Tag: Holy Week

Our son was at the age where he was losing the last of his baby teeth. He was also at the age of uncertainty of a tooth fairy. He was leaning toward believing this was another fable parents told their kids much like the more famous one about, well, you know…..the fat guy in a red suit.

Jonathan called out to his dad one morning. The tooth still under his pillow, finally, he knew the truth. With his father standing next to him as he lay on the upper bunk, our son was explaining that, in fact, no tooth fairy had come. During his tale, his dad managed to slip money under his pillow without him knowing. When urged to look again, he found the money. Since his dad was standing there the whole time, there could only be one answer: there WAS a tooth fairy.

Some years ago I was attending a youth conference and one of the sessions was about truth. More specifically, it was about how the younger generation was deciding truth for themselves. So many not having grown up in the church, they couldn’t just accept the words we believed written by divine inspiration as truth. Truth became a personal possession. A choice. You could have your truth and I’d have mine.

We enjoy carrying on these traditions for our children. We like the age old fables of fairies and elves and Easter bunnies. Some might consider them alternative facts. That’s the new term, isn’t it? And it seems more and more are choosing these alternative stories as their truth.

At Christmas, we’ve seen the celebration of Santa become the main event. Who wouldn’t choose a story that has turned into “gimme, gimme, me, me, gimme, gimme, mine”? It’s a much grander story than that of a baby born to, apparently poor, parents. They couldn’t even find a hotel room. And then angels appear in the sky? Talk about a story!

Quieter still seems to be the Easter story. The one that began with the Christmas story. You can’t have one without the other. They are entwined in an inextricable way. Birth, death, eternal life. Truth.

But others would choose to believe in spring and nature and a bunny who lays eggs? Who doesn’t like a good change up here and there. It’s all in fun. And it’s far easier to believe in Easter bunnies who only want to give us chocolate and require nothing in return than believe in a Christ who asks us to take up our cross and follow him.

So there is truth but it’s only another alternative fact of the day.

Henry and I have these discussions. I seem to understand the notion of choosing ones truth. He doesn’t. He struggles with the thought that these men he loves and serves and preaches the word of God to day after day could think the bible is anything but truth. THE truth. That Jesus is THE truth. Perhaps more accurately, the truth is Jesus.

We will celebrate Palm Sunday. Several of our residents will be chosen to read the scripture for the day. They may not believe the words they read but we know they are sharing truth. And when God’s truth is read He is honored.

We will host a expression of the Seder meal and walk through the meaning of God’s salvation to the Israelites and to us, through Jesus.

We will prepare a prayer labyrinth for them. A walk through several stations as they are guided to consider their relationship with Jesus.

Good Friday will be recognized and the price Christ paid will be told in graphic detail. We will consider our sins and his forgiveness.

And Easter Sunday we will come together outside with the sun just over the trees. And we will sing and we will proclaim our truth that Christ the Lord has risen today. Alleluia!

We’ll also have plenty of those chocolate eggs. Most of them are hollow, just like the truth they hold.

faith hope Salvation Army

Call it Passion Week or call it Holy Week but to me it feels like a week on a roller coaster and I can’t get off. The highs are high and have us stretching our arms up, waving them gloriously and then grabbing the crossbar in front as the dip snatches our breath and we are holding on as we round the curves of life. We aren’t merely observers, we immerse ourselves in the experience of a week called holy.

Holy Week seems like the busy week. A week filled with things to do, to share, to experience, all quieting that voice telling me to remember to be. Stop. Breathe. Be. With Him.

I love this week. The anticipation of sharing so many things in community awakens my energy and my senses go on alert. I am pulled into the knowing we are sharing something new with many.

There’s a lot to tell about this week. It seems all of Jesus’ ministry was lived in the last week of his life. It accelerates before our eyes. He is telling his followers that now, right when things ramp up, when crowd numbers are growing and palm branches waving him in, he tells them he’s leaving. Even the closest to him are confused.

It seems important to tell this Jesus story and I feel the rush of it to be told in this week but truth is, the story continues. What confused his followers, his inner circle of 12, is known to us. We see the Sunday that is coming after Friday and we can tell this story of hope day after day.

