Holy Week. Long Friday.

i happened to have a quick coffee with a beautiful friend who is from Sweden. she told me that what we refer to as “Good Friday”, they call “Long Friday”. I don’t know about you, but word swaps like this can make all the difference for me. Long Friday is exactly what Jesus tormented trial and crucifixion must have been.

not to make anywhere near as significant a comparison, but i was brought to mind today the delivery of my last child. it was a scheduled C-section. it was both weird and unsettling for me to anticipate the exact hour and moment of my son’s arrival into the world, as compared to my other three non-scheduled deliveries.  there were moments of dread mixed with a holy anticipation of meeting this new life for the first time. but the calculated operating room felt completely foreign to me. there was little there that made me feel natural in my own skin and i was instantly wishing i could run. i felt awkward and fully awake. i felt pain. i felt that my person hood was secondary to the procedure that was going on. and i had to keep going forward.

until my nurse midwife arrived and signaled for me to push.

i promise, no more details in this post, but suffice to say, there was a birthing moment when all of the pain and the confusion and the dread and the pressure lifted physically and supernaturally… and just like all of my other children arrived, so this new life was born.

for those who have loved Jesus for so long, this day of Long Friday is one where we anticipate with some dark dread to what’s coming. even  those of us who live in this side of the cross, it seems unnatural and alarming that such events could take place upon the Son of God.

the crucifixion is real. we can see it and imagine it and read it and know it. it is as real to us as the resurrection on Sunday. we know that there will be a transformation of Jesus life. we know that Jesus does not stay in pain or in death or in darkness. but today does not feel that way when we meditate throughout the day and into evening the gravity of Jesus alone on the cross. it is awkward and painful to watch and how much more so for a singular man, Jesus, to endure.

be we watch and we wait for new life to come anyway.

Holy Week. Washing Feet …

I so intended to write yesterday. It was a day that I sought God everywhere in the corners of ordinary and found Him.

After as hour of inspiring conversation with my soul friend, I ended our chat to find out that my little tater tot had been creating the most marvelously large mud puddle in our backyard. I am not prone to freak out over mess. Even though I knew he had pretty much ruined his sleeping shirt, I watched him drag the hose and that white shirt and his little toes through the murky muddy yard. I watched him laugh and sing a song about mud. I though about why I wasn’t mad about mud. And then it came. It was so easy to hose this little guy off.

Then the  gentle voice said “It’s not hard for me to wash your feet”.

Tears.

My little guy in all his mud with wet tee shirt and hair and smiling face. He had no idea that this might be a bad idea. Or he did. It didn’t matter. At that moment of observing my son,  I observed Jesus with a towel, at my feet, with my mud, with the muck and yuck of my everyday flaws and imperfections. “It’s not that hard for me to wash your feet”.

But I want to remind Jesus of how hard the cross was, how hard it was to endure shame He didn’t deserve, how much I still miss the simple instructions while I pursue more relevant ambitions, how I ignore the poor and reach for a place among the religious. Don’t you see what a mess I am, Jesus?

“It’s not that hard for me to wash your feet like it’s not that hard for you to wash your son, because you love him so much. And I love you so much.”

It’s that simple for me right now.

Holy Week. Preparation.

I offer something simple today because I have been absolutely amazed and refreshed and renewed and recharged by employing the tools that are given to us in the Spirit. Today I am hungry for more of God. I am hungry for more of God’s presence in my marriage, the lives of my children, and the outreach into my community.

But I realize that as clever and creative as I might possibly be on my best day… God has already given us everything that we need to live a vibrant and transformed life. He holds them out in His nail pierced hands and says ” You are worth it. I have made a way for you. You are not to fumble around like you don’t have any idea what it means to be loved, to be free, to be healed, to be provided for, to live purposefully.   And before you think that I am talking about material wealth and provision, please know that I see those as by products, not the objects of our attention and desire. I am simply offering to you …LIFE”.

Does the great news about Jesus death, resurrection and resurrected life have any affect on me? Does it live out through my actions as a mother/scholar/author/wife/church leader/daughter/neighbor? Do I live as if I know the end of my story… which is to live now and forever with the God who loves me and made me with a purpose?

Praying that every one of us will see ourselves as part of the unending story of God’s great love. How He loves us.

Ephesians 6:10-20 the Message

A Fight to the Finish

10-12And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. 13-18Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

19-20And don’t forget to pray for me. Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I, jailbird preacher that I am, am responsible for getting out.

Holy Week.

Look hard at Jesus, especially as he goes to his death, and you will discover more about God than you could ever have guessed from studying the infinite shining heavens or the moral law within your own conscience.

You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship……When you gaze in love and gratitude at the God in whose image you were made, you do indeed grow. You discover more of what it means to be fully alive.

N.T. Wright Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. HarperSanFrancisco, 2006.

