Holy Holidays

Easter People

We are a paradox people.
We look at loss of prizes,
But by our cries of desperation,
God Almighty rises.

The world in search of power,
Sometimes within our titles,
But those who are the remnant,
Are found kneeling for survival.

“Hosannah” is the battle cry,
Not vengeance but request,
That God himself would save us-
He alone ease our distress.

We do not march with fear,
But with holy recognition,
That without his saving grace,
Ours is a hopeless condition.

He climbed the hill stripped naked,
Spat on and disgraced.
He gasped for breath and whispered
On his murderers, God’s grace.

All man considered holy,
Was finally exposed,
As fruitless acts of godlessness-
Stem of thorns without a rose.

Unprepared in a borrowed tomb,
His body lay in death.
Scattered were those close to him,
Confined to sabbath rest.

How could one rest without him?
Impossible endeavor.
Uncertain of the past,
And uncertain of forever.

“Hosannah” in her rising.
“Hosannah” in her care.
She gathered what she needed.
For death she was prepared.

Her heart already broken,
She clung to what she knew.
The air escaped her grieving lungs,
“Hosanna! Where are you?”

“Alive” was her answer.
The lips of angels reached her.
The start of something beautiful,
This world’s first Christian preacher.

This truth brought hope and fear,
It was Jesus that she needed.
Overwhelmed she wept until,
“Mary,” her King greeted. 

This tomb was meant for death.
This garden marked with sadness.
But God restores the shattered,
And gives us hope of gladness. 

If you are entering this Easter
Carrying burial preparations,
Certain evils can’t be changed,
No faith in restoration-

Set down your baskets and behold,
Christ, on whom you can rely.
He greets, by name, the mourning,
Feasting with those whose lips deny.

“Hosanna!” We are here.
We’re blessed because you hear us.
Though evil tempts with worldly gain,
We’ll chose to have you near us. 

Rejoice for he is Risen! 
Our King is risen indeed. 
His Spirit expanding his Kingdom,
Through those still in great need.

He will meet you when you seek him,
His expectations gracious.
His table has a place for you,
For the desperate, seats are spacious.

 


We are Easter People. The Kingdom of those reborn by the resurrection. 

Gather your people.

Raise your glasses. 

The Toasts of Easter Feaster

(Based on the 4 cups of the Passover Meal.)


The first toast is the toast of Sanctification. Now is a time to raise your glass and share a way you have been sanctified this year. Do you feel set apart by God? How so? How has God assured you that he is still active in your life?


The second toast is the toast of Salvation. What have you been saved from? Maybe it's a bad habit or sin that you are no longer enslaved by. Maybe it's a toxic mindset that you have been freed from. Maybe God spared you from a consequence you deserved. Tell us, how has Jesus saved you?


The third toast is the toast of Redemption. God makes broken things beautiful and revives dry bones. What has God redeemed in your life this year? Did you have any truly terrible things made beautiful by the presence of the Creator? What has been turned around in your life this year? What has been mended?


The fourth toast is the toast of Hope and Restoration. This is the toast of Kingdom still to come. We raise our glasses and say, "I believe God will make all things new, and once again, mankind and God will walk together in the garden." Proclaim your hopeful expectations. What do you long for that you know will come to pass when Jesus returns?

In a final toast, raise your glasses all together and say, "We praise you, Jesus. You are our King, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come. Hallelujah!"
 

Holy Saturday

Today is Holy Saturday, a day set aside by the church to remember the time between Christ’s death and his resurrection. As you prepare your heart and house for Easter, take time to contemplate the significance of Christ’s death.  


Below is an exercise in remembrance:

Set a timer for 5 minutes.

Spend that time in prayer, asking God to reveal new depths in the Easter story as you contemplate Jesus’ death and its purpose.  

 

Journey through Romans 6: 3-11. Follow the prompts and questions laid out below:

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Contemplate Christ’s death.

What does it mean to be buried with him?

How does that impact your life?

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Contemplate being united in Christ’s death.

What does it mean to be crucified with him?

How does that impact your life?

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Contemplate living with Christ.

What does it mean to to be alive to God in Christ Jesus?

How does that impact your life?

