Extravagant Love by Patty Juster

By Patty Juster

A strong young man stood by a gold gilded table pouring over some parchments.  He seemed deep in thought as he glanced back and forth from the table to something outside his palace window.  “Everything seems to match up perfectly with the plans my father gave me,” the King thought.  He could remember that day years ago when his father excitedly told him what was in his heart.  In fact he could see his father standing by this very table with him by his side and could hear him speaking those words that became permanently etched in his mind.  “Solomon, I am old now and soon to pass on the way of all those before me.  For all my life I have served my God faithfully and wholeheartedly.  I had in on my heart to build him a temple, a permanent resting place where he could live among his people forever.  For hundreds of years my God has dwelt in a tent and his presence has led my people all these years.  But now that I have found a home it seemed fitting that my God would have a place where he could dwell forever.  Yet, God said that I had shed too much blood and had been a man of war.  It would not be right that I should build him a house so he has chosen you, my son, a man of peace, to build him a temple.  Now Solomon, I am giving you the plans for this great house, the plans I have received from the hand of the Lord.  You are still young and will need help to succeed in this great project.  I have provided you with my gold and silver, with my merchants and craftsmen, with my fine timber and fabric.  Everything you will need I have provided you.  Now be strong and of good courage.  Keep your heart pure and follow your God with all your heart, being careful to obey him in all things.  In this way, he will make sure your kingdom will endure forever and you will never fail to have one of your seed on the throne.  This great temple will be a blessing to our people as well as to the stranger and alien in your midst.  When they pray here, God will hear their supplications and will grant them peace.  They will find rest for their souls for His glory will dwell is this place.  I bless you, Solomon, in the name of our God.  May his face continue to shine upon you.”

The King folded up the parchment and went to the window again to get a better look at the finished magnificent temple.  Then his attention was drawn to the sound of hundreds, yes even thousands, of cattle, sheep and goats coming down the street.  His heart leapt within him as he headed for the stairs.  Solomon did not want to miss the days of celebration ahead when he, the priests and the people would dedicate this dwelling place of his God.  As far as his eye could see he saw shepherds guiding their flocks and herds towards the temple gates.  Months ago he had ordered his herdsmen to prepare 120, 000 sheep and goats along with 40,000 bulls for this special occasion.  Each animal had to be perfect. 

Enough priests had to be trained and dedicated for performing the sacrifices.  Servants had to be brought in to help tend the animals and to clean up after them.  This was quite an undertaking, larger than anyone could remember.  In Solomon’s and his father’s mind, no sacrifice was too great to express their love and commitment to their God.  Zeal for His house consumed them…they somehow knew through the Spirit of God that millions would benefit from what happened here in days ahead.  They were not serving themselves but future generations.

In front of the multitudes of people and animals were the singers and musicians praising God.  A hundred and twenty trumpeters were blowing shofars…dancers were joyfully expressing their worship, and thousands of people along with the priests were shouting and praising God as one, “God is good and his mercy endures forever.”  As they were worshipping, the priests began to lead the animals one at a time to the slaughter.  Each one had their throat slit and their head was tilted back so all their blood could be drained out.  God said that the blood belonged to him as the life was in their blood.  Thousands of buckets of blood poured out…enough to make a river.  Carefully each animal was skinned and its carcass was cut and prepared according to the law of the temple.  Blood splattered all over the priests white robes.  Sacrificing animals was not a neat job, neither was it pleasant.  The work was tedious and hard and required great strength and stamina.  Only by God’s grace could such a large number of animals be sacrificed in such a short period of time and without the priests fainting from fatigue.

The altar fires burned day and night for weeks and a sweet smelling aroma went up before the throne of God.  Worship and praise continued along with the all night vigils.  The excitement kept building as willing hearts gave all that they had.  Before the last sacrifice was completed fire from heaven came down and consumed the offering and once again the Temple was filled with a cloud of glory.  The priests could no longer enter and perform their services.  They and the people fell with their faces to the ground and continued to worship with adoration too deep for words.  Overcome by such extravagant love, they had no more strength to give.    Each breath then became an offering to their God. 

