How we look back on the darkest day in history

IMG_1452What was it like, this day those years ago, that empty, sad, confusing day? Did the clouds hover over clumps of confused believers stunned by the day just past? Or did the sun rise bright over Jerusalem like nothing had ever happened? Like God didn’t just let Himself be hanged from wooden beams on a blood-soaked hill.

Was Peter hating himself, Thomas wrapped in denial that any of it was real, James and John feeling the beams like battering rams in their gut? Did they word the pain of the chasm wide, or were they numbed into silence? Could they have possibly comprehended such complete surrender to the will of the Father?

I wonder if Lazarus was there, or if Jesus had sent him home to safety. And I wonder if somewhere in his spirit he knew of the Divine Tragedy, pondered his own life returned and its Giver sealed away in a borrowed tomb.

I ponder how Jesus must have spent the day outside of bloodied body and time and space, wrestling with demons in a battle that would ultimately defeat death for all of us. I wonder what it was like for Him there where He was never meant to be, fighting the ultimate war for all of us for all of time so we can live forever.

So we can live forever. Not just exist. Not just get by. Not just manage. Live.

We rarely talk about this day. It was a holiday, and not just any holiday. It was the Passover, so there would have been much merriment and feasting. But for those who were sure their world had lately ended, it must have been a hollow day, emptied of its joy like we face holidays just after burying someone we love.

Was God still looking away, or was He smiling in the Knowing, cheering His only Son in the ultimate title match, willing all of Creation to just hold on a little longer? Or perhaps the battle in reality and outside our limited understanding was already won, His visit there simply to speak with the authority of the Almighty, “Death, in my nail-pierced hand I hold your sting, and with sacred victory declare of your hold over my children–it is finished!”

Was Heaven holding its breath in a holy “Wait for it…”?

How do we look back to then and how do we honor this darkest day in history here on knowing side where all things are made new? Does it change us to know?

Can we pause to feel along with those crushed believers the heaviness of a world gone dark with eternity hanging in the balance, and then recall the  dawn they hadn’t yet seen when all darkness would be forever turned to glorious light? Can we hold them all in our hearts and weep with them blessed with the assurance that no, the world was not yet ending, and was really only just beginning?

We live here on the knowing side, our children rushing through grass with little green baskets, sharing candy and stories and preparing for the day to come, the day we know came. The day they didn’t know about.

We live here truly living and not just trudging from one day to the next because that day did come, and it made all the difference. We live this darkest day in history not even really noticing the darkness because the light is soon to come and in these days we live grateful for His gift of purest grace because it makes all the difference.

And we pour out that grace and that joy that bubbles up because we can’t not share it. We share it because it makes a difference for all of us and we’re in this together and that eternal life He died for, well, we want everyone to live it because He wants everyone to live it. He sealed the purchase with His own blood, gave His very life for us, and I wonder if we are willing to give ours back.

I greet this hollow day made holy, grateful that He has made me whole and praying that my heart is never content with anything less than complete surrender to the One Who makes all things new.

 

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What’s so good about this Friday

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He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being 
fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To
 fall on Him.

{Isaiah 53:3-5}

I haven’t always understood why this is called “Good Friday”. I remember years back thinking, “Good? Are you kidding me? All that was done to Him–perfect Him–and this is good?” It left me somewhere between devastated and furious to think of calling this day ‘good’.

But it is good, because He is good. And what He did is good. It was our only hope. Because of the horrific things that happened on this day all those years ago frozen in time, we get to live.

But we get to do more than live. We get to thrive. We get to live in abundance with the King of Glory because He laid it all down and let them pierce Him through. For me. For all of us.

And to think, all we have to do is accept that matchless gift. Just take it and be grateful and live like it means something.

God, help me live like it means everything.

Lessons being learned {iFocus Holy Week Challenge}

is53I forgot to take my Bible with me when I went out yesterday. Twice. Yep, that’s twice in the same day.

Which makes me ever more grateful for a few things: grace, a chill disposition, and a sense of humor.

What’s funny is the lessons I’m learning from keeping the challenge and from flubbing it up.

First off, I’m all the more grateful for apps like YouVersion and GloBible. The value of such advances in technology can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored. No need to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I’m also more keenly aware of the presence of my Bible in general, which I consider a good thing. It just sharpens the love and awareness I already had and makes me love it more.

Two more days. I wonder what other whispers I will hear from this challenge.

The Word, ever close at hand {iFocus Challenge}

iFocus2I love having my Bible open all the time, set on a little tray table to my right while I sit at my desk. It is a fitting place for something to which I refer often throughout the day. It’s also close to where my phone sits, and they are buddies this week.

Earlier today I set my iPhone wallpaper to the photo of my Bible. It wears it well. My penguin bookmark, a gift from a sweet little friend five years ago, marks the passage I am studying along with the Good Morning Girls. Today we talked about God going above and beyond in His provision for us. Does He ever.

