Twenty-Nine.

My Grandma Esther (affectionately called “Mee-Maw” by me and my brother), always told people that she was “twenty nine and some months.” I never really understood why she chose 29. It didn’t hold any traditional significance like 16, 18 or 21. It just seemed like a random number.

Mee Maw

Looking good for 29 and some months, Mee Maw :)

Mee Maw had both the sparkle of youth and the matter-of-fact wisdom that comes with time. She always told it how it was. There was no wondering whether the precious gem of truth she just shared with you was actually true. You knew it was because she was confident in who she was and there was no pretending otherwise. I  treasure the letters my mom saved between the two of them, kept safely in a pretty binder on my desk. I laugh out loud reading her words, remembering her personality as it shined through her writing:

“While I’m on my soap box – I hate shopping – for clothes, for food, for furniture, anything – and it seems your Dad loves it but likes me to tag along as if I have a say in whatever he’s looking for.” (I totally get it, Mee Maw.)

Maybe she was onto something with this whole 29 thing. Young enough that you can still fully embrace your girlish, youthful tendencies. Old enough that you start to understand why it REALLY doesn’t matter what other people think.

So here we go twenty-nine. I’m ready to let go of what the world thinks of me and just embrace the life I’ve been given.

Mee Maw, this year’s for you.

Oh Glorious Day!

In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”
Luke 24:5-7

Happy Easter! I hope you were able to recognize the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ today. We attended a traditional Lutheran service at my childhood church and then our regular church for a more contemporary celebration. It was an awesome morning of worship and praise for our Messiah!

At the second service, someone prayed for the many believers who did not have the freedom to gather and boldly proclaim the glory of our risen Lord. We lift up those brothers and sisters tonight and sing just a little bit louder for them!

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day!

Thanks for following along with me on the 40 Days of Lent. I pray that God has met you in this time of reflection on His Word. Let us all go forth with a renewed sense of purpose in the Gospel.

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Were You There?

Today’s 40 Days of Lent reading is from John 20:1-31.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?

(Listen to it here: Were You There)

We sang this last night at the Good Friday service, also known as the Tenebrae. The service had gotten progressively darker with the lights dimming after each reading from scripture. We sang this song in complete darkness as an image of Jesus on the cross was projected before us.

It was incredibly powerful, moving me to tears (like this song tends to do every year!). After a brief blessing from the pastor, we all left in silence.

Before getting into our cars, my mom leaned over to me and said quietly, “Did you know that hymn is a slave spiritual?”

Sure enough, my mom sent me a few emails later in the evening with details about the evangelism of slaves and history behind their soulful hymns.

(PBS did a great series on this if you are interested: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/singers/index.html)

When I consider the brutal existence that many slaves endured, it moves me deeply to listen to these words of faith and conviction.

An article on CBN writes beautifully about the connection slaves found to Jesus:

“How was he able to forgive?” they questioned. “What was it that enabled him to love those who were unlovable?” Was he in pain? They were in pain. Did he have to drink the cup of suffering? They had to drink theirs, too. Yes, their cross was one with his cross. Jesus died for the sins of all men, of every color. He had to be who he said he was. How else could he have done what he did? In time, they embraced Jesus as their Savior, and they experienced His peace, His grace and forgiveness, and His hope for the future.”

Tomorrow we get to rejoice in the freedom of new life in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May we also celebrate the freedoms won in this country and pray for the liberation so many others still yearn for today.

Blessed Redeemer, Precious Redeemer

Today’s 40 Days of Lent reading is from John 19:28-42.

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:28-30

My soul sits heavy today.

I know that victory has been won and that Christ has Risen.

But to fully celebrate that victory on Easter morning, I find it necessary to reflect on all the ways I am also responsible for the crucifixion and death of Jesus. It’s like the story He told to Simon when the sinful woman anointed Him with oil:

“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said . . .

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Luke 7:41-43

Sometimes I like to pretend that I’m keeping it all together pretty well. I become numb to my sinful ways and trick myself into believing that I don’t need the precious sacrifice of Jesus.

I know, it’s pathetic.

And if it weren’t for my marriage, a good church and the humbling support of friends, I think God would have to spend a lot more creative energy getting me to remember Him and the power of the cross.

The truth is, I am still a sinner. I didn’t magically become perfect when I became a follower of Jesus. I just acquired His power within me to pursue His perfection. And so I continue to be made new.

The cross is the greatest reminder of my sinful ways. It is incredibly painful to see re-enactments of the crucifixion but it snaps me out of my numb ignorance to the pride, anger, envy, and deception that continue to show evidence in my life.

