Contradictions and opposites

On February 14th this year we had what appeared a strange contradiction–a day full of sweets and greeting cards professing love with lots of big red hearts, but also a day featured by black cross-shaped smears on foreheads marking our humanity, a sober reminder that we will all someday die and return to ashes. Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day seem to be polar opposites. Actually, the ashes mark our need for the biggest heart, for a love that won’t let go, or let us go.

That day launched the Lenten Journey with the one walking toward death. Another contradiction? Rather than a downer, this journey can warm our hearts with sunlight that never ends.

This year, rather than focus on “giving up” for Lent, I felt drawn to “so much more.” Going in deeper. Spending more time with the one who hovers between both worlds and offers a hand to us who are mired in here and now.

Along the way, I spoke with a friend about the sense of holiness, the glimpse of eternity we may experience when we sit with a loved one in their last days. The line between this earthly life and eternity seems to blur as we usher them into the kingdom. When the end finally comes, it can be hard, even jarring, to leave behind the empty body and walk outside into the sunlight, drive into the traffic or stop at the grocery store, go back to “normal life.”

Eternity colliding with here and now, the opposites can physically shock us.

Palm Sunday, branches waving and hosannas bursting made me wonder if what we really want is jolly old St Nick to come riding in and give us everything on our wish list. (Good for us, he never does. In spite of another strange cultural juxtaposition on Christmas, Santa Claus and Jesus have nothing in common.)

As we leave the bright light of the procession, the Holy Week readings begin and we enter the gloom of betrayal.

Can you imagine a companion you have shared everything with for three years, day in and day out, going behind your back, taking a bribe and turning you over to enemies who want to kill you?

Can you imagine your closest friends falling asleep when you beg them to help you through your hardest time?

Can you imagine being lied about, tried without representation, spit upon, mocked, then suffering hours of beatings meant to kill you, all before the real torture begins—-for nothing you ever did, nothing you could ever deserve?

Where’s the justice in all that?

That leads to Good Friday. How can a day of death, especially an unjustified death, be good? How can we celebrate it year after year, and wear shiny crosses commemorating the worst form of execution?

In another strange contradiction, Jesus endures the horrendous in order to save us from the worst that we deserve.

And from ourselves.

Though we may work or love and care, serve or give, in spite of lovely and loving moments, we are always circumscribed by our selfishness. No matter what we face in our circumstances, isn’t our greatest enemy always within?
No matter how hard we try to do better, or how far we may run to escape, we are always contained by who we are.

When Jesus died, the reports says the sky turned black. The huge, heavy curtain in the temple that separated the Holy of Holies from the mass of worshippers was ripped open. From top to bottom.

The death of Jesus, God-Man tore apart the barrier that confined us within ourselves and our weaknesses. He opened the way for us to be the person we are truly created to be. To live as we were designed to live.

Then, sometime in the grave, all the molecules of that dead, human body were realigned, revitalized and given a new form. A resurrected body brought hope for us. Healing for us. New life now, and when we die as well.

This year, compounding the paradoxical days, Easter coincides with April Fools Day.

How grateful I am there is no rude surprise here, and that I don’t have to live the fool.

With the ultimate contradiction, death gives life.

This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived.
He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.
He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss.
They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back. He suffered in silence, content to let God set things right.
He used his servant body to carry our sins to the Cross so we could be rid of sin, free to live the right way.
His wounds became your healing.
You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going.
Now you’re named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls

1 Peter 2:21‭-‬25 MSG

Where has your journey led you?

Climbing higher, higher?

I listened to the reading of Jacob dreaming of a stairway extending to heaven and God speaking to him, and wondered, how did we come up with “I am climbing Jacob’s ladder”? Jacob didn’t make it, so it wasn’t his ladder. And only the angels went up and down. Jacob simply slept in the dirt with a rock for a pillow.sunset column

God said he would give him the ground he was sleeping on, for him and his descendants. God promised he would bless Jacob, stay with him, protect him, and bring him back to that place.

All Jacob did was wake up, rub his eyes, and turn his pillow into an altar.

Even then, he said IF God did all the things promised, then he would be Jacob’s God. Up until then, he’d only been his father, Isaac’s God.