 

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Spend that time in silence. Contemplate Christ’s death and the tomb. Think about what it must have been like to be a follower of Jesus on the first Holy Saturday. Let the knowledge and thought of his death wash over you.


For the past several years, our community has taken a “day of silence” where we don’t listen to music, watch TV, or have any other form of audio distraction on the Saturday of Holy Week. We remember the hush that the disciples must have felt as they fearfully reflected on the previous day’s events. We consider what our faith would mean without the resurrection and what our destiny would be without his death.

Good Friday

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
— Romans 5:8

It’s easy to sanitize our faith, to look on our holiday and imagine the breaking of the fast and the candy/food/wine we are about to indulge in. To imagine the flowers and the hallelujahs seems to pull us through these last days of Lent as we prepare for our fasts to be over.

It’s just so easy to get lost in the minutiae.

Our society, our world says the mighty win. They conquer. But Good Friday turns that notion on its head. You can’t have resurrection without death. You can’t have Easter without the crucifixion.

If I were to gaze upon my faith story, I would be hard bent not to understand the Jews of Jesus’ time. They wanted a Messiah king, one that would overthrow the government and make all things right. Who doesn’t want a conqueror king? Who doesn’t want immediate Earthly vindication?

But what they got… what we got... was a dead rabbi hanging from a cross.  His flesh pierced and destroyed from lashes and spears. His bones not broken but his body poured out.

They wanted a King but they were given a sacrificial lamb.   

We underestimate God and we overestimate evil. We don’t see what God is doing and conclude that he is doing nothing. We see everything that evil is doing and think it is in control of everyone.
— Eugene Peterson

A son, a rabbi, a friend brutally executed.

The Son, God as man, submitting to death, even death on the cross.

A week ago I was assigned the task of playing Mary Magdalene for my church’s “Walk with Jesus” event. We created a tomb and dressed up as these characters exclaiming to children how Jesus’ body was gone from the tomb.

It struck me as I organized the sheets and the alter, how joyful I was in comparison to the actual Mary. It struck me how light the cross was with the knowledge of what was to come Easter morning.

This year as I reflect on Good Friday, I want to remember the cross and the death of the Messiah. But I also want to remember Mary. I want to remember her trembling hands as she wrapped his body in cloth. I want to remember her tear stained face as she watched her friend, the man who set her free from unspeakable evil, die a bloody, despicable death. I want to remember her helplessness as it seemed like evil won and the stone was rolled over his tomb. I want to remember.

Lord, help me remember.

On Good Friday, we await resurrection and we sit in the darkness. We sit like Mary. Our trembling hands and tear stained cheeks searching the cross for an answer to the brokenness. Our ears open to the silence, the scent of death wafting through our lives... We sit. We wait.

Lord, help us remember.   


Four suggestions for you and your community:

Make a bonfire with friends, reading the story of Peter’s betrayal, and confess your habitual sins over the year openly. Pray for each other as you remember your sins consequences on the cross.

Read over the crucifixion story, setting aside time to contemplate Jesus’ suffering for your sake.

If your church is not having a service, attend a church in your neighborhood that is hosting a Good Friday event. Take this day as a chance to remember with fellow believers from the Kingdom.

 

Maundy Thursday

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
— John 13:34-35

Community is hard. It’s messy and dirty. Mostly, it’s overwhelming. Today is Maundy Thursday, a day set aside in Holy Week to contemplate and remember the Last Supper and Jesus’ washing of his disciples’ feet.

On the night before Jesus was arrested and betrayed, he sat with his disciples and commanded them to love one another. The very same people that would shortly hand him to the soldiers and deny him, he reminded them of his love. The very same people who would soon abandon him, he reminded of his truth.

Jesus loved them. They were to love one another.   

Scripture knows nothing of the solitary Christian. People of faith are always members of a community. Creation itself was not complete until there was community, Adam needing Eve before humanity was whole. God never works with individuals in isolation, but always with people in community.
— Eugene Peterson

Sometimes I get this all wrong. I am messy and dirty. Mostly, I’m overwhelming.  I desperately want to be a solitary Christian. I don’t want to mess with the work and dedication it takes to build a community. It’s just easier to watch The Office for the 10th time. Communities, like families, are built on birth and redemption. They’re fortified by forgiveness and hard conversations. They are long nights of angry words and and early mornings of mercy.

