On the Wednesday before the Thursday where the bread was broken and the wine sipped, before the Friday when the world collapsed, before the Saturday when the world stayed still, before the Sunday when the world broke through, on that Wednesday, we do not have a record of what Jesus and his disciples did.
I have a feeling that Jesus was regrouping and gathering strength to complete this long arduous journey that had begun with a conversation between a young girl and an angel messenger in the hills outside of Bethlehem.
Wednesday, the day that Jesus may have been resting, praying, gathering himself in preparation of what he knew would take place.
And that is where I find myself in the year 2017. The Wednesday before Easter.
The journey began 6 weeks ago when many had a sooty cross of ashes drawn on their foreheads to remind them of their sinfulness and mortality and their need to repent.
This year I was in need to be reminded, daily, hourly, of my need for Christ in my life, so I added something.
When I saw the crosses drawn on Ash Wednesday, I saw it as a way of proclaiming themselves to be “people of the cross”. They were branding themselves, if only until they washed their face, that they belonged to Jesus.
I inked a cross on the inside of my arm. It isn’t permanent. I have to reapply the ink every few days as it is washed off, and every time I am brought back to my initial thought, “I am a person of the cross”.
I told no one and on one asked me about it.
Lent has been described as a journey to Jerusalem.
As I continue to walk that journey through the 40 days I find myself forgetting still, forgetting the degree of the sacrifice Christ made in the days preceding his crucifixion.
Forgetting that every day of this last week He was leading his disciples, as well as us, His followers, toward the cross.
Jesus was deliberately guiding the 12, and us, to understand the “why” of his last days.
I do not believe they understood, or if they caught a glimpse of where the journey would end, they could not believe that He would submit.
And I discovered that I am truly crucified with Christ, daily crucified.
And as I forget His crucifixion I also forget that I have been raised to resurrection life!
Resurrection life is what should be at the center of my life, but my human frailty keeps me living in the world.
2 Cor 4:8-10 speaks of crumbling when the walls of my little life come tumbling in, hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, struck down BUT NOT in despair, not abandoned, not destroyed.
The words remind me that I always carry in my body the death of Christ, and in doing so, the life of Christ will be revealed.
I thought that observing Lent meant to give up something in order to create space for Jesus in my ordinary days, but this year I added something, a visual symbol of the death and the resurrection of Christ.
Gal 2:20 says to help me to remember that if I am truly crucified with Christ, I am also raised to resurrection life!
Help me Lord, to never forget that the purpose of crucified life is to walk in the power of Your resurrection with your life revealed in mine.
Amen and amen and amen.
Recently, I had one of the most visceral dreams I have ever experienced. You know those dreams that are incredibly vivid? The dreams that seem as if they truly were a life experience?
So, my husband John and I were instructed to pick up a car and deliver it to someone. Once we agreed to this, the only thing in question was how the delivery would occur. John and I were at the top of a very steep hill. For us to get the car, we had to navigate our way on foot, down this ridiculous embankment – full of briars and rocks; tall grass and big dips in the terrain. Waiting at the bottom of this hill was a pond full of thick, green, murky, smelly water. The car that we had to deliver, was waiting on the other side of the pond.
Although this dream occurred months ago, I can still clearly visualize nearly every moment. With an almost unsurmountable anxiety and hesitation, John and I began our descent of the hill. The first step was done. Then two and three. With every forward movement, our momentum increased so much that at one point we were air bound. At this point our hearts were racing and our respiration had increased as we were very much in fear for our lives. Then out of nowhere, God cupped His giant hands together to catch us and we landed ever so gently inside them.
Now, my husband and I felt nothing but peace throughout our bodies. We knew beyond ANY doubt that we would be okay. God then lovingly placed us in the nasty water so we could finish what we set out to do. We didn’t care! It didn’t matter that we were in the most disgusting water we had ever been in because we knew that God would always carry us through the yuck!! I awoke and excitedly nudged John out of his sleep to share my dream. My excitement waned somewhat with the realization that things are about to get tough.
No matter our circumstances, God carries us through all the murky water in our lives. Through danger and fear. Pain and heartache. Difficulty and distress, He gets us through it. We will need to navigate the difficult terrain, but that’s where we build our character and faith.
“No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; He’ll always be there to help you come through it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG).
