Apparently it’s time to dust off the ol’ blog. Life has certainly had its twists and turns over the last couple of years…really, over the last seven-and-a-half years…and while I’ve had moments—even seasons—of clarity, contentment, peace, and joy, it’s been quite a journey to find my footing; if I’m honest, I’m not sure I’ve found it just yet. I do feel more solid in many ways but less solid in some as I continue to walk the path set before me, one step at a time.
I’ve been hesitant to write about my journey because I’m not very good at being veiled and there are people whose lives would be affected if I opened up a vein too much. Up until recently, I’ve been too raw to put my thoughts and feelings “out there” out of concern for people I love. I re-enter the blogosphere with a little trepidation, but I also trust that somehow I’ll be able to navigate the minefield of my post-divorce life without doing too much damage along the way. And if I do offend anyone, it will be an opportunity to dialog and hopefully to grow through it. We shall see.
However, today’s topic has little to do with my journey of late and everything to do with something I read this morning. But it still might offend. 😉
My favorite season of the year—Lent—began yesterday. I’ve chosen to use Contemplating the Cross by Tricia McCary Rhodes as my Lenten reading. I used this wonderful book many years ago and knew it was time to revisit it. I’ve gotten a little off track in my heart and soul over the last six months and it was time to return to, “the one thing that I know”—Christ crucified.
Today’s reading looked at Matthew 26:36-38, where Jesus tell his disciples he’s grieved to the point of death and asks his three best friends to be with him. I’ve read this account a zillion times. Anyone who knows me well knows that Gethsemane has become a favorite place and how much it has helped me to learn about lament and the example Jesus sets for us here. But this morning some dots connected for me that were new…at least to me.
There is a stream in the church that is very focused on “victory.” I’ve been around it just enough to know there is little to no room for lament, grief, sorrow, or any expression of pain or negativity because “Sunday’s a-comin’!” Christ rose from the grave so it’s all good and we’re supposed to shake it off, smile, and praise God any time anything tough happens because the Bible says to “count it all joy.” :shudder: NOT that I don’t take “count it all joy” seriously; I just don’t think it means you’re supposed to be happy when your child dies or your husband leaves you or you get fired or [name your very hard thing].
Here’s what struck me today—We who believe Jesus is part of the Trinity believe that he was fully human and fully God while he walked the earth. If ANYONE knew that Sunday was “a-comin'” it was HIM. Right? He knew what was happening and why and what the outcome would be, which is a far cry from where we find ourselves when we’re in the midst of a “trial.” (Such a sanitary word for times when you feel like your guts are being ripped out or your whole world is crashing to the ground.)
But look at the scene—Do we see happy? Do we see, “It’s all good”? Do we see someone excited to face the tough stuff because he knows victory is around the corner? Do we see someone with a smile on his face?
NO!!! That is exactly what we DON’T see.
We see a man who is in AGONY. How did HE “count it all joy”? Not in the way the “victory people” would tell us to. I don’t sense Jesus smiling through tears here. I don’t see him “standing on Scripture” or even declaring God’s goodness. And, fascinatingly, I don’t see him doing spiritual warfare to push back the evil that’s at work. What I see is a man who is in deep grief, deep pain, and who really, Really, REALLY doesn’t want to do what is being asked of Him. Not to mention a man who gets pretty pissed off with his friends for falling asleep on the job!
Jesus shows us that joy has little to do with emotion, smiles, or declarations of “God is good (all the time!).” Joy here is seen in his relationship with the Father…that he could come before Abba, with sweat, blood, and tears, and say, “This is too hard. Please make it stop.” Have you ever said that? I’ve said it more times than I can count.
So the next time you risk sharing something painful and someone tells you not to cry, or to cheer up because Heaven is coming soon, or to stand on the victory you have in Christ, etc., please point them to this passage and ask them how the Son of God models what they’re telling you to do.
I pray stunned silence will be the response.
Whenever anyone asks me about my favorite holiday, or my favorite time of year, I’m always hesitant to be completely truthful. I love Thanksgiving and delight in all the food and family and friends. I also love Christmas, especially the Advent season before it, and I truly rejoice on Easter. But it is the seven weeks leading up to Easter which really mean the most to me. And Good Friday is my favorite day of the year. (You can read more about that HERE.)
Hello, I’m Nina, and I’m a Lentaholic.