They are not just Sunday morning sunshine.

Sometimes they’re Thursday nights of washing feet and getting to the bare dirt that we travel with. They’re clinking wine glasses and breaking bread as unknown trauma and death lies before us. They’re not just me and Jesus traveling this road in the sand. They’re me and His people on a pilgrimage up dusty paths, building a family of faith in the desert as we await his Kingdom.  

So as we travel towards Easter Sunday, let us pause today and remember the night of the Passover and Jesus’ desperate call.

Let us remember:

Jesus loves us. We are to love one another.


As we approach this Easter weekend, are you walking in community? If not, what keeps you from investing?

What do you think it means to be loved? How does it look? How does it feel?

What do you think it means to love like Jesus loves? How does it look? How does it feel?

What are some things you need to leave at the foot of the cross in order to love your community more deeply?


Four suggestions for you or your community:

Read the story of the Last Supper in Luke 22 and John 13, contemplating the significance of the event for both the original audience and for the Kingdom of God.

Invite your close community over for dinner and wash each others feet in remembrance of Jesus’ actions. Read the above sections to each other and discuss the ramifications of Jesus’ command.

Culturally, in the setting of the Lord's Supper, washing of feet was messy work. It was a task meant for only lowly servants. Consider a way you can engage in today's "messy tasks" for someone in your community. Offer to deep clean someone's bathroom or kitchen. Give the struggling parent some time away from their tantrum-ridden toddler. Get your hands dirty to show your neighbor love.

If your church community doesn’t have a service, attend a neighboring church and engage in the wider community of Christ followers.

Holy Week Activities for All

Over the years, we have compiled several different interactive ideas to assist you (and your family and friends) in celebrating nd worshipping during Holy Week.

I have them listed with child and family activities first, If you are looking for adult-only activities, scroll down to the Remembrance and Worship Section. 


 

Kids Activities for the Week 

 

Palm Sunday Reflection for Kids

Ask your child: Have you ever prayed for something and felt mad at God when he didn't give you what you want? Name a time you didn’t get what you want.

Read this to your child: It is hard to not get what we want. The Israelites had been waiting hundreds of years for the Promised One of God, the Savior, to come and rescue them and be their new King. When Jesus came everyone was so excited because they thought that God had finally sent them the messenger they had been waiting on! They were so excited that they threw their expensive coats down on the ground to keep Jesus’ donkey from walking on the dirt. It was like they rolled out a red carpet for their favorite celebrity!

In only one week some of these same people turned against Jesus, because instead of doing what they thought was best, Jesus did things God's way knowing it was better for everyone. Jesus taught hard things that made a lot of people mad because it didn't line up with their own plans and desires. But Jesus made a very special promise to the people who chose to trust him. He said that all who trusted in him, and believed in his power and goodness, could ask for anything and he would make it happen!

The important thing to realize is that God is not working to give everyone their way, but instead to give us everything we need to do things his way. And his way will always be the best way for us. So when you pray, always believe that God is POWERFUL and God LOVES YOU!

Action: What are things we can pray for this week that would help us do things God’s way instead of our way?

 

Clean Hearts Activity

You will need: 2 disposable plastic or paper cups per child, glue sticks, sand (or dirt or brown sugar), and water.

Give each child 2 cups. Have them use glue sticks and sand to make the outside of one cup dirty, and the inside of the other cup dirty. Encourage them to keep the opposite parts of the cup as clean as possible. When they have finished ask them if they are thirsty. Bring water over and ask them which cup they want to drink out of. As they decide, ask them: which cup is cleaner to drink out of? Did you notice that the one that looks clean isn’t actually clean? Wouldn’t it be best if your cup was clean on the outside AND inside?

Read to them: Matthew 23:25-28. Explain that it isn’t enough to just obey rules, or not get caught breaking them. Jesus has called us to have clean hearts- something only he can do for us.

Ask one of them (or you could depending on age and maturity) to pray that Jesus would make all of your hearts clean. "Thank you, Jesus, for giving us a way to be good in the eyes of God- by taking our punishment so that we could have your reward. You are the only one who can make us clean on the inside."

 

Anointing Devotion

Ask: What are some of your favorite, most valuable things? What is something you would NEVER throw away? (Hopefully they will answer with a favorite toy, food, or device).