Hopefully, this is what Lent has been helping us prep for. The faithful knowing that God will get us through the yuck. ALWAYS.
I saw a video with the lead singer of the band Tenth Avenue North, Mike Donehey. Donehey was talking about a conversation he’d had with God. In the video, he explained how his band members were in a difficult season in life. He began asking God why He lets bad things happen to good people. He said, “God asked me, ‘Why do you call Good Friday, Good Friday?’”
He proceeds to tell us God said, “Good Friday was not the day when bad things happened to a good person. Good Friday was the day when the worst things happened to the best person and it’s still called Good. Maybe Good Friday is called Good Friday because we know what happens on Easter Sunday.”
Donehey refers to Isaiah 43:2 which says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
In the blink of an eye our life seasons can go from beautifully peaceful to brutally chaotic, can’t they? Hardship happens. How can we get the beautiful peace all the time?
We don’t. In fact, sometimes our hearts can hurt so much that we don’t know how we can go on. It can be unbearable. As I reflect on all the seasons in my life, I’ve reached the point that I’m grateful for the chaos I managed to survive. It gave me strength. It enriched and deepened my faith and my relationship with God.
That’s what life is all about isn’t it? Us becoming who we were created to be, despite what happens around us (or maybe because of it).
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory when it is revealed to all the world.” (1 Peter 3:12-13 NLT)
So, on those days that the world seems too big and too insane, I cling to the thought of my dream. That faithful knowing that God’s got this and the peaceful belief that I don’t have to try so hard because He’s will always carry me through. It all turns out great on Easter Sunday, right?
I was running down my street the other morning and I became aware of the many interwoven cracks in the road. Some were sealed, some were not. Some were long, some were short. Some vertical, some horizontal.
Later, I did some research and discovered these are often called alligator cracks. Sometimes they are referred to as fatigue cracks or crocodile cracks.
I could strangely relate to these cracks. They reminded me of myself – a series of cracks, patches and seals obtained throughout life’s difficulties. As I dug deeper, I realized I’m probably not the only person who could relate to the cracks in this way. My interest was piqued.
When I continued to research, I learned that alligator cracking is one of the costliest problems to repair according to Alpha Paving Industries in Texas. They say alligator cracking is “digging down to discover the underlying problems, then strengthening the asphalt’s base, is the only long-term asphalt repair solution.”
Isn’t this also true for us? I think how often I’ve been guilty of pretending everything’s peachy and smooth on my surface. But when I allowed myself to dig deeper, I discovered there are underlying problems – ouch! That was, and is, painful. But isn’t that the best way to repair and strengthen our base?
“To perform properly, the surface must have a strong, stable foundation. Lacking the support needed, cracks become more extensive…to the point that it can no longer withstand the weight and pressure of traffic.”
Well, isn’t this interesting? In many ways, we are like a road with alligator cracks, trying to withstand the pressure of life’s traffic. I have found when I don’t invest in my internal work – most importantly take time to strengthen my relationship with God – my foundation becomes unstable. It becomes increasingly difficult to withstand the weight and pressures of the world. It is then that I often tend to withdraw from those rooted in Christ and then even more of my support system fades.
But Jesus strengthens our foundations: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)
In life, it’s not uncommon for there to be a “pile-on” effect with difficulties. Everything happens at once, doesn’t it? In 2008, I can remember my first husband and I separated; my 14-year-old beloved dog needed to be euthanized the following month; and then my 15-year-old cat developed cancer and had to be euthanized. All of this happened in only a matter of four months.
When I look back on that season in my life, I’m grateful for those challenges and for that heartbreak because it all helped me to become new again. It was in building my relationship with Christ that I gave God permission to make me whole again. To seal my alligator cracks and make me stronger than before.
In 1 Peter 5:10 (NLT) it says “In His kindness, God called you to share in His eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation.”
“Assuming that the initial installation was correctly performed, alligator cracking is almost always the result of neglecting to make needed repairs and protect the surface with a sealant.”
In our society, we often have the mentality that we can’t discuss our problems or our issues. That we must be able to handle everything that comes our way – alone. All this does is create more cracks in our interior – our soul. God predicted this in Exodus 18:18 (NLT): “You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.”
