Within two days of Jesus’ crucifixion, just hours before, a woman would anoint his body for burial… Here is the strange and glorious account of that event:
It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”
While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head. But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.
Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thingfor me.You always have the poorwith you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me.She has done what she could; she has anointed my bodyin advance for burial.Truly I tell you,wherever the gospelis proclaimed in the whole world,what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:1-9
Our pastor Cliff Jordan’s sermon on Mark 14:1-11 brought this account alive again to us. [Listen to the podcast linked above.]
The woman who poured out her treasure – possibly all she had in the world – in worshiping the Lord – was no stranger to him. She was Mary, sister to Lazarus and Martha – friend and follower of Jesus.
Surrounded by the disciples at his host’s table, Jesus was enjoying the company of these men so close to him. Mary entered the room without ceremony and straightaway broke open an alabaster jar containing this expensive perfume. [That jar was like her security – equivalent to a year’s wages in that day – “compared to her love for Jesus, it was nothing”, Cliff preached.]
She would pour that extravagant oil over his head. She then took the dripping oil into her hands and rubbed it on his feet. Drying off the excess with her own hair. The men in the room took loud exception at what they considered her frivolous act…but not Jesus.
“Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thingfor me.You always have the poorwith you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me.She has done what she could; she has anointed my bodyin advance for burial.Truly I tell you,wherever the gospelis proclaimed in the whole world,what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Two days later, Jesus would give his all on a cross. Beaten and bloody he would die…for us…holding nothing back. It was a Friday, and Passover. By the time his body was released to be buried, his followers had to rush, because of the late hour, laying his body in the tomb, wrapped but without anointing oils.
No worries. In the quiet of that Passover evening, Jesus’ body, caked with blood mixed with his sweat, the fragrance of Mary’s love offering must have remained…must have sweetened the stench of his death. He gave his all for us…she gave her all for him.
“Love is a laid-down life.” (Elisabeth Elliot) – We experience that in Jesus, those of us who know him. We see that in Mary.
Pastor Cliff asked the questions: “What is my alabaster jar? Where do we place our security? What can’t we imagine life without?”
I can’t imagine life without Jesus and knowing his love and his great gift of salvation. Everything else pales.
Happy Friday! Quickly, here are my 5 favorite finds for the week.
1) Divine appointments – There is something other-worldly by chance encounters, or visits with old friends, or even an oatmeal breakfast that seem larger than life. I’ve had all three this week and all struck a chord of the wonder and mystery of life…of how circumstances are orchestrated such that only God could be responsible. Why? Because of how deeply and lovingly they penetrate the heart.Visit with an old friend – no agenda; no pretense; just a heart rest.
A bowl of steel-cut oats made into a feast by another dear old friend.
Photo Credit: PXhere [A chance meeting turned into an opportunity and maybe a friendship.]
On the chance encounter: Have you ever spotted someone in the grocery story and something about their appearance or demeanor drew your attention. The image above is a stock photo, but here’s the story. Today while lost in thought over what to buy for Dave’s birthday supper, I noticed this woman in the coolest dress and matching jacket. The fabric was olive green camo. She pulled it off stunningly. I wanted to say something but didn’t.
We ended up in the parking lot at the same time (totally “accidental”; no stalking going on here). I determined if we stowed our carts at the same time I would compliment her fashion sense. We did, and I did. Then a several minute conversation launched easily. She made the suit out of men’s cotton tshirts. Then we talked about our careers, our children, our hopes to make a difference in the world, our faith and our culture. She is an amazing woman…
We exchanged phone numbers and I hope coffee together will follow. I’m currently in a study on justice and longing for an avenue to bring a voice to the voiceless in this city. This woman is a part of that kind of work every single day.
A divine appointment.
2) The Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos – Leaving a child unsupervised with a smart phone or tablet is risky. I’m now more convinced than ever after discovering writer artist James Bridle. He wrote an essay entitled Something Is Wrong on the Internet. If you have children, or care about children, please read it. It is a bit freaky. The video below also tells how he sees how the internet, with apps such as YouTube, using bots and AI devices, is drawing children into content we would never want them to experience.
Who makes these videos? Can you even trace their creators?