What would you do if you saw your friend who also loved her ________ about to throw it away? You would want to stop her! (This question can be adapted. Example: - What if Mommy decided to throw away all of our _______?)

You wouldn’t want to just let someone throw away something that is really expensive or really special, right? That would be a waste! Well one of Jesus’ followers decided she was going to get rid of something very, VERY expensive, and Jesus told everyone that she did something really great. Let’s listen to the story and see if we can find out why she did it.  Pray that God would help you understand this story so that you can know him more.

Read: Matthew 26:6-13 in The Message. 

Points to encourage:

  • Mary chose to show that she honored and valued Jesus even if it cost her!
  • Because Mary decided to honor Jesus in her heart, her actions ended up being an even bigger deal than she realized. If we honor God in our hearts, minds, and actions, we can be used by God for BIG things!

             

How Jesus Prayed Devotion

Pray with your kids: God, help us learn from Jesus’ words and actions so that we can understand your will for us. Holy Spirit, help us all focus and be alert as we hear your Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Read: Matthew 26:36-46 in The NIV or The Message.

Ask: What do you think Jesus was feeling?

What did Jesus do when he had to make a choice between what was right, and what was easy?

  • He prayed honestly to God about how he felt, but didn’t doubt that God’s way was the right way.
  • When he knew the right thing was the hard thing, he chose to do it anyway and take courage in God’s faithfulness.

Aren’t we so glad that Jesus did the courageous thing? Because he decided to trust that God’s way is always best, we are able to do the same! We can pray to God when we are scared to do what is right, and God will give us strength to be brave like Jesus.

Ask: What are some things that God asks us to do that are hard or scary?

Pray with each other that God would give you strength to be like Jesus, even when it is hard.

 

All-Ages Tomb Activity for Good Friday

This Activity can be used for younger children as well as teens and adults.

You will need: Pens, multiple small pieces of paper, and a shoebox covered in paper to represent the tomb.

Have everyone (including yourself) write down the ways they have disobeyed God. For younger kids you may use this time to help them understand what sin is. It can be in our hearts (envy, greed, and selfishness) and in our actions (lying, cheating, violence). For older kids and adults, let this be a time of prayer and reflection. Consider including songs that reflect on the cross. Make sure that everyone participating knows that these sins will not remain private, and that whoever is leading the activity will see what is written.

Put all of the pieces of paper in the shoebox as a representation of the tomb. Read Isaiah 53 together and thank the Lord for taking on all of our brokenness. For younger kids, explain that Jesus died because he took on the punishment for all of our sin and with his death the power sin had over us was buried in the tomb. Close the box and put it somewhere visible as a reminder that our sins have been buried.

This activity will be completed with more steps on the next two days. 

 

Continued Tomb Activity for Saturday

Tonight before bed, whoever is leading the activity should take the box and open it.

For each sin, write down a corresponding gift of new life.  The list of the Fruit of the Spirit is a good place to start (Galatians 5:22-23).

For Example:

Sin: I lied to my friends and family.

Gift of New Life: You have forgiveness and freedom to live a life of truthfulness!

Sin: I have been mean to my siblings.

Gift of New Life: You have forgiveness and freedom to live a new life of kindness!

Leave the box opened and empty, like the tomb, for everyone to see tomorrow. Throw away or get rid of the sin papers. Take the Gift of New Life papers and do something fun with them. You may write them all of colorful paper (color assignments for each person) and integrate them into your current family traditions of an egg hunt. Or maybe you will have them spread across the table at breakfast, or hang them on each child’s mirror or door. However you choose is best for your family or friends, make sure you take the time to talk about and praise God that he not only took the consequence for our sin, but has given us New Life and freedom and power to live in a God-honoring way.  


Remembrance and Worship

 

Maundy Thursday- A Call to Commune. 

Four suggestions for you or your community:

Read the story of the Last Supper in Luke 22 and John 13, contemplating the significance of the event for both the original audience and for the Kingdom of God.

Invite your close community over for dinner and wash each others feet in remembrance of Jesus’ actions. Read the above sections to each other and discuss the ramifications of Jesus’ command.