LOVE IS PATIENT

The old man stroked his beard as he stood in the middle of the road.  His eyes squinted in the bright sunlight.  It appeared that he had done this many times before as his eyes were deeply grooved with wrinkles.  Evidently, he was waiting for someone to come walking down the road.  The neighbors could be heard from time to time gossiping about this old man’s foolishness.  It had been 15 years since his son had left him, and never had he heard a word from him.  He could be dead, for all they knew.  Yet, this old father faithfully stood at the crossroads every morning and night, leaning on his wooden staff.  Every now and then you could see a trickle of water run down his sun worn cheek.  After a few minutes he would turn around and slowly shuffle his way back to his stone house.  The appearance and style of the house reflected the great wealth this old man had.  Many fields of olive trees and grapevines surrounded his estate.  He owned much fertile land and it bore him an abundant yield.  Yet, in spite of all the comfort his money could buy, his heart was heavy.  His friends taunted him and said his son would never return and that he deserved to die for treating his father in this fashion.  But the old man would not listen.  He knew in his heart that his son would one day return.

With such depth of kindness in his voice, the old man would often retell the story again and again of how his son grew restless.  But he would never dishonor his son and tell others how his son no longer wanted to be stuck at home and be told what he could and couldn’t do.  He and his father had had many conflicts and his father never saw things his way.  The young man thought for sure that his father favored his older brother more than him and he felt that he could no longer trust him. 

Feeling a deep isolation from the rest of the family, he thought that the only recourse would be for him to leave home and experience real life away from all those who would seek to control his life.  He somewhat boldly approached his father and asked for his inheritance early.  The wise father knew that he couldn’t demand that his son stay with him, as he was a man now.  Though the father knew in his heart that his son’s decision would bring him to ruin, that he would spend his money foolishly, he had to release his son to follow his own heart.  By giving his son freedom the old man knew he willingly took on the grief of daily bearing the concern for the well being of his child.  He would suffer the consequences of his son’s choices and when his son hurt, he would hurt.  Such is the cost of love, and the price of freedom.

The father grabbed hold of his son and hugged him strongly, speaking quietly into his ear that he will always love him no matter what he did.  He told his son that he was always welcome to come back and live in his house.  As the young man walked down the road, he never even turned to wave good-bye.  The old man just stood there with tears in his eyes, and seemed to stoop over as he pounded his chest, “my son, my son, why have you forsaken me?”

Now, fifteen years later, before the sun was fully up, the old man once again stood in the road and stroked his beard, leaning on his weather worn staff.  This time he saw movement, someone walking far into the distant.  Slowly, the man moved closer and the old man’s face began to quiver.  He threw down his staff and began to run toward the man walking toward him.  Yes, it was his son…he knew that one day he would return.  As they approached each other his son fell at his feet and wept.  “Oh father, I have sinned against you and against God in heaven.  I do not deserve to even be a servant in your household.  Please forgive me and allow me to come be your slave.  I was such a fool and have wasted your money and threw my life way through sinful living.  How could you ever forgive me?”

“O my son, you were dead but now you are alive!  Come, here is my ring and put on this robe.  I more than forgive you, I embrace you fully as my son.  You will eat with me at my table.”

“Servants,” he shouted back towards his house, “kill a fatted calf and prepare a feast for my son.  He was lost, but now he is found.”

“Let me look at you,” his father cried, “I have waited for this day and now it is here.  You have really come home.”  Then the old man with tears running down his face could not stop kissing his son.

LOVE WEEPS WITH THOSE WHO WEEP

A large crowd of women and children were huddled together, trying to keep warm.  Their thin coats provided little protection against the late autumn wind and rain.  Many could be seen striking their folded arms against their bodies to try to stimulate blood flow.  The gray sky accentuated the bleakness of the occasion.  The Gestapo had rounded up the women and children from several barracks to witness the punishment of three young boys who had stolen bread from the camp kitchen.  Several women could be heard whimpering softly so as not to bring the wrath of the guards down upon them.  None of them chose to be here this morning.  But these were the “lucky” ones, depending on how you look at it.  Many of their train mates were herded down the road to the showers and to “better” barracks, so they were told.  But these women knew better, they had heard rumors about the gas chambers and crematoriums.  The daily stench never let them block these thoughts from their minds.

This morning, just like every cold morning, they have dealt with these horrors the same way that their bodies dealt with the cold.  They became numb on the inside just like they were becoming numb on the outside.  Shouts could be heard coming from some guards off in the distance.  Apparently, some women had refused to be a part of this scene and now were suffering the consequences.  There were a few screams, a couple of shots, and then there was silence.  No one flinched.  They were used to this by now.  These outbreaks were a daily occurrence. 