“The more time you start to spend with them, the crazier and crazier you start to feel you may be….deep strangeness and deep lack of understanding…Who is making them? Some of them really and clearly by people who shouldn’t be around children at all. ” “There are real people trapped within these systems…even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” Kids drugged looking at these videos. A few auto-clicks away from videos opening surprise eggs will be videos with sexual or violent content still with cartoon characters or superheroes involved. Creepy wrong stuff!!! “Kids’ worst nightmares”.
“Inequality of power [and understanding] always leads to violence.”
“We need to stop thinking of technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.” – James Bridle
3) Senate Confirmation Hearing – The greatest distraction of my week has been the Senate Confirmation Hearings. 4 days of high drama and brilliant oratory. All toward the determination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s worthiness to replace Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court Justice. It was a rollicking, hold-on-to-your-seat experience for those present and for the rest of us watching remotely. The last day when witnesses (i.e. non-Senators) gave their testimony of Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court was especially gripping.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Don’t miss the 4th day of hearings when witnesses gave their testimony (5 in favor and 5 opposing) of Judge Kavanaugh’s character and judicial preparedness for taking a chair on the Supreme Court. YouTube video linked here (1 hr 39 min into the video begins the witness panel).
The last of those witnesses was Akhil Reed Amar, Law professor at Yale University, a registered Democrat, staunch liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton. He actually gave testimony in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Here are his closing remarks:
“Responsible naysayers must become yaysayers of a sort; they must
specifically name better nominees realistically on the horizon.
If not Brett, who?
Distinguished Republicans: Kavanaugh is your team’s brightest judicial star. Rejoice!
Distinguished Democrats: Don’t be mad; be smart, and be careful what you wish for. Our party controls neither the White House nor the Senate. If you torpedo Kavanaugh, you’ll likely end up with someone worse —less brilliant, less constitutionally knowledgeable, less studious, less open-minded, less good for America.”
Haig writes and speaks about anxiety and depression. He knows these experiences personally. I have only read quotes from his books but they are now on my “to-read” list.
The page above from his book Notes on a Nervous Planet was a beautiful study into the things that endure. I’m surprised that Haig describes himself as an atheist. Comforted by the things that have almost always been would seem to lend itself to the great comfort of knowing the God who has always been. No matter his thinking on this, his writing reminds us of the wonder of life including the reasons to stay alive (the title of his earlier book).
By the way, this would be an idea for a great night out with a love or night in with a friend – to come up with our own list of the enduring stuff of life.
Friday has come…and gone. Finishing up this Faves on an early Sunday morning. Summer has wound down. School starts here in a week. Family visits. New babies. Friends back in town. Lots going on. Still…wanted to close the week out with my faves…and you.
1) Pursuing Truth – Deception is a problem of the culture that can become very personal. When something is spoken through public media as if it’s true, or someone we know speaks with confidence and authority, we are tempted to believe it is true…without weighing its validity. This is not always the case…in fact, too often we must sift through motives and spin to get to the meat of the matter.
From the time our children were little, we have tried to teach them how to sort out what is true. In the culture today, celebrities opt out of critical thinking by saying such things as “your truth”.
There is truth. How can it be colored so many individual ways?
I’m very thankful for the opportunity for table talk even today with our adult children. Sitting over dinner discussing faith, politics, and society…along with music, film, babies, and the latest technology.
I’m also grateful for friends who can be worlds apart on some ideologies but are bound together by relationship. They teach me so much. In fact, I have sought out some friendships, in the beginning, for those very differences. These are people whose passion and determination in living their passions. They help me make sure I haven’t pigeon-holed a certain worldview without considering what is winsome about it.
Nothing has changed about my belief in a good God…that deepens as I get older. He will answer for Himself one day, as He chooses. On what may have confused any of us, in our human frailty, about both His justice and mercy. I will also answer one day about my own grasp of that and how it influenced my dealings with others.
I do believe that God has given us a guide for life in the Scriptures. I don’t understand it all, but I would not be so bold as to throw out some parts while I cling to others. Absolutely sure He can protect His own story through the ages…from getting lost in translation.
