Category Archives: Easter

Lenten Reflections

As winter slowly began to march toward Lent, I knew something had to change in my life. I had grown weary and busy. Most mornings had become a rush to get to work and slowly but surely,  spending time in Scripture had been pushed aside.

I found myself feeling disconnected and distant from God—in my daily life as well as in worship, as I taught Sunday School and as I prayed. Lent seemed like the perfect time to reconnect and recommit. To sink in to the depths of the gospel and wrestle with its truths.

So I ordered a Lenten Bible study and have begun poring over the words of  the prophet Isaiah to the people of Israel. Day after day, words of destruction and judgment seemed to rain down, but always there has been a message of hope.

A light would pierce the darkness.

A Prince of Peace was coming.

That despite the coming destruction that sin demanded a merciful God was making away.

Hope.

Finding light in theHope that can’t be found in ourselves, our own good works or actions.

At first the hope seemed faint, but its light is growing stronger with each passing day and each reading. What seemed so heavy and weighty at first is giving way to the hope only found in Christ.

Reminding me that it’s not about my worth.

It’s not about my own innate goodness.

That it’s not about my own plans to handle disaster or survive the worst or even simply make it through the day in a world where all the news often seems bad.

It is about hope that only God gives, embodied in Christ.

And in the darkest of days, I don’t have to depend on myself, my strength and my plans to make it through.

I can trust in the One who is worthy.

An Easter thought

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways,” God says in Isaiah 55:8.

And today, as I ponder Maundy Thursday and the darkness of Good Friday, I understand a little more of that.

His ways are not my ways, because if it had been up to me, I would have chosen a way of salvation that cost me very little. Because instead of taking the shame and weight and penalty of our sin on us, God—in Christ—took it upon Himself.

Salvation came a great cost to Him.

And in my selfishness, I would have chosen a different way.

But God didn’t.

His justice cried out for a punishment for sin. His very character demanded that it couldn’t just be ignored.

But His very character also answered in love. In Christ.

I think of Him in the Garden today, the “aloneness” of it all. The heartbroken prayer. The tears. The stress He was under. His friends, sleeping, unaware it seems of the despair and strain He was under.

Alone.

Crying out to God in a Garden with a broken voice and maybe a broken heart.

Despair.

Fear.

Anxiety.

Obedience.

And somewhere in there, the glimmer of hope. Spring was coming. Easter. Resurrection.

If you feel alone, heartbroken, broken, or even a little hopeless today, rest in the fact that Jesus knows how you feel. He has cried out in the dark to a God who didn’t seem to answer. He knows.

And hope is coming.

Good Friday: Oh, the blood of Jesus

On Wednesday night, I found an elderly neighbor lying on the concrete at the foot of the steps leading to his unit.

At first, I thought he’d just fallen and spent the entire 2 second walk over to where he was wondering what I needed to do. Should I move him? I asked myself silently. Probably not, I thought. Should I call 911? I wondered.

But when I got closer and saw that he had hit his head and was bleeding profusely, I knew the answer: keep him calm and call 911.

And later, when I got to choir rehearsal for our Good Friday service and Easter songs, it was the lyrics about blood that I couldn’t get past. Because every time we sang them, my mind flashed back to my neighbor lying on the concrete, a small pool of blood forming under his head.

His blood, bright on my own fingers.

A blood-stained towel.

Bright, red blood that gushed from his wound and came from a place of incredible pain.

And in those moments, Jesus’ blood on the cross became very real to me. It’s not that I didn’t get that He suffered and bled before; I did. But I see it in a new light. It isn’t the faded red blood of paintings or my mind’s eye when I picture the cross anymore. It’s that bright red pool of blood on the concrete. It isn’t a few drops of blood sliding down Jesus’ forehead when they thrust the crown of thorns onto His head anymore; it’s that gushing wound. It’s bright red blood that came from a place of incredible pain.

And incredible love.

Love that honestly, I just don’t get. Sometimes I think I do, but at Easter—and especially on Good Friday—I know I don’t. Because the love of Christ, God’s love, the love that propelled Jesus to the cross and the reason He endured extreme pain, humiliation, and injustice—that’s a love that overwhelms. It’s a love that rushes over you like a tidal wave. It’s a crazy love, a love that makes no sense, a love that requires nothing of the one who is loved and costs the Lover everything.

