Deep Doubts & Open Wounds

Thomas made an audacious proposal in his open disbelief when his fellow disciples told him with wide eyes, “We have seen the Lord.” Thomas stood unmoved. He just simply said that he refused to believe it unless he could place his own fingers on and in those red and raw wounds. Now the Risen Christ and the Doubting Disciple are to meet. Christ comes, scarred and wounded and with fresh blood in His untreated and open wounds.

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Songwriting As Sowing

A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of driving to the campus of Allegheny Wesleyan College to share a songwriting workshop with the Creative Writing class (as well as some other students and faculty who dropped in to listen). The coffee shop in the Student Life Center provided a perfect backdrop for the workshop and the students/staff were a great audience to share with!

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Lines We Didn’t Rehearse

I look back at the scenes and acts in which I took part alongside him, and the scenes move slowly, as if recorded in slo-mo, and frames freeze, and I catch my breath. And I stare at the script that is now mine to follow, try to reconcile the part I played before and during Josiah and the part I am to play now, in the after. And I realize that a chasm, an uncrossable crevice, has cut right through the heart of things, right through to where things matter most.

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Unfulfilled Prophecies & Unanswered Prayers

In Matthew 25 we read what we have come to know as the heart of the Gospel message: feed the famished, quench the thirst of the parched, welcome the alien, clothe the destitute, comfort the incarcerated and infirmed. It might be worthwhile to note that Christ Himself led by example: He fed the 5,000, showed kindness towards unwanted minority groups, cured and clothed the demoniac, visited and healed the sick. But I find no event recorded in the Gospels where Christ visited a prison.

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What Is It?

Questions Without Answers

I remember playing a party game as a kid (though I’m not sure it was an official party game). The victim (or contestant, rather) would be blindfolded and given an item of food to try. Sometimes it was various flavors of baby food, sometimes it was random items from the kitchen (and I do mean random). Regardless of the selected smorgasbord awaiting testing, the end result was always the same. Each contestant was told whether their guess was correct or incorrect and what it was they’d actually placed on their palate. The mystery was revealed, the secret divulged.

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Fundamentals, Fundamentals, Fundamentals

Just ask any of my family and they’ll be the first to tell you: I can’t cook (really, I can’t). I burn toast in the toaster, make hotdogs black on the stove, my eggs are more like edible rubber, and my oatmeal is…. well… I say it’s like oatmeal rice pudding, but no one else can eat it. I’ve even ruined those Maruchan Instant Lunch cups (I thought that cup contained everything needed for the meal. Didn’t realize you were on your own for the water. Victory Christian Academy will forever remember that lunch break). Anything domesticated feels foreign to me.

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Carefully Cultivated Reputations

A. W. Tozer once said, “The cross will cut into where it hurts worst, sparing neither us nor our carefully cultivated reputations.” Any brief glance at history and you will find ordinary people whom God called to do extraordinary things — things that did not win them popularity in their day. He gave them tasks and assigned them responsibilities that were cause for concern among their superiors. He laid out paths for them to follow that were ridiculous — courses of action that made no sense to the people they loved the most.

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Merilee Barnard Comment
24 years, 24 days, 24 hours

Twenty-four years ago right about now, in the living room of the home I’ve grown up in, I took my first breaths in this world. It would be three days before my parents could settle on a name [see, my dad thought I would be a boy and since my mom didn’t go to a doctor or midwife, they didn’t know what I’d be. I was to have been named Merrill Joseph, but with me spoiling there plans and being a girl, they couldn’t decide anything for three days (identity crisis right there)]. The man I was named after went to be with Jesus twenty-four days ago.

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Merilee Barnard Comment
The Old Weapons Still Work

Guest post by Elizabeth Smith Hamilton. “Every generation must make a rediscovery of the faith” is one of Daddy’s sayings from when I was a child that has come back to haunt me.  I’ve realized that this means a discovery of EVERYTHING. Of holy living.  Of a separated life.  Of what it means to be more than a conqueror. Of which weapons to use.  I feel like I’m in my parents’ basement discovering old treasures that they loved, seeing them again with new eyes.  Uncle Buddy Robinson said when he heard the gospel message, it felt like the ink must still be wet.  It seemed like Jesus had died the week before somewhere in Texas.  This is a rediscovery of the faith.