It seemed like they were standing out in the cold forever that morning while they waited for the guards to bring the three boys.  But, finally, they could see them coming around the corner of one of the barracks.  These poor boys had hardly any meat on their bones…just like the rest of them.  It was not fair that any of them should have to experience such evil and degradation.  Their eyes were glazed over and it appeared they were already dead inside.  What was about to happen only solidified what already happened months ago when hope disappeared.

The guards pushed the boys on ahead of them until they reached the gallows in front of the crowd of women and children.  They all knew what to expect, they have seen this before.  Each boy was put on a chair, then a noose was slipped over his head, and with sordid pleasure the guards kicked the chairs out from under each youth.  The noose soon tightened around their necks and they began to gag and gasp for breath.  They did not die quickly, as their necks were not broken as they were in usual hangings. Their mothers, in witnessing their agony, fell to the ground.  They yet had enough life left in them to grieve bitterly for the loss of their child.  One mother could be heard groaning, and shaking an angry fist at God, “Where are you?”  Somewhere in the crowd a voice called out loudly, “God is right up there hanging with your son.”

Yes, this was true.  God knew that in creating man with a free will, it would cost Him as well man great pain and suffering.  He was willing to bear this pain and suffering that would result from the evil choices made by fallen man.  The holocaust represented the price of freedom.  The cross represents the cost of love.  Within the heart of God, before man even set foot on this earth, God bore the pain of all the sinful choices, and yet, knew his great power was able to bring all of creation history into conformity with glorious purposes.  The Lamb of God was slain from the beginning of the world and sits in the center of the throne.  The Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed.  Because God weeps with those who are weeping, great glory can be brought out of great tragedy.  We do not grieve as those who are without hope.  We have a savior who identifies with our every tear.  How great a love the Father has for us in that he sent His only son to hang on a tree for us.  We do not suffer alone.

God’s Project of Freedom Patty Juster

By Patty Juster

All see you were wrong about the people you loved
The men you created, in freedom you beget them
Now they are jeering and mocking with great ire
Their eyes blackened, raging they strip you
Plucking your beard, a crown of thorns your head they adorn
Blood oozing, your tears grieving and they knew not
Centuries of caring in a moment perfect love betrayed
The demons shouting, “Freedom was a mistake…such evil,
Your plan comes to an end. Your wisdom, like your blood,
Spilled and trampled on, despised and not cherished
For the man you created turned on you and proved
Love has not triumphed, and hatred has shown her strength

Such darkness thickens the air
Hope is buried beneath your cross
What now? Will there be a new project, some new fancy?
Scratch this one, wipe out man, begin anew
Perhaps a man without a will who hugs upon command
One who you have bound, not able to rebel
He would have no choice, but he will love you still
Is this the bride for your son, a bride who does what you demand,
One whose passion is programmed, never to abate or abound?
Just think, no more evil, no more pain, only a faceless man
Each one like the other, in heart the same

Two days of groaning and agony, exhausted from sorrow
The watchers sigh, staring off into the vast abyss
He promised victory so life has got to offer more than this
Then beneath their feet a trembling begins
Birds aloft flutter, chirping a new song
In unison announcing death is not the end
Flowers bursting into rays of many colors
Proclaiming out of this God-seed new life has sprung
Love has triumphed o’er the grave, now who was right?
Freedom now seen as God’s excellent design
A bride is formed in the midst of suffering
Claiming all the pain worth it because of the Lamb
In the center of the throne now ruling
His great power assuring we will overcome
And the great romance of the groom will woo her
Perfect her, and present her as his queen
Mature, willingly choosing to believe
Her groom is good, nothing will from his arms snatch
Love has proved stronger, the price of freedom paid

Happy Birthday, Sam

By Patty Juster

Happy Birthday, my son,
Of what age are you now?
At twelve you were taken,
Almost three years ago
That makes you ‘bout fifteen
Or has God made you old?

How do you look,
His glory clothes now you wear,
Are there whiskers on your face,
Do you sniffle and sneeze?
Have you grown many inches
In stature do you stand tall?

