Lead me, this Good Friday, to the Cross

For forty-plus years, I’d heard the Scripture. I’ve seen movie portrayals of the Passion of Jesus, but several years ago it became real in a way that I neither anticipated nor prepared for. I sat in a meeting and we discussed how powerful it would be to have a cross made that was as close to the one Jesus would have been crucified on. “Can you do it?” “I think so.” We researched the facts and that is what they were, mere facts. Facts about the execution tool used by the Romans in the time of Jesus. We studied the dimensions and I set out to replicate the cross. Replicate the cross that my Savior was hung upon. It was simply a project, until the transformation of plain railroad ties began. The staining, the weathering. The distressing of the wood.  The distressing from being dropped and dragged. The deep imprints from the pounding of nails. The addition of red paint where the stains of blood would have been. It became real.  In all of its gruesomeness and brutality, it became beautiful. When the cross was assembled in the sanctuary it all came so overwhelmingly close. The reality of Jesus broken for me. Jesus broken so that my sins would be forgiven. Standing in front of this rugged cross I had a intimacy with the Lord that I had never had before. I sat with Him in the upper room, prayed with Him in the Garden of Gesthemene. I stood there with Him the day Pilate authorized His death. I walked alongside Him as He carried that cross.  I watched...

What Will You Give?

Easter Week Easter is a few short days away. We will worship on Good Friday and rejoice on Easter Sunday. We know the story: Jesus came, was crucified, and rose again. The grave would not be his final resting place. No, Jesus would take his rightful place at God’s right hand. Days before Jesus’ crucifixion, religious leaders were yet again challenging Jesus’ authority. It is here, in the days before the cross, I have been challenged. Give It Away My husband and I are inconsistent about reviewing our budget. We know our expenses, and they do not change much month to month. I know how much to pull out for the upcoming month. We have tried, oh we have tried, with spreadsheets and conversations, to be diligent in this task. I promise we have. But, we are consistently inconsistent. There is one category, and only one, we have agreed will only see an increase: our giving. We give above the ten percent, but I wonder, are we giving as much as we could? Learn From A Widow And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4) She gave all she had to live on: two coins worth very little. Yet, to the Savior? She gave a...

Solid

I’m not really fussy at all. Except when it comes to chocolate. I don’t require much. All I want is my chocolate, milk or dark, to be solid. No mystery filling, not a hollow shell. Solid. Simple enough. Mystery chocolate.  Those “mystery chocolates,” the ones that you are afraid to bite into for fear of what you’ll get. Sometimes it’s a nice chocolate cream filling and other times it’s some foreign jelly like substance or worse yet, a toothpaste like filling. In any event, it’s simply not fit to be paired with chocolate.  Hollow.  But perhaps worse than a mystery chocolate, in my mind,  is a HOLLOW chocolate. Ever gotten one of those? The anticipation of a SOLID chocolate egg only to be shattered, completely shattered, by the hollowness of nothing.  Our faith and walk with Jesus really is kind of like a box of chocolates.  Am I a mystery to those I meet? I admit, my heart isn’t always aligned with Jesus and there are times when it’s easy, in the rush, distractedness and circumstances of life to give off the, “you really don’t know what you’re going to get vibe.” And, there are times when it all looks good on the surface, but go beneath only to reveal some pretty disgusting inside filling. Pride, jealously, bitterness, idolatry. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 OR Am I hollow? The faith and walk that LOOKS solid but when tested crumbles and disappoints. The shell is lovely and enticing, but cracked,...

Saint Patrick: A Blessing

  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 15.20 NIV). Saint Patrick was not Irish, but he is now known as the patron saint of Ireland. How did this English young man make such an influence in Ireland during the fourth century AD? God was able to use what was meant for harm to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Saint Patrick’s real name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat, and he was kidnapped at the age of 6 and sold into slavery in Ireland for about 6 years. He finally made his way back home and dedicated his life to God. He spent the next 12 years studying under his mentor, St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. When he became a bishop himself, he had a dream that the people of Ireland were calling out to him. He received the Pope’s blessing to return to the very people who enslaved him, and he began a massive spiritual awakening in the hearts of the pagan people. Not only did he win many souls to Christ (including both the rich and the poor), he established monasteries, schools and churches all over Ireland. Because of Saint Patrick’s time as a slave in Ireland, he knew the language and culture and could preach to the people in a way that made sense to them. He had so much zeal for the Lord that even after being arrested many times by the Celtic Druids, he still continued his quest to win the hearts of the Irish...

Happy New Year – Two Thousand Seventeen

Maybe this year it can be different. Maybe we can do away with resolutions and embrace something radical. Perhaps if we do, we could actually end 2017 better than we arrived. If we let the light shine just a bit brighter each day, maybe they would WANT to be in relationship with us, conversations could happen, we could listen to each other, perhaps even walk with each other. Then perhaps, they could SEE…they could see Jesus, the Jesus of the gospel who often acted VERY differently than we do in the name of love. Maybe they could see who Jesus really was, in us. Imagine that. Twenty • Seventeen would then be a year of real transformation and not empty resolutions. It begins. Let us embrace this new year. Let us embrace the light that we have an opportunity to shine…Lord knows this weary world and her people need...

