Tuesday, April 26, 2011

In Service

Consider this:

You have a very bad day.

Your life feels cracked and your head is falling down the middle.

You feel out of control.

Might I suggest something? This is what I did today when I was feeling these things:

I was mourning over how few close friends I had to talk to...

and I felt a divine whisper...

and I called up a woman I am just getting to know...

she has just had a death in the family and was out of town...

I called her up and told her I've been thinking about her

and praying for her

and I wanted to invite her to get together


and talk together

and have it be

all about her

(this is the important part)

not about me

(when I really want to talk about me)

but about her

to offer my friendship

my love

my everything

to her and our friendship.

I called her and told her that.

(Well, leaving out the part about me wanting to talk about me)

She said, "Well, isn't that so sweet!"

I think she was really touched.

And she said we'd make a date soon.

I hung up feeling a warm spot in my chest

where the empty cave used to be.

I felt God fill my heart.

It feels good to give

without expecting to get

in return.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Not Like A Birthday

Growing up, the day after my birthday was always a bit disappointing. The party was over, the presents unwrapped, the guests gone. I often grew either bratty (as a young child) or depressed (as a teenager). I'd muse on the day before and wish every day could be my birthday.

I think about that when I think about Easter and my baptism.

First, Easter: A Holy Experience does a great job at celebrating what the day AFTER Easter offers and means. I'll let you go there and ponder her words on your own.

I strongly believe that Easter is not over. Jesus is being resurrected every day. Each time we reach out and do a good deed - not for our own gratification, but in honor of Christ - Jesus lives on. Each time we love with abandon and devotion, Jesus lives on. Each time we raise our arms and admit that we can't "do it" by ourselves and need God's help, Jesus lives on. There are so many ways we can see Jesus resurrect every day. Open the eyes of your heart.

Now, baptism: That, too, is not a one-time deal. It's not like graduation where you do it only once. As Pastor reminded me today in an email, you don't say I was baptized, but I am baptized. Every morning as I shower, as water washes over me, it parallels the water of baptism. Washing my hands, the dishes - yes, I am God's child once again. Every day is new. Just like we can see Jesus anew every day, so can we be born anew with each sunrise.

My baptism and Easter are not like my birthday. Yes, my birthday comes every year, but I do not feel a let-down today, the Monday after Easter. The sun shone for a bit. I listened to wonderful worship music, I felt God's holy light within me. I know that light can shine (pardon the song reference) every single day of my life.

Go forth! Share the news that Christ - and you - live abundantly each day!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

He Has Risen, Indeed!

He has risen, indeed! -- Pastor and the congregation all said that together at this morning's sunrise service for Easter. The sanctuary was adorned with flowers. The promised-for-today-sun did not shine, but no matter. Pastor, in his white robe with a gold vestment, embodied JOY enough to fill that room with sunshine. We were given balloons as we entered and at one specific point in the service, we all let them go, rising to the ceiling.

Today was not just Easter, though. It was also the day of my Holy Baptism into the Lutheran faith. I don't usually have stage fright, but I found myself unable to look out at the audience while standing up there. I stared, in a haze of excitement and anticipation, at Pastor. He called me forth over the Baptismal stand. He prayed and poured the water out of the glistening, silver pitcher into the metal basin. I will always remember how the sound of the water hitting the basin amplified in my ears. Trickle, trickle, trickle.

And then I bent over the bowl and felt Pastor's warm hand on the back of my head and his other hand scoop up water

in the name of the Father

the Son

and the Holy Spirit

and poured it over my forehead.

Husband's hand pressed softly on my other shoulder from behind me and I felt power surge through me.

When Pastor asked the congregation if they would support me and pray for me in my new lifein Christ, I finally looked out and saw a sea of love, people whose hearts were open. My eyes were filling with tears and I even noticed one or two people wiping their eyes. For me! They were crying-joy-happy for me!

And at the end, when Pastor made the sign of the cross on my forehead, I knew I was then marked, branded to the Most High, a child of God, lovingly and oh-so-willing to serve the Lord the rest of my days.

Please rise and welcome Lisa into the family of faith,
Pastor said.

We welcome you into the Lord's family. We receive you as a fellow member of the body of Christ, child of the same heavenly father, and a worker with us in the Kingdom of God
, said the congregation.

Let us welcome the newly baptized!

And the sending:

Take the good news with you: Christ is alive. He is risen.
Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to Christ.

As I hear all over the radio, internet, and church language: He Has Risen, Indeed!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


It's Saturday, the day of waiting. Are you observing it?

I went to my church for my prayer vigil that I signed up for and I entered expecting to find the sanctuary how we had left it Friday night: black cloth draped over the cross where a crown of thorns laid around the vertical plank of wood. Black cloth draped over the altar and podium, all reminders to us of Jesus' earthly death. I expected to sit in the front pew and look upon this blackness and meditate on what it all meant - for me, for the world.