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So we will tell and experience it. This week we experience it with the stations of a Prayer Labyrinth. We will leave the noise that surrounds us, ridding ourselves of distractions and find our way to the center where we have communion with Christ.

We will tell it through the history of the Passover meal, the Seder. Through the meal we will retell the story of the Jews freedom from slavery as we celebrate our own freedom through Jesus Christ. We will eat the matzoh and drink the grape juice in remembrance of him, of the One who became our sacrifice.

We will tell the story of this holy week in the solemnity of the Good Friday service. We will drape the cross in black and place the crown of thorns around it.

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And Easter Sunday morning, outside with the sun streaming between the trees, we will rejoice that Jesus lives and because he lives we keep telling his story. A redemption story of love and grace and bright hope for tomorrow.

This is edited from an earlier post that first appeared on Living in Graceland in 2014.

faith hope

“To obey is better than sacrifice, I want more than Sundays and Wednesday nights….”

Those lyrics by Keith Green come back to me like a haunting. I haven’t given up anything for Lent in a few years and obedience? Does consistency count?

I think Lament is a better theme for this season than Lent.

As I understand it, the meaning of Lent is clear: sacrifice. Give up something. Not just anything, but something you like. Something you really don’t want to give up but you will. For Jesus. Not forever, of course, just 40 days, not including Sundays, for some.

I get rather lost in the weeks and it takes intention to focus on this specific season. I choose to do it through looking at Jesus’ ministry, recalling his encounters with people and considering how even touching the edge of his clothes can be life-changing. Mark 5:24-34

They are familiar stories to me, ones I don’t get tired of hearing, like favorite songs on a playlist.

There are a lot of miracles in the stories, dead people brought back to life, long-time illnesses healed in an instant. And the made-for-the-movies exorcism of a demon possessed guy. I can’t begin to imagine what George Lucas could do with that!

I’m particularly drawn to the people Jesus took time with and that they were mentioned specifically. He ate at the house of  a man who was a crooked businessman.  He spoke with women, in public. He defended an adulteress. The men he called to follow him, the disciples, were mostly common folk. One was a tax collector, several fishermen and others no profession was mentioned. They hadn’t lead extraordinary lives. They were, I think, a lot like me.

These stories seem crammed into the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. Some chapters contain several miracles and it would seem Jesus is well on his way to being accepted as the Messiah. The one the Jews had been promised and looking for.

But I digress……

This isn’t about the stories. They are what connects me to a life lived thousands of years ago. This started about obedience and sacrifice. About the giving up of the Lenten season. This focus of doing without, because Jesus life was a sacrifice. I get the metaphor and the way we can participate.

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Garden of Gethseme

sacrificeIt’s just that, this seems an easy way out. Not that sacrifice is easy. Don’t misunderstand me. But those words from that song so long ago…the ones about obedience, they call out my sinfulness. They call out my show of sacrifice.

In the Old Testament, God had chosen Saul to be King and given him a command. He didn’t follow it exactly. Instead of killing all of the livestock, he had his army only kill what was no good. The rest they kept. When questioned about this by Samuel, Saul said they kept it to sacrifice to God. Ah, the excuses I know so well.

But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, (emphasis mine)
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

It’s not about either or, sacrifice or obedience. It’s about me letting a sacrifice substitute for the more important act of obedience.

That’s the personal meaning Lent holds for me. It shines a light on my stubborn will I take back again and again. When I don’t hold my tongue when I should. When arrogance rules instead of humility. When anger oozes out of my pours (again, arrogance). When I manipulate to get my way.

When I fully recognize my inability to be or do what I know I should. And after the wrestling of guilt and shame, I know He still loves me. And that Jesus will do for me, what I can’t do for myself.

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Call it Passion Week or call it Holy Week but to me it feels like a week on a roller coaster and I can’t get off. The highs are high and have us stretching our arms up, waving them gloriously and then grabbing the crossbar in front as the dip snatches our breath and we are holding on as we round the curves of life.