Anyway, what do you think about pursuing truth? It doesn’t happen without intentionality. We are being blasted with “someone’s truth” most all the time. Growing weary of pursuing truth would not go well for us.
It’s a six-week look at God’s heart for justice and came at just the right time for me. Some of us are deeply engaged with turning stories of injustice into hope and healing. I am not one of those but so want to be.Photo Credit: IF Gathering
“If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, and discernment, they will appreciate you so much.
You could change someone’s life today. You could potentially save someone’s life today. You could also indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of making just one person feel heard and seen.
Send the text to a friend.
Make that call to a loved one.
Apologize to a co-worker or employee.
Wrote William Shakespeare, ‘They do not love that do not show their love.'” – Benjamin P. Hardy
4) Biomedical Treatment for Autism – [This is fascinating to me, but I have some idea how hard this could be to read by parents trying to make decisions about what’s right for their child with autism and the rest of their family. So please bear this in mind, while you read.]
During a conversation this week with a young mom who has a child diagnosed with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder), my concept of food as intervention was rocked. In her determination to rid her child of the ravages of autism, she is following the counsel of a renowned local pediatrician, Dr. Mary Megson. Her approach with autistic children includes intensive testing of biological factors and then applying biomedical measures as appropriate for each child’s findings.
I’m not going into the specifics, but my friend has changed up her child’s diet and has also added a long list of supplements each day. Who would even imagine that giving cod liver oil to a child would have impact on autism? I know her sweet child and the changes I’ve seen just in the last few months are remarkable. The video below captures what another mom did for her son and the difference it made. [Don’t be overwhelmed by all the interventions…every family must decide for themselves what they can believe and manage/afford in the care of their child with autism.]
From my friend’s experience and my wonder at this strange disorder, this type intervention is definitely something to consider…for a season, for the sake of a child. There are just so many diets out there, so I can’t imagine how parents make their decisions. Hopefully the benefits outweigh what can be very isolating and divisive between people who care about each other.
5) An Antique Store Experience – This week I was home visiting my family in Georgia. My sister-in-law is an amazing crafts-person – taking dreary scuffed-up (albeit much loved by someone in the past) old furniture and bringing them to life again. She knows all the best antique shops where others do the same sorts of re-purposing and “up-cycling”.
[Someone took a tv cabinet and made it into a beautiful display piece. Do you see the doors of the cabinet were made into the shelving? And how about an artsy chandelier made from bed springs?!]
[Chenille takes me back to childhood before our comfy modern fabrics…when chenille was the softest bed cover to wrap up in.]
That’s a wrap on this week’s favorite finds. Please favor us with some of yours in the Comments section below. Have a splendid end-of-summer weekend. Be gentle with yourself and with those you meet…you just never know what it will mean.
Unhinged. My choice word to describe how I’ve felt all week culminating in a Friday to which I awoke with my eyes being super swollen. I’m wearing an outfit I’m 99% sure I already wore this week (hey, I blame it on being European for a short season & go ahead and judge me as though you’ve never done the same). I’ve slept horribly all week because of worry and stress waking up around 4.
I decided I was going to redeem Friday, eat a croissant, have good coffee, and read a book. Please note the weird lighting and spilled coffee in the background. Because this is actually my life.
The book I’m reading is about a surgeon who during WW2 lived in China and served the Lord and the people there until his premature death. A friend asked me where and why I find books like this and suggested I read something lighter (sometimes I do). This morning it hit me that I know the answer why.
The gravity of a life lived before the Lord in a selfless, sacrificial way calls into reckoning my frivolity and selfishness. I need gravity because far too often I am unhinged and need to be reminded that who I am in Christ, swollen eyes/outfit/sleepless soul/etc., is enough because it doesn’t depend on me. God takes my unhinged-ness and allows me to cast my burdens on him.
And I’m working on it. Praise God. – Taryn Blocker, with permission
Happy Friday! One of those weeks that so rapidly entered history. Lots of travel and family and birthdays and then work, of course. Will go right to the faves before the clock runs down. Hope your weekend is long and lovely.
