May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 NRSV
Last weekend, I went up to Oban for Easter with three friends. It was a glorious four days when the sun shone all day long, and the sea sparkled like cut glass. We walked, ate ice cream, took endless photos and laughed a lot. On day trips out to Fort William or the Isle of Seils, or just looking round Oban, we had ample time to reflect and talk with each other about our lives, hopes and dreams. A wonderful luxury in busy lives. We stayed in an old fashioned bed and breakfast place where the view from the front window looked out to Loch Etive, north of Oban. It was stunningly beautiful, and most of the weekend we simply travelled from one picture postcard, breathtaking horizon, to another.
As I thanked God for life, I remembered another Easter in Liberia, West Africa, when I, along with others, had been trapped in the fighting of the civil war. That Easter, 1996, we could not go to church on Sunday because rebel fighters had blocked the roads. That Easter, men with AK 47 guns entered our home. I was threatened with death by men with hard faces and soulless eyes. That Easter, I proclaimed the Lordship of Jesus to one of them, who had tried to trap me in a bedroom. That Easter, I was rescued along with all my team mates, by a rebel general in a stolen car and eventually airlifted out by the American Navy Seals! That Easter, I discovered that the power of the name of Jesus was greater than the gun and I was not harmed. I escaped like a bird from a snare, just as Psalm 124:7 declares.
I have lived many Easters since that year and have known illness, and difficulties, but also the true riches of friends and family. Every year, I celebrate the reality of Jesus in my life. He is the Son of God who died on the Cross, who rose again, and who gives us the power to live a resurrection life. Easter is not just about a weekend, or a Good Friday meditation followed by some rousing hymns and chocolate eggs on Sunday, lovely though they are. Easter is about the reality that Jesus is alive today and has not changed in character or power to help us through times of crisis, and transform the ordinary into the special, with one look of His loving eyes.
On our weekend break away in Oban, we spent time praying for one another, using some pictures to help us identify and speak out prophetic statements of blessing over one another for the future. One picture was of a house, with lots of windows, which reminded us that the person holding that picture is someone who can see past the exterior into people's hearts. The house signified a place of welcome for others and a place of strength and protection. We blessed that capacity in our friend. At the end of the time, where all of us had received prayer in this way, the overall impression I received was one of life, joy and hope for the future.
I wonder what encouragements you have received recently and in what ways have you affirmed and encouraged others? In what way has the message of Easter given you hope for the future? And what hopes and dreams are you asking God to resurrect or bring to reality?