Holy Week 2019: Sorrow Lifted As Sacrifice

In some liturgical Christian traditions, today is the day the church remembers and honors Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive and rare perfume.  

It was a beautiful act of great sacrifice as the perfume would ordinarily be a family treasure broken and used only at death for anointing a beloved body.

It’s also an expression of deep sorrow because somehow Mary knew.

Mary.  Knew.  

So she poured out her precious gift on the One Who loves her most.  

Tears are my sacrifice. 

Holy Week Reflections: Sorrow Lifted as Sacrifice

Real Love or a Paper Stand In?

My youngest son was born on Valentine’s Day.  

It wasn’t planned that way but escalating blood pressure meant that, ready or not, here he came!  

It’s been a lot of fun to have this day so often focused on romantic love (which, let’s be real rarely lives up to the hype!) focused instead on him and family love.  

julian in mountains

My habit the past few years has been to expand that focus even further and explore the edges of God’s love, my love for others and what love in action looks like.

Too often I SAY I love someone but refuse to DO the loving thing.

Truth is, love is hard.  It’s costly.  It can be uncomfortable. 

It almost always involves sacrifice.  

love in action

And if I’m not careful, I can let valentines and candy and flowers be a paltry stand in for the real thing. 

February is not the only month in the year that tempts me to give a token and walk away instead of giving myself and sticking around to help in meaningful ways.  

So I try to keep Jesus’ words before my eyes: 

For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.

~John 15:13 TPT

I try to focus on love in action instead of only love in words

Am I the Good Samaritan or am I one of those who toss a prayer from across the way and walk on, comfortable in my piety and clean clothes?  

Good-Samaritan-cropped

I want to be the Good Samaritan.  

Truly I do.  

 

 

Willing Submission or Fatalism?

I have to be completely honest-I’m not sure at all that my heart is truly submissive.  It may just be that I figure, “What’s the point of resisting God?”. 

Paul told the Roman believers to “present your bodies as living sacrifices”. 

Trouble is, living sacrifices can (and do!) crawl off the altar.  

I’m trying to stay there, subtle and malleable under the hand of the God Who made me.  But unlike inanimate clay, I feel every pummel, slap and squeeze as He continues to mold me into the image of Christ.

potter-clay

Some days I’m better at it than others.  Honestly, I think I’m better at it when I feel it most.  Because then I recognize the bits that need changing, the attitudes that need adjusting, the habits that need to go.

But when it’s little things-judging someone by his outer appearance or demanding my “rights” as a customer from a tired store clerk or even impatiently charging through the house ignoring a phone call because I “have to get (whatever) done!”-that’s when I want out from under the hand of God.

Then there are the REALLY big things that I always balk at. 

Why do I have to be ill when I have so much to do?  Why my child?  Why do all the appliances need replacing at once?  Why are relationships so darn hard?  Why won’t my RA go into remission?  Why did the hurricane make its way right over my parents’ home?

Why, why, why?

And I find myself back at the beginning because truth told, I can’t do a thing about any of that. 

Am I willingly submitting to what God allows in my life or am I simply accepting it because there’s no use resisting?  

It’s a daily battle. 

Still, Eternal One, You are our Father. We are just clay, and You are the potter. We are the product of Your creative action, shaped and formed into something of worth.

Isaiah 64:8 VOICE

 

 

Thanksgiving As Sacrifice

Rocking babies I never dreamed that one day my life would look like this. 

I never imagined that one of those tiny bodies I held close to my mama heart would not outlive me.

Now I sit in the same rocking chair in the dark, thinking about how so many things I wouldn’t have written into my story are now part of it.  

And if I’m honest,  it can easily overwhelm my heart.  It can carry me to a place of despair and desperation where there’s no room for thanksgiving-not the holiday OR the feeling.  

Here we are-the fifth year of holidays without Dominic-and I’m no better at it than I was at first.  

empty chair prayer

Oh, I’ve figured out how to make my way through the day.  I can lay out the plates, fill the pantry and put on a spread.  I am not nearly as prone to tears as I once was-at least not while folks are watching. 

But that easy flow of laughter and near chaos that once marked our gatherings has been replaced by a kind of mechanical plodding that moves from one moment to the next until the day has passed and I’ve survived once again.  

I always expected our family to grow larger.  I looked forward to the day we would no longer fit around the dining room table and we’d have to figure it out.  Spouses and then grandchildren peopled my imagination with such clarity!  While I never saw faces, I could hear the laughter and watch the motion of so. many. new. lives filling my home.  

This year is especially strange.  

Circumstances and work schedules and distance dictate that Thanksgiving will be spent with most of my family far away from my table.  

So there won’t be just one empty chair today, there will be several.  

And if I stare too long or focus too closely on what I don’t have, I can forget what I still possess. 

It’s a temptation-always.  

But temptation can be resisted.  I am not doomed to follow that train of thought to the bottom of the pit of despair.  

I refuse to let the darkness overwhelm the light.  

I will be thankful for all the love this house has known, still knows and will know.  I will be grateful that even though we are physically distant, we talk to one another, sharing laughter across the miles.  I will cherish the moments I had with Dominic and rest in the knowledge that in eternity we will have so many more.  

I can’t fill that chair-no one can fill that chair except my son-but I can fill my heart with good things.  

I can choose thankfulness even when it’s hard.  

