Saturday Mourning

Death is a natural consequence of life We all have been touched by the loss of someone close to us. The initial shock of that loss begins at the moment the last breath was taken — a shock that can last for days, months, and even years. And then there are those milestone moments when, at a given day or time, we realize that we are facing those markers alone — without our loved one. After the crucifixion and death of Jesus on Friday, his family, friends, and followers awoke to a Saturday they weren’t prepared for. In this Saturday mourning, they found themselves with questions, wanting to believe in resurrection but faced with the harsh reality of a silent grave.

Saturday Mourning

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This was a Saturday and a day of Sabbath for Christ’s followers that brought no rest. It was a day of doubts and fears. And, oh, such incredible sadness.

But Saturday mourning brought something else. A stirring experienced by even the strongest believers that plans should be made and new courses charted. The bits of uncertainty begin to clump together and the inner voices began to assert, “It’s all up to me. I am in control. Take charge and put aside all else.”

Yet, the message of Jesus’ life is one that says, “I am enough . . . Leave your burdens to me.” In the dark recesses of Saturday mourning, our earthly clinging causes us to desperately claw at what’s around us, demanding to understand, demanding to make things right, and sincerely pleading for all the broken pieces to be put back together again. And a stubborn determination to do it all ourselves.

Saturday mourning is a necessary part of the walk through the valley of death. For when we finally throw ourselves, exhausted, on the bed of our human frailty, we begin to see the outlines of sunrise on a new horizon. And in the waning moments of Saturday mourning, we begin to hear God’s voice, “It’s all up to me. I am in control. I am in charge and you need nothing else.”

Oh, my God! Good Friday!

Never in the history of the world have so many people called out to God as they do today. The problem is that they do it, in the language of my faith heritage, “in vain.” Our Creator is called on to damn things on one end of the spectrum and to observe the cuteness of puppies on the other. But today is a day that is fitting to tweet and to post OMG! It’s Good Friday!

Good Friday

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This is the day that the universe slows down as it remembers a day of prayer, betrayal, trial, injustice, torture, anguish, prayer, death, and loss. Today is the day that angels hold their breath and theologians shove their hands in their cloaks to cross their fingers. Today is the day we wait to see if the foundations of Heaven will be shaken. Oh, my God! It’s Good Friday!

This Friday is the heart-stopping crest of the roller coaster of Holy Week. Today is that moment the Ferris Wheel chair shudders and swings limply in the wind . . . and you can hear the clear groan of steel under stress. This Friday is the day that hearts hurt so much that we call out for relief. Oh, my God! It’s Good Friday!

This day is bearable now, after centuries of history, because we know of the days to follow. We know the mourning of Saturday and the morning of Sunday. For many, this day is a holiday with weight placed other places . . . with projects to do and people to see. For others, it’s only another day. And for those who see no difference, we pray. Oh, my God! It’s Good Friday!

We have a Savior. He is Christ, the Lord. Whether you carry His story with you or continue to look for the Answer, I hope just for a moment, you’ll pause and say, “Oh, my God! It’s Good Friday!”

Phases of Life

What are you looking forward to?

Rarely a day goes by that I don’t find myself in a conversation with someone who has no idea of what I’m talking about. It’s all about context, you see. OK. Sometimes it’s about my inability to communicate clearly. But most of the time it’s about context. Our phases of life just don’t match up.

phases

It’s disheartening sometimes to mention a song, or a movie, or a book — or a President! — and have the other person look back at you with a puzzled expression. I sometimes inwardly groan as I anticipate how hard it will be to bring this person to my level of experience.

But then I think “I don’t have to.” Each of these good folks have their own phases of life to look forward to. Looking back at mine is not something they need to invest in. And, to a large extent, it’s really not something I need to invest in.

We all have a chance to live our phases. We can only imagine what those times will bring.

NEAT Communication – Effective

How much time do you invest in your choice of words? If you’re like me, you really want to get them right the first time — and you are a little impatient if you have to repeat them. We want to be known as effective communicators.

Yet, what are the rights words? We have to judge the moment . . . and the audience . . . and the culture . . . and the impact of the eventual soundbite that will be distilled from what we say.

And, for most of our communications, this all must be done at the speed of sound.

In this mini-series on “NEAT Communication,” we are looking at the four elements that set us apart as excellent communicators: Necessary, Effective, Accurate, and Timely. One element, without consideration of the other three, can be devastating to our meaning. The effectiveness of what we say or attempt to convey is part of a broader package.

Memes.007To be truly effective, ask yourself these three questions before speaking (or writing a text or email). It’s an easy exercise with dramatic potential.

  1. Have I “listened to the end?” A major detractor to effective communication is our failure to fully hear the other side of a conversation. Don’t worry so much about when you can jump in. Pause. Reflect. If you’re not certain, ask curious questions.
  2. Do I want to nurture conversation or simply end it? Chances are, if you are wanting to end a conversation, your choice of words may be effective for that purpose. However, similar to the “win at all costs” approach to life, the lingering aura of negativity will limit your present relationships as well as those that will be preempted by your reputation. Respond in a way that keeps the conversation viable, even if you must interrupt it in the moment. Choose words that convey your thoughts in clear, but non-threatening language. A phrase that threatens only escalates the conflict.
  3. If I repeat what I am about to say, will it have the same meaning that I intended in the first moment? When confronted with their own hasty words, people often reply, “That’s not what I meant!” That sentence is not particularly effective, because it’s too late. (See the upcoming post on Timely.) After pausing and reflecting, speak slowly. Don’t be afraid of a little silence as you craft your meaning. If the other person is impatient, ask them for a moment to make your words right. In most cases, the first meaning assigned to your communication is the one that will survive.

Choice of words is a mixture of knowledge and wisdom. Words do matter and the right words will set you apart — and save your relationships and your reputation.

Toward a More Contemplative Lifestyle

and why that can be downright scary

I’ve always wanted to be a great thinker. Unfortunately, I have discovered that it requires me to be more contemplative.

Contemplative

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Spending time raking through my thoughts is not always my idea of a good time. In fact, at the end of a trying day I often just go to bed and flip that big switch marked “I don’t want to think about it any more.” The great thing is that God made our brains to restore and renew themselves so some sorting and other helpful things happen when I’m asleep. I’ve often thought that I am much more intellectually effective when I’m asleep. Was it not for my snoring, I think that others would agree.

I do want to encourage contemplation — both in my self and others. Watching political debates and “person-on-the-streets” interviews during the last few months has convinced me that most of us don’t do enough in terms of contemplation. Instead, we use our most primal instincts — those of fear and satisfaction of our basic desires — to take a position and dedicate our very being to it. Some of those positions go beyond just being. Some of them will require our very souls.

I saw a meme on the internet this morning. It went something like this:

The Case for Contemplation
The dead are unaware that they are dead. Their existence continues. The consequences of their deaths are felt only by those around them. In that way, striking similarities exist between those who have died and those who fail to think.

We all face tough decisions. It will take an effort. But let’s all be more contemplative.