I’m looking forward to the Good Friday service we will be attending tonight because I desire to be humbled by God and the sacrifice of His Son. If you don’t have plans to attend a service, I encourage you to read the full scripture of the crucifixion of Jesus which you can find here, here, here, and here. You may also want to participate in some worship of your own. Here are some great hymns and some more contemporary songs to observe this powerful and solemn day:

Blessed Redeemer – Casting Crowns

Jesus Paid It All – Newsboys

O Sacred Head Now Wounded – Fernando Ortega

In the Cross of Christ I Glory – Holland Davis

Lamb of God – Sarah Reeves

The Power of the Cross – Kristyn Getty

Worthy is the Lamb – Hillsong

Just As I Am – Brian Doerksen

Heavenly Father, I confess my complete inability to be whole without Your redeeming power and ask for Your forgiveness in all the ways I have failed and continue to fail You. Thank you Jesus for being the Lamb who sacrificed yourself for our sins. In the words of my nephew, You died so that the people could live longer. Not only longer, but freer and richer. We praise You for the complete freedom You won for us in Your victory on the cross. Hallelujah! We wait expectantly for the day You will return. Amen.

The Wondrous Cross

Today’s 40 Days of Lent post is from Luke 23:26-49.

back bay

I’m battling a cold and haven’t been able to think too hard for the past 24 hours. So instead of sharing my thoughts on today’s scripture, I just want to leave you with the words from one of my favorite hymns, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Goodnight, all.

 

Some Thoughts on Easter

Today’s 40 Days of Lent reading is from Matthew 27:27-44.

Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
Matthew 27:27-31

People complain about the commercialization of Christmas and the birth of Jesus becoming buried beneath presents delivered by a jolly old white-haired man.

What about Easter?

I hadn’t really given the plastic eggs, chocolate bunnies and frilly dresses much thought until I read this post by Jen Hatmaker called A Broken Hallelujah.

“This is the week Jesus rose to his task and split history in two. This is the week he rode on a donkey, cried in the garden, suffered on the cross, rose into glory. This is the week that sinful, broken humans were granted a pardon, justified to perfection and set free. It is too miraculous for words. Songs and sermons fail us; we huddle at the cross, overwhelmed by the punishment that brought us peace.” (A Broken Hallelujah, Jen Hatmaker)

(Okay go read the whole thing and then come back!)

What do you think?

I’ll be completely honest here. I love getting an Easter basket. I love candy. I also really enjoy the big Easter feast with lots of delicious food and special company. It makes the day feel like a joyous celebration. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.

But the endless commercials about Easter outfits and extravagant baskets full of candy in this most sober and reflective week of the year do seem offensive. I would love to see people focus on service rather than keeping up with the Joneses or giving their kids the biggest and best Easter basket.

Like Jen, Easter is the most tender season for me. Lent is more precious to me than Advent, as much as I really do adore the expectation and trimmings of Christmas. Some of my favorite “church memories” are the contemplative services of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

My childhood church holds an Easter vigil of prayer from Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning. The year I shared an hour with my mom was one of the most special hours of prayer I’ve ever experienced. It felt so holy and sacred.

So yeah, the plastic eggs and the chocolate bunnies do seem to take away from that. And I can imagine that Easter Sunday at some churches can feel like a fashion show or a contest to see who looks the most put together and fancy for the resurrection of Christ.

(While my mom did look for a proper Easter dress for me, her biggest concern was not looking the best at church. She was desperate to find me a dress with long sleeves for what was always a cold and sometimes even snowy holiday in Maine!)

I’ll probably eat some pastel colored Peeps this weekend and I will definitely enjoy a big Easter dinner with my wonderful family. But the best part of Easter will be the quiet reflection in the days leading up to the morning when we get to shout: He is risen indeed!!

What are your favorite Easter memories? Do you think the secular aspects of Easter detract from observing the resurrection of Jesus?

 

Sunday Night Worship, 6

The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is wonderful to see.
This is the day the Lord has made.
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Please, Lord, please save us.
Please, Lord, please give us success.
Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God, shining upon us.
Take the sacrifice and bind it with cords on the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise you!
You are my God, and I will exalt you!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Psalm 118:22-29

I Surrender All – Jadon Lavik

The Love of God – MercyMe

O Praise Him – David Crowder Band

Breathe – Marie Burnett

Break Every Chain – Jesus Culture

Here’s to praising God as we enter Holy Week. We are thankful that He has already risen! Hallelujah!