This morning I was desperate for rescue. More so than I even realized. I didn’t mean to break down, but it happened and maybe it wasn’t a bad thing. Tears always provide great release.

Where I felt I needed rescue, God knew I needed more than that. He sent renewal in the most treasured way, through a most beautiful friend. I spent the remainder of the day working on a Vision Board while I worked on laundry and cooked dinner.

Where there is no vision, people perish. I am grateful for those in my life who are unwilling to allow me to perish, who breathe vision and hope into my life in ways I can’t quite describe. I only pray for the ability to weave that into a gift I can in turn give away.

Renewing a natural attachment to the Word {iFocus Challenge}

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I’ve been in love with God’s Word for much of my life. I got to thinking about something today, though, and it was a bit sobering. The times when I have loved His Word most, held it close to my heart wanting to never let go, was when I was in the deepest pain.

It happened when we lost our baby daughter in 1990. The Word became my lifeline. I poured myself into my Bible and poured its words into me like I couldn’t get enough. Because I couldn’t get enough.

Heather died in April and a few weeks later on Mother’s Day Steve bought me a beautiful peach-tinted study Bible. I carried it with me everywhere. I still have it, worn and water-damaged and highlighted and notated and frayed. The only reason I’m not still using it nearly exclusively is because some of the pages are permanently stuck together from an unfortunate flooding accident a couple of years ago. I won’t part with it, though. There’s plenty between those tattered peach covers that I can still read.

iFocus – My personal Holy Week challenge

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Not long ago a Facebook meme caught my eye. It said:

What if we treated our Bibles like we treat our cell phones?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?

What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?

What if we flipped through it several times a day?

What if we used it to receive messages from the text?

What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?

What if we gave it to kids as gifts?

What if we used it as we traveled?

What if we used it in case of an emergency?

What if we upgraded it to get the latest version?

This is something to make you go…hmmm…where is my Bible?

Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our cell phone, we don’t ever have to worry about our bible being disconnected because Jesus already paid the bill!

I made an “ouch” face and scrolled past. But I couldn’t get that thought out of my head for anything. What if? And how am I even wondering about this? Why can’t I just smile and say, “Oh, believe me, I prize my Bible far above my cell phone!”

Because my actions don’t support that.

Not long ago I got almost all the way to my destination only to realize I had left my iPhone at home. I’m ashamed to confess that it dampened my whole evening. I wish I could say that was the only time that has happened. I’d like to say it’s because I hate being without that connection to my kids, but that is only part of the truth. The rest of it is I am just plain attached to my phone.

Our church’s message theme over the past few weeks has been “Focus”. Well, God has been bringing His Word into my central focus in a big way.

In the days that followed my first encounter that with that meme, God began planting a seed in my heart that bloomed into a challenge I have termed iFocus.

Here’s the challenge I set for myself.

For this week, Holy Week 2013, my iPhone will be attached (so to speak) to my Bible.

Where my phone goes, my Bible goes.
When I consult my phone (for anything), I consult my Bible (for something significant).
I will be blogging my thoughts on the challenge throughout the week.

Interestingly, I am starting a new Good Morning Girls Bible study tomorrow. Coincidence? Doubtful.

So here we go. Already today I’ve been studying from my Hebrew/Greek Keyword Study Bible on living a quiet and tranquil life of dignity. It’s just what I needed, but I imagine God knew that.

But did I mother you well?

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You’ve grown up, now, all five of you. You are productive citizens pursuing life with fervor. You love God and your fellow man and you serve gratefully. You are both respectful and respected and are just plain good people.

But I need to know: Did I mother you well?

I know I rubbed your back four million times and did your hair and then backed off and watched you do your own when you were sure you could do it by-a-self. And I fed you Southern fried chicken and created KFC Bowls from scratch, made you sweet tea and homemade bread and baked all those cookie cakes for all those birthdays until peanut butter pie took over the favorite spot and then I made those. I planned themed birthday parties and hosted slumber parties of 15 with bodies draped all over the house at 5am, all but those pulling the all-nighter munching on homemade chocolate chip cookies and talking and playing games.

But did I mother you well?

Did I spend enough time just listening to you, sitting with you in the quiet space or doing something you wanted to do? Did I tell you enough times how much I love you?

I know I didn’t complain about football-sweat hugs or get too mad about you leaving your black leather batting glove in your white uniform pocket that ruined my favorite white shirt, and I cheered like a madwoman when you pitched the baseball through that piece of plywood and left a perfect baseball-sized hole clear through. I yelled, “See the ball and take it out!” and “You can do it!” and “Yes, that’s the way!” and “Oh, no you did not just blindside my baby!”, whispered calm and protection in the night and left a lullaby playing softly as I tiptoed out.

But was that enough?

I sat long at the ball practices and watched through every dance class for nine straight years and brought all that strange stuff backstage (just in case, because you never know when you might need an eighth-inch wooden dowel in a pinch). I took those photos–all those photos of every event and every ordinary moment I could capture because they are all extraordinary when you are mothering miracles.