This year the first three weeks of Lent are going to have to take more of a backseat in my life as I am in the middle of moving and I won’t be able to be as focused. I do intend to light a candle each night and spend time in prayer and contemplation. And I hope to write here about various things as the Lord bubbles them up in my heart. And I still haven’t chosen a book to read through the season yet! Will do that later tonight or tomorrow.
Glad for grace. Glad this isn’t about perfection or performance, but about preparation of the heart.
I’d like to write more, but I’ve been working all day getting things ready for this weekend’s yard sale, and now I need to zip off to lead worship at our Ash Wednesday service.
I guess it’s Lent on the run!
It’s my favorite holiday…holy day.
This holiday has nothing to do with celebration, and everything to do with it. It has nothing to do with me, and everything to do with me. No presents, but Presence. No wrapped gifts, but The Gift unwrapped and nailed down.
Do not speak of E***er or resur***tion today. Do not tell me “Sunday’s coming!” because today I don’t know that.
Today is a day to stare death in the face. To contemplate sacrificial love. To see beyond all the trappings and get down to the CRUX of the matter — one man, the God-man, nailed to wood. Spat on, rejected, mocked, cursed, beaten, betrayed. Literally the weight of the world’s sins on His shoulders.
And this is how He asked us to remember Him!
“He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.'” (Luke 22:19)
It is not His glory that He asked us to remember, but His suffering. Too much of the Church misses this, and so too much of the Church doesn’t know what to do with suffering. We give pat answers, spout some Bible verses, and point to Heaven.
The American prosperity gospel would like us to think that being a Christian means an end to suffering, when it’s actually just the opposite. Jesus knows what it is to suffer, and we are to share in His sufferings and come alongside the suffering world…and our suffering Brothers and Sisters.
He came to die. Following Him means dying. To make many journeys of descent and find life in death. It’s all backwards from the American Dream and what the world says will give satisfaction. But Jesus was always backwards from the norm.
Thank God it’s Friday? Yes.
And Thank God FOR Friday.
I’ve always thought “Holy Week” was a bit of a misnomer. After Palm Sunday, there isn’t much going on until Maundy Thursday arrives with its foot washings and often a Passover Seder (whether or not it’s actually Passover on the calendar) commemorating the final meal Jesus shared with His disciples. Perhaps “Holy Half-Week” would be more accurate, since Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are pretty uneventful.
Not this year.
Yesterday afternoon I went out to our mail closet (truly; a door in the side of the house opens to reveal shelves where the mail is placed) expecting the usual assortment of bills and junk mail. What I found on our shelf was an extra-large padded envelope that took up the entire shelf. I saw the name of the sender and remembered how that friend had asked for my mailing address quite awhile ago; at the time I thought a card or invitation to something might be on the way. I got busy with school and everything else going on in life and forgot all about it. You can imagine how my jaw hit the floor when I unwrapped this:
Tucked in with the gift was a card in which my friend wrote how the Lord had told her to make the journal, even waking her up in the night to tell her what it was to look like. She lovingly explained what each symbol meant. I was speechless.
I still am.
Words hardly seem adequate to convey what I am feeling. But I’m going to try, albeit feebly, to express what’s in my heart because while this gift is specific to me, I believe there is a greater message I’m to share:
That’s what keeps welling up in my heart as I read and re- and re- and re-read the card, and keep looking at all the details on the journal, touching the textures, trying to soak it all in. Not just what is in front of me, but all that is behind what my eyes are seeing — the heart of a woman who listens for her Shepherd’s voice and who spends time, energy, resources, whatever it takes, to obey what she hears; the listening, planning, choosing, praying, painting, printing, gluing…all out of obedience, trusting the work of her hands would convey the heart of God to a friend far away.
And it did. It does.
GOD SEES ME.
He used a friend — and one with whom I haven’t had much contact recently — to convey His heart, His eyes, His love to me.
And to you.
As I hold this treasure, I feel my heart beating wildly with the heartbeat of the Father who longs for you to know that He sees. He cares. He knows. He hears. He weeps. He rejoices. He is for you. And with you. Always. In the silence and the noise. In the pain, the questions, and confusion. In the laughter and the tears. Whether you’re alone or in a crowd. Or healthy or ill. When dreams come true or are dashed in disappointment.
The day after Palm Sunday now has a new name — Hagar Monday; for Hagar was the one who proclaimed in Genesis 16, “You are the God who sees me.”
I pray we all move toward Easter knowing this more deeply.
And whisper thanks for my faithful friend.
