Monday, April 30, 2012

On Being... Or Not

(written April 29) Throughout the day, there have been assorted “deep thoughts” that ranged from pondering to brief glimpses of a truth still hidden below. The connection has been on the topic of “being” or existing, and it’s significance. Here’s the trail:

After 3 weeks of fluctuating, but almost constant, pain, there seemed to be an improvement late yesterday. It wasn’t that all pain was gone, but of the 3 primary areas, one of the major one had lessened. But alas! Rather than an improvement, it was just a tease.

"Why does it seem that one step forward leads to two steps back at times? The frustration is worse than not improving because you get to face disappointment once again," I wrote as my facebook status. That was fairly “bold” as I rarely post much concerning my medical situation. Though only those that are aware of the actual situation would understand the message beneath the words. Others might think it was something minor.

 A friend shared that she’d been listening to an interview on the radio that spoke to that. When I followed her link, I was led to an intriguing blog article,  “Contemplating Mortality: The Need to Remember That Death Is a Human and Personal Event, and Not Just a Medical One" (link to article)

This was a topic I have previously pondered at great length, though not so much recently  My initial interest in the subject was prompted by my parents’ deaths. My father’s death, in particular, taught me some important spiritual lessons. It affected me so much.that I wrote a book, The Valley of the Shadow,  about the experience, hoping to comfort others by sharing what I’d learned. 

The article, “Contemplating Mortality” was by Dr.Ira Byock. It was part of a series of things on the topic, “On Being,” which is fascinating. Some people avoid the topic of death, giving it an artificial power which haunts us.  The title and article reflected my own thoughts, that death, at worst, is simply another step on our life’s journey. But I believe it’s much more than just a part of the process. Death is a time of joy and celebration, at least for the one that dies.  

Dr. Ira Byock said, “That edge of life — which our miraculous medicine allows some to perch on longer than ever before — can be a time of unparalleled repair and celebration.”  This resonated with me, especially the part about "perching on the edge," as that's my status.

As far as accepting death, Lupus has been a part of my life for almost twenty years so there isn't a healthy/then sick moment. This chronic condition has been ignored because it’s “always there” yet has also been a shadow over my life, a quiet threat. While it was integrated into my life automatically, it has only been the past few years that I’ve really considered it’s real impact as the cumulative effect began to endanger my life. 

While I have always acknowledged lupus, the limitations imposed were not as graciously accepted. Though this determination to persevere has most likely led to at least a partial victory on my part. I didn’t roll over and play dead. My doctor once told me that while he greatly admired my positive attitude, at the same time, I was the most exasperating patient he had because I pushed the limits. As a matter of fact, I tended to reach the limit and then push on a bit more.

Once I was facing pending kidney failure, my doctors started talking to me about my need for palliative care, especially counseling, which was immediately refused. He was crossly told that he was capable of providing any medical care needed and I had a pastor to talk with if  I needed counseling.  Looking back, I now understand his suggestion. It doesn’t do any good to have a pastor available for counseling if he doesn’t know, and you don’t accept, the reality of the situation.

The thing I didn’t understand about palliative care was that it wasn’t just for dying, but for dealing with “life-limiting” illnesses, which lupus had certainly become. I saw it as the same thing as hospice for the end of life. Since I was working full time, I obviously wasn’t dying! While I never accepted the need, my doctors pretty much went on as if that were the plan. 

They treated the flares and resulting conditions, yet made sure I realized we were dealing with management, not curing. Since I’d been dealing with lupus for 15 years, the whole “management not curing” part was treated seriously. While others seemed to notice I was falling apart, I planned to continue on as if nothing were happening. (My head knew, but my heart refused to consider the possibility.) The other components, emotional and spiritual support, were covered, as I have an awesome lupus support group and close friends I confided in. Occasionally, I met with my pastor to talk, and in between, flooded him with lengthy letters, which he may or may not have read. 
When palliative care was suggested, I rebelled, as I didn’t need such a thing… or did I? Before this could ever be fully explored and answered, suddenly, by definition at least, I qualified for hospice care and was dealing with my own mortality. The news that various systems were doing worse, in a weird way, eased some guilt I had been feeling. It seemed that no matter how much I pushed, it was getting hard to keep going. This explained why. It wasn't "my fault" or lack of effort on my part, in other words.