Do you remember your mom,
Her loving embrace to feel?
Does He tell you of my tears,
Or does His joy blinding you
Now forget all earthly woes?

When I get there, will glory
Cover the great loss I bear,
Or does pain of memory
Cling to eternities robe
Some spot time cannot remove?

How can I send gifts to you,
My son, how shall I wrap it.
Now that you have everything,
Need you still tokens of love?
Who will blow out your candles,
May I make your birthday wish?

Do angels wrestle with you,
Faking weak to show you strong
You once loved to pin me down
Counting to ten, marking air
So the world would then know,
For one brief moment, your strength
Has now overcome your mom

Holy Unto the Lord Patty Juster

By Patty Juster

Alone, set apart, unto my Lord He does woo me
This grief, heavy to bear
Choking, screaming, crushing
Now inviting me, he says, “come follow me”
A highway of holiness, no wild beast does dare walk
God’s rod, his staff, does comfort me still

Awake, oh Spirit, the will to live
Beckon me come, to your river to drink
Your life, my soul to embrace
Tho darkness blackens, the light dims
Yet you are there, in nearness kiss
The tears that fall, the chest that heaves
Your hand does calm the quaking flesh
Your whisper does my ear brush
I hear you say, “You are mine, do not fear.”

My son not dead, but live to you
Life’s long time line, eternity waits
In a twinkle, my eye shall behold
Your beauty, my son, his life enfolded in you
Glory’s gate does open, the warmth of your face I feel
Hope springs forth, my heart to heal
My work not done, your strength through me yet endures
A future waits, you need me still,
Your love to carry to empty tombs lingering

It is not to the living but to the dead you do send
Others to know your grace will bring them through
In no bad thing, from your love does depart
Tenderly calling, “Come aside, come live with me.”
There you feed us with ravens divine
You alone, our bread, our breath
Arm in arm you lead us,
Together we will walk
Alone in the garden, from your delights we do receive
This world’s not our home,
In your comfort we are renewed
There we will walk,
There we will talk,
And then,
We will be no more
“And Enoch walked with God, and then he was not.”

Hope Born Patty Juster

By Patty Juster

Oh hope, not yet born
Does your heart still beat
Your strength ‘bout forlorn
Do I feel your feet?

A Sono does tell
You’re not yet dead
But vitals not well
Hope has gone to bed

“Wake up,” the bells ring
“Stay there, you’ll turn cold.
Try, make your self sing,
You can do it, be bold.”

New food will restore
Take, eat, new life brings
Then when done, eat s’more
It’s nosh fit for kings

Now drink cool water
Revives the waned will
Courage won’t falter
You’ll have “nuff” to fill

In pain, hope is birthed
Hold not back, it’s time
With joy round me girthed
Push, I hear the chime

Angels have waited
New glory behold
God’s Son, joy sated
Faith has come forth gold

Hope Springs Patty Juster

By Patty Juster

Wild geese honking, coolness creeping o’er the forest glade
Leaves telling stories of soon redemption.
In quiet waiting, the bulbs planted
Thinking of better times, of days lengthened.
Birds chirping, with babies gaping
Asking how long ‘fore hope does peeking come.

In secret the buried seed does sleep
Waiting for warmth to come knocking,
Speaking gently, “Wake up, wake up, it’s time,
Stretch forth you arms, and beckon the day.”

Up they pop
Soon to be dressed in fine silkery
T’will bring delight, others enjoying
Not long now, colors bursting
Painted crimson, purple and yellow.

But in the night waiting, watching for the light
A deer, walking gently does spot
Tasty morsels bursting, from earth’s plate growing
The beast comes eating, joy expecting
Now gone, was this in vain waiting?

All life like a flower appearing,
Springing today, yet tomorrow passing.
Some dying, ne’er a glory beholding
Cut off before its story telling
All creation groaning, waiting,
A time when no tale be cut short,
But spoken fully while love blossoms
Never more to wilt or abate.
“I am here to stay,” let angels sing,
“For He has made all things lasting.”

My hope become born, will not wane
All tears sealed up, in a box cherished
Like jewels one day His head adorning
How precious, He watches over them with care
A remembrance of days long past,
When darkness ruled the day,
And beasts trampled future aspiring.

In agony we faithfully watched,
His promise breaking through the night
Ringing through the heavenly spheres,
“It is finished, now come join the light.”