Culturally, in the setting of the Lord's Supper, washing of feet was messy work. It was a task meant for only lowly servants. Consider a way you can engage in today's "messy tasks" for someone in your community. Offer to deep clean someone's bathroom or kitchen. Give the struggling parent some time away from their tantrum-ridden toddler. Get your hands dirty to show your neighbor love.

If your church community doesn’t have a service, attend a neighboring church and engage in the wider community of Christ followers.

 

Good Friday- A Call to Repent

Four suggestions for you and your community:

Make a bonfire with friends, reading the story of Peter’s betrayal, and confess your habitual sins over the year openly. Pray for each other as you remember your sins consequences on the cross.

Read over the crucifixion story, setting aside time to contemplate Jesus’ suffering for your sake.

If your church is not having a service, attend a church in your neighborhood that is hosting a Good Friday event. Take this day as a chance to remember with fellow believers from the Kingdom.

See All-Ages Tomb Activity above. 

 

Holy Saturday: A Holy Hush

For the past several years, our community has taken a “day of silence” where we don’t listen to music, watch tv, or have any other form of audio distraction on the Saturday of Holy Week. We remember the hush that the disciples must have felt as they fearfully reflected on the previous day’s events. We consider what our faith would mean without the resurrection and what our destiny would be without his death.

 

Easter Feaster

Plan a feast. If cooking is worshipful for you, then cook. If you don't have the money or know-how to pull off a feast, throw a potluck. If you have the money, cater. If you and all of your community lack both money and skill, bust out mac-and-cheese or hot dogs. Invite all the people. Invite the lonely and forgotten, and those you call close. 

At this feast, find a way for everyone to share a table or picnic blanket. Have the wine ready and as people finish their meal introduce the toasting time. (Based on the 4 cups of the Passover Meal.)

The first toast is the toast of Sanctification. Now is a time to raise your glass and share a way you have been sanctified this year. Do you feel set apart by God? How so? How has God assured you that he is still active in your life?

The second toast is the toast of Salvation. What have you been saved from? Maybe it's a bad habit or sin that you are no longer enslaved by. Maybe it's a toxic mindset that you have been freed from. Maybe God spared you from a consequence you deserved. Tell us, how has Jesus saved you?

The third toast is the toast of Redemption. God makes broken things beautiful and revives dry bones. What has God redeemed in your life this year? Did you have any truly terrible things made beautiful by the presence of the Creator? What has been turned around in your life this year? What has been mended?

The fourth toast is the toast of Hope and Restoration. This is the toast of Kingdom still to come. We raise our glasses and say, "I believe God will make all things new, and once again, mankind and God will walk together in the garden." Proclaim your hopeful expectations. What do you long for that you know will come to pass when Jesus returns?

In a final toast, raise your glasses all together and say, "We praise you, Jesus. You are our King, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come. Hallelujah!"

It Takes a Village

This Lent has been new for me.

Not in the stories or rhythm, rather it has been a different sort of dance. It’s a dance, not born of my desires or even best qualities, but a dance that is built upon some of my greatest weaknesses and insecurities.

Too many times I lead with my dominant foot. But, this year, I found myself swaying and stumbling far removed from my life of old, from the movements that normally make me comfortable, trusting that this new dance I am learning will make sense in the long road.  

Truth be told, I limit myself based on faulty notions about who I am and who I am not. That self induced truth strips me of many opportunities to serve God. Very rarely do I branch out to invest in things that cause me to feel like, maybe, just maybe, I don’t have ALL that is needed.

Every human activity can be put at the service of the divine and of love. We should all exercise our gift to build community.
— John Vanier

This weekend, me and my people, were blessed with the opportunity to watch two sweet baby boys so that two of our other people could finally get some well deserved rest. I found myself holding lots of babies. My role as Aunt Cookie is pretty secure. The jovial, delightfully overweight one of my friend group, I often find myself with babies and toddlers on my lap. I am truly, madly, deeply a comfortable person from my thighs to my giggle.  

Because of that, I struggle with discipline. Not one for rules either, I find it hard to enforce things and, to make it worse, it’s very rarely that I’m taken seriously when I do try.  

So as Kate and I watched these dear boys, we fell into a rhythm. She, a seasoned mom. I, a fun-loving aunt.