We all have cracks. In fact, it is in our cracks that God can do His best work. Our cracks are opportunities to lean into God and become closer to Him. We need to choose to let God repair our alligator cracks and let Him be our sealant. According to curtiscleansweep.com “repairing minor cracks can go a long way toward eliminating alligator areas… which can help your pavement realize its full life span.”
Once we get to the root cause of our cracks and let God seal them, we become stronger. As with roads, life, or the distress of traffic are no longer an issue once we’re fortified by God. “Don’t be afraid for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NLT)
Let’s try to embrace our alligator cracks, for it is in them that we can allow God to be our sealant and they can be repaired. Having experienced those cracks and letting them (and God) make us better and stronger have been some of my most cherished things in life.
How can you let God fill in your alligator cracks? How can you begin to appreciate them as a means to being more whole in Christ?
We’re so glad Angela shared her story with us this week! Including being part of the SMC family, Angela enjoys spending time with her husband, two boys, her family and friends. She loves nature, laughing and improving herself.
My mom gave me a chocolate for Easter and it brought back a flood of Easter memories. Growing up we would get a chocolate bunny or treat from the local chocolate shop “Purdy’s”. Each year it would be a toss up – which would it be? White, milk, or dark chocolate? My sister and I would eat those chocolate bunnies slowly – limb by limb and I would happily plot out which part of the chocolate treat I would eat the next day. It almost sounds malicious doesn’t it? So yes, Easter memories -chocolate, Easter egg hunts, colorful pastels, and cheerful flowers all come to mind. Full disclosure – as horrible as it is, I’m ashamed to say, I can easily find myself being casual about the Easter story! I can be dull to the power of what Jesus gives us. This Easter season I’ve been trying to reflect a little on what strikes me about Jesus’ resurrection.
Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered the world and death came as consequence for our sins. But as we know God couldn’t let it stop there, He had a redemption plan. He told the serpent (Genesis 3) – Jesus will bruise you on the head and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Even though death had entered the world God’s plan for life would prevail. Because I’m thinking a blow to the head sounds pretty bad, final even. 1 Corinthians 15 says that by Adam came death, by Jesus came resurrection and in Him we can be made alive. God is life, it’s just who He is. I love that about God. Jesus is the only one who can bring us life even when our sin leads to death.
Jesus’ resurrection is definitely one thing that sets our faith apart from other beliefs. We have a man, Jesus, who has risen from the dead to base our faith on! What other proof could be more substantial than a man who could not be held back from the grips of death. Whenever doubts arise there’s this to set things straight – Jesus was dead and after three days he rose again. That changes everything. No one else has done that ever.
Jesus’ resurrection is some serious proof of our faith but God is touching me with more than that. There’s this passage beating in my heart from Song of Songs, a beautiful and passionate love story. And note, interpreters often consider this book to be an allegory speaking of God’s love for the Jewish people or His church.
Put me like a seal over your heart,
Like a seal on your arm.
For love is as strong as death
Jealousy is as severe as Sheol
Its flashes are flames of fire
The very flame of God
Many waters cannot quench love
Nor will rivers overflow it
If a man were to give all the riches of His house for love,
It would be utterly despised.
1 John 4 tells us a few times that God is love, a love that is not defined by our understanding of what love is, He defines love, Jesus embodies love. I know that the passage in Song of Songs is poetically written, but I can’t help to make this connection that it could be God’s relentless, powerful love, conveyed by Jesus, the only one worthy, that could meet death and overcome it. Simply put – God’s love is stronger than death.
Not only is His love stronger than death but also it’s personal. I see this in how Jesus meets His followers and disciples after his resurrection. Despite confusion and unbelief of those closest to him He meets them where they’re at and reveals himself to them. He could have taken a totally different approach and proven His divinity and triumph to the rulers and scoffers and justified himself. Instead we see Jesus reveal Himself and bring hope to those who followed Him and journeyed with Him. In the midst of their tears and questions, He meets Mary Magdalene and the other women who had come to His grave. He lets Thomas see and touch His wounds, He comes to the disciples while they’re eating, walking, and working. What do you think…? Can you relate to how Jesus met them after He had risen?
Like the disciples walking along the road, I want my heart to be burning with love for Jesus and deep appreciation for the life that He gives us!
(image above): http://www.lovethispic.com/image/246321/he-is-not-here-for-he-is-risen,-just-as-he-said