love for her will never loose its power throughout time.

I ask myself, am I as full of passionate devotion towards Jesus as this woman? Are there times when I abandon all social conservatism to pour out the abundance of my love ? What beautiful thing can I do to express what is in my heart for Him?

There is no one objective answer to these personal questions, but they lead my thoughts to times of unrestrained worship; those “shining moments”, as I call them, when my heart overflows with love and gratitude to my Savior and Lord. My soul is an alabaster jar, a precious vessel broken open so all that is fragrant within streams out in worship to the lover of my soul, who says, “she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

May my prayer be like special perfume before You. May the lifting up of my hands be like the evening gift given on the altar in worship. – Psalm 141:2  New Life Version