Maybe that’s what Thanksgiving is really about-not an unending list of all the sweet things in life-but a short list of beauty extracted from the hard places.

Thanksgiving isn’t always bounty, sometimes it’s sacrifice.

The Value of Veterans

I am the proud daughter of a military veteran.

I am the beaming mother of a son who currently serves.

james at pikes peak

And while others argue about why and where we send troops and fight wars, I  pray that wherever they go and whatever they do, they return home safely.

It’s fitting that we set aside a day to honor those who choose to place their lives on the line to fight for love and country and freedom.

Because they do, I can rest secure in my own bed under my own roof.

Growing up surrounded by (mostly) men in military uniform, I learned early the difference between an acceptable salute and a sloppy one, between “Attention!”  and “At ease!”, between a captain and a colonel.

I still stand a little taller and walk a little straighter whenever I’m on base.  Habits of a lifetime are hard to undo.

james and me ots

I will never, ever apologize for the life of service and sacrifice my father lived and my son is living regardless of whatever politics may scroll across our newsfeeds.

I will honor the living, honor the dead and honor the families that support them.

Don’t let this day pass by without considering the cost of the freedom we enjoy every single day and the men and women who fought and still fight to secure it.

Right, left, middle of the road-your first amendment rights are safe because they are willing to serve.

We mustn’t forget.

veterans day old fashioned image

 

Holy Week Reflections: Sorrow Lifted as Sacrifice

In some liturgical Christian traditions, today is the day the church remembers and honors Mary anointing the feet of Jesus with expensive and rare perfume.  

It was a beautiful act of great sacrifice as the perfume would ordinarily be a family treasure broken and used only at death for anointing a beloved body.

It’s also an expression of deep sorrow because somehow Mary knew.

Mary.  Knew.  

So she poured out her precious gift on the One Who loves her most.  

Tears are my sacrifice. 

I am pouring them at the feet of Jesus, trusting He will receive them and bless them as He did those of Mary even if others don’t understand.

Christians sometimes have a funny idea about sorrow being unspiritual. We often expect grieving hearts to heal quickly without allowing for the many stages of the grief process. Pam writes, ‘Our Savior was ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). I wonder if He came to one of our churches now like that, if someone wouldn’t try and cheer Him up and tell Him to ‘let it go and open himself to the joy of the Lord,’ then give him a book and tape series to that effect?’ “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great, but do not let me fall into the hands of men.” 2 Samuel 24:14

~ Jennifer Saake, Hannah’s Hope

Would I have chosen this broken path?

Absolutely not.

Will I embrace it as something God can use to make me more like Jesus?

I hope so-I’m certainly trying.

We are told our tears are so very precious to God that He keeps track of them in a bottle. I often wonder if when we get to Heaven, or when God remakes the earth into its beautiful and perfect form, the bottles will be opened and every tear counted and redeemed.

you keep track of all my tears

I do know that God has made many precious promises to those who love Him and suffer sorrow in this life.

Psalm 84 has always been a favorite and since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven it is doubly so.  Verse six speaks hope to my heart:

“Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; The early rain also covers it with blessings.”  AMP

This version is beautiful:

And how blessed all those in whom you live,
    whose lives become roads you travel;
They wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks,
    discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!
God-traveled, these roads curve up the mountain, and
    at the last turn—Zion! God in full view!

~ Psalm 84:5-7 MSG

No matter how difficult the passage, God promises to be with me on the journey and to bless my endurance with His very Self.

It’s hard to receive sorrow as a gift and even harder to lift it as a sacrifice of praise.  

But when I do, I find God meets me there.  

The pain doesn’t disappear, but He gives me strength to bear up under it.

And this great sorrow that weighs on my heart also opens my eyes.  I am not the only one weeping.

Look at Jesus. He is always weeping, a man of sorrows. Do you know why? Because He is perfect. When you are not absorbed in yourself, you can feel the sadness of the world. ~Tim Keller

jesus weeping sad on hillside

The Prayer of the Average and Broken

I am so thankful for my children.

While I was the teacher for their early years, they are now teaching me.

fiona and cash at home (2)

From my daughter, Fiona:

It’s tempting to look at someone doing a hard thing (like foster care) or living out a hard truth (like child loss) and label them as “special”, “brave”, “extraordinary”, or “chosen by God for a big purpose”.

I get it.

Those things ARE hard and downright terrifying… and a lot of days the sacrifice weighs heavier than the reward (in this life).

But as long as we relegate Christ-like love and endurance to the “chosen few”, we excuse ourselves from walking the hard (and often lonely) sacrificial path God has called each of His children to.

“On earth as it is in Heaven” is not the prayer of the brave, it’s the prayer of the average & broken who know that they are not extraordinary but dependent; who know that there is no formula for this life that will keep you & your loved ones safe this side of Heaven; who have decided that they are not content to simply get their own selves or families safely to shore.

Only you know in your heart what your kingdom work is on this earth and only you can decide if you will do it.

Every single one of us is weak and tired and ordinary and lacking “ideal” circumstances and timing and resources.

God doesn’t ask us to be “special”, He asks us to be obedient with no guarantee of earthly rewards or success.

You are one of the ordinary people loved by an extraordinary God.

“Brave, special, extraordinary, sacrificial, & compassionate” are not the calling.

They are characteristics of regular folks forged in the fire of immense challenges who start by saying a scared “yes” to our broken world’s screams for help. 

used everything up