I know little about babies or children. I don’t even know that much about being an adult. Not surprisingly halfway through the day, I started feeling insecure about what I had to offer. What do toddlers even eat? (Answer: everything and yet nothing.) What am I doing? (Answer: I don’t know.) Which way does this dang diaper go? (Answer: Not that way.) How much poop is too much poop? (Answer: You’ll find out fast.) Can you OD on apples?  (Answer: TBD). On and on, I questioned myself and my ability. If I can’t be ALL things to these boys and my friends, what am I even doing?

Later that night, as I took it upon myself to put big brother to bed, I found myself at another hard place of not knowing if I was enough for what he needed. As the rain started pouring and I stared out the window pondering my next step, he came and crawled in my lap. We rocked in the squeaking rocking chair recounting the day as I laughed and jabbered on about my favorite parts. The park, O THE PARK, was great! The walk, O THE WALK, was great! Do you remember when we played in the sand? O that was great too. What a day, sweet boy, what a day!  

Pretty soon he was fast asleep in my arms.

That moment was humbling and beautiful for me. I can’t do a lot. There’s so much that I don’t know. There’s so much that I can’t offer. But I can rock that sweet baby to sleep.

When I think about the body of Christ, and what it means to live in the here-and-now of Lent and our salvation story, I will think of that rocking chair and that sweet boy. In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t have a lot to offer him. But I had willingness and presence.

Those boys didn’t need the best of me. They needed all of me. They needed all of us as a community of aunts and uncles. We needed to be all in it together, trusting each other to fill in when the moment called for, our strengths and weaknesses melding together in perfect unity.

Isn’t that what the church is to look like? Isn’t that what community is all about?

When I look at our journey towards Lent, I can’t help but be struck by this truth.

We are all wounded. We are all broken puzzle pieces trying to fit together in the grand narrative of faith. We are all desperately seeking community. We are all wounded, faulty pilgrims dancing to a song we don’t entirely know and can’t fully comprehend.

As we continue on this road to Easter, may we be filled with the assurance that all of us is enough for Christ our Lord. All of us is enough for our community.  

This weekend we lived out the truth that it takes a village to raise a baby. But, even more so, it take a village to be human.

We need each other. And God needs us as we are- fully human.  Faults, insecurities, flaws, and falls, every aspect of ourselves on full display with willingness and presence.

To God be the glory.

Doubt- A Poem About My Wandering Soul

Doubt 

Accusation fights me in a battle for truth.
You have saved me, yet I wonder.
You are the Way, yet I wander.

Was that really God? My memories weaken.
You are present, yet I wonder.
You call my name, yet I wander.

Perhaps this is all too crazy. I entertain.
You have given me life, yet I wonder.
You are the Truth, yet I wander.

Am I a fool, too far gone to keep believing?
You meet me in the darkness, yet I wonder.
You light me a path, yet I wander.

Don’t think, just escape. I whisper.
You offer me your strength, yet I wonder.
You never leave me, yet I wander.

This is too hard, I feel like fading.
You extend new mercies, yet I wonder.
You carry my yolk, yet I wander.

What is this? This place is empty. 
Was he ever here? I start to wonder.
Through the garden, I start to wander.

The flowers seem dim, and I am alone.
What has happened to my wonder?
How much longer can I wander?

“I have found you,” I hear softly.
How could you still love me, I wonder.
“From my love you cannot wander.”

He is the God who chases me.
How could I not follow him, I wonder.
Back to His path I wander. 

Along this path, I find life has color.
How did I ever doubt, I wonder.
Lord, from this life may I not wander.

The Shepherd leads the flock.
To him each sheep maintains her wonder.
He pursues all that wander. 


Encouragement

To those of you who doubt: you are not alone. The Good News, the Gospel of love, salvation, and life is for you. May Lent reconnect you with the greatest reality, the loveliest truth, and the hope of God's ever-present pursuit of his wandering sheep. 

Answer these questions:

How did I worship God this week?

How did I rebel against God this week?

In what ways will I commit to seeking His Kingdom purposes in this coming week?

Messy Praise

Messy Praise

Life Is Hellish

I’ve been in therapy for months now. Month after month after month I dredge up pain. Therapy has a way of centering your words, cutting out the casual and reaching the point of it all.

Trauma has visited my doorstep many times and waltzed through my life in an effortless dance of destruction. I am, at best, overwhelmed by it.

