Holy Week 2022: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection beause the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

There were many points in the story when things could have gone a different way:

  • When taken by the religious leaders-surely, they thought, He will explain Himself, they will let Him go.
  • When taken before Pilate-Rome will refuse to get involved with our spiritual squabbles, Pilate won’t authorize His death.
  • When presented to the crowd-no Jew would rather have a wicked murderer released instead of a humble, healing Rabbi.

At every turn, every expectation they had for a “happy ending” was dashed to the ground.

Read the rest here:  Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

Lenten Reflections: Fasting “Adding” To The Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice

I remember vividly the first time I read through the passage in Exodus 12 describing God’s instructions to the Israelites for the initial Passover.

The Lord impressed on my spirit that while the blood was necessary (sacrifice had to be made) it was obedience of each person to place themselves under that blood that saved them from the death angel.

They were spared because they believed and acted according to that belief, trusting God to do what He said He would do.

It’s the same with the blood of Christ-He is the sufficient Sacrifice and the full payment for sin.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

1 Peter 1:18-19

It can be hard to believe that over the long years life may include. It can be difficult to refrain from adding something else to the abundant gift of peace and victory over death Jesus offers.

His easy yoke and light burden are often weighed down by earthly desires and worries I’m not made to carry.

This whole season has been about laying things aside-attitudes, habits, incorrect theology.

Today’s fast is about taming desire and choosing simplicity (in some form or fashion). Try not to buy anything today (or even shop for something).

Jesus is enough. His shed blood was sufficient for our salvation. Adding to Him only distracts us….Jesus’ yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matthew 11:29-30). Our additions are not.

Alicia Britt Chole

Try not to add anything to the perfect grace and mercy of our Lord.

Receive the fullness of a life lived like the sparrows-just today, only today.

The precious flow began before, not on, the cross. Jesus’ blood was shed at every point of rejection. Through fists and staffs and whips, Jesus’ blood fell in Caiaphas’s house and Pilate’s palace and every point in between.

Alicia Britt Chole

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Letting Go of Premature Resolution and Learning Obedience

Obedience is not a moment: it is a process connected by countless moments. Jesus neither started nor finished obeying in John 12. Thanks to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and John’s pen, what we witness in John 12 is a deeply significant (but not stand alone) moment in Jesus’ journey of becoming ‘obedient to death-even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:8).

Alicia Britt Chole

One of the things I regret most in life is when I’ve had the opportunity to be honest about my own struggles but refused to share because I thought it was “holier” to act like I never had a hard time taking hold of God’s promises or living out my faith.

Holy is hard.

Being set apart for the purposes and glory of God is going to involve some real wrestling.

But it’s the every day habit of leaning in, taking hold and choosing obedience (along with the Holy Spirit’s enabling power) that will ultimately give me strength to obey and follow even when the path is dark.

Someone said, “Faith is a long obedience in the same direction”.

I love that.

Each day, sometimes each moment, I must choose obedience. It doesn’t come naturally.

I can’t rush it though. I have to bring my confusion, my hurt, my questions to Jesus and allow Him to guide my heart toward understanding (or if not understanding, trust IN SPITE of doubt).

If I try to fake it (prematurely “resolve” the issue) then I’m doomed.

Doubt and fear will surface again and sweep me off the path of obedience if I don’t acknowledge them and deal with them.

So for today, think about what doubts, fears, questions and concerns you’ve been sweeping under the rug.

Drag them into the light and allow the Lord to help you deal with them.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Making Space For Vulnerability

I picked this book up on a whim sometime last year not knowing how wonderful and insightful and helpful it would be as I hurtle toward the eight year mark of Dom’s leaving for Heaven.

Yet every single day when I turn the page to the next discussion and reflection there is a fresh awakening in my spirit to something I need to explore.

I understand how a heart wants to wall itself off after prayers go unanswered (please don’t regale me with, “But they are all eventually answered”); plans fall apart; others’ sinful actions pound a soul to dust; and lives sacrificially poured out on the table of service are abruptly and unceremoniously cut short.

Why hope if hope is never realized (on this mortal plane)?

In this, Jesus’ actions, words and attitude during Holy Week help me choose another path.