This Good Friday, I’m a little undone, as Isaiah the prophet would have said it. And my only response is prayer:

Thank you for the cross, Jesus. Thank you for your indescribable love. Hosanna! is my cry—God save me. Save me from myself, save me from my selfishness, save me from my sin. Thank You, Jesus, Savior, Messiah. Change my heart, Lord. And may my striving to be found worthy of your sacrifice cease as I seek to simply rest in your grace. I don’t deserve what you have done for me, yet You did it anyway. Thank You, Jesus. On this day, let me remember Your sacrifice and Your blood, but don’t let me miss the grace and hope You offer. I love You. Amen.

Good Friday thoughts

My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? As Christ speaks those words, he too is in the wilderness. He speaks them when all is lost. He speaks them when there is nothing even he can hear except for the croak of his own voice and when as far as he can see there is no God to hear him. And in a way his words are a love song, the greatest love song of them all. In a way his words are the words we all of us must speak before we know what it means to love God as we are commanded to love him.

My God, my God. Though God is not there for him to see or hear, he calls on him still because he can do no other. Not even the cross, not even death, not even life, can destroy his love for God. Not even God can destroy his love for God because the love he loves God with is God’s love empowering him to love in return with all his heart even when his heart is all but  broken.”

— Francis Buechner in Listening to Your Life

Take, eat, this is my body, broken for you, Jesus said. Do this in remembrance of Me.

Let us remember today.

Hosanna

They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting:
         “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD;
         Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Yesterday, Christians around the world celebrated Palm Sunday. I, for one, needed to hear the familiar Scripture, to be reminded. I needed to remember. I needed to shout hosanna in my heart and let it fly off my lips.

Because Hosanna is a special word. It literally means “God save us,” and when I say it, it is the cry of woman who knows she is a sinner who needs a Savior.

Yesterday ushered in the beginning of Holy Week. While the liturgy is largely absent from the Baptist church I attend, my heart still marks the days of Jesus’ final week on earth. Yesterday, Palm Sunday, was a day of celebration, a good day, but Jesus would have few of those over the next few days. But never doubt that He didn’t know what was going to happen that fateful week. When He turned His face to Jerusalem and mounted that colt to enter to the people’s cries of joy, He knew that He was walking toward the cross.

For me. For you. For sinners.

So cry out with the shout of the centuries. Hosanna! God save us! We are a people in need of a Savior.

“Saviour, be born in each of us who raises his face to thy face, not knowing fully who he is or who Thou art, knowing only that Thy love is beyond His knowing and that no other has the power to make Him whole. Come, Lord Jesus. . . ”  —Frederick Buechner

I’m back!

In case you didn’t notice, “Unfinished Business” (this blog) was oddly silent this weekend.

That wasn’t exactly intentional.

When I left work on Thursday, I planned to blog on Friday and get a “Weekend in Rewind” up for Saturday (I usually schedule those to post and don’t manually do it every Saturday), but then Friday came and I just didn’t do it. I thought about it, but a vacation from the blog seemed like a good idea. Easter is the most important holiday in my opinion, and I felt like maybe it was time to give up my blogging time for contemplation time. For rest. So, I went silent.

And it was worth it. Friday was restful and I spent some quality time with a friend and got a pedicure. (My polish color is “Secrets.” My toes have secrets!) I went to the Good Friday service and cried throughout. It was very somber, very fitting, and exactly what I needed. On Saturday, I got my eyebrows waxed, shopped for shoes, and cleaned my house.

On Easter morning, I was up by 6:30 a.m. seeing that I had to be at church, look presentable, and be ready to sing at 8:15 a.m. It actually all happened! And Easter was a good day for me. You may not know, but last Easter was awful for me. I was at a low point spiritually; I felt alone and faithless, lost in the songs of joy that I didn’t feel. This Easter couldn’t be any more different. I was joyous this year when I sang the words “He’s alive!” and the songs about resurrection, because God has worked resurrection and healing in my life during this last year. I know that God will never leave me. I know that I am deeply loved, even on the cross, and I know that Jesus is not elusive or far away. He’s very near.

