Holy Week Reflections: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

Bury a child and suddenly the death of Christ becomes oh, so personal. The image of Mary at the foot of the cross is too hard to bear.

I trusted Jesus at an early age and I have lived my life beneath the shadow of the wings of the Almighty God.

But I never-not really-grasped the horror of the crucifixion until I watched as my own son’s body was lowered in the ground.

Death. is. awful.

Read the rest here:  Remember: Why Good Friday Matters as Much as Resurrection Sunday

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

Holy Week Reflections: Clearing Our Own Temples

Growing up in church I was always taught the story of Jesus clearing the Temple of money changers from a couple of perspectives.  One, that He experienced and expressed righteous anger-as distinct from most of our own selfish human anger; and two, that doing business in God’s sanctuary was a no-no.

As I got older and began studying Scripture for myself without all the cues provided in Sunday School booklets for how I should be interpreting the verses, I came to a little different understanding of this very familiar passage.

The Temple was constructed with several “courts” in successive distance from the Holy of Holies where the Presence of the Lord dwelt above the Mercy Seat.

second_temple1

The outermost court was the Court of the Gentiles where even “unclean” outsiders were invited to draw a bit closer to the God of Israel, to hear about the great Jehovah and hopefully, have their eyes opened to truth.

But by Jesus’ day, the Jews had turned this court-this place of invitation for seekers-into a place of convenience for themselves when coming to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and Temple tax as required by the Law. 

This enraged Jesus! 

Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

Matthew 21:13-14 MSG

Now, most of our churches are scrupulous about not commercializing the space set aside for worship.

But we are far less careful about not constructing barriers to the outcast, limping, broken, stranger and alien.  

We are just like the Jews-we want our worship space to be convenient and comfortable for US-for those who have already heard the Gospel-and do not mind if our convenience and comfort make it hard for those who do not know Jesus to even get inside the doors.

There are no money-changers in our lobbies but we have our own version of crowding out seekers. 

We have our own customs that we don’t want to change even if they have nothing to do with Biblical Christianity.  We have our favorite Bible translations even if they use such archaic language most people can’t understand it anymore.  We insist that our services remain tethered to times and days and forms that don’t suit modern schedules or sensibilities.

Jesus was angry because the people entrusted to invite others to know and embrace the Truth were making it impossible for them to get inside.  

I’m asking myself this Holy Week, do I do the same?

Am I building walls or opening doors?

Am I more concerned with my own comfort and convenience than another’s access to the Lord I claim to serve?

jesus-hand-facebook

 

Holy Week Reflections: Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

As we enter the week on the Christian calendar when most churches celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I am reminded that often we race past the road that lead to Calvary and linger at the empty tomb.

But to understand the beauty of forgiveness and the blessing of redemption, we MUST acknowledge the sorrow of sin and the burden of brokenness.

Read the rest here:  Making Space for Brokenness at the Table of the LORD

Blind and Broken

How do you know when you are blind?”…”You don’t…you only know afterward when you can see. The blindness of the disciples does not keep their Christ from coming to them. He does not limit his post-resurrection appearances to those with full confidence in him. He comes to the disappointed, the doubtful, the disconsolate. he comes to those who do not recognize him even when they are walking right beside him. He comes to those who have given up and are headed back home, which makes this whole story a story about the blessedness of brokenness.

[Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine]

Oh, how I am tempted to build a wall between myself and Jesus!  

I keep thinking that I must be a certain way or do a certain thing to be worthy of His grace and mercy.

The checklists I create are really just a way to make myself feel better about my own helplessness.

And I am so very helpless.

There is no prerequisite to receiving grace.

He comes.  

He gives. 

He saves. 

I am the good shepherd. I am the one who really cares for the sheep. The good shepherd is willing to die to save his sheep.  ~Jesus

John 10:11 WE

sheperd

 

 

 

 

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

Winter Sunrise

The sun rises behind bare branches and they look beautiful.

In just the right light and at the perfect angle, anything can be lovely.

bare winter branches

It’s true that every living thing needs rest.  Every working part must be oiled.

And while winter can be hard and heartless and cold and cruel, it is also space and time for re-creation.

If I only look harder I can already see tiny buds of springtime promise on the tips of branches overhead.

Death is winter.

Cold, hard, gray.  Every lovely thing fallen and dry underfoot.

A season of rest-not chosen, unwelcome, resisted.

But rest just the same.

Yet the sun still shines and spreads warmth and light on even these bare branches.

winter sunrise pines and zeke filter

After such a long time can the sap still rise?

Is there life left here?

Will spring come again and flowers bloom?

I’m counting on it.

IMG_1795

It will all happen so fast, in a blink, a mere flutter of the eye. The last trumpet will call, and the dead will be raised from their graves with a body that does not, cannot decay. All of us will be changed!  We’ll step out of our mortal clothes and slide into immortal bodies, replacing everything that is subject to death with eternal life.  And, when we are all redressed with bodies that do not, cannot decay, when we put immortality over our mortal frames, then it will be as Scripture says:

Life everlasting has victoriously swallowed death.
     Hey, Death! What happened to your big win?
    Hey, Death! What happened to your sting?

Sin came into this world, and death’s sting followed. Then sin took aim at the law and gained power over those who follow the law.  Thank God, then, for our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, the Liberating King, who brought us victory over the grave.

My dear brothers and sisters, stay firmly planted—be unshakable—do many good works in the name of God, and know that all your labor is not for nothing when it is for God.

I Corinthians 15:52-58 VOICE