1) The Fortnite Phenomenon – Not a gamer myself, but when the game Fortnite comes up in conversation with men and boys of all ages, it’s easy to see what a phenomenon it is. A multi-player battle game (with elements of construction as well), Fortnite is free-to-play and wildly popular right now in the gaming universe. A unique component of the game includes avatars who break out into dance. These dances are emulated by player fans, and you would recognize some of them because of boys, in particular, master them as they master the game. These dances have become part of Nathan Mills‘ (Beyond the Guitar) classical guitar repertoire. His YouTube channel subscriber numbers have more than tripled since his first post of Fortnite Dances…and views of his videos are in the millions. Enjoy the latest…as the commenters clamor for Fortnite Dances #4.
2) Back to School – That time of year is back. So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.
As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]
How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even the most woefully unprepared ones…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.
3) Clean Comedy – So just this week I discovered Dry Bar Comedy. It showcases stand-up comedy that is actually family-friendly. No profanity. No sex. No mean putdowns. The first act (on video) that I caught was Leanne Morgan, a gorgeous Southern woman who puts her arm around our experiences of being female at all ages. Hilarious!
Another clean comic (not with Dry Bar) who I adore is John Crist. His tour this Fall brings him to Richmond, Virginia, and we have tickets. Crist is a preacher’s kid and uses that church experience as fodder for many of his routines. You can see his videos on his website or YouTube channel. Don’t miss him…high energy, so funny.
4) God’s Heart for Justice – For the next six weeks, I’m digging into a study on God’s heart for justice through the International Justice Mission. I bought the book, but if you sign up for daily emails, you can glean great good just in that content and the resource videos.
It’s too easy to turn a blind eye away from the injustices of this world – human trafficking, poverty, racial and religious oppression… Arise focuses on the Biblical definition of justice and the mandate for each of us in turning the tide on it…until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs. We too often are numbed by the immensity of the problem, when, in fact, we can swing the pendulum toward justice… Each one of us can do something. Sign up for daily emails and discover your place in God’s mission of love for those most vulnerable.
That winds down this week. Hope yours was stunning – full of meaningful work, real rest, family and friends, and deep conversations. Be gentle with yourself and each other.– some of those people in our lives. #Friends #Community
“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.” – Psalm 30:4
“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1
Lost in the moment, it was as if the Heavens opened. We were in a Christian conference surrounded by medical and nursing personnel who want to serve those least served around the world. They would go out as volunteers, leaving their lucrative practices and their comfortable specialties. They would spend several long days in sticky hot makeshift clinics…in obscurity. Tending grateful patients and family members who would never post their experiences to social media. Deep in another world, very different from the US. These will go to serve a needy people and a God who loves that people…and who loves those going.
We were at the mid-point of the conference, reconvening after the supper meal, and a praise team took the stage to gather us together in worship. Maybe this small group of singers and instrumentalists were regulars in a local church. [I missed the introduction.] They did not draw our attention to them (may have been intentional)…and God used them to draw us to Himself.
The “cool factor” of this praise team…and this whole conference actually…was beautifully not the focus. As we sang, we forgot about those on stage. Just a quiet pointing to God, and the Holy Spirit settled all over the rooms, and especially on our hearts.
Maybe you experience this on a regular basis. It was a sweet reminder of how, even in our best efforts, we can avoid our culture’s trappings of “cool” which add nothing to what God is already about.
That’s because, in the apt words of the Incredible Hulk in The Avengers, Cool is a “puny god.” Just because Cool is culturally pervasive doesn’t mean it’s big. It just has good marketing.
The true, big God is after our biggest, deepest, widest, longest-lasting joy. That’s why he commands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… [and] love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). He designed us not to find happiness in how others think of us, but in our loving others; not pursuing others’ admiration but in pursuing others’ good. That’s the joy that God has for us in commands like this:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others.(Philippians 2:3–4)*
[Sidebar: I mean no offense. Some of you may be completely cool without seeking it – trendsetters, generally just winsome to those around you. If you’re just being yourself…but if you’re trying to be “cool”, that’s a bondage none of us need. Our dilemma is when people measure themselves and each other by the culture’s “coolness” gauge. Jesus just doesn’t fit anywhere on this scale. He is so far beyond anything we might think is cool. Right?]