To quote Andrew Peterson, yesterday “I sang out with joy to the brave little boy who was God, but he made himself nothing.” May we never forget that Christ came to save, to heal, to rescue. And the work is entirely finished. It’s not about getting ourselves cleaned up, our sin managed, or getting everything right before we come. It’s just about hearing the call of Christ and coming. Following. Seeking. Not always understanding. Trusting.

As I child, I heard the call and I simply came. I said yes to the invitation to follow. As an adult, I still say yes. Because He doesn’t desert me. Because He loves me. Because I understand the depth of my sin and my capacity to sin so much better now. Because He is alive and I am alive in Him.

So, Easter is over for this year, but don’t let the celebration end.

Dispatches

It’s Wednesday, Wednesday, Wednesday! (Say that in the style of “sabado, sabado, sabado” on your favorite Spanish station.)

And you all know what Wednesday means, right? Dispatches! Who’s excited? Who’s been counting down the days since last week? Who thinks I’m delusional and not the least bit funny? (You can put your hands down. I’ll smack you upside the head later.)

Anyway, Dispatches. Let’s get on with our regularly scheduled program:

• Ever had one of those mornings where nothing really goes wrong, but you just feel a bit off? That’s today for me. When the alarm went off, instead of hitting the snooze button once (I allow myself one hit of the snooze every morning), I hit the reset alarm button. That means that 9 minutes later, my alarm does NOT go off again. It suffices to say I got out of bed a tiny bit later than usual. Not much, but some. Then there was feeding the dog, myself, and watering the patio plants, which I just decided to do. I usually do that in the afternoons. Then, I didn’t care what my hair looked like or what I wore, resulting in slightly out-of-control hair and clothing that I think is all just slightly too big. That’s better than too small, I guess! Then, I was searching for brown socks to wear with my brown pants. And couldn’t find them in the drawer. (If you’ve never seen my sock drawer, it is akin to my massive “collection” of pajamas.) Where are my brown socks?, I asked. WHERE ARE MY BROWN SOCKS?! (Did I miss 60B? DID I MISS 60B?!) Guys, I have more than one pair of brown socks. And couldn’t find any of them. I don’t remember wearing them. Maybe the sock goblin ate them?

• Speaking of snooze buttons, who is the weirdo that decided the intervals of how long a “snooze” lasts? I mean, why 8 or 9 minutes as most clocks allow? It’s just such a random number!

• Someone put a sign on my door that reads “Grass Skirts 25¢.” I don’t know why. (I do think it’s from the VBS sale yesterday, but still, why me?)

• I think allergies suck. Or at least that’s my self-diagnosis/observation. Last night, despite feeling bleh and being congested and having a sore throat, I read a lot of the book I’m reading The Last Summer (of you and me). The reason this affects how I feel? It makes me cry. A lot. I know one of the sisters is going to die and I can’t take it. Crying is not conducive to breathing in my state, though, so I eventually had to put the book down. But while it’s not an award-winning novel or the level of a classic, I can’t put it down. I just want to finish it. I want to know what happens. I want Paul and Alice to stop being all stupid and just get over themselves.

• I never thought I was a sci-fi person. Not really, anyway. I mean, it was my brother who watched “StarTrek” and all those kinds of shows. I’d just watch when he had it on while I was in the room, and usually, I was reading a book or on the computer or doing something else. But I think I must have paid more attention than I thought, because I sort of remember all kinds of things from “StarTrek: The Next Generation.” And lately, I’ve found myself watching the Sci-Fi network (which inexplicably changed it’s name to “ScyFy,” which in my opinion is dumb). Of particular note in this time before fall TV hits the airwaves? “Warehouse 13.” It’s light-hearted, but sort of has that “XFiles”/Rambaldi part of “Alias” feel.

• It’s less than a week until the Heart concert! I will get up and leave, though, if “Barracuda” does not make an appearance. OK, maybe not leave, but I will go out into the lobby in search of the Hatch Show print made for the show. B/c I love Hatch Show prints.

• I’m oddly excited about my lunch today. It’s leftovers, which is what makes the excitement odd. But it’s leftovers of a pasta thing I made last night involving sausage ravioli, asparagus, mushrooms, and prosciutto and Parmesan/Romano cheese with a light cream sauce. Yummy!

