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!”

The long dark week of Lent

The long dark week of Lent

Many are in the midst of a time of hurt, loss, despair or death. Hanging on throughout the forever-three long days and nights of dark emptiness. Much of the Christian church begins the final week of Lent recalling Jesus’ seemingly triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Palm Sunday. How quickly the high of the disciples dissipated into betrayal, fear, and death.

Like the travelers in the airport in Brussels, life can change in an instant, the light blown out.

For others the journey is a slow crawl in a dark tunnel.

Last week, a dear sister laid her mother to rest from a form of dementia that makes Alzheimer’s seem benevolent. I know personally that the horror of the last years of her mother’s life don’t prevent heartache at losing her.

For all who feel like their own Lent will go on forever, that the darkness will never end, I want to share what she wrote on Facebook. (with permission – emphasis mine)

Cecelia Timberlake March 19 at 8:45 pm · A faith perspective of my mom’s death and LENT

This Lent has truly been a desert time for our family, for me, even when surrounded by others, a time without comfort knowing mom was so sick, a time for searching and praying for healing, and a time of preparation. This Lent saying goodbye to the woman who brought me into the world seemed impossible. I fought letting go of mom, resisting with all of my heart. This is my mother, our mother, grandmother, great grandmother and we all fought fiercely to keep her here.

The only way out of this desert is to let the love of Jesus be our guide. His Love dictated the path, the timing, the direction, and prepared the way. Mom was in the desert with us for a while. We ultimately had to let her go, surrender her to our Father.

This Lent I felt weaker than ever, but needed strength. I felt more alone than ever but needed support. I felt emptied of love but needed more love. I felt directionless but needed a compass.

This I know:
Jesus came out of the desert renewed, and He is my example. He tells us He will guide us, love us, strengthen us, quench our thirst, and give us guidance. He will show me and fill me with sustenance. He has great plans for us.

I imagine her walking forward, holding up her arms and smiling, seeing my dad and immediately feeling great joy. I can see him taking her hand and moving forward to greet her sisters Nita and Mildred, and brother Johnnie, I imagine the welcoming party of her mom and dad. Her son. Her friends. Her grandson. Oh, her joy.

THAT’S IT! THAT is the way out. Focus on mom being happy, being whole, enjoying being loved! Focus on her enthusiasm at having memories and the glory of Heaven. No more pain! No more imprisoned in her mind and body. Sometimes after a long dry wait, the rain comes and overnight the whole desert blooms in beautiful flowers. I think mom is in the midst of beauty now, Gods beauty.

Our church reenacts the final Passover Meal that Jesus ate with his friends and washed their feet. We read about his leading them to the garden to pray — he alone in agony when they all fell asleep. In that garden, before one of his friends betrayed him with a kiss, Jesus faced his own his brutal death and separation from God. Alone.

He knows the void of the desert. He knows what the long dark feels like. 

But there is more. So much more.

That night he suffered terrible abuse, cruelty, mockery and rejection, all on the way to “Good” Friday, his torturous death on a cross.

Then to his burial.

His tomb sealed with a stone that took at least ten men to roll in place, everything looked totally hopeless.

But there is more!

On the third day the brave ones found the tomb open, grave clothes undisturbed where they had laid his body. But he wasn’t there.

He arose! Jesus overcame death and darkness.

In this new life he made a way for us out of the wilderness.

Out of the darkness.

When it feels like all is lost, or not worth going forward, I do as Cecelia did. I recall what I know to be true. What God has done for me in the past. What I know of him. What he has promised. And recall that when I am weak, he is strong.

Then I throw myself into his love.

Wishing you the true Light, Joy and Peace.

 

 

 

 

In the face of loss, will I listen to the song?

I had a dream a few nights ago that shook me with one of the blackest events I could imagine. I startled awake, struggling to breathe, heart pounding like helicopter blades. Unlike other something more dreams, I couldn’t pray. I waited for guidance. Nothing. Only my anguish. It felt so real. I could almost hear my heart tearing in two. For fifteen or twenty minutes I had was must have been a full on panic attack. When I’d gulped enough air, I cried, “No! Please, God! No!” And after a while, “Take me instead.”

I felt like Mary must have when Jesus was laid in the tomb and the cross stood empty. Barren. Dead.
carved egg with tree

How deep the darkness that weighed on her.
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dead porcupine fish in Galapagos Islands
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Even after my husband woke up and prayed for me, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I struggled through the morning. Several conversations with two of my daughters helped to ease the ache, but the reality of it stayed in front of me for days — and nights.

A weekend filed with good family time helped to move the pain off center stage, but, like a San Francisco fog which seems to clear, then covers and chills everything, I couldn’t completely shake it.

Until Sunday morning when I went to church with YD and her family.

As so often happens, it was song that spoke to my heart. “God Is Able”

The question for my heart was:

Will you listen to the song from the Lord when you are looking in the face of great loss, hopelessness or grief?

Or will you chose to stay between the cross and the grave, and dwell in loss or fear?

Will you believe he really is a good God who desires good for you, or will you continue to prepare for the great “test” always waiting around the corner to pull the rug out from under you?

Had I generalized God’s order to Abraham about Isaac, believing that he means to take anything I love too much? Was it childhood trauma? Was I like Thomas, believing the worst until proven otherwise? I worked through the logical and psychological reasons for the dream, and the fear, but I couldn’t dodge the bottom line.

Will I trust God, even with this?

Especially with this.

The enemy hisses.

And sometimes Jesus seems silent, with nail-pierced hands extended, waiting for me to reach out for him.

To trust him to pull me out of the darkness.

A resurrection life means we don’t have to listen to the enemy of our souls, to the lies that wound, bind or cripple us.

But it is a choice.

We each face the question: Will I dwell in the valley of the shadow of death, or reach for Jesus?

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Praise