Worship with me to the Hillsong‘s O Praise the Name of Jesus. That little praise team led us in singing this song…and we forgot them, forgot ourselves, and gathered together around the throne of God:
I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled and died for me
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet
My Saviour on that cursed tree
His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
And then on the third at break of dawn
The Son of heaven rose again
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
He shall return in robes of white
The blazing sun shall pierce the night
And I will rise among the saints
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face
O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God**
Postscript: This world lost a man this week who definitely gave no thought to whether he was cool or not. His name is Robert Wink, and he was welcomed Home by His Savior – the One he made much of his whole life. Bob understood that whatever cool was added nothing to the Person of Jesus. Bob was also moved to action by our need for God’s enduring love. A love that is steadfast despite the changing whims of a self-seeking culture.
Bob loved people and he loved Jesus, and he took every opportunity to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus.
The world is diminished without this dear man. May it be true of us that at the end of our days, we chose Jesus over self, in our every endeavor…no matter how uncool that might make us. It doesn’t matter.
It’s Friday! Summer solstice was just yesterday. Even here at the tiptop beginning of summer, the days will begin to shorten. Maybe that’s the pressure of summer to squeeze every bit of yummy goodness out of the days that have our children home from school and vacation plans unfold. On this shortening Friday, here are my favorite finds of this week.
1) Bringing Children into the Light – Even being a writer myself, I don’t trust media. To believe something that pops up on my newsfeed, especially something provocative, I go to different sources to try to piece together what could possibly be true in all the bias and politicalization of our news today. The detention of illegal immigrant children has been going on for years now, and I was totally blind to it. This week, it came to light for me and for many.Photo Credit: The Cut
I’m not going into detail here. The news is full of how this happened – how children are separated from their incarcerated parents and warehoused. Older children can understand and hold onto the hope that, in time, they will be reunited with their parents. Little children do not have the maturity to understand…
It is wrong. I don’t know what’s right in dealing with people who make such desperate decisions to flee their countries and cross into another one illegally. I just know this is wrong. Thinking of my little grandchildren being put in the same situation was unthinkable. How would a 2 y/o or 3 y/o not be somehow wounded in this action.
When I read Brene Brown‘s Facebook post on this, it was a much-needed wake-up call, bringing these children’s plight into the light for me. The over 5000 comments were also a great education, as one after the other gave personal accounts – not just about the kids in detention centers but others damaged or destroyed by their parents’ choices. Even choices they think are the only ones they have. Or choices for darker motives… Within the comments were laments about children in our broken foster care system as well as children who never see light themselves because of the choice of abortion.
I don’t want to just talk and talk and talk about these issues. God help us to do something of substance for the children, now that we’re paying attention. This is too critical to last just one week’s news cycle. This problem is way bigger than one executive order, although hopefully that will stop the hemorrhaging. Hopefully.Photo Credit: Twitter, Arnold Schwarzenegger
[We did see something this week about the powerful voice of the American people. The outcry, across political ideologies, was heard. I also think the anguished prayer of people of faith was also heard and answered by a much higher authority than our government.]
Don’t be a turd. If you are strong, be a protector. If you are smart, be a humble influencer. Strength and intelligence can be weapons. Do not wield them against the weak.
When giving a dog medicine, put it in a little piece of hamburger. They won’t even know they’re eating medicine.
Doesn’t matter what it is, earn it.
God is real. God loves you. God wants the best for you. Believe that. I do.
If you have to poop at a party, lock the door, sit down. Get all the pee out first. Then poop, flush, poof!
Learn to pray. It’s easy.
Nobody is perfect. You are imperfect, but there is a powerful Force that designed you that way. If you’re willing to accept that, there’s grace. Grace is a gift. Like the freedom we enjoy in this country, that grace was paid for with somebody’s blood. Do not forget it. Don’t take it for granted. – Chris Pratt
Nancherla has this to say about depression: “No matter how far or wide you go or how many lives you touch or how much money you make or success you achieve, your brain can tell you different. It is a constant companion and you cannot take a break from it…The truth of depression is it is often quiet and it is boring and it is insidious in its lack of spectacle.” – Aparna Nancherla
5) Babies & Birthdays – This week brought a sweet new baby into our family and a second birthday. The baby is a girl and much-longed-for, making me a great-great-aunt (sounds old, I know, but the mommy and grandmother both married very young). Our little grandson can now turn forward in his car seat and he is discovering a whole new world looking in the same direction as his parents.