Intimacy by Patty Juster

The longing to be inside each other, to be intimately close, is innate within each of us.  When I think of the closeness I have with my husband I crave even greater intimacy.  It is not enough to have the nearness of sex as one can be making contact physically but be miles away from each other in their thoughts.  Oneness comes from knowing how the other thinks, processes his world, and feels.  It is truly being able to “eat” up the other person so they are on the inside of you and you inside of them.  It is like living in a shared body.  Perhaps the best way of “eating” another is by listening very carefully to the words spoken by another, and receiving them into you.  It is cherishing what another says and asking questions so as to find out who they are.

When I think of what God says in Deuteronomy 8 about how he caused the Israelites to hunger so they would know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Father I can substantiate this analogy of words spoken and bread.  It is not enough to eat good physical food for the health of our bodies; we also need spiritual food that comes from the Holy Spirit through touching others.  I think that this is why meal time is so important.  It is at the table when we are eating physical food that we can also eat of each of other as we share our hearts with each other.  When we look at our words as being food for another I think it gives us a holy fear of not speaking words that are not good for the listener.  If we gossip, speak evil of another, complain, speak foul words, etc., we are feeding harmful food to all who hear.  And, if we hear bad words from others our soul is contaminated as well.

I can take this analogy even farther.  If others feed off of me and vice versa, than my withholding “food” (words) in a act of self protection can deprive another of the banquet that is inside of me.  So, in revenge for having been hurt I can vow not to share my thoughts or feelings with another who has responded in a perceived or real sinful way toward my personhood.  In other words, if I experienced rejection then I reject in return.  If death is really separation from each other either physically or emotionally, than our refusal to “feed” each other (reject each other) starves a relationship so it dies. 

What does it mean in Scripture when it says we do not belong to ourselves?  Do we really have the right to choose who we are going to open our heart up to or not?  Shouldn’t God be the one who is the gatekeeper of our heart and or our words?  Do we have the right to withhold food from the hungry?  He will distribute our “food” according to what is needed by another and he will give us grace to put the unwholesome “food,” that is spewed from another’s mouth, in the garbage can so we do not have to eat it.  We do not have to let bad words affect our souls.

Our words are real food as they represent the life or death that dwells within us (life and death are in the power of the tongue).  The Lord’s Supper conveys this imagery.  Yeshua told his disciples that his flesh was real food and his blood was real drink.  He said that if they did not eat of the bread then they would not have life in them.  He claimed to be the bread of life that came down from heaven to give life to all who eat of him.  So how do we eat of him?  We listen to his words and obey, taking heed.  Just as the Father was in the Son and the Son was in the Father, so this is the oneness God wants with us and for us to have with each other.  Yeshua was the Word that had become flesh and dwelt among us.  His Word can become written on our hearts; they can become alive within us and become food for our soul.  As we partake of the Lord’s Supper we are renewing this reality and are actually receiving life and strength.  We enter into the deepest communion with the Holy Spirit and each other as we partake of the same “loaf.”  We become one as we share even our sorrows and joys on the deepest level.  It is the fellowship of sharing in his suffering that qualifies us as his sons and co-heirs with him of the Kingdom!

Love Hurts by Patty Juster

LOVE HURTS
The emergency room of the hospital bustled with too much activity. The noise and confusion seemed too intense for so early on this Sunday morning. Huddled into a corner sat a young mother and father. They were sitting facing each other with heads bowed and hands grasped tightly together. The parents were visibly upset and they looked like they needed treatment themselves. Both had dried blood on their faces and cuts and bruises on their arms. One could not mistake the reason for their consternation…they were facing death. A few hours ago they were happily on their way back from visiting her parents. The weather forecaster never mentioned the prospect of freezing rain. Why didn’t anyone know and warn the holiday travelers? Maybe they could have avoided traveling home last night and instead left that morning. But the speculation was futile. The unavoidable happened. Their car skidded out of control and flipped over several times before coming to a stop. All of them were thrown out of the car even though they all had seat belts on. How could this possibly be? Slowly the man and woman found each other and were so relieved that neither of them was seriously hurt. But, where was their son. Frantically they searched the ground near the road. It was so dark along that country lane. Then they heard a moan coming from somewhere behind them and they quickly found their three-year-old face down in the cold wet mud. Blood was oozing from his mouth. They were in shock and disbelief…not their precious son! Fear seized them…what could they do. The mother stayed with her boy while the father ran to flag down a car to get help. Fortunately, the driver had a phone and called for an ambulance. The ten-minute wait seemed like an eternity. Medics ran to their child and started to check him out. They didn’t even take time to put him on a stretcher but scooped him up into their arms and rushed him into the ambulance. Despite the parents’ pleas to ride with their son, the medics refused them entry and slammed the ambulance door in their face. The waiting police whisked the mother and father away in his patrol car. Now they found themselves alone, waiting for news of their son.