I had an opportunity to pray with my neighbor for her migraine.  I simply laid my hand on her brow and smiled. I prayed inside, asking the God of comfort to come and give her a sound mind. I breathed in and out slowly, and she started to do the same. Her bleary eyes started to clear and she actually appeared to gain her vision. I kept my hand on her head while our collective children ran about the yard laughing and shouting.

A holy moment in ordinary life. A moment on the porch when we just need each other. A place where our children are present but not in the way and we can care for each other in a place of deep pain. Simple. Healing. Touch.

Condemning religious spirits come to me in droves during these simple acts of mercy. They try to convince me that I should be doing something more pious to let her know that I am a Christian and she should really come to church with me on Sunday. But another part of me trusts that the Holy Spirit is moving through my hands and into the deepest places of my neighbor’s need.

In the week proceeding Jesus’ death, the week on the church calendar that we observe right now, Jesus was all about the business of healing people. He was in the temple doing things that made religious people really really mad. He turned over the tables of merchants who had turned the temple into a place that it was never meant to be. He let children shout and make loud noises. He talked about His authority to do exactly what He was doing. And people couldn’t stop Him.

We know the end of the story. Death couldn’t stop God’s love reaching out to humanity through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. So in our ordinary lives, as ordinary followers of Jesus, how are we joining in His unstoppable ministry? Where are the places where we feel shut out by religious rules that Jesus has already overturned? Where do we see the Kingdom coming through simple acts of justice, grace, and hope?

Holy Holy Holy
Is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come.
 

 

 

Palm Sunday. Hosana in the highest.

I offer you the following devotion as a love song that must have been so close to the sentiments of those who greeted Christ when He walked triumphantly into their city, when He walked into their lives and souls. They knew He was their only rescue and they hailed Him on that day as King. Never mind that many of them would deny it all in about a week… in this moment on Palm Sunday they worshiped Him and laid down branches of palms so that the Jesus wouldn’t touch the ground.

How beautiful that we get a chance each and every Sunday to become these sorts of worshipers. I am struck in this season of Holy Week how much I want to walk like those devout followers who continue to walk with Jesus. Not just on Sunday when everything is magical and majestic. Not just when the crowds around me agree that Jesus is the King. But Monday and Tuesday. And Wednesday. And at the Last Supper when some people start arguing about who is the greatest in the Kingdom. And in the dark garden of Gethsemane when some people fall asleep instead of keeping watch. And in the crowds that deny His authority. And on the road to the cross, may I be like Simon of Cyrene who helps to lift the burden with Jesus for awhile. And lead me then to the cross, and not some other distracted place. Help me sit with the darkness of Good Friday and Holy Saturday and wait in proper expectation for Resurrection Sunday.

From a daily devotion by Charles Spurgeon.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.
—Song 1:2
For several days we have been dwelling upon the Saviour’s passion, and for some little time to come we shall linger there. In beginning a new month, let us seek the same desires after our Lord as those which glowed in the heart of the elect spouse. See how she leaps at once to Him; there are no prefatory words; she does not even mention His name; she is in the heart of her theme at once, for she speaks of Him who was the only Him in the world to her. How bold is her love! it was much condescension which permitted the weeping penitent to anoint His feet with spikenard—it was rich love which allowed the gentle Mary to sit at His feet and learn of Him—but here, love, strong, fervent love, aspires to higher tokens of regard, and closer signs of fellowship. Esther trembled in the presence of Ahasuerus, but the spouse in joyful liberty of perfect love knows no fear. If we have received the same free spirit, we also may ask the like. By kisses we suppose to be intended those varied manifestations of affection by which the believer is made to enjoy the love of Jesus. The kiss of reconciliation we enjoyed at our conversion, and it was sweet as honey dropping from the comb. The kiss of acceptance is still warm on our brow, as we know that He hath accepted our persons and our works through rich grace. The kiss of daily, present communion, is that which we pant after to be repeated day after day, till it is changed into the kiss of reception, which removes the soul from earth, and the kiss of consummation which fills it with the joy of heaven. Faith is our walk, but fellowship sensibly felt is our rest. Faith is the road, but communion with Jesus is the well from which the pilgrim drinks. O lover of our souls, be not strange to us; let the lips of Thy blessing meet the lips of our asking; let the lips of Thy fulness touch the lips of our need, and straightway the kiss will be effected.

Hosana in the Highest

Lent in everyday language. Day (WHAT???) Thirty-nine.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I have been writing meaningful posts everyday for the entire Lenten season. Today I would be on the eve of my last post since tomorrow is day 40 and then we being Holy Week. Wow. That would have been something to write home about.

So where have I noticed God most?Where am I having a hard time noticing God?

I can say this. Being mindful of the days proceeding Holy Week was something that I have always intended to do but have not typically done very well. Over the last @40 days-ish, I have absolutely seen a difference in the ways in which I notice God in everyday happenings. I am expectant. I’ve watched people for signs of the God-life in them, I’ve listened for stories that scream out “GOD IS HERE” and I’ve sat more and rested in the presence of the One who is constantly asking me to be still and simply KNOW that He is God. I’ve listened to my children and their lovely view of the world and their place in it. I have enjoyed my husband and enjoyed being a bigger part of our shared dream to feed people.  I have been overwhelmed by ordinary graces of new and not so new friends who make time for me in their compacted and crazy lives.  In all of this, I see the power of God still working to break through this chaotic world and remind of us the peaceful way we were designed to live.