That’s it for today. I hope you all have happy Wednesday. 🙂

Favorite Days

It’s funny that this year, one of my favorite times of the year, the NCAA tournament, opens on one of my favorite times of the year as a Christian.

See, today is Thursday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday if you belong to a more liturgically oriented denomination. And today is the day Christians stop to remember Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, instituting the Lord’s Supper in the middle of the Jewish Passover meal, agonizing and praying in the garden while His best, most trusted friends and followers fell asleep, then being arrested and drug away for a mockery of a trial that would end with Him on a cross at Golgotha. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday—these are dark days.

I grew up in the Baptist church, and because that doctrine is closest to what I believe, that’s the denomination I’m still a member of. But growing up, my family usually attended Holy Week services each day of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter at the United Methodist Church in our small town.  As I’ve gotten older and looked back on those times, visited other church services and studied denominations, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes in our Baptist fervor to steer away from anything that might be too “liturgical” or “Catholic,” we miss out on the nuances and special symbolism of these days before Easter.

Holy Week starts with Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, heralded as the Messiah, a conquering hero. He cleanses the temple, teaches in the temple, instructs His disciples to make the upper room ready for the Passover, and predicts His coming death. In John 12:27, He even says, “Now My soul is troubled. What should I say—Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour.” He had come to earth as a baby and hit all the milestones children achieve. He’d grown into a man, begun His ministry, performed miracles. And now the time was drawing to a close. He’d been marching toward the cross since His birth. And His sorrow was only hours away. How could He bear it? How could He willingly go?

Maundy Thursday is a somber day. The pomp and circumstance, the purple and scarlet of the Holy Week celebrations are taken away; black drapery and sometimes a crown of thorns replace them.  Scripture readings focus on Christ’s actions and instructions at that first Lord’s Supper and last Passover meal with His disciples, His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are the sorrow before the joy of Easter.

And while we Baptists get all fired up about Easter—and it is the MOST important day on the Christian calendar, because without it, we’d have no hope—but we can’t celebrate Easter without the sorrow, sadness, and horrors of Thursday and Friday.

You don’t get the salvation without the sacrifice.

So today, I urge you to think on these things. Seek to understand Christ’s sacrifice, or at least to wrap your brain around a little bit of it. If you’d like more “Scriptural” thoughts to mull this over with, visit the blog for the mag I edit. I’ve been writing a series of devotional thoughts for Holy Week over there.

Maundy Thursday

During the week before Easter, the small Methodist church in my hometown marks each day of Holy Week. They meet together each morning to read Scripture and sing songs and set their minds to thinking about what happened in Jesus’ life that day and why it’s so important 2000 years later. My family always attended, and I always thought there was something special about those early morning services.

But one of the more significant Holy Week services I attended wasn’t one of those morning meetings. Instead, it was the Maundy Thursday service, which generally happened at night. The service detailed the Last Supper Christ took with His disciples, inaugurating our Communion or Eucharist, and focused on His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane and the betrayal of a supposed friend and follower. It was a solemn service, void of all the pomp and pageantry of Palm Sunday. It’s a service of sorrows, which is appropriate, since without Christ’s extreme sorrow and suffering, Easter would be meaningless and our lives would be hopeless. For this service, the decorations of Easter—the royal purple, the pretty flowers—would all be removed. In their places would be black cloths and a stark crown of thorns. We’d read the Scripture accounts of those final moments with His friends, the truths He still desired to impart, the stupid arguments of the disciples about who was the greatest. And we’d sing a few somber songs and leave in silence. It was hard to go in peace knowing that the next day marked both the most terrible and most hopeful day in all history. As we left those Maundy Thursday services, we knew that Good Friday marked Jesus’ death on a rough hewn, heavy, cruel cross. These are dark days.

But they are important days and days I wouldn’t do without. And I hope this year as I muddle through my work and busyness that I take a moment tonight to remember that Passover supper with the Lamb and consider what it means to me. I hope I ponder His anguish in the Garden and take to heart His prayer. I hope above all, that I don’t forget that this suffering is the means to my hope—that without these dark days when evil thought it had won—I wouldn’t know the depth of my Father’s love or the power of Christ’s resurrection.