Over four hours passed before one of the nurses came to take them through the emergency room doors into one of the small conference rooms. They were told to wait for the head surgeon, who had worked on their son. The parents looked intently into the nurse’s eyes to discover if their son had made it through the surgery. But, she was cold and calculating as she carried out her duties and her countenance did not reveal any news. However, it was only a few minutes before the doctor came in and that ethereal nurse scurried out. He had not even taken time to change his scrubs…they were splattered with blood. The doctor could not even look the mother and father in the eyes…then they knew. Collapsing into each other’s arms they let out an unearthly wail. Their son, their precious child, gone…so quickly. They never even got a chance to say good-bye or give him a hug. The doctor clumsily asked if there was anything he could do. He said they tired everything they knew to do but his injuries were too severe.

The same nurse that led them to this room came to lead them to a special room where they could view their son and hold him. Thankfully, she left them alone and they were able to handle their shock and grief in private. They reached over to touch the still form of their son. It was already cold. The mother didn’t know if being in this room was such a good idea as her boy was greatly disfigured. His mangled appearance only added to he trauma. Maybe this body was not really her son. Maybe he was back by that road calling for them. Yet, there was not mistake. On his neck a small red birthmark marked him as their own son. How they hurt. They touched him, but he did not wake. He did not respond. Unrequited love, the worst kind of pain. They hurt because they loved. Many children die everyday, yet not one of their deaths affected them like this…not even coming close. In fact, it never even crossed their minds to grieve over the losses of these other children. But why did they hurt so over the loss of their own son? It was because of love. The greater the love one has for someone, the more the pain of loss when love can no longer be returned. How much God must hurt when His love is not returned.

Love Weeps with those who weep by Patty Juster

A large crowd of women and children were huddled together, trying to keep warm. Their thin coats provided little protection against the late autumn wind and rain. Many could be seen striking their folded arms against their bodies to try to stimulate blood flow. The gray sky accentuated the bleakness of the occasion. The Gestapo had rounded up the women and children from several barracks to witness the punishment of three young boys who had stolen bread from the camp kitchen. Several women could be heard whimpering softly so as not to bring the wrath of the guards down upon them. None of them chose to be here this morning. But these were the “lucky” ones, depending on how you look at it. Many of their train mates were herded down the road to the showers and to “better” barracks, so they were told. But these women knew better, they had heard rumors about the gas chambers and crematoriums. The daily stench never let them block these thoughts from their minds.

This morning, just like every cold morning, they have dealt with these horrors the same way that their bodies dealt with the cold. They became numb on the inside just like they were becoming numb on the outside. Shouts could be heard coming from some guards off in the distance. Apparently, some women had refused to be a part of this scene and now were suffering the consequences. There were a few screams, a couple of shots, and then there was silence. No one flinched. They were used to this by now. These outbreaks were a daily occurrence.

It seemed like they were standing out in the cold forever that morning while they waited for the guards to bring the three boys. But, finally, they could see them coming around the corner of one of the barracks. These poor boys had hardly any meat on their bones…just like the rest of them. It was not fair that any of them should have to experience such evil and degradation. Their eyes were glazed over and it appeared they were already dead inside. What was about to happen only solidified what already happened months ago when hope disappeared.

The guards pushed the boys on ahead of them until they reached the gallows in front of the crowd of women and children. They all knew what to expect, they have seen this before. Each boy was put on a chair, then a noose was slipped over his head, and with sordid pleasure the guards kicked the chairs out from under each youth. The noose soon tightened around their necks and they began to gag and gasp for breath. They did not die quickly, as their necks were not broken as they were in usual hangings. Their mothers, in witnessing their agony, fell to the ground. They yet had enough life left in them to grieve bitterly for the loss of their child. One mother could be heard groaning, and shaking an angry fist at God, “Where are you?” Somewhere in the crowd a voice called out loudly, “God is right up there hanging with your son.”