On April 3, 2009,  I was told I had 6-9 months to live. It was a shock, but not a surprise. The experiences surrounding my dad's death just a few years earlier made news of my own impending death much easier to consider as I knew not to be afraid. As most people probably do, I did the math in my head and figured out this would fall sometime between early October, when my daughter was expecting her first child, and Christmas. 

My biggest concern at the time was how on earth would I tell my children? Or should I? At first, my pastor was the only one I told, and later, my best friends. They were told before my family because at the time, I needed the emotional support. My only grief was knowing it would make my children sad.  Telling them a few weeks later was the hardest thing I’d ever done. In the end, I wasn’t even the one that told them. They were all gathered there, but the words wouldn’t come, so my pastor stepped in and handled it.

This warning gave me time to deal with dying. It was a process of steps. The first few months, I think I was in shock. By the time I finished the school year  (and retired) I was beginning to consider options. As I prayed, read, and wrote out my thoughts, my overwhelming thought was my children.  My own mortality didn’t bother me nearly as much as concern for them.

By June, I started to consider what I wanted out of life and began to wrap up loose ends. This involved a visit to my beloved mountains and a reunion with extended family. My daughter, dealing with her first pregnancy, seemed in denial about my condition. In one of our few conversations about it that summer, the subject of Christmas came up. I said I hoped I’d be there. She said, “You have to be! You can’t die during Advent!”  (I'm a little obsessed about Advent, writing devotionals, planning church activities, and decorating multiple trees, so understood her response.) It was then I realized that she wasn’t even considering the possibility that I might not live to see her child born.

When I was told 6-9 months, my usual optimistic self translated that into a year. But in the back of my mind, especially as I felt worse and worse, I knew that the original prediction could be correct.  By early fall, as things were falling into place, I felt completely at peace spiritually. It became almost an obsession to hang on to see Noah born. While I didn’t expect us to get to know each other, I knew how hard it would be on my daughter if I didn’t get to meet him. This was probably the only time I prayed about wanting to live, wanting to be there for his birth.

Dealing with death is an interesting experience. We all have thoughts about “someday” yet most likely, others were like me and didn’t really dwell on it other than in an abstract way.  Because I was no longer working, and really wasn’t too concerned about earthly problems down the road, I was free to spend the time reflecting and talking to God. While sad for my children, personally, I began to be more curious than anything.

Unlike someone who, in the midst of an otherwise busy life, is diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer, my mind was in a place to work on acceptance easier than many.  Watching organs get worse over the years, in the back of my mind, I knew that someday, this would kill me. I wasn’t suddenly struck down by a tumor or some surprise condition.  In my case, I “only” had to deal with death, not a new illness as well. Also, my faith was already an integral part of my life, so wasn’t dealing with this. In many ways, I was fortunate.

Hosparus, our local hospice organization, has a motto, “Because the end of life is part of living.” I believe that became my mantra.  Death isn’t a scary event to fear, but a part of the progression towards eternity. The more I considered this, the more at peace I felt. By late fall, I was really ready to go without regrets.

Then, lo and behold,  I didn't die. It's been 2.5 extra years so far. At first, the “bonus time” was great. That first winter was rough and I felt pretty bad. However, it did give me a chance to get to know Noah and I was grateful. In January, just a week past my "expiration date," I had my first heart attack, followed by pneumonia in February.  But then I quit getting worse. The disease seemed to stabilize.

This current stage, living in limbo, is actually quite  frustrating. I get annoyed at limitations, and then I feel guilty when I consider that I wasn’t even “supposed” to be here! The continuous peace I felt is broken up by frustration and even boredom at times. There hasn’t been a time in my life that I had this much free time, yet unfortunately, I can’t really take advantage of it as I’d like. There are days when I do things. Life has enjoyable moments, especially when grandchildren are present, but there’s also the  knowledge that things could change suddenly. It’s ironic that we could now be surprised by a sudden death, when in reality, we’ve had 3 years warning, and it really won’t be a surprise.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fab Friday: The Minister's Visit

It's Friday, so once again I'm sharing something I've written. Today's selection is a funny story from Whenever Possible, Have a Nice Day.

My mother was a fine Christian woman. She cleaned her house, took care of her children, and made sure everyone was properly fed. She also entertained the minister of the church in a way he probably remembered for quite a while.  
Click here for the story: The Minister's Visit

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mercies in Disguise

In order to have a beautiful, flourishing garden, there must not only be sunshine, but rain.  We look at the flowers and appreciate their beauty without thinking about the weeding, the hard work, or the rain. Yet they are crucial.