These are my five favorite finds of the week. I would love for you to share one or more of yours (in Comments below). Have a safe and sweetly peopled weekend.
Vacation Bible School – This is a summer fixture around a lot of cities. Our church doesn’t currently offer Vacation Bible School, but young moms in my life are scurrying to find them around town as a wholesome summer option for their kiddos. I’ve decided that VBS is a community service. Tons of work on the part of the adults, not cheap, but worth it for families around town. The husband of a good friend of mine volunteers in the VBS at their church. 300 kids show up daily for that week of Bible stories, singing, crafts, and games. He helps the older elementary kids make their own Adirondack chairs. Great way to break up the routine of summer.
The dances are fun to watch and feature a wide range of music. Nathan’s classical guitar renditions are uniquely beautiful. My favorite of the dance/music combinations on this video are Bluegrass, a polka or Russian dance, a pop oldie, and a Rock finale (where Nathan brings out his electric guitar!!). Enjoy!
2) Spring Rain – We’ve had a fairly dry Spring in Richmond, Virginia. What this means for allergy-sufferers is the barrage of tree pollens that make being outside insufferable. The yellow blanket on all surfaces this time of year could use a good washing.Photo Credit: Charlotte Observer
This week, finally, the rain came. As happens with rains in our part of the world in May, all of nature seems to push up, greener and more vivid. We can all breathe deep the freshness of the air and the beauty around us. For me, the sound of rain is as glorious as its visual aftermath. We don’t live where flash flooding is a problem, so I do want to remember that days and days of rain isn’t happy for everyone. Still, it is a welcome respite from the hot dry days of late Spring in Richmond.
From there, I discovered The Common Rule website and Facebook page. Subscribed, subscribed, subscribed. Justin focuses on habit formation towards love. He has really useful helps on his website and through his email subscription. I am on it!
4) Andy Crouch on Shame – Author Andy Crouch has written an essay on how our culture has changed. For most of our history as a country, we have been a guilt-based culture. By that, I mean we measured ourselves and others as being “right or wrong” in our thinking, choosing to do right or wrong. This is how we raised our children. We determined not to measure our children up against (compared with) other people, but to raise them up with a standard of right living and making right choices (for us, it was based on the Bible…on the teachings and life of Jesus). “Right” was not legalistic or moralistic; “right” was loving, kind, serving, non-judgmental.
Only in recent years has our culture been moving toward more of a shame-based view on life. Here the difference is how our character and behavior reflects on a larger community (“how others see us”). This is somewhat different from the traditional shame-honor culture. In that culture, honoring your family, country, religion was all-important. If your behavior did not comply with those values, you were shamed, even ostracized.Photo Credit: The Rise of Shame in America, Honor Shame
Today’s American culture has definitely moved away from a guilt orientation. We hear it all the time in statements like “Well, that may be OK for you.” “You have the right to believe that way.” “Don’t try to put that guilt on me.” However, our culture is not moving toward the traditional shame society, but more a shame-fame culture. Fame over honor. Social media has driven this in recent years. We want to be “seen” a certain way. In fact, a young colleague of ours once said, “It’s my job to make you look good.” I was shocked at that. One, “looking good” was not even on my radar. Either I was good (competent, responsible, dependable, etc) or I wasn’t. It demonstrated the culture shift and generational disconnect.
The shaming still happens in our culture. Children can be shamed for not behaving in ways that make their parents look good. Public shaming of people who don’t agree with each other can be as brutal as real ostracism. And so it goes.
I miss the guilt culture. Where, whatever your religion or political ideology, you could tell the good guys from the bad guys. Or maybe we were naive, but I hope not. Today, it seems all about how we portray ourselves…how we are received by those that matter to us.
Sigh…any thoughts? Please.
[Don’t forget to return and read Andy’s essay and David Brooks’ review of Crouch’s essay and this whole social phenomenon.]