Yes, I chased you down with homemade remedies that smelled awful but made you well by the next day. I teamed up with Daddy to guide you away from bad behavior and attitudes and had those long talks about hormones and all the crazy stuff that comes with growing up. I tried not to make you feel guilty for too much if I could help it, said sorry from my heart when I reacted or made a mistake or scolded too quickly.

I stayed home and made do and lived simply and taught you to love learning for its own sake. I did everything I could do to ignite a passion for life deep in your heart. I treated you like the unique person you are and didn’t compare you to anyone else. I loved celebrating how God wired you because I happen to think He did a splendid job and didn’t mind telling you so. I said you didn’t have to kiss me goodbye in front of your teen friends even though you did it anyway because you wanted to.

But did I mother you well, my children? Did I give you precious memories to hold onto, minimize life’s struggles even a little bit, help you believe you could do anything with God’s help and a good dose of gumption? Did I mother you well?

I ask because as the years fly by and you grow up and out and I see the collateral damage I and others in my generation carry on our backs I need to know I didn’t shift that onto yours. I need to know you carry a much lighter load into adulthood than I did, than my parents did, and theirs before them.

I need to know that I mothered you well because in all this life I can write and speak and paint and and produce but there is no art I could ever create as beautiful as you.

 

The sexy wife I am because of grace

DSC_0478My friend Mary poured her heart into a thought-provoking post about a conference she attended where women were being coached on being sexy for their husbands. For my friend, the presentation left her angry rather than uplifted, indignant instead of inspired.

Her heart broke, not just for herself but for the thousands, millions like her who have suffered abuses that left them heart-scarred and intimacy-wounded. Women who approach their marriage beds trembling or repulsed if they approach them at all.

How many of us walk, as she described, “with a giant limp in the sexy wife arena”?

For more than half my life I dragged that limp, too.

I was molested by a family relative from age 5 to 12, intentionally set up by an older step-sister for a rape I narrowly escaped at 13, and date-raped at 15. I know the pain and confusion of being violated as a child, and I know the hard path of repair.

I’m not under any delusion that my healing would have been nearly so complete if not for the young man I met at 15 and married at 16, the kind-hearted man who showed me who God really is, the imperfect man who for the past 32 years has been a near-perfect husband.

To say that my husband has been gentle and patient would be an enormous understatement. Simply put, his kindness has no bounds. When something scared me, he stopped. When I flashed back, he held me and whispered comfort. When there were certain things I just couldn’t do, he shrugged it off as unimportant in light of my being made whole again.

Because of that gentleness and selfless love, I have processed, forgiven, healed, and let go. Completely. It’s been years since I gave more than a moment’s thought to any of what happened to me back then. The past has lost its hold on me.

Please hear my heart: I say this not to boast but to offer hope. I say this to inspire you to see past your anger at the thought of being a sexy wife. Song of Songs holds massive evidence that God intends that a wife enjoy her husband’s body and that he enjoy hers.

For the wife who has suffered abuse, the thought of her body belonging to anyone else can be terrifying. Because of God’s grace lived out by my beloved, I can live out Song of Songs with an open heart and genuine joy in this beautiful romance.

The hope I offer is not for merely a marginal enough-to-get-by status quo. I’m not talking about just getting to a place where you can make it through without puking or wishing you were a million miles away. I’m talking about complete healing. I’m talking about real joy in intimacy that allows freedom and vulnerability and even adventure.

Since the Garden, the Enemy has tried to steal the joy God gifted to us as husband and wife. He has used horrific, tragic, heart-wrenching behaviors by fallible humans to derail that intimacy because he knows it mirrors our bond with our Creator. With heartless guile he shreds the canopy of the marriage bed and does his best to rend the veil between Christ and His bride. We endure this evil and relive it in brilliant Technicolor and years later can still feel its rough grasp on soft skin.

But God.

God is greater than any evil, any memory, any ugly that has been perpetrated against us, because we don’t belong to the Enemy. We belong to the Lover of our Souls. We can’t erase what was done, but by faith and through grace and with a lot of work we can walk in freedom.

Today I am a sexy wife to my husband. I am an average-looking woman bordering on 50 with more weight than I like and wrinkles and gray hair starting to show my age. But to my husband I am beautiful, and I celebrate that.

Some might say he has earned it, but that was never his goal. I say that I delight in giving him the gift of myself wholly healed and fully his. I grin and run wildly into his arms unashamed and unmarked by the sins committed against me long ago.

We walk in hope together, he and I, and I pray that same hope and freedom for you.

This does not keep my heart from breaking for my beautiful friends still in process. But it does compel me to offer hope that doesn’t let you stay in that place, that assures you there really is a point of restoration. I can’t mark your journey, sweet friend, for it is not mine to mark. I can’t explain the evils any of us have endured or say why things were allowed to happen or name the date when you will feel truly healed.

I would never imply that your pain is anything less than real. My offer of hope does not minimize the hurt you have lived through.

But I can tell you that where once I was broken I am now whole. And that you can be, too.

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