Thoughts and Prayers and Action

It seems like all of life is a rebellion, every waking moment a battle against mediocrity and hypocrisy. This first week of Lent was no different for me. Approaching this journey I stilled my heart for the inevitable reminders of death and pain. The palpable pain of loss is fresh in my daily existence of death certificates and probate attorneys.

But then the unexpected happened. Florida happened.

 

Gun shots. Death. A massacre of innocents.

 

Horror.

Through the days since, as is our culture, my social media was full of thoughts and prayers and calls for action.  Anger and sorrow poured from the screen as our entire nation grieved openly through their keyboards. We argued with our friends, lamented our politicians, and lambasted any opposing view.

What struck me, specifically in this Lenten season, was the open anger towards the “clanging cymbal” like call for “thoughts and prayer.”

It seems like the last few years our lives have been filled with constant refrains of “thoughts and prayers” from well meaning Christians, myself included, that have been absent any real action.

There are hungry in the streets? Thoughts and prayers.

There are fellow humans suffering under systematic racism? Thoughts and prayers.

There are children massacred? Thoughts and prayers.

We didn’t make them lose their job. We weren’t blatantly racist. We didn’t pull the trigger.

 

Thoughts and prayers.

 

I will spare you from echoing this refrain over and over in all sorts of contexts.

Now hear me. It’s not that thoughts and prayers are bad. They’re essential to our faith. It’s simply that devoid of action, they are hollow. They are lazy and disengaged.   

The great danger of Christian discipleship is that we should have two religions: a glorious, biblical Sunday gospel that sets us free from the world, that in the cross and resurrection of Christ makes eternity alive in us, a magnificent gospel of Genesis and Romans and Revelation; and, then, an everyday religion that we make do with during the week between the time of leaving the world and arriving in heaven.
— Eugene Peterson

My faith is a Sunday kind of faith. I feel at home within the walls of the church. I enjoy the bread and the wine, the body and the blood. The repetition of my faith ritual gives my faith flesh and bones.

But, if I were to be honest, the body of my faith lacks expression. It lacks the Monday through Saturday pilgrimage of faith. It is absent the faith-in-action dance that gives my faith its expression to the world. I am starving myself for need of action, for need of trust in this God who I claim to follow.

One of my favorite things about Jesus is that he got things done. When the woman came to him who could not stop bleeding, he didn’t reply “thoughts and prayers.” He healed her. He healed the lepers, gave the blind sight, and fed the multitudes.

He thought. He prayed. He acted.

Commanding his disciples, Jesus urged them to take up their cross and follow him. Not with just their thoughts and prayers, but with their life and their death, with their income and debts, with their victories and mistakes… with their actions.

That same Jesus calls us to do the same. He calls us to die to ourselves for the sake of his Kingdom. He calls us to forsake the darkness for the sake of the light. He calls us to leave our rights, our political leanings, our stubborn socio-economic labels at the door for something far greater than we can imagine. He calls for action.    

My hope is that we all experience a God this week who is present in our thoughts and prayers, but also, in our action. In a journey filled with death and destruction, may we dedicate our lives to the great pilgrimage of faith from our waking moments on Monday to our twilight hours of Saturday.  May we put action to our faith.

Truth be told, I’m tired of the same old refrains. I’m tired of hearing about our culture’s “heart problem”. I’m tired of the judgment on our so called “godless” nation (as if we were ever “God’s nation”). I’m just bone tired. The problem is not them. The problem is me. It’s me and my inaction. It’s me and my lack of faith.  

It’s time for a change.

I don’t know how this will look for me.

But it’s where I am. It’s where I am at in the gritty, messy reality of my faith. I’m exhausted from trying to live out a faith devoid of compassionate action, a faith dedicated to a God I don’t quite trust enough to live out through my physical body.

As we continue this march towards Calvary, may he give life to these old, creaky bones. May he bring resurrection to my dead mess. May he rescue me from my hollow, lazy, disengaged faith.  

May I be the kind of Christian who’s actions speak for her thoughts and prayers.


Answer these questions:

How did I worship God this week?

How did I rebel against God this week?

In what ways will I commit to seeking His Kingdom purposes in this coming week?

In what ways do you hope to engage your faith in action?