Jacob didn’t even start with the faith of a mustard seed!

He did nothing to earn the dream.

Nothing to earn the promise.

Nothing to earn the love of the Strong God. 

But here we are, singing that song, trying so hard.

Often we think we actually are climbing higher.

climbing staircase

It depends on your flavor of worship what your style of climbing might be.

For some, it’s carrying a bigger, heavier, well-worn Bible, quoting verses if you’re really good.

For others it’s church and meeting attendance, for some, singing in the choir, serving at the altar, or giving impressive amounts of money. We can be cooks or greeters or arrange flowers, even teachers.

All of it can be just climbing.

The attempt to climb to heaven can also sneak into our worship styles, where some bow and work to look saintly and pious, while in other settings the more you move and the louder you sing the more points you get.

We can feed the poor, help the helpless, even serve as missionaries. We can make anything into a ladder if we spin it right.


Dry Tortugas, FL

All those can be good things, but if they are simply a rung in the ladder, as the wise one said, Life is fleeting, like a passing mist.  It is like trying to catch hold of a breath;
    All vanishes like a vapor; everything is a great vanity.  What good does it do anyone to work so hard again and again, sun up to sundown? All his labor to gain but a little?    One generation comes, another goes” Ecclesiastes 1: 2-4a The Voice

What a relief when we realize that we, like Jacob, have not, and never will, do anything to deserve heaven.

With the surety of the sunrise and sunset every day, God pours out his love on us.

sunrise in Maggie Valley
sunrise in Maggie Valley, NC
Sunrise in Florida Keys
sunrise in Islamorada, Florida
sunset over the Pacific in Maui, HI
Sunset over the Pacific in Maui, HI

God blesses us because of who he is, not what we do or anything we can accomplish.

He smiles at us because of his heart of love, not our best behavior.

Our minds can agree, but how often do we find ourselves still climbing?


Until we fall.

Until we are caught by nail-scarred hands.

And we are truly found. 

“God’s kingdom is right on your doorstep!” Luke 10:9 MSG


Since music speaks so deeply to me, I often end a post with a song. As I wrote this, “Run to Jesus” played in my mind.


Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s graduation into heaven. Many sweet family members made this video for my Mom’s Celebration of Life after her requiem, using “Run to Jesus.” I’d like to share it with you now.

(If the link below doesn’t work, click on these highlighted words and follow the YouTube link.)

The paper at the end with two verses was in my grandmother’s Bible, which Mom found after she died, then tucked into her Bible. Now, it’s tucked in all our hearts.

Some happy Mother’s Days are out of this world

As my girls and I made plans for Mother’s Day, I glanced at the photo under glass on my desk, family gathered around my Mom. Her sweet smile. The familiar ache built in my chest, pulling me into the dark place, wishing I could have one more Mother’s Day to shower love on her.Mother's Day joy

Then I realized that our little brother, Mac, who drowned when he was three, is in heaven celebrating with her.

little brother Mac
Malcom Bayard Foard III

And she is there with her dear mother, celebrating the life of a true servant-hearted woman.


And my grandmother, Eleanor, is celebrating with her mother, Maria, who died when Grandmom was a girl.

Maria Tschanin Zimmerman
Maria Zimmerman

And Maria is celebrating with her mother from her native Switzerland that she fled during an Anabaptist persecution.

That’s as far back as I know family history on Mom’s side.

Enough to give me perspective.

Would I really want to drag Mom back to this little world, when so much has been opened up to her? So much joy. So much celebration. So much connection. So much life.


I stroke the face in the picture, say ‘I love you’ again, and release her into the hands of Love who holds her forever.

Real love is like that, isn’t it? Loving, holding, and then releasing when necessary.

For the first time, I am truly ready to pick up the mantle my brother offered after Mom’s funeral—the matriarch of the family.

To continue to hold them all up in prayer, no matter how large the family grows.

To rejoice in their accomplishments and weep with their pain.

And to smile when my family is gathered around me.

Grammi love
Grammi love
grandchild fun at Easter
egg dying with grands
three generations at Christmas
three generations at Christmas
Siesta Key
Fun in the surf

The circle goes on.

So good. So good.