But I have also missed God. I have missed God in a culture where materialism and want want have have spend spend have want are constant companion in our would-be contented existence. I have missed God in the stories of girls in 13 different foster homes before the age of 11 and girls who have seen one parent shoot the other right in front of them. I have missed God in marriages of people who should have joy and peace and trust and mutual respect for each other but it eludes them like trying to hold onto slippery soap in the bathtub. I have missed God in the movies our co-dependent culture rushes to see by the millions, movies that are violent and sexy and trendy and somehow “important”. I have missed God in the places where prayers are no longer prayed with true faith. Places like church, where I believe that once there were people following Christ who really believed that their Father God would answer every.single.prayer. I miss God in the places where I feel most tired.. where I spin endless plates that other people toss at me instead of trusting that God may be calling me to something simpler, with less plates to juggle.

Looking back over the last 40 days, how did you notice God differently? How are you still needing to see or hear or experience more of God in your everyday language?

Lent in everyday language. Day Thirty-two.

It’s official.

I am free from one of my own worst enemies: my tendency to be mad when I don’t finish something the way I wanted to. Like this blog where I purposed myself to write everyday during the days of Lent. 40 days to be exact that would mark my devotion to the deeper spiritual practices of daily examen. I even offered to share these daily nuggets with my faith community on their homepage. I started strong, was hit mid-stream with a writers dilemma (how much to share and how much not to share), and sort of petered off in my resolve to write everyday.

Usually these starts and stops are quickly followed by some self-debasing language that seems to scold me like some highly critical parent “See. You never finish what you start. See. You always stop before you finish. See. You’re late.”  During this highly introspective and contemplative season of my life, I have not had the time or space to spend with these voices of criticism and control. Instead, other voices have beckoned me onward and forward.

Like one voice from the editor of the company I am doing free-lance work for right now. She said (paraphrased) “Amy, you are a writer. You have the heart of a writer, and that can’t be taught. The other stuff like structure and grammar is easy to work on once you have the heart for writing” Another voice came from my husband who noticed I hadn’t been posting. He said “I miss getting your daily emails. I really like what you write.”  So these two very important people who matter so much in terms of what I am writing were the voices that trumped the other ones who play with my insecurity and fear that I am somehow not allowed to fail. Or to write honestly. Or to fail. Or to pause. Or to write about something controversial.

These are my words, downloaded from a mind full of stories and dreams and poems for a world where I believe authentic living is possible. Where I believe that the God created us to live is in simplicity and unity with God. Where I believe that Jesus is our model for a perfectly authentic spirituality. Where I believe that Jesus left His Spirit to be Our Holy Counselor and Present help to live this life well.

Where I believe that the language we speak and the words we choose can invite healing into a world is too codependent on popular culture to choose for them how they will think and what they will care about.

These words matter. Your words matter. Our words matter.

Daily Examen

1. How do you see God’s provision today?

Today I see the way God is providing time for me to have carved out time to be one on one with my kids. This is a result of the role my husband has been able to play in our family lately since our job transition back in December. My 8 year old son asked me on Monday if we could have a date looked forward to it all week. It took all day for us to finally get out of the house and when we did, I think we held hands for about three hours straight. We He talked about everything. He told me the movies he wanted to see, the girl he liked at school, the way he wanted to learn phonics better because “school isn’t just about grades, Mom. I want to really learn some stuff!” He didn’t ask me any questions. I watched him and noticed things that escape my attention when I am busy wrangling 4 at a time.  I imagine that is the way God wants me to be present with my children more often.

2. How do you need to see God’s provision today?

One of the parts of our date was to head to the Lego store at one of the biggest and nicest malls in Orange County. I am not a mall person. Never have been. It always makes me feel instantly like I am wearing the wrong shoes or my jeans aren’t new enough or that I want to run into the Baby Gap and buy all of my children matching outfits. I also am amazed at the number of messages stores send with their marketing promises of sexy-skinny-rich. It just doesn’t fit me on a normal everyday, let alone in a season where I really can’t afford to buy myself a new pair of jeans. In the mall, we went straight to the Lego store to play and look at Legos. But even there I felt that pull to have more, to have something, to buy something, to validate my love for my son (WHO LOVES LEGOS) by purchasing something for him before we left. My purchase was SMALL. But my need for God in this struggle against stuff is BIG. I need to see God in these little wars against stuff. I need to see how God wants to provide and how to feel less guilty when I do want things.  Do I always have to say no? Am I never allowed to want things? Will I ever be able to buy a new pair of jeans? Will this season of scarcity be the way I will live normally or will there be some balance? God, provide your peace as you provide for every other need in my life.

How do these questions help you notice God in your everyday life?