The Other Side of Christmas

*originally posted December 20, 2012 Our nativities are beautiful. Even when we briefly lament that there was “no room for them in the inn” and that Jesus had to be born in a stable, our nativities are clean, peaceful, idyllic. We imagine the animals keeping watch and the wonder as the shepherds come. We think of little woolly lambs. But it probably wasn’t clean. Because stables smell, we can assume it was smelly. Joseph was probably frantic trying to make a bed in the straw and figure out how he was going to deliver the baby when that was usually left to other women. There were probably bugs. I don’t share that to ruin all nativities for you. We can go back to those pristine images in a bit, but bear with me for a moment. It just seems to me that even those early moments and years of life pointed to the kind of life Jesus would live. Even before birth, Jesus did not have a place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). When Jesus was a very young child (people disagree on if he was an infant or around two) his family had to flee to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). They fled in the middle of the night, probably traveling as light as possible, frantic to get away. And the reason they had to flee? Herod wanted to secure his throne by killing the foretold king of the Jews. While God forewarned Joseph and he got Mary and Jesus to safety, other mothers and young boys were not so lucky. It is sometimes referred to as the slaughter...

Breath of Heaven

It was almost 22 years to the day. I was 9 months pregnant and due on January 8th. That’s what THEY SAID; SHE had different plans. When the doctor finished his examination, he calmly stated that I would be having a baby, “TODAY.” “TODAY, as in TO-DAY?” “Yes, and we’ll need you to head to the hospital – NOW.” “What? That is NOT the plan.” “It is now and if you can’t assure us that you’ll head straight for the hospital, we can arrange for an ambulance.” I went out to my car,  a baby blue Ford Escort, on an absolutely frigid day in Chicago, ice and snow covering the ground. That little car needed time to warm up, so I sat reluctantly patient for a moment and waited, all alone. I was trying to wrap my head around the fact that I WAS GOING TO HAVE A BABY! The journey had been a long one. I had prayed for years, endured fertility treatments for years and I knew the magnitude of this event. The day had arrived and it looked NOTHING like I had planned. My husband was downtown in a pre cell phone age, and I needed to get word to him. Travel plans needed to be changed. I still had Christmas shopping to do. I was told that I could not even PACK my own bag; I needed to get to the hospital immediately. As I sat there in the car, overwhelmed in the moment, a song came on the radio. Now, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard it, but the first time I HEARD it… ”...

My prayer for you this Christmas

As I prepared to write about the joy of Christmas, I was reminded of how HARD Christmas can be. I want all the family together. I want to give amazing gifts. I want to prepare mouthwatering recipes that will be requested for years to come. I want…well, I want “perfect.” Thing is, life’s not perfect. Families certainly aren’t. As if a “perfect” family Christmas wasn’t enough of a challenge, there is so much to DO in December: Christmas plays and concerts, visiting Santa, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, company dinners and Christmas parades. The list of things to do and places to be is endless. Now, add to ALL that the social stress that comes with living in a country where not everyone celebrates the birth of Jesus. Christians are offended when stores promote “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  We remind everyone that CHRISTmas is about CHRIST, but do we really believe that? Have we bought into the world’s version of Christmas? I’m afraid we have. I think that we have made Christmas about family, Santa, gifts and feasts. I think that we celebrate Christmas just like “the world” does…. and, I think that is the real root of all the stress and anxiety we feel at Christmas. Maybe you’re thinking “Not me. I know that Christmas is about Jesus.” If you aren’t sure where you stand on this,  here are the questions I asked myself earlier this week: If there was no tree and no twinkling lights, would it still feel like Christmas? If there were no presents, would it still feel like Christmas? If there was no family, would it still feel like Christmas? If ALL you had was...

Stepping Back From the Drama

Commercials present an idyllic view of the holidays, but for most of us, this is a fantasy.  We may wish we could attain it, even running ourselves ragged in our efforts to do so, but we never seem to hit the mark. When that happens, we are often left feeling defeated and saddened. Then there comes the dinner table with all those relatives we may or may not get along with: Crazy Aunt Bertha who’s convinced the world is going to end. Angry Uncle Wilbert who feels personally affronted when someone takes the last drumstick. Sassy Sally who rolls her eyes at every other statement, and of course, all the relational baggage that comes with living in a fallen, sin-cursed world–relational baggage that is magnified during the tense, stressful holiday season. Is it any wonder so many struggle with depression during November and December? And an even more important question–what can we do about? How can we make it through to January first without going completely insane and dragging our loved ones with us? Imagine hosting a dinner party for the most talked about personality of our day. Would that stress you out a little? Cause your stomach to convulse and sweat to build, quite glamorously, along your hairline and on your upper lip? Now imagine tossing sibling drama into the mix. I don’t know about you, but that’d about make me want to cry, and then I’d really have a mess on my hands–the mascara streaked tears kind. But what if I learned to step back and disengage? You may be familiar with the Mary and Martha story....