Yes, this was true. God knew that in creating man with a free will, it would cost Him as well man great pain and suffering. He was willing to bear this pain and suffering that would result from the evil choices made by fallen man. The holocaust represented the price of freedom. The cross represents the cost of love. Within the heart of God, before man even set foot on this earth, God bore the pain of all the sinful choices, and yet, knew his great power was able to bring all of creation history into conformity with glorious purposes. The Lamb of God was slain from the beginning of the world and sits in the center of the throne. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed. Because God weeps with those who are weeping, great glory can be brought out of great tragedy. We do not grieve as those who are without hope. We have a savior who identifies with our every tear. How great a love the Father has for us in that he sent His only son to hang on a tree for us. We do not suffer alone.

Love is Patient by Patty Juster

The old man stroked his beard as he stood in the middle of the road. His eyes squinted in the bright sunlight. It appeared that he had done this many times before as his eyes were deeply grooved with wrinkles. Evidently, he was waiting for someone to come walking down the road. The neighbors could be heard from time to time gossiping about this old man’s foolishness. It had been 15 years since his son had left him, and never had he heard a word from him. He could be dead, for all they knew. Yet, this old father faithfully stood at the crossroads every morning and night, leaning on his wooden staff. Every now and then you could see a trickle of water run down his sun worn cheek. After a few minutes he would turn around and slowly shuffle his way back to his stone house. The appearance and style of the house reflected the great wealth this old man had. Many fields of olive trees and grapevines surrounded his estate. He owned much fertile land and it bore him an abundant yield. Yet, in spite of all the comfort his money could buy, his heart was heavy. His friends taunted him and said his son would never return and that he deserved to die for treating his father in this fashion. But the old man would not listen. He knew in his heart that his son would one day return.

With such depth of kindness in his voice, the old man would often retell the story again and again of how his son grew restless. But he would never dishonor his son and tell others how his son no longer wanted to be stuck at home and be told what he could and couldn’t do. He and his father had had many conflicts and his father never saw things his way. The young man thought for sure that his father favored his older brother more than him and he felt that he could no longer trust him.

Feeling a deep isolation from the rest of the family, he thought that the only recourse would be for him to leave home and experience real life away from all those who would seek to control his life. He somewhat boldly approached his father and asked for his inheritance early. The wise father knew that he couldn’t demand that his son stay with him, as he was a man now. Though the father knew in his heart that his son’s decision would bring him to ruin, that he would spend his money foolishly, he had to release his son to follow his own heart. By giving his son freedom the old man knew he willingly took on the grief of daily bearing the concern for the well being of his child. He would suffer the consequences of his son’s choices and when his son hurt, he would hurt. Such is the cost of love, and the price of freedom.

The father grabbed hold of his son and hugged him strongly, speaking quietly into his ear that he will always love him no matter what he did. He told his son that he was always welcome to come back and live in his house. As the young man walked down the road, he never even turned to wave good-bye. The old man just stood there with tears in his eyes, and seemed to stoop over as he pounded his chest, “my son, my son, why have you forsaken me?”

Now, fifteen years later, before the sun was fully up, the old man once again stood in the road and stroked his beard, leaning on his weather worn staff. This time he saw movement, someone walking far into the distant. Slowly, the man moved closer and the old man’s face began to quiver. He threw down his staff and began to run toward the man walking toward him. Yes, it was his son…he knew that one day he would return. As they approached each other his son fell at his feet and wept. “Oh father, I have sinned against you and against God in heaven. I do not deserve to even be a servant in your household. Please forgive me and allow me to come be your slave. I was such a fool and have wasted your money and threw my life way through sinful living. How could you ever forgive me?”

“O my son, you were dead but now you are alive! Come, here is my ring and put on this robe. I more than forgive you, I embrace you fully as my son. You will eat with me at my table.”

“Servants,” he shouted back towards his house, “kill a fatted calf and prepare a feast for my son. He was lost, but now he is found.”

“Let me look at you,” his father cried, “I have waited for this day and now it is here. You have really come home.” Then the old man with tears running down his face could not stop kissing his son.