So I said I’d be honest about my struggles during Lent, and it’s time to come clean — this week I have failed miserably at staying off Facebook and limiting checking email to twice a day.
Apparently coming back from Chicago and feeling the deep loss of connection with those folks was more than I could emotionally bear without reaching for some kind of false comfort. I think many of us in that cohort were feeling this as there were lots of small FB posts and just enough emailing back and forth with pictures and memories to keep me logging in “just one more time.”
Yeah, right. *sigh*
I have eight more days of Lent and I want to finish well. That doesn’t mean doing things perfectly, but it means being aware and awake. That’s more important than not opening the laptop for a “quick peek.”
As I’ve mentioned in at least one other post, the fast from my normal diet has been really easy, except when around lots of people eating pasta and pie. 😉 But eating the same things every day has been simple and quite life-giving. My therapist suggested that not having food to turn to for comfort has allowed my compulsion to connect online to come to the surface and I agree.
I need to stop in the moment and check in with my soul. Just as I do when I open the fridge mindlessly, I can ask myself, “What am I really hungry for?” Because if I’ve checked my email several times already, there’s something going on in me that I’m not willing to look at. Instead of sitting for a bit and becoming still and aware of my breathing and what’s going on in my heart and mind, it’s become far too easy to surf the net and dissociate, reading blogs and googling nothing and everything, and taking one more look for new messages. TV isn’t available to me right now, but if it was, I’d be in my chair, staring at that screen instead. This I know.
I am not wont for things to do — I have a book I need to read before heading to OH for the third leg of the Spiritual Director Certification Program I’m in. Our office is still a disaster and needs serious organizing. There are several Holy Week services for which I need to plan music and other things. Heck, I still need to unpack from my Chicago trip!
So to make good on one of my life verses, James 5:16, I am confessing that I am guilty of dissociating, and I’m asking you to please pray for me. I need healing. I know God ‘s hand is in all of this, showing me how I’m not tending to what’s in front of me OR inside of me. I’ve been avoiding the inevitable pain and longings that are trying hard to come to the surface; I keep pushing them down with mindless, inane activity that isn’t life-giving.
So grateful for forgiveness.
So grateful to BEGIN AGAIN.
Even on Day 32.
It had been brewing all week, that strange sensation behind the eyes and in the throat. Then I woke up yesterday feeling lousy; you know it’s bad when I cancel on singing at church. 😦 I hate doing that, but I needed to stay home and rest as I am flying to Chicago in a couple of days for the final leg of the counseling certification program I’m in. Traveling while sick is the pits. So is trying to pay attention in class and participating in group therapy.
Apparently, so is what passed for feasting yesterday.
I had hoped to see the new Muppet movie but that would have to wait. All I was really up for was resting in my comfy chair under a blanket and sipping hot tea. (My sweet husband knew to bring me Decaf Ginger Peach with half a packet of stevia, my go-to elixir when I feel rotten.) I had plenty of entertainment recorded on the DVR, enough for an entire day’s media feast. And while I can’t say I didn’t enjoy some of it, I mostly floated in a fog, with various comedies and singing competitions intermingled with some episodes of “Chopped” shining brightly on the screen in front of me. At the moment I can’t remember much of it at all, except for some shared laughs with Glenn.
I also spent WAY too much time on Facebook trying to make sense of too many controversies. Why I thought I could manage any of that while under the weather is beyond me. I should have caught up with a few friends, taken the “Which character from ‘Frozen’ are you?” quiz (I’m Olaf) and signed off.
On the food front, Chinese take-out came to our aid at dinner. In front of the TV, I ate way too much and wound up feeling worse when I went to bed, and then didn’t fall asleep until around 4 a.m. Overeating might not have caused the problem, but it certainly didn’t help.
I still feel yucky, but I learned something the hard way, the way I usually learn — feasting isn’t supposed to be a glut. Chris Seay warned me and I listened until I was sick and it became too easy to throw caution to the wind. A couple of shows would have been fine. I could have turned on music and rested, or listened to a book, or tried to sleep. A reasonable plate of noodles and a couple of fried shrimp would have been a delight. But it was too much, and when it was all over, really wasn’t all that enjoyable or memorable (except for the prawns wrapped in wonton skins and deep fried; THOSE were a revelation, but I digress…)
I need to remember this for future feast days, and not just during Lent: there’s a reason why it’s called OVERindulgence.
I’m so grateful to be back on the fast today.
(I need to remember that, too!)