Why I can sing

Holy week began with a boisterous procession, the One everyone hailed riding on a young donkey that had never been ridden. How did he tame that beast? I whispered, “Can you tame the wild places in my heart that still evade my censure?” Palm branches waved in my face as he rode near. Then he was there, looking right at me, something of a smile, the smile of a friend who knows me, perhaps better than I do myself. And those eyes. Not laughing, but bright, intensely alive, looking deep into my soul and loving me.

The donkey jostled him from side to side. Clop, clop, clop, he passed by, me clutching those eyes to my heart.

That smiling face followed me throughout the week, glancing from the table as he broke the bread and lifted the cup, one last time with his close friends. Nodding as he washed their feet, as if to say, do you see how I’m doing this? The way my touch loves filthy into soft and new?

And then he turned away, into the garden, into the night of his despair. I could only watch from a distance, knowing I would betray him with a kiss every time I loved something more than him.

As the cock crowed he turned and looked at me again. I expected harsh eyes, accusing eyes. But it was knowing, painfully loving me deep within, in spite of my treasonous heart that sought the approval of others over him. As he was beaten and humiliated, I knew every blow was meant for me. For my sin. And yet he took it. All.

All the way to the nails pounded into hands that had touched the leper and turned his skin into purity. Hands that had broken bread to feed thousands.

I stood at the foot of the cross, at first unable to look up, dreading the truth of his look. It was for me he struggled for breath as his blood ran down the rough wood and stained the ground.

At last, strangely drawn, I looked up. He smiled! It was brief, but there in the midst of darkness and pain beyond bearing, I saw his knowing. Barely nodding, his eyes said, “For it all. I’m here for it all.”

Out loud, “It is finished.”

Did the whole world shake as much as I?

But darkness seemed to win again. How could I go on, now that those eyes were closed and all the light had gone out?

At the end of the waiting, seeking even the closed eyes and still body, hands that could not stroke my cheeks, I went and found nothing.

Nothing like I ever dreamed.

Nothing I could do or change or earn or even imagine into existence.

The heavy stone was rolled away, the weight of all my mistakes moved aside to make way for life.

There he was! Laughing eyes loving me, somehow even more, as if to say, “Now you can laugh at the darkness, too!”

“Now you are free of grave clothes, too!”

“Now you can be fully alive, too!”

And I will never be the same again.

That’s why I sing, “Hallelujah, He has risen!”

Halloween? No thanks.

I won’t be home for Halloween, and I must admit, I don’t mind. Unlike my youngest daughter, who has turned it into a warm neighborhood event, the best I have mustered is handing out stickers instead of candy. (I don’t use sugar, so can’t see giving it to children.) However, my feelings about Halloween go much deeper. It’s the darkness.darkness

Sure, a lot of people make cute costumes and have fun parties. I did that as a child and loved it. I enjoyed trick-or-treating with my brothers, gathering the haul of sweets that had to last us until Christmas. Bobbing for apples, carving Jack-o-lanterns and eating an apple on a string were great fun, too.

Back then, I didn’t recognize darkness. At least, not conceptually. I certainly felt it. And more, I lived in more darkness than I realized.

As an adult, when I learned what my father had been involved in, and the important part Halloween plays in the gruesome practices, I wanted to ban the celebration entirely.

I certainly never dressed up as a witch again. Give me animals or fairy tale characters any day.

What concerns me about Halloween, for our culture at large, is the growing, blatant familiarity with, and for some, preference for darkness.

Have you noticed, there is a trend toward more elaborate decorations for Halloween than for Christmas?

I know the darkness cannot overpower the light. I’ve read the last chapter.

It isn’t ghoulish rubber masks or pointed hats and brooms that bother me, so much as what they represent. It’s not all fantasy.

I am well acquainted with the way darkness can twist lives, damage children, tear families apart, even drive some to take their own lives, or other’s.

Evil is real.

In our world full of discord, public and personal ugliness, polarization on every side, selfishness, addictions of all kinds, and with an astounding market for child sex slaves and “private” porn, I don’t want to even play with the shadows.

I’ve seen what happens in my life when I’ve shifted my focus from what has harmed me to what blesses me. Have you?

I’ll chose the light, every time.

It does matter what we celebrate and honor, where we focus.

When Paul was in prison in Rome, and eventually died there, he wrote what some have called the Book of Joy to the Philippians. He could have looked at the moss on the cold stone walls, the chains, the guards, and the whispers of his eminent death, and gone into major depression.
Instead, he writes:

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

We need to remember

I still cannot watch videos or look at pictures of that horrible day on the eleventh of September, 2001, without churning emotion. Many chose not to look, say it’s too depressing. But I believe, no matter how painful, we need to remember.

WTC, NYC
One World Trade Center

With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
Steel girders on display at memorial
Steel girders on display at memorial

Remember what?

Remember how real evil is.

When we see and feel the evil on 9/11 we know that evil is not just a matter of someone getting up on the wrong side of the bed, or having suffered a bad childhood. Evil is real, and active, deceiving many into believing they are securing eternal happiness by killing as many others as possible.

Sadly, evil is not the solely the province of terrorists.

In the last fifteen years I’ve seen a huge shift in our collective awareness of evil, of right and wrong. From video games, TV shows, movies and social media it seems that many in our culture have a growing fascination with darkness, violence and death. Some seek it as power, others as escape.

It is neither.

Evil is ultimately only about destruction. Others first, then our own.

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for — will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:6-10 MSG

We also need to remember the good. The first responders who rushed in and gave their lives. The private citizens who ferried thousands who were trapped off Manhattan Island that day. The passengers and crew on Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives to protect the Washington target. Volunteers who arrived in NYC and the Pentagon, day after day to help in any way they could, and people across the country who donated food and supplies.

Whenever evil strikes, it lights a fire it cannot snuff out, a fire of courage and determination, of light and love.

In the end, we are faced with daily choices, light or darkness, though very rarely so clearly defined.

Will we pause and reflect, then go on with life as usual?

Or will we decide to make a difference, be the bearers of light? Truth? Love?

Can we do our part?

Only if we remember the stakes.

What do you recall from that day? Has it changed your life?


I’m not very familiar with country music, but this song expresses it.