To my surprise, however, I entered the sanctuary and color exploded into my vision. There were lilies and all sorts of flowers all over the place! There were new cloths laid out: white, brightly and maternally-hand-stitched cloths.

Part of me felt disappointed that my first view of this celebration wasn't on the actual Easter morning, but how wonderful to walk into that quiet sanctuary, to be solitary and prayerful, and be greeted by such beauty. I knelt down at the front and gazed at the flowers. I looked at the candles and realized they weren't lit. That means something, I noted to myself. Perhaps the Light of Christ will be lit, to me, only on Easter morning. Right now, the flowers were displayed, but the candles were not lit.

Still the time of waiting.

And now, a word about our Good Friday service. It was so remarkable and full of awe and mystery.

The altar was stripped, Pastor and his wife dressed in black. We first sang, "Ah, Holy Jesus," which was a familiar hymn to me which I sang with much passion.

In that hymn, the line, "I crucified thee," hit me hard in the chest.

After the Old Testament reading, we sang "Beneath the Cross of Jesus:"

Then came the Nails of Passion. This was a new part of the Good Friday service to me. By the way, this service was a Good Friday Tenebrae (Darkness) Service.

First - Nail of Betrayal. Verses from the Book of Matthew were read telling of Judas' betrayal and then a prayer said. Then two candles were extinguished and a nail driven into a piece of wood. The sound of the hammer against the nail was a harsh reminder of the truth and reality of two thousand and eleven years ago.

Second - The Nail of Denial. Again, Matthew verses were read, telling of Peter's denial. Again, two candles snuffed out and three hits the nail.

7 year old huddled close, knowing what was to happen (we had talked to the 12 and 7 year old earlier - the 4 year old was being babysat). I held her close as the nails drove into my mind.

Then we sang "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded:"

Third - The Nail of Jealousy
Matthew read, candles extinguished, nail driven.

Fourth - The Nail of Indifference
Told of Pontius Pilate's indifference toward Jesus. Candles out, nail driven.

Five - The Nail of Mockery
The crowds yelled and shouted, mocking Jesus. Candles out, nail driven. Lights are going out now, the room gets darker.

Six - The Nail of Ridicule
Scornful words said. Darkness. Final nail driven.

We sang the beautiful song, "Were You There," which has become a definite favorite of mine.

And 7 year old started recognizing the song a little and sang the part, "tremble....tremble...tremble"and hearing her little voice sing just broke my heart and lifted it right up into the heavens. Oh, my girl. My God-loving, God-asking, God-praying girl.

Then Pastor Matt and his wife each took turns reading Jesus' last words.

Pastor read, in a heart-wrenching voice, Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani? (Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?)

Tears fell. Heart opened. Wounds opened. I saw my wounds on his body.

Bells tolled.

The Christ candle was removed.

And we said the Lord's Prayer in darkness as rain poured heavy on the roof and left in silence.

Why is Good Friday called "Good?" We all asked this in the car on the way home.

On this Saturday, I wish you a Happy Holy Saturday, day of waiting, day of wondering and hoping.

We know now that Jesus rose again. Keep that hope strong throughout your life. He would want you to.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Darkness Comes

Good morning, Good Friday to you. I feel my words do not know how to tumble out or form cohesive thoughts to even encompass what Good Friday means. I read A Holy Experience by Ann Voskamp and Getting Down with Jesus by Jennifer Dukes Lee - my two fellow favorite women in Christ - and I wonder at their ability to grasp these Holy Days with beautiful, meaningful words... or to write about how they cannot possibly grasp these Holy Days...still, with beautiful, meaningful words.

Here I am. I'm at our local coffeehouse. I have longed to escape to the cafe and write for eons. Ok, months. I wanted to write a meaningful, beautiful blog post about Good Friday, but I now see: how can I? I'm new to the faith. I'm just learning about Good Friday, myself. And boy - Easter Sunday! How can I open myself enough to let all that joy and relief and celebration in? Can I hold it all within me?

I'm getting baptized Easter morning. I'm trying to explain it to the little two. 7-year-old kind of gets it; 4-year-old doesn't. How do you explain these things to little ones? Sometimes they understand so much and sometimes so little. I don't want to assume they don't know what's going on. 7-year-old is going through her own falling-in-love-with-Jesus and is curious about the 5th graders' First Communion, Pastor washing their feet (yes! At Maundy Thursday's service, he washed the kids' feet!). Her eyes are opening to all these traditions and I still love how she ends her nightly God-blesses with her "and God bless God, Amen." Because, she asks, who is going to pray for God?

But here I am; the day is full of rain and drear. I suppose that's appropriate for a Good Friday. Educated ones, I ask you: why is it called GOOD Friday? What is GOOD about it? Isn't Easter Sunday the truly GOOD day? I feel so much sadness for Jesus suffering up on the cross at Calvary. His followers and mother and Mary Magdalene weeping for him. Wondering why Jesus is doing this, to what end? Did his disciples truly understand? Or perhaps they trusted him by faith. The way I trust my husband will support me if I should have a bad day.