The crowd that welcomed Him turned against Him a few days later. The apostles that promised fidelity unto death ran away. Judas ate the sacred meal with betrayal in his heart.

And yet Jesus remained present to the moment. He accepted events as they came. He welcomed people as they were.

And He trusted His Father even when the cup was too bitter for Him to raise it to His own lips.

I have had to make the choice again and again to hold tightly to the Hand that could have saved my child but didn’t.

There may be some among my friends who never share this struggle-I’m genuinely happy for you.

But that’s not me. Some days I can pray with confidence.

Some days I can’t pray at all.

But I’m working hard not to let go.

Crazily enough, favor is not what frees us from self-protection: suffering is. Not suffering itself, but the choice within suffering to trust, to hope and to love….Today, ask the Holy Spirit to alert you when you are shrinking back from God.

Alicia Britt Chole

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

A Stronger Faith: An Extended Conversation and Podcast With Stacy McCants

Most of the time I share my grief journey in this space, but occasionally I’ve been asked to share in person at retreats or on the air for podcasts.

I’ll be honest, I’m much less comfortable speaking with no chance to edit my remarks versus typing them out and re-reading, rearranging and refining my message.

But when asked by a friend of a friend to meet with Stacy McCants, to have a wide-ranging, honest and God-focused discussion about child loss, grief in general and the intersection of faith and traumatic experience, I said, “yes”.

It was definitely outside my comfort zone.

Stacy helped my on-air jitters by promising to edit out any glaring mistakes or uncomfortable pauses. We sat across the table from one another in his home studio and cover a wide range of topics from loss to the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the importance of Scriptural truth.

It’s REALLY long-slightly over two hours so you might want to download it and listen in small doses.

But if you’ve ever wanted to hear my voice, hear my opinions on a variety of topics or just prefer listening to reading, you might find it interesting.

So here’s the link: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/a-stronger-faith/id1537979374?i=1000554053453

Lenten Reflections: Embracing Mystery-I Don’t Have to Understand Everything

There have always been those who tried to reduce faith to something completely comprehensible.

But even a cursory reading of God’s Word and a casual experience with His ways makes that laughable.

When Jesus began teaching His disciples more and more about the Kingdom of God and His role as Christ, they were confused and dismayed. When I read His words they are still challenging and sometimes obscure even though I live on the other side of the resurrection.

Not everything can be explained.

When I insist on living life fully within the edges of rational thought, I not only miss out on many wonderful and inexplicable experiences, I also reduce my relationship with Jesus to rules.

If I am to fully embrace and inhabit the Kingdom life He has for me, I must be willing to embrace and inhabit the mysterious space between what I can know and understand and what I must trust I will one day know and understand (perhaps not until eternity!).

Thankfully, human reasoning neither leads nor limits God’s love. Consider passages in Scripture in which God’s words escape your understanding. What would it be like if God withheld His voice until humankind could fully comprehend it?

Alicia Britt Chole

Today’s fast is rationalism-letting go of a need to understand the mysterious, to insist on circumscribing God’s work in the world by human understanding and dismissing anything I can’t comprehend as immaterial or inconsequential.

How have you limited God’s love and work in your life by clinging to rationalism?

How can you let go and “let God”?

Take ten minutes to sit quietly with the Lord and allow Him to fill you with His Presence without demanding explanations.

Rest in Who He is and let His love overwhelm your heart.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Making Space for Authentic Faith

In Jewish culture, “It’s an act of reverence to ask questions of the story. The Jews are confident that the story is strong enough to be tried and tested….Around the table, a Jewish child has ‘That’s a good question!’ drummed into his or her soul, not ‘You don’t ask that question’…Questions are a sacred as answers.” (Dr. Leonard Sweet)

If you’ve read a single word I’ve written in the past seven years you know how close this truth is to my heart!

I think we do a disservice to ourselves and others when we reduce the complexities of Scripture to something like Aesop’s Fables. Real people lived real lives and had real questions. The Almighty God is big enough to handle them.