Life is like that, with good times and bad times, sadness and joy.  
To everything there is a season....

There is a song called "Blessings" by Laura Story that touched me again recently. I'd heard it before but needed the reminder. She speaks of our prayers; for peace, for protection, for wisdom, and to ease suffering, but then asks questions, questions that struck a nerve with me.   

What if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights 
are what it takes to know You're near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

 "What if?" In my experience, there have been many blessings that were the results of raindrops, or the storms of life. As I've lived through these hard times, my faith was strengthened.  If I had not had these trials, would my faith have had the chances to grow? Would I have learned to appreciate all the blessings?

Yes, sometimes healing comes through tears, especially when it is after we release our own control and allow God to take it. It is after the struggles, after the tears.... after the many, many sleepless nights when we worried and were in despair - yet then realized God is there in the midst. Indeed, would I even be writing at 2 in the morning if not struggling, and seeking to commune with God?

What if the trials, the hardships and worries, are really mercies? What if the things that happen are the best that could be? what if they are the lessons God is using to teach us?

I love this song because I relate to it. She expresses something so well, putting my feelings into words, into a song. Because the words resonated to me, I suspected that she too, had spent nights worrying over the hard times in life.  When I did a little digging, I found out that this song was written after her husband had a brain tumor that almost killed him. She lived through the sleepless nights, probably shedding many tears, and struggled as she watched her husband have to relearn how to do things. His memory and vision are still affected, yet as he gets stronger and recovers, her faith grew stronger as she got closer to God.

There are many specific examples I could use to show you how this song reflects my life.  But it is not necessary, because you have your own memories of such times. If it were not for these times, neither of us would be the person we are now, right? I hope that like me, your struggles brought you closer to God. If not, please seek Him, and allow His touch to heal your heart. I truly appreciate the things I've survived, as they remind me of the mercy God has shown me.  Remembering this reassures me that there's nothing in the future that will be more than I can handle, since I won't be handling it alone.

The raindrops in my life strengthened me and provided me with peace.

"Blessings" lyrics and link to the song

Monday, April 23, 2012

Morning's Hope

"Why ME?" I thought... and almost instantly God replied, "Why not you?"

God never promised that nothing bad would ever happen to us, or that times wouldn't be hard. But what He DID promise was that He'd be with us always.  When faced with these times, we are given a reminder that we're not alone. The despair can be replaced by acceptance and a resolve to not let this get us down. 

If we never had hardships, we'd never receive the blessings God provides through them. Would I have sought God in the stillness of the night if all were going well? Would I have listened in the quiet for the calm reassurance?

Where does my strength and inspiration come from? Certainly not from me, as I am weak and scared, but from God.  Each obstacle overcome builds resilience that is used in overcoming the next one. As I travel the journey, I am not alone, but am surrounded by those that help and encourage me. Hopefully, I can also help and encourage them as well.

Thank you, God.  I praise you for the peace and comfort you've brought me in the midst of hardships this morning.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fab Friday: Shelter in Times of Trouble

It's "Fabulous Friday," the day I share something from one of my books. When I was looking for what to share today, I came across this and it helped me. I hope it speaks to you as well. Peace.

Sometimes, life is overwhelming. The big things cause stress, but it’s the little things, the constant stream of problems, that seems to wear us down. It is easy to feel discouraged.  Then, the physical problems become internal ones and they eat away at us, robbing us of peace.

To read the message, go to  Shelter in Times of Trouble

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whenever Possible, Have a Nice Day!

We often tell people, "Have a nice day!" and sincerely mean it with the friendliest of intent. For several years, I had "Have a Nice Day!" and a little smiley face at the bottom of all my e-mail messages. Yes, I did mean it - for why would I want you to have anything less?

Then one day, I had a not so nice day, which frankly, wasn't that uncommon where I was teaching at the time. I saw the perky little yellow guy and thought, "Who are YOU smiling at? ME? Well, you can jump in the lake!" Suddenly, I realized that some days are just NOT nice days - who was I fooling? Furthermore, it was pretty nervy of me to insist, "Have a nice day" as if the reader could just do that. No matter how positive the attitude, some things are beyond our control.

It was at that moment that I not only changed my e-mail tagline, but began to appreciate the effort required to have nice days at times. "Whenever Possible, Have a Nice Day," I wrote. Sometimes, it's just not possible, so don't beat yourself up over it!

