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

photo credit: Breno Machado/unsplash.com

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.

A Brand New Year!

A brand new year!

It is always my hope that I will do better in a new year. Better diet, more exercise, less sin, more friends, and a lot more family.

Yet, I never seem to get there.

Pounds cling to my body, chances to stretch and to strengthen are too often left by the wayside, I do what I want — even when I don’t really want it, I sit alone and I think about me too much.

I’m excited about a brand new year. Despite my failings to improve in my 60+ years, I still have hope. In fact, in many ways I have done better year after year at many of these resolutions. It’s just that I have had such a long way to travel — and the path stretches out in front of me for quite a ways.

As I age, I’m becoming more and more aware of the danger of emphasizing SELF-improvement over a joyous, focused effort to walk closely with God.

Better times are often less a product of what we avoid and more the result of what we actively pursue.

That’s where we should be headed this year. No doubt, we may veer from that course from time to time. But with eyes trained on Him, we can’t help but do better.

Happy New Year!

Opening the Package

A post Christmas post

The package.

Opening the package is a necessary part of the joy.

Christmas gifts can occupy a lot of our time. Coming up with just the right gift. Wrapping it in just the right paper. (Unless you’re like me and forgot to get wrapping paper — so, whatever scraps are left from many Christmases ago on the rolls still stacked in the closet.) Finding a complementary bow. Writing on the little, tiny Christmas tag. Blowing on the writing to keep the ink from smearing. Placing the package in just the right space under the tree — not right out front, but conspicuous enough to draw interest. And all of that is just Phase One.

Phase Two begins when the gift recipient notices the package . . . and begins to wonder about what’s inside. The left side of their brains begin to calculate size and possibilities. Perhaps, when everyone is away, they heft the package to get a better idea of weight and volume. And then, they wonder about the contents.

At the designated time for opening, we smile with pleasure as Santa’s designated helper places the present in the recipient’s hands. A wash of anticipation reaches peak velocity. And then, the decision. Should the package be unwrapped neatly, without tearing the paper? Or should the wrapping be fully exploited, ripped to smithereens? Most choose a thorough trashing of the paper, a messy exercise of exuberance. And that’s Phase Three.

Then, the moment comes. The somewhat unknown, but much-desired, treasure is in hand. For some, it is the object of wishes and hints. For others, it is a surprise, bringing pleasure from the thought behind the giving. Phase Four begins. Living with the package and all of its meaning and often its utility.

Christmas giving. Christmas receiving.

Our ultimate Christmas package comes in those four phases, as well.

For centuries, God’s people were told of a gift that was coming. A Messiah. A Savior. They waited with expectations of wonder. They dreamed of the way that God’s gift would be packaged. The thought and the meaning of the gift were incredibly complex and almost incomprehensible. Phase One.

Then, as the gift came near and as the Christ-child lived and walked this earth, people had images of what He would become. Some expected a military leader, one who would free God’s people from the captivity of earthly rulers. Others, perhaps those who came to know him best, fought confusion but relished the hope of something wonderful. An existence closer to God and His love. Phase Two.

With the gift in hand, all of us were faced with the choice of how to unwrap the package. Some do it delicately, with an elegant regard for all of the splendor and beauty. The rest of us rip through the wrappings, creating a mess with our lives, but keeping that hope that the content of this gift from above will bring us joy and peace. Phase Three.

Repeat the chorus:

Then, the moment comes. The somewhat unknown, but much-desired, treasure is in hand. For some, it is the object of wishes and hints. For others, it is a surprise, bringing pleasure from the thought behind the giving. Phase Four begins. Living with the package and all of its meaning and often its utility.

For many of us, we’re in that final time. Learning how to live with this gift, this Jesus. Discovering every day the value of the package. Understanding a little bit at a time about the waiting, the anticipation, the hope and the love expressed by God’s gift. For others, the package remains unopened. Still hoped for. Still anticipated.

Open the package.

Emmanuel. God with us.