We weaken-not strengthen- our faith when we silence sincere questions. Faith in Christ is not an airy substance that rests on unquestioning souls. Biblical faith is muscular, thickened more through trials than ease. The Author of our faith is more than able to address the identity crises His unexpected words and ways may trigger.

Alicia Britt Chole

I am so thankful for the long but often underappreciated record of God’s people bringing their questions to Him.

The Bible is not propaganda, scrubbed clean of any references to experience that might undermine a preordained “message”. It’s a faithful rendering of human hearts wooed by our Shepherd, of hard things, hard sayings and wrestling with sin and with faith.

My story is messy.

My faith has places torn and mended. I still have questions. If God is God (and I believe that He is) then He is not threatened by my queries. He doesn’t owe me an explanation and I accept that. But I believe He welcomes my honesty.

So today I’m fasting tidy faith.

Have you lived with the false mantra: ” I know we aren’t supposed to question God” ?

What do you want/need to ask Him?

Use a concordance to find someone in Scripture who already has.

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Lenten Reflections: Making Space For REAL Light

Today’s fast is artificial light.

Without reading ahead I kind of stepped on today’s reflection. Chole describes John’s prison questions this way: “the distance between what John thought Jesus would do and what Jesus actually did was straining John’s certainty of who Jesus was.”

Oh, my! How well I can identify with this feeling!

I’ve told anyone who will listen that when Dominic was killed I dragged a lifetime of what I thought I knew and understood about God into the light of child loss. It absolutely strained my certainty of who Jesus is.

And my questions made some folks uncomfortable just as John’s question makes some Bible teachers uncomfortable.

Too often we want to shush or shout down the hearts that are simply trying to make some sense of things that neither make sense nor seem (on the surface) to reflect the loving heart of a Faithful Father.

A key invitation of our spiritual journeys is to be emotionally honest about our uncertainties. Questions such as the one asked by John are signs of a living, growing, active faith, not evidence of a dying one. Jesus’ calm response to John echoes to us today: ‘Recall what I have done in the past. Accept me as the Great I Am of your future.’

Alicia Britt Chole

Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “Hall of Faith”.

For today’s Lenten exercise, Chole suggests laying aside screens and electric lights to read that chapter by candlelight this evening.

I highly recommend it! Do it aloud if you are able.

Speaking the names, the circumstances, the journeys of those whose hearts trusted the heart of the Lord who made them and who led them but who also allowed hardship, disappointment and even death, is breathtaking and heartbreaking.

But it puts my life in context of His bigger story.

Redemption, restoration, re-creation and the ultimate Sabbath rest of eternal glory and perfect relationship.

God needs nothing, asks nothing and demands nothing, like the stars. It is life with God which demands these things…. You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however you want to look at the stars, you will find that the darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require it nor demand it.

Annie Dillard

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Wrestling Toward Trust: Acknowledge Doubt

Some of us have grown up in faith communities where doubt is treated as disbelief.

I’m so sorry.

Doubt is, in my opinion, a precursor to deeper faith, stronger commitment, informed and more solid trust in God and in His goodness and sovereignty.

If devastating loss has brought you to knees or face down on the floor begging God to make sense of it all, you are in good company. So many of His saints have cried out in despair.

If you are frightened you are losing faith, remember this: the simple fact you know where and to Whom to bring your pain means your heart is still turned toward your Savior.

❤ Melanie

Grief forces me to walk Relentlessly Forward  even when I long to go back.

I can’t stop the clock or the sun or the days rolling by.

Those of us who are more than a couple months along in this journey (or any journey that involves tragedy and loss) know that it is ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE to feel worse than in the first few days.

Because as the edges of the fog lift and the reality of an entire lifetime looms before you the questions form and the doubt sinks in.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Acknowledge Doubt and Ask Questions

Grieving My Missing Child is Not a Sin

Grief is not sin.  

It wasn’t until another grieving mom asked the question that I realized there are some (many?) in the community of believers that think grief is sin.

Not at first, mind you-everyone is “allowed” a certain amount of time to get over the loss of a dream, the loss of a job, the loss of health or the loss of a loved one.

But carry that sadness and wounded heart too publicly for too long and you better be ready for someone to question your faith.

Read the rest here: Grief is Not Sin

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