Those of you that have been blessed :) with my e-mail for a time, remember when I had that as part of my signature, and you might have wondered why it changed. Now you know.  For whatever random reason, a few years later I decided I wanted to share humorous stories and other things that might help a grumpy person in his quest for a nice day. I gathered them all up and made it into a book. The natural title was "Whenever Possible, Have a Nice Day!"

So, you, the person reading this... IF it is at all possible today, have a nice day! 
 Want to know more about the book I mentioned?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fab Friday: The Shepherd

On Fridays, I share something I've written in the past with you. Today's excerpt is from the chapter called, "Going Home," in the book, "The Valley of the Shadow."

It's not the entire section, but is an account of an extraordinary event that happened with my dad and I shortly before he died. I PROMISE you will be touched.

Click here to go to the blog entry The Shepherd

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Science and God

Notice, I said, "Science AND God," not "Science OR God," which is significant.  People like to put things neatly away in little categories, whether it be socks, kitchen utensils, or "biggies" such as politics and religion.

And once these things are labeled and categorized, they are to stay where you placed them, right? Politics party candidate X says that, "blah, blah, blah" and if you identify with Party X, you agree, right? Not necessarily. But that's a debate for another day.

Back to science. There are those, especially those that see themselves as "Ultra Christians" (whatever that means) or UC, that view science with disdain. Obviously, science and religion are on opposite ends of a spectrum! At the very least, science is evil.

Really? Well, let's look at science. Due to scientists, and scientific thinking, we can now treat illnesses as little more than annoyances that might have been deadly a century ago. "Okay, that's cool," says UC. And scientists learned about nutrition, and can prevent diseases from even starting. (UC is still nodding, okay) Scientists discovered components in plants that can actually heal people. (UC is looking wary.) Then, scientists learned that by using stem cells from the patient's own body, heart tissue can be regrown. "Whoa! Stem cell research? that's awful!" says UC. Even if it saves a person's life?

Okay, forget biology for a moment. What about chemistry? Learning how things are made up, and combining with other things, changes the world! "Like atomic bombs?" says UC. I was thinking more along the lines of DNA information, and drug combinations that save lives, but yes, bombs, too. But this same power is used to blast through rocks, enabling roads to be built through mountains... not always bad, eh?

Physics tells us what things are made of, how it works, and what is happening. It's learning about the depths of the ocean floor and the vastness of the universe. I saw an interesting article today, called "Myth Busting," in the Religion + Life series by Elaine H. Ecklund. She interviewed scientists about their religious and spiritual beliefs, which are not necessarily one and the same.  Many unscientific people feel that there's little spirituality in the scientific community.

"Ecklund found instead, "a kind of searching spirituality" among scientists. Approximately 70% see themselves as spiritual."   (How many professed Christians view themselves this way?) Ecklund continues, "Even those who are outside of the faith community are looking for higher order meaning and purpose.""

My POINT? I don't think it's a matter of 'Science OR God' but instead, 'Science AND God' at work here. God provided plants that have many hidden benefits. God designed us with a sense of curiosity about the world around us. He gave us a sense of caring so that we try to help others. God gave us brains - so I don't think He intended us to sit around and not use them.

In college, I took some physics classes from Dr. Sears, who was an astro-physicist before teaching. He spent many hours looking through telescopes at quasars, and distant stars beyond our galaxy, and searched for black holes.  Of all the things he said during the 4 classes I took from him, I most remember two things.

During the "Physics for Elementary Teachers" class, we were learning about light and color. He explained how rainbows were formed, and why grass was green and the sky was blue. But he said, "If your students don't understand the science, you can just tell them, 'Because that's how God wanted it' and they'll be satisfied."  (This was in the 1970s, before God was kicked out of schools.) 

Then I took an Astronomy class from him. It was hard, since it was for physics students, not elementary ed majors, but was still quite interesting. (He answered my questions, no matter how dumb, the way he did in the other classes, while at the same time using "sciencey" words for the Physics majors that understood them.)  One day, in a lecture on the vastness of the universe, a student questioned him about how it was created.  He said, "I used to be an atheist, convinced that science explained everything, and that there was no God. Then, the more science I studied, the more I saw the perfect orderly way things were composed and the great vastness of it all, and the more I realized that there HAD to be a God, so I went searching for Him until I found Him." 

Like me, Dr. Sears has no problem with balancing a belief in God with the 'Big Bang Theory' as they do not have to be exclusive of one another. We once had a conversation over a Coke at the student center about it. I said that this theory made sense to me, as it could very well have been the way the universe was created, a process of different atoms doing whatever it is they do, causing a huge explosion, creating everything and moving out towards space. My theory is that it was all caused by God, just not some random occurrence. He agreed.