5) Wonder – we are surrounded by the wonderful. The older we get, the more the losses and hardships of life push in on our experience of wonder. Children, and especially grandchildren, help us with that. They fill our storm-dampened sails. I am so thankful we live in the same city as our children. When we have time with them, we stand a little taller, walk a little lighter, and wonder comes home to nest. Just last night, while our daughter and I were having a visit with an old friend, Dave elected to play with our little granddaughter. Off they went (not sure who was more excited). After the visit, daughter and grand-daughter headed out into the night, with “Bye…love you” resounding out of the back window. A tiny hand waving…
Dave was full of wonder. He marveled at how they read the whole hour. How a two-year-old could be that captured by stories! Maybe she was also in her own world of wonder, in the company of a granddad who loved her.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Hard to say, especially as a grandparent, who (in image below) is helping who…more.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Wonder is not just bound up in a child. It is all around us, in God’s own nature and his created nature. In all of us, bearing His image. Not just children, but everyone. I’m struck lately with how strong, and resilient, and persevering, and sharp most of the older adults are in my life. They are my heroes. Even when the mind and body weaken, life itself…the gift of life in all its forms and capacities…is a wonder.
Again, happy Friday! Hope yours is a rain-refreshed but not flooded weekend! [Edit: Have I got a story to tell for another day – It’s Friday night and the rain ceased to be refreshing hours ago – praying it stops!]
[Please share your own favorites or thoughts on above in the Comments. Much-appreciated.]
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5:14
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5
Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France
My mom instilled in me a love for colored glass. She filled beautiful old wine decanters with color-tinted water and set them in our windows at home. On sunny days, the rooms dazzled with rainbow light. Such delight for us children! Then she discovered depression glass and again placed these translucent colored pieces on our dining table, making special occasions even more special.
My kitchen reflects my Mom’s influence with colored glass.
It wasn’t until I became an adult that stained glass windows became a real experience. Their wonder and beauty that changed with the light mesmerized.
Over the course of the last several years, my family has had opportunity to see some of the beautiful churches in the world…and right here in our own city. Below are just a few samples:
Sainte Chapelle, Paris, France
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, Richmond, Virginia
We don’t always have a grand choice of a worship space, depending on where we live, given both our means and religious freedom. For some, a storefront is where we gather. For others, under a tree or in an apartment, shutters closed. Part of that reality makes the appeal of stained glass all the greater.
Stained glass windows evoke “the presence of the holy in our worship spaces” (in the words of artist Elizabeth Devereaux).
We know from Scripture that God is with us wherever we are. We count on that. Still, in a culture that cries against His very existence, being surrounded by sweet reflections of His light and beauty can lift our eyes up…to Heaven, to Him.
Stained glass relies on a light source for its characteristic vivid illumination. [It] is specifically designed to be highly translucent. This quality allows a great deal of light to pass through it which highlights its colors beautifully. That is why stained glass is particularly bright when viewed from inside a building on a sunny day or from outside the building on a night when there is ample light within. Stained glass works with the light to create its powerful effect…the color and brightness of the glass clearly has immense aesthetic appeal. That beauty often triggers powerful emotions within us – joy, inspiration, elation, humility, gratitude, and virtually anything else along the human emotional spectrum. – Steven L. Yarbrough
Our gathering space may be such that it has to work for multiple purposes – worship, concerts, conferences, suppers together. Nothing wrong with that. When we worship, visual art forms can set a tone for us to corporately and intimately connect with God
Our church building in Richmond (Movement Church) actually has stained glass windows. They weren’t on our wish list; they were part of a great gift to us by Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.
They are beautiful and we are grateful.
As Yarbrough says above, stained glass windows transmit light – either from outside during the day, or from inside during night hours. They speak to us of the great impact of God’s light in our daily lives and our darknesses.
Movement Church, Richmond, Virginia
As beautiful as stained glass windows are from the inside, they call us to worship at night. A church near our home has stained glass windows, and I love when they have services at night. Driving by, glancing over, I am transported by the colored light streaming through into the dark night reminding me. Not of differences in religions, or worship preferences, or negative religious experiences. No…none of