I've prayed to truly have a more personal relationship with the Holy One. I walk slowly up the hill and can just barely make him out. Crows fly overhead. I can hear high-pitched laughter and shouting. The Romans torturing him. I pray to feel the pain, to realize, fully, what he is doing for us in that moment.

Jesus on the cross, all that time ago, can parallel how I/we are feeling right now. I watch in my mind and I see him suffering. I feel my own sins rise up in my chest, a sinking feeling, a guilty, awful lump in my throat. He is taking it from me. Besides the pain from the crown of thorns, besides the pain from the stakes rammed through the hands and feet, blood dripping down, he is pulling my sins out of me/us.

Do I realize that? Do I realize that whenever I do an unsavory thing, gossip, hurt someone, hurt myself, etc., that I can be absolved of those sins by confessing them to Jesus and truly feeling repentance? And repenting is not just saying, "Sorry, God, I won't do it again." It's feeling Godly sorrow instead of worldly sorrow. Worldly sorrow says that you are sorry you got caught. Godly sorrow is true sorrow for breaking God's heart.

I have so much to answer to, I see as I come closer to the cross.

I still have so much to learn.

Lord, let me learn. Let me feel you.

Tonight's Good Friday service has been described as "spooky" with the sound of the pounding of nails and the darkness of it all. Lord, let the children sit close to us and not be afraid. We will explain to them how after the darkness comes the light. And isn't that a great Godly lesson?

After the dark...

comes the light.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Waiting Game

I don't know if I'm just copying or echoing what musician Matt Maher says here about waiting, but I have to get this message out.

We all know how important Good Friday is.

And we all know how important Easter Sunday, the Resurrection, is.

But what about the day in-between, sandwiched in the middle, the day when people didn't know if Jesus had really died or if He would rise again, as He promised.

I can imagine that most of the populace thought that Jesus had, indeed, died. After all, to most he wasn't the Messiah yet, he was a powerful political leader there to overthrow the Roman government. To others, he was the Son of God, the One who would rise in just one day (after three).

So we have a great chasm between the people of Jerusalem. A variety of beliefs, shouts, and rejoices at His death. And then... some who cried.

What went on that Saturday? As Maher says in his 4-minute commentary, were they just waiting to see if Jesus would really rise from the dead or was it an ordinary Saturday for some? Do your work, feed the family. One more heretic and nuisance put to death on the cross. Go to sleep.

I'd love to hear what Christ's followers and adversaries were feeling that Saturday.

Maher comments on the concept of waiting, in general. We are a society of NOW NOW NOW. No waiting. We text immediately. We talk immediately. What we want we get immediately.

Back then, everything happened in its own time. Slowly. Oh, what slowness Saturday must have had according to the believers.

Maher and I both encourage you to sit in the "waiting" of Saturday. Don't try to get too much done too fast; don't talk too fast; don't do too fast. Just sit. Think on Jesus. Think on the people who loved him and were waiting those three days, mourning their Messiah, hoping against all other doubt that He would rise up.

Make this Saturday a holy day as well. Dedicate it to the art of waiting.

I end in prayer:

Dear Lord, please instill in me a sense of peace this Saturday before Easter Sunday. Allow me time to sit and reflect upon You and the people two thousand years ago - what they must have been going through. Let me not skip over Saturday in my anxiousness to jump from Your death to Your resurrection. For there are lessons in the waiting, too: patience, dedication, passion. Let me not rush or hurry; let me be meditative and still. I will look forward to Easter Sunday, but I will not forget You on Saturday or any other day. For every day is a day of waiting. We wait for Your return, even now, don't we. Be with me on the day of waiting, Heavenly Father. And on Easter Sunday, as I am baptized into the Christian faith (possibly for the second time; we're not sure) allow Your Spirit to wash over me in joy and celebration.

And to you, dear reader, I pray that you take the time to be still this Saturday. To embrace the art of waiting, realizing that good things do come. They do, they do.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Preparation

Friends, Holy Days are nearing. I am deep-drinking the Bible and this book, listening to worship music as I always do, delighting in precious 7-year-old's first stirrings of falling in love with Jesus.

I am sorry I have not written; I have been living quite a lot of different things lately.

But I had to come and recognize what is coming. He is coming. Redemption is coming. Sacrifice is coming. Forgiveness is coming.

I just made the date today with Pastor: I will be getting baptized at the 6:30am Easter Sunday service. What a joy! What excitement!

Arise, Jesus!

Lord, pour your water over my forehead.

I will officially begin my life in faith, following His steps, resting in His embrace.

What do these Holy Days hold for you?

Perhaps you'd like to try something new...

Take a look at these two links, talking about Passover and holding a Messianic Seder.

A Holy Experience

Getting Down with Jesus

Husband and I are going out of town for a wedding...I will be back full of readiness for a truly holy week.

Blessings to you.