Some seek to understand how God created the universe. Others believe the Big Bang moment created it. I believe that God created the Big Bang in order to create the earth. It's Science AND God, not or.

want to know more about Ecklund's article? Here it is:
And yes, the term "Ultra Christians" was coined by me. This explains why you've never heard of it. 
Please visit my blog anytime. It's
Link to My Blog  Comments welcomed.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Joy of the Lord

"The Joy of the Lord is My Strength"  
Sometimes, people quote scriptures and it seems automatic, and we might miss the very real meaning found within. These words are found in several places in scripture,  with slight variations. In college, we sang it as a praise song, and it's hard to sing it without cheering up.

For years, people have praised my positive attitude, my strength when things seemed too tough to handle. But sometimes, I'm not cheerful. Some days I'm downright discouraged, even glum.  Sometimes, I'm worn out and tired of pain and really wish I could just give up. And then I feel like a failure, because I don't have a "right" to be depressed. I've been blessed over and over and I should be so grateful that I couldn't ever be sad, right?

But as I listened to the birds singing, I thought how happy they sounded. It reminded me of God taking care of the sparrows, so would even more care for me.  And then in a flash, I thought about how God has seen me through so many things in my life, the routine, the stressful, and the sad. God has been my strength in the past, is now, and will be in the future. 

Suddenly, I thought, "The JOY of the Lord is my strength" and I realized how true this is. When have I felt closest to the Lord? When have I felt the strongest? When I praised Him, and acknowledged Him. and even, when I leaned on Him.  When I feel the joy of the Lord, then I am strong.    

So, today, I will look for joy. And you know what? I suspect it'll be there waiting for me.  

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Will the REAL Easter stand up?

Sometimes, it's as if there are two Easters...
When our kids were growing up, Keith and I were both on the church staff. Keith was in charge of the music program and planning the worship services.  My role was usually Children's Ministry and at various points, church secretary, and on the Worship team.

Preparing for Easter was a busy, involved process. People have no idea how involved it is behind the scenes, from getting the ashes for Ash Wednesday to moving lilies after the final Easter service. There were Lenten Bible Study groups that kept the scripture "real" or grounded. But behind the scenes, there was a choir cantata to prepare, an Easter Egg hunt to organize and run, special bulletins to prepare, an Easter breakfast to set up, and all the special Holy Week services. We had services for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the Sunrise Service, and the Easter Service.

Of course, none of this was in a vacuum, as in addition to church work, we both had other full time jobs, had children to raise, soccer games, and the little league baseball season often started about then, least we have a moment of free time.

And then there's the "behind the scenes behind the scenes" work to do. Easter involves dying Easter eggs with the kids, and preparing a special Easter meal, our special "Bunny Cake" to make, as well as the shopping involved to do so. Then there are the clothes... little boys suits, new shirts and a tie, and frilly little girl dresses. Don't forget the accessories - pretty spring hats, hair bows, lacy tights, and gloves! And shoes all around... everyone needed new Sunday shoes and the tennis shoes were generally replaced at the same time while we were there.

And Easter baskets? What? the stupid rabbit didn't actually deliver them?  This would explain why, in our house, the "basket" might be a new baseball glove, or a pretty hat, or even a new baseball cap, new tennis shoes, or buckets for the sandbox.  They were filled with the accessories of Easter, along with a bit of candy, some small toys such as stickers or a coloring book...  bubbles and a new kite were often included as well. The Easter Bunny was pretty ignored, which may explain his lack of generosity in helping with the process.  But somehow it all came together, as our smiling, beautifully clad children looked happy on Easter Sunday.

It'd be easy to get so involved with all the trappings of Easter, that we forget the real meaning.  Palm Sunday brings us back in line as we think of the week ahead. Maundy Thursday reminds us of the great love Jesus showed us, and His lessons on love and the example of the Last Supper, which we follow each time we take communion. Then, the agony remembered on Good Friday, makes the rejoicing of Easter even more special. "Up From the Grave He Arose!" I think of the chilly sunrise services over the years, and the glory of the sun filling the sky as a glorious reminder of the Son that was victorious over death, bringing us grace that paid for our sins. "He LIVES!"