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Merilee Barnard Comment
Fallen King and Fiery Prophet

For those accustomed to wild and waste places, a two-week hike through the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Southwestern Montana is no small feat. For those who don’t make sleeping under the stars for weeks and surviving on peanut butter and wild game a regular habit, such an undertaking might prove fatal. Earlier this summer, a friend of mine made the tedious trek through the Beartooth with a couple of other guys. We break into their story now that they are above the tree line. Steep, rocky slopes hem them in on both sides, giving it a Lord of the Rings feel.

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Merilee BarnardComment
From a Heart Barren of Belief

She’d tried for twelve years to find a remedy to her ailment. Medicines and surgeries and oils and spices and diet changes, I’m sure everyone had exhausted their fix-all’s on her. Doctors and mothers and Young Living representatives, they’d heard of her problem, but their extensive solutions proved empty. It probably came as no surprise to them to see her elbowing her way to the Healer, the Jesus Who’d touched so many broken people. 

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Merilee BarnardComment
God Has No Grandchildren

Every generation must make a rediscovery of the faith. 

Abraham stumbled to the summit of Mount Moriah and there proved God to provide. A starving Isaac traipsed his family to the Philistine’s Gerar and there the Lord made the same covenant to a second generation. A fugitive Jacob found a faithful God as his head rested on a slab of stone in the plains of Bethel. Moses was startled by a burning shrub and the voice of God on the side of Mount Horeb. 

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Tending Trees

He was a young man at the time, probably in his early 20’s, though we’re not sure exactly. It’s undetermined if the start of the life he buried was a seedling or a sapling. All I’ve been told is that he helped plant trees: trees to provide shade for a campground where he believed his children would one day grow up. He would be an old man before he could enjoy their laden foliage. He planted them, not for himself, but for those who would follow him. 

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Sorting Stones

Not a one of us can escape the fact that our lives are built on stones. Our very essence is settled on the bedrock of our beliefs, on the slabs of our experiences. When certain foundations we once felt were secure begin to shift and subside it is easy to censure the entirety of our infrastructure. Stone by cemented stone, we look for cracks in ideology, theology, philosophy, or spirituality. We can become quick to dismiss or dismantle any one of them for perceived contraventions or inconsistencies. For each of us the crisis comes in dissimilar ways and at disparate times. 

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Closure & Commencement

(THE END OF THE BEGINNING)

I’m overwhelmed by the friends and family that surround me: their love, their support, their cheering me on, their belief in me. I’m blessed by you — you who have never met me, yet read what I write, listen to my music, and support my ministry. I’m underserving of the steadfast love (the hesed) and faithfulness of a God who goes before me, preparing the way, opening and closing doors, guiding with His eye, directing with His voice. The road ahead is being prepared by Him. In that I take comfort. 

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One Year Ago Today

My grandfather (Rev. Lewis Smith) went to be with Jesus one year ago today. I created this video in the weeks between his home-going and his funeral, but never shared it via my blog. I thought it would be fitting to post this today as we remember a man who made it his lifelong pursuit to build bridges and love people.

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Merilee BarnardComment
Our Great God

Sometimes it is easy to be focused on the prayers he doesn't answer. I'm glad that tonight, Jesus heard me specifically pray the lines to this song as I listened to Fernando Ortega sing them. God proved once again that he is mighty to save, his arm is long, and his pleasure is to care for us. Most of all, I am humbled to remember that he is listening to the requests we make when overwhelmed and the laments we whisper when alone. He is Our Great God.

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Merilee Barnard Comment
Heart of a Child

I take a break from a rather tedious evening of studying Hebrew to reflect on my feelings of going back to kindergarten. There's nothing that will make you feel like you know *absolutely nothing* quite like learning a new language. I write out the letters of the alphabet 10 times in a row (right to left of course), going as fast as I can, and try to somehow make it under a minute: "Aleph, Bet, Gimmel…

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Merilee Barnard Comments
Snakes, Scorpions, and Other Scary Stuff

Though in Psalm 91 we find God's promise to protect us and give us power over lions, snakes, and snares of all sorts, this is not what I find most comforting. Maybe if I were living in the jungles of Ethiopia or the rainforests of the Amazon, I would take greater refuge in the literal interpretation of these verses. The greatest dangers that threaten my habitat aren't usually snakes and lions; yet, I rest in the promise that God gives us power over the most menacing forms of evil…

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Thankful for the Forgotten

I choose to thank Him for the forgotten because I don’t ever want to come to the place when I ask Him only for the pleasant or comforting. I thank Him for the painful and distressing because I know that by drinking from these cups, I will come to know Him more fully. And by coming to know Him more fully, I will be able to stretch out open hands to a world that knows nothing but “forgotten things.”

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Merilee Barnard Comments