Holy Week seems like the busy week. A week filled with things to do, to share, to experience, all quieting that voice telling me to remember to be. Stop. Breathe. Be. With Him.

Palm Sunday

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Seder during Holy Week

 

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I love this week. The anticipation of sharing so many things in community awakens my energy and my senses go on alert. I am pulled into the knowing we are sharing something new with many.

There’s a lot to tell about this week. It seems all of Jesus’ ministry was lived in the last week of his life. It accelerates before our eyes.  He is telling his followers that now, right when things ramp up, when crowd numbers are growing and palm branches waving him in, he tells them he’s leaving. Even the closest to him are confused.

It seems important to tell this Jesus story and I feel the rush of it to be told in this week but truth is, the story continues. What confused his followers, his inner circle of 12, is known to us. We see the Sunday that is coming after Friday and we can tell this story day after day.

So we will tell it. This week we will tell it with the Prayer Labyrinth and Seder and solemnity of the Good Friday service. We will drape the black on the cross and place the crown of thorns around it. We will eat the matzoh and drink the grape juice in remembrance of him, of the One who became our sacrifice. And Sunday morning, outside with the sun streaming between the trees, we will rejoice that Jesus lives and because he lives we keep telling his story. The story that Jesus loves me, this I know.

faith Salvation Army

It was that year, the year I was searching a bit, stretching into a new journey. I’d claimed my faith the summer before, held it as my own, no longer accepting the hand-me-down faith from my parents. So when I saw that crucifix hanging in the seaside shop on a weekend with my cousins, when I saw that bold statement not part of our faith tradition I bought it. Life was different, I was different and this was bold. For me.

No telling what daddy would have said but he wasn’t there, he’d left mama and she was the less reactive one. She was calm when she said, ‘we believe He [Jesus] isn’t on the cross anymore.’ And that made sense. Perfect sense really so I didn’t wear that crucifix much after that. No problems with the symbol but if I wanted to be bold I would be bold at saying that cross didn’t hold him then and it doesn’t hold him now.

But it is the cross, that cross with its promise and shame, that claims attention this week of the passion of Christ.

My friend, Cindy, over at Mama’s Empty Nest, is telling the story through her photography and I hope you’ll stop over to her place.  I keep telling my story with too many words and should take a cue from Cindy but we follow our hearts.

It’s a story about a cross because that’s where it all changed. A cross designed for slow death, a criminals death. A cross that held death but could not contain it. Let’s begin.

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Holy Land Tour

 

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taken by Tampa

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The granddaughter was here last week. The three of us. Her spring break. Not ours. It was a week that reminded me why I was a SAHM (stay at home mom – gotcha!) when our children were children. For a person who likes to multitask, raising children and having responsibilities outside the home for 100 men and staff is harder to do at the same time than, say, doing a load of laundry and running the dishwasher at the same time. Yes, I know a LOT of women do it. Our daughter does it. But even a week with the grand pulled my concentration so that I forgot a few basics I ALWAYS do.

But I didn’t fret.

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I’m still married to the great man who worked extra hard and supported me (not just financially) when I told him I wanted to be home with the kids.

Thank you Danny for reading the scripture from your phone because I forgot to print it out for you!
Thank you Danny for reading the scripture from your phone because I forgot to print it out for you!

We have a wonderful staff who is helpful in filling the holes I left gaping last week.

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time with Christabel 790

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time with Christabel 809

 

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And there was this little 5-year-old who was saying, “Can we do art, MeMe?” So we did. And we colored Easter eggs and went to Charming Charlie’s where she picked out a sparkly headband and Chick-fil-a so she could play in the kid area and we even took Henry away one afternoon to go to the Museum of Discovery and Science.

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Modeling her headband in the store mirror a curtsy is in order.
Modeling her headband in the store mirror a curtsy is in order.

She sat next to me like an angel at the dentist office playing games on the iPad while my retainer was tweaked. She through a staff meeting and Good Friday service quiet as a mouse.

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And at the beach Saturday morning when I was fighting a cold and bundled up against the cold air, she squealed and giggled when the water brushed over her toes and chased her away from the surf.

Holy Week is busy. It’s not a time we feel we can be away. We want to be here among our men celebrating this sacred week. And in the midst of it, there were times when we just had to play.

 

faith photography

She rode her “motorcycle” across our living room floor. One side to the other, 15 feet maybe, and she said, “Whew! What a journey.” A journey it is for a 5-year-old using her imagination to take her to places with tinkers and princesses and cats in hats and a very curious monkey named George.

Our thoughts this week journey with Jesus. We try to imagine the crowds pressing in on him and friends turning their backs on him. The highs and lows of a journey he knew he was born for. To die for.

We try to create some times to journey with our men to a place that can draw us closer to Jesus. Closer to the grace he came to share.

The Seder Plate
The Seder Plate

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the cup of freedom
the cup of freedom

We share a meal with them because this is communion. It’s how Jesus shared with followers and sinners; the cheating tax collectors , a cup of water from a woman. This meal a symbol of the Passover meal. The Seder. Each element is explained and eaten, taking in a bit of His body, His blood. The three matzoh representing the Trinity in our celebration and the middle piece is broken just as Jesus’ life was.

We raise 4 cups throughout the ceremony and a final cup celebrating the Israelites freedom and now celebrating our freedom from sin.

Again, the Prayer Labyrinth is constructed in a hollowed out place that a week ago had piles of old clothes. Cast-off’s from others moved to make room for our journey of communion with Christ this sacred week.

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drawing of Jesus by a graduate
drawing of Jesus by a graduate

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The stones we’ll touch and hold as we consider our burdens as we let them drop in the water. Dropping our cares to His living water of life and peace. The station with the magnets and compass. An annual reminder for me as to the distractions that pull me away from His direction. He is the true north and points the way but things are pulling at me like the magnet pulls at the compass.

At the center of it all, the cross. The cross used to shame and be death but for us can be life. So we hung a picture of the face of Christ on this cross with the word life across it. This is truth. It’s shrouded in black to remind us of pain and his suffering. For us. For me. But it is life. Will always be life.

And later today, the hardest of times to “celebrate” but the most important. The act that made grace possible. That makes life possible. It is a celebration all be it a quiet one. A hard one. It’s not over. It’s just beginning.

 

faith Salvation Army

This month has been a blur at times. It started with a week at our biannual conference with our ministry peers.

I had one day in between that and spending the next week in Haiti on a team of much younger people, children and a different culture.

Celebrating the Seder meal with the men.
Celebrating the Seder meal with the men.

One whole week at home doing the routine at the Center: teaching my graduate class, leading Celebrate Recovery and finalizing Holy Week plans.

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This week, the granddaughter is spending her spring break with us as it’s not spring break for her mommy and daddy. At 5, she’s not interested in going to the office with me. She had to go with me yesterday and she unashamedly ate her Chick-fil-a nuggets while the rest of us ate matzoh and horseradish at our Seder celebration.

Each week has been distinctly different. Each allowing me opportunities for growth and requiring different responses from me. At the same time reflecting parts of who I am.

It’s been odd not to be around the Center more during Holy Week. However, I think I’ve thought more about the week, the significant days, than I would have in the setting of the Center. There I am busy. Planning, meeting with people, checking on things, checking on people. Yesterday, the granddaughter asked me why I kept talking to people. My answer almost surprised me when I said, “It’s part of my job.” Listening and talking to others is a BIG part of what I feel is my job, for lack of a better word.

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But I’ve been home a lot. Doing the things I did 30 years ago when kk’s mommy was a little one. Dragging this little one along with me to the allergists and Dentist. Bribing her with a cookie from Panera Bread (they were out of Pumpkin Muffies) and letting her choose pretty barrettes, headbands and a wallet at Charming Charlies. I’ve let her watch too much TV (PBS of course ;)), drink Pepsi (Why did she have to like it?) and talk me into Princess Shoes. (She was right. They only come in a box of 4 – 4 PAIR!)

modeling the new headband in the mirror at Charming Charlie
modeling the new headband in the mirror at Charming Charlie

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While she’s changing Princess shoes and I’m washing out the sink my mind is calmer and settled and my thoughts drift toward Jesus and the last week of his life. Every day was something different. The changes were huge from being cheered one day to jeered a few days later. His inner circle didn’t understand what was happening. One denied him while another betrayed him.

In between watching her tap dance in the princess shoes, the Ariel ones I think, and “doing art” with the little one my thoughts keep turning that way. I’m murmuring prayers for family going through a very hard time and wonder again how Jesus could give His all for us. I’ll never get it and am thankful my getting His forgiveness isn’t dependent on me understanding anything.

She wants to eat the white bunny in the box that one of the men gave me and I convince her she’s had enough sugar today (what with the cookie at Panera and Pepsi. It was barely two sips. Really!) And somehow, all this normalcy of Cat in the Hat and Tinkerbell, of her finding every stamp and stamp pad and trying them ALL at the same time, calms me and allows me the real space to think about the real things of life.

She’ll be sitting next to me during the Good Friday service. I’ll understand more why He gave all.

 

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Meagan and Lisette
Meagan and Lisette

Meagan asked this question. At the end of a couple of long days, full, good but long. We gathered in a room that quickly heated with 11 bodies and the warm Haiti night air. The guys were aching for a shower or at least the fan to be turned on but we needed this time now. Before we all dissolved into our slumber.

team devotions
team devotions

DSC_0724These times were quiet but thoughtful. Important to hear perspectives of others and sort out our own. Where did you see God today?

Back home in my luxury, in comparison, and looking ahead at this Holy week I’m asking that question. Not so much of myself but of the story of that last week of Jesus. Did Jesus see God in the face of the people throwing their robes on the ground as he rode into Jerusalem? Did he see God in the face of Pilate or Herod? In the soldiers who would beat him and the “friend” who would betray him? Did he see God?

Our lives can suddenly be disrupted and turned on end but this change from hero to scapegoat happened in a matter of days and through it all Jesus’ saw God. In every face, every step, every palm branch and every “crucify him!” He. Saw. God.

I am shamed by that. Shamed that when things turn hard I tend to wonder where God is and all the while He is there. I know it. I do. I don’t always act like it.

BethelClinc

 

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I’ve often asked the same question to our men and told them, reminding myself, if we look for God we’ll find him. I see him in the faces of men clawing for a changed life and turning it all out to do it right this time. I saw God in selfless leaders in Haiti giving their love to children. Being love to them. In a gentle word or tears.

Maybe I’ll ask myself that question every night. Where did I see God today?

 

faith Salvation Army

Worship at the Port-au-Prince Salvation Army church
Worship at the Port-au-Prince Salvation Army church

It’s this one, this picture that evokes deep emotion in me. These women strangers to me, each speaking a different language and living in such different places. But I think I understood her worship. And to me this one picture shows how much she is giving to God and how little I have.

We talked this week about Mary, the sister of Lazarus and the story we read in the Gospel of John. Jesus was friends with Lazarus and his sisters. Most often we hear Mary and Martha contrasted by their styles. Martha – the worker and criticizing her sister for not working as hard. Mary, the one who poured a whole bottle of expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus, more likely head to toe, and then wiped his feet with her hair.

It was a scandalous act Mary did. She broke custom and tradition by letting her hair down in public and then by stooping to wipe his feet with her hair. This was an act only the lowest servant would do and Mary was far from a servant. This act of giving.

And I see that in this woman’s face. I’ve no idea her position in life. I don’t know if she’s a wife or grandmother, if she’s poor or comfortable. But her face and hands say to me she knows this man who caused people to put aside tradition and worship him.

Her posture says she has given her all to God and He is hers as she is His. Maybe you don’t see that and that’s okay because I really don’t know. But I do know I keep too much to myself. I hold back rather than let go. I watch too long before joining. I consider instead of worship.

This is Holy Week. The march to the cross, to the tomb. The obedient servant Savior who knew what lay ahead. Oh that we all may be loosed to fully embrace his mercy and grace shared for us on that cross. To let ourselves give way to His way.

 

faith Salvation Army