This Easter, our daughter Emma invited us to attend church with her family, her husband Rudy and her son Noah. We have reservations for our Easter Dinner at a restaurant afterwards. It's a far cry from planning the service, seeing it come together as expected, and cooking for days. But it's still Easter, and our Savior is Risen. THAT is why we have Easter.

One of my favorite Easter songs is "He's Alive!" by Don Francisco. Enjoy, and remember the real Easter.
 click to hear He's Alive! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sunday's a Comin'

This is the last day of Lent, the day after we remember the crucifixion. It is still a somber occasion, even though we know the ultimate outcome. As we are preparing to celebrate Easter, our Jewish friends are observing Passover.

Years  ago, I heard a preacher do a sermon titled, "It's Friday, but Sunday's a Comin;" that I always think of this time of year. We hate the agony of the cross on Good Friday, but it's good that we remember it.

We need to acknowledge and consider the depth of the sacrifice made on our behalf.

But what of those that were there? Judas felt so awful for betraying Jesus that he threw the coins at the priests, and then hung himself in shame.

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." And they said, "What is that to us? You see to it!" Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself.
Matthew 27:3-5

Those guarding Jesus on the cross saw everything that happened when He died and realized that they had killed an innocent man, the Son of God.

Jesus was taken down from the cross, then placed in a borrowed tomb.  

As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.
Matthew 27:57-60

The disciples feared that they would also be killed now that Jesus was gone. They hid together, waiting to see what would happen.

The Pharisees tried to save their reputation.

The chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. "Sir," they said, "We remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise again.' So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first."
Matthew 27:62-64

And Pontius Pilate went to great lengths to make SURE that the tomb was secure!
Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard.
Matthew 27:65-66

Yes, it was indeed a somber and frightening time for all those that knew and loved Jesus. Those that had betrayed Him, especially the religious officials, were probably nervous. The disciples were devastated and feared for their own safety.

However, in the back of our minds, unlike those that witnessed it, we know that "Sunday's a Comin'" and that Jesus overcame death, coming back to life on the third day.

When things seem darkest, then and now, God provides and uses unseen possibilities we cannot even imagine.

from my book, "Living What We Believe"

Friday, April 6, 2012


Today's "Fab Friday" message is on Sacrifice, a post from my book, Living What We Believe. You can click this link to read it: Sacrifice 

The Scripture of the Crucifixion

It is Good Friday, good because of what was made possible on this day, yet was the darkest, most tragic day imaginable at the time.  Here is an account, from the scriptures, so that we might remember. 

And when they had come to a place called Golgotha, that is to say, Place of a Skull, they gave Him sour wine mingled with gall to drink. But when He had tasted it, He would not drink. 

Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet:“They divided My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.”

Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him:

Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left. And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!”

Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink. The rest said, “Let Him alone;  see if Elijah will come to save Him.”                                               

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.            

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
          Matthew 27:33-54

Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Week: The Week That Changed History

Praises by the crowds filled the air as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Just as Mary rode a donkey into Bethlehem before He was born, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on one before death, fulfilling prophecy.

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey”     Zechariah 9:9

Jesus was greeted as a King, with people spreading their coats and palm leaves on the path. “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” they shouted.

We celebrate this day, calling it Palm Sunday, in memory of the palm leaves they used. Today, the children usually make a processional, waving palm leaves joyously.   A week later, we celebrate Easter, the day our Savior was resurrected. But in between, the days changed the course of history. Jesus continued to teach as He was hassled by the religious leaders.  He was even betrayed.

And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money.  So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.   Luke 22:2-6

As they observed a Passover meal, Jesus told of a new covenant, and of the sacrifice they couldn’t understand. He gave us the Lord’s Supper and reminded us to love others. We commemorate this on Maundy Thursday.  Afterwards, Jesus models true willingness to follow God’s will as He prayed in the Garden. Unfortunately, scriptures also tell us of the betrayals, false accusations, and the mockery of a trial that followed.

But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!”Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”  So Peter went out and wept bitterly.    Luke 22: 60-62

But all of these things had to happen. The same crowds that praised Him earlier, shouted cries of “Crucify Him!” a short time later.

Pilate, therefore, wishing to release Jesus, again called out to them.  But they shouted, saying, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him!”   Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.”   Luke 23:20-22

The week began with cries of, “Hosanna!” but they turned on Him and the week ended in despair, without a hint of what was to come on the third day.  It makes us wonder, “Do we praise God one day, then do things that disappoint him, or even betray Him, the next?”

from my book, '"Living What We Believe"   (reading for day 35)