Margie Hord

Expat by Default

Category: Christianity

My Old “Nail”: A Reminder

Big and rusty, it sits on a small kitchen space with other decorative items. Some have questioned its presence, as it isn’t particularly attractive.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, they say.

I was on the Atlantic coast of Canada beside an old lighthouse that is now just a tourist attraction. There in the sand, I found it. Huge compared to normal nails, it had probably been washed up by waves. In my eyes, it could be a hundred years old or more.

It spoke to me of history, of outlasting modern technology. I imagined that time-worn object holding together a historic structure such as the blockhouse in the same town, or as part of the old wharf that burned down and had to be rebuilt.

Its tip was blunt and not sharp, so one might call it a metal peg. For some reason, it reminded me of the Cross.

The nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and feet must have been gigantic, like this one. No nice slim “needles” that went in easily. Nasty, tearing apart flesh and tendons, with blood pouring forth.

I don’t mean to be gruesome, but it’s a fact.

One day I was leading the service at our little church, and I took my nail or peg as an object lesson before the Lord’s Supper. “Hold it as if it were piercing your hand. Think upon what it meant for our Lord’s hands to be pierced”. My brethren passed it around.

No one told me how they felt, but to me it was a strong reminder of the reality of what becoming human meant for the Messiah. It meant sharing our pain and bearing our sin and agony.

Not everything we possess or display is supposed to be pretty. Some objects are a piece of nostalgia: old letters, a crude drawing by a preschooler, a snapshot of a scrawny newborn. They often speak to us of love.

There are those who insist that Christians should not use the cross as a symbol, especially as a piece of jewelry. My husband once said, “If someone you loved had been murdered with a gun, would you wear a gun in their memory?” I respect that point of view, but it differs from mine.

Much as today’s crosses in churches or worn around neck tend to be smooth and attractive, they are nevertheless a reminder. In nations where it is a crime to be a Christian, the cross is a revolutionary statement. In China, crosses have been cast down from places of worship. For many, wearing a cross is a way of saying, “This is who I am. I am proud to be the object of my Savior’s love. I want to be identified as a believer. I want you to ask what that means to me.”

The “old rugged cross” has spoken to many across the ages.

Rusty nails can also bear a message.

Simple objects can be reminders.

Let us remember.

Spring in Narnia… Will it Ever Come?

Snow in April… and even up through April 20! This year, jokes and groans abounded in northern climes as March 21 came and went with no sign of what is known of as spring. Easter, for some, meant Easter egg hunts in the snow.

Those who still hoped for its arrival felt like unrealistic dreamers. My son in Canada posted sarcastic comments about the joys of yet another snow-shoveling adventure ahead as he repeated the mantra, “It’s spring!” I had hoped that upon my April visit such weather would be long gone.

Not a few fellow-sufferers made reference to living in Narnia, where “it’s always winter but never Christmas”, as lamented Mr. Tumnus, of C.S. Lewis’s classic “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”.

Close-up of a lion staring off into the distance with rocks in the background

In Narnia it had been winter for “ever so long” since it had been under the spell cast by the wicked White Witch. The beloved lion and “true King” Aslan had been banned from its territory and his followers were constantly at risk. As his return was hastened, the dripping of melting snow increased as a sign of the coming “spring at last”.

On April 21—a month after “spring” was official– sunny skies returned to Quebec after what seemed like “ever so long”, blue interspersed with clouds. Today, one day later, the sun was truly in control of glorious cloudless skies. The clumps of snow remaining in yards and roadways have gradually begun to melt away. The weather beckoned us to walk; even without gloves, we could feel the blood still warming our fingertips.

Soon, everyone hopes against hope, buds will swell on the tips of trees. Cheerful crocuses, like the handful that surprised us today, with their purples and whites, will push through the ground. Spring rain will further soften the earth to make way for what should be reality: “April showers bring May flowers”.

In church today, this message suggested by nature was echoed by the worship leader, who reminded us that as Christians we are those who ever hope for Spring: for God’s total redemption, for Christ’s second coming, for the final defeat of sin and evil. Of course, we know they were defeated on the Cross, although their presence was not yet banned.

Earth has been under the spell of the Evil One ever since the Fall. The initial blow was dealt with Christ’s coming, but we look forward to the final victory.

Spring is coming.

King Aslan is coming…

Christ is coming!

Jogging: Lessons for the Spirit

Walking alone down a foggy country road

It’s cold out today! Am I getting a sniffle? Do I really need to do this?

I drag myself out of bed, try to overcome the excuses, and pull on my jogging clothes. After a few minutes outside, my attitude has changed. The bracing air wakens my mind. The pink clouds make me wonder at each day’s new artwork. Trees, birds and flowers delight the eye, as well. My heart, lungs, and muscles thank me for the chance to pump and stretch more.

Others have hit the trail as well. Most joggers pass me by; I am tempted to feel that my pace is inadequate. Sometimes I slow to a walk. No one will be impressed, but in the end… I did it! And when I return, reenergized, it’s hard to believe I faced this as a chore. Still, it’s a challenge to do this regularly, as I know I should.

Surely I’m not the only reluctant jogger. Similarly, I doubt I’m alone in struggling at times with my “spiritual disciplines”. Perhaps even the phrase is inadequate, too harsh, or too legalistic.

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Respect, beyond Race and Religion

A native of Burkina Faso has said, “As children, we grew up with people with differing religious beliefs—playing together, celebrating each other’s festivals and mourning each other’s death, with humanity as the overriding connector common to all.”  Recently, however, jihadists opened fire in a bustling café filled with foreigners and have targeted Christians on several occasions.

Alarming attacks have occurred more frequently in the United States in recent years, some of them random, but others fueled by religious fanaticism and white supremacism.

This is not new, by any means, but in first world countries, many thought such extremes had been overcome. Just this month I was privileged to hear pastor, author and activist Dr. John M. Perkins, a contemporary of Martin Luther King, in an interview by pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church (as part of the series Loving like Jesus in a Fractured World). Now 87, Perkins witnessed the upheaval of the civil rights movement, where his brother was killed by a racist. He himself was imprisoned and beaten numerous times, and as a result was tempted to seek retaliation. God made him understand, however, that in doing so he would fall into the same error of hatred, and in the end he became “a living legend…the founding father of the reconciliation movement”, in Warren’s words.

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