One of my practices during Lent is to read through a book called “The King Nobody Wanted,” an old book of my mother’s that she saved from her childhood—a book that she read to my brothers and me each Lenten season when we were growing up. It tells the story of Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion and resurrection. While deeply rooted in Scripture, it reads more like a novel, and is responsible for much of my understanding of who Jesus is, what he did here on earth, and why he had to die so that I might be able to live.
While I certainly didn’t understand it at the time, I believe my Mom was reading this story each year as a way to help us prepare our hearts and minds for Easter. And now that I’m the Mom, I do the same. As life swirls around so quickly, readying our hearts and minds is both gratifying and necessary.
Jesus walked with his disciples for years, teaching and training them to understand the impact of His work on earth. And when the time came for Him to say goodbye, He took the opportunity to gather with them one last time, in the upper room, to celebrate the Passover feast and to remind them once again, how deeply He cared for them.
The Passover feast was celebrated each year at the same time. It was an especially holy event for the Jewish people in that it observed the time when God spared them from the plague of physical death and brought them out of slavery in Egypt. Jesus took the opportunity to celebrate the symbols associated with Passover and infused them with fresh meaning as a way to remember the sacrifice He was about to make, a sacrifice that would save us from death and slavery as well—a spiritual death and a spiritual slavery. While his disciples may not have known it at the time, Jesus was preparing their hearts too.
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you. (Luke 22: 17-20)
Jesus would offer his body so that we could be passed over by the wages of sin that plague our daily lives and instead, be restored to a right relationship with God the Father. He poured out his blood so that we could be spared from the iniquity that causes not only a spiritual death, but leaves us separated from God. He offered himself up for each of us as a once-and-for-all, everlasting and Holy sacrifice, so that we could have an eternal connection with the One who is sovereign, who is mercy, who is always with us.
The days preceding Easter are a wonderful time to prepare our hearts. Your tradition may call for observing Lent, attending services, or giving something up to recognize the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. Perhaps you read through the gospels or watch a Passion drama. Regardless of what you choose, recognize that Jesus took time to prepare the hearts of his followers for what was to come. He knew how painful it would be for those who loved him to see him suffer and die on a cross. But He also knew to let them know that this would not be the end, but only the beginning of a fuller life lived in relationship with him.
And as He prepared to leave those he loved, Jesus reminded them that because of His sacrifice, this life is not all there is. And until that time when they would see Him face to face, He would always be with them, just as He is always with us.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20)
Father, thank you for what you did on the cross for us. Help us to prepare our hearts and minds the same way that you prepared the hearts and minds of your disciples, so that we can understand the true depth of your love for us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
As I strolled through the greeting card aisle at my favorite Hallmark store, I perused the choices for a Valentines card for my hubby. I repeat the same diatribe in my head each year. Do I go silly or serious? I seem to have many choices… fun and flirty, or sentimental and romantic. Which way will I tell my husband that I love him? And which card will he pick for me? My mind is a flurry, not to mention my heart.
I am grateful to report that no matter what card my husband chooses for me, it’s the words he writes by hand that always speak to my heart. He has a way of reflecting on our current situation, noting both challenging and uplifting events from the previous year, and always concluding that we, he and I, are in this life together, that the seal on this relationship remains firmly stuck in place.
I am thankful for those words. I do not take for granted that he takes the time to write them. But I am especially thankful that he considers each year an opportunity to walk together down this road called marriage. And each time I read the words scribbled on the card, I am reminded of the importance of telling my husband how I truly feel, especially as it applies to love. Read More
Keeping the story of your life to yourself? This week I had the pleasure of interviewing author Jamie Ivey on her new book, If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free. It will make you think twice about hiding your past from your friends. Click HERE for the podcast.
My heart was beating wildly as I watched my son stand at the edge of a small cliff off the coast of southern Greece. The beautiful turquoise waters beckoned him to jump, but his feet said “no.” While I had watched seven older cousins make the leap, I wondered if giving permission to my youngest to jump off a cliff might have not been my best parenting decision.
Fear was gripping his little mind. There was the fear of physical harm if the jump didn’t go well, and the fear of humiliation if he decided to crawl back down the cliff. After all, his brother and cousins had already made the leap.
I tried to yell up words of encouragement when I remembered years ago, trying to get him to jump off the diving board at our local pool. If I remained on the side of the pool, he would jump off the board sideways, narrowly missing the edge of the pool. But when I swam out beyond the diving board, then he would jump out safely and swim right to me.
I immediately left the side of the cliff where I was safely watching from afar and swam out to where he would ideally land. I said, “Just jump out to me and swim my way, just like we used to do at the pool. Don’t look down, just look at me. I’ll be right here.”
What happened next was a combination of sheer terror and sheer delight (mine and his) as I watched my son leap from the edge of the cliff and into the water in front of me. Within seconds, he emerged from the brilliant blue, wide eyed and smiling. He swam right to me and screamed, “I did it!” He may have doubted the water, but he trusted me at my word, that I’d be there when he came up.
In his gospel, Matthew tells a story about the disciple Peter, who also towed the line between fear and trust.
Each year as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I open up the box of decorations and begin to place them up around my house. In that box is a beautiful cornucopia that I get to fill with colorful gourds and squash from the garden store, flowers in oranges and yellows that I place strategically on tables, and candles that smell like pumpkins and apple spice (my favorite) that add both wonderful smells and a warm glow to the rooms in my home. There is one decoration that I hold most dear. It is hand-made by my then-first-grade son. Bordered in orange construction paper, it’s a hand-turkey… you know, a young son’s handprint made to look like your favorite gobbler. You probably have one of your own somewhere. Below it is a hand-written message, “I am Thankful For…” And my sweet 7-year-old boy wrote, “that my Mom is retiring.” The first time I saw this artwork, I was waiting in the hallway of his elementary school, anticipating an exhilarating conference with his teacher. As I walked in, she mused, “Well this is the first time a parent has cried before the conference begins!”
I really wasn’t retiring. While I am certainly one of the older moms of the group, I am not even close to retirement age. But the previous year I had left my part-time, flexible job and taken gone back to full-time ministry (is there any other kind?). My sweet little boy had noticed that Mom wasn’t quite herself lately. The pressures of running a home and a church had dampened her spirit, and he must have felt it. But…he never said anything. I read about his feelings in the hallway of his elementary school.
But I have to admit, I had felt it too.
I might have insomnia. Some nights…sometimes for many nights in a row…sleep eludes me.
There could be many explanations for my strange behavior. Perhaps I am just not tired. Maybe I feel the need to organize my closets, cupboards or Tupperware drawer (type A personalities do this. I know, it’s strange). But more likely than not, my inability to fall asleep has to do with my reluctance to forgive someone for something that was said or done to me. Sometimes I’m reluctant to forgive myself for an offense I committed. Either way, in the dark of the night, when everyone is fast asleep, I find myself face to face with God. And it’s uncomfortable, to say the least.
Sometimes I’ll try to run from this uncomfortable feeling by watching a movie or listening to music. Other times, I’ll physically run—on the treadmill or even outside. I just need to move. I need to escape my own thoughts. But chances are, that no matter how I busy my mind and my body, when I finally tire and the music stops, I still have to confront the same challenge—God has called me to forgive, and I am reluctant to do so.
Today was one of those days that used to make me cringe when I worked as a meteorologist. Clear and sunny in the morning, but with possible showers moving in by midday. These are the most deceiving days, when I would warn viewers to pack an umbrella… just in case. For some, this is a huge inconvenience. Why would they want to lug around an extra umbrella just in case it was going to rain?
While some people are okay if they get a little wet and don’t beat themselves up for not heeding the warning, others want assurance that carrying around that pesky umbrella will be worth the effort. My job, of course, was to please them both.
But for others—like me—lugging around an umbrella gives us a sense of security, a little insurance policy for the “what ifs” that may come about during the day. We don’t even mind if the rain never comes, as long as we know we’re equipped. For me, an umbrella is the sign of the one who is prepared and in control.
I often use planning and structure as one big umbrella—something I keep tucked away in my gigantic carry-all purse, for those moments when I see something coming that might sprinkle a little chaos into my perfectly-coifed life. When the sky gets a little dark, and I feel the wind pick up, I can feel the outline of that umbrella in my bag and I know that even if it does rain, I will have the proper tool to emerge victoriously. My schedule keeps me equipped and in control.
I have always been a planner. From early in my life, I would map out a routine and think through a strategy in order to achieve whatever was on my list. A trained musician, I was conditioned to see the value of practicing just a little bit every day in order to accomplish a goal. In the same way, I now take time each week to plan out my time, fitting in each event with the precision of an engineer, making sure that each episode is contributing to my goal of being a spiritually and physically fit individual, a capable and caring mother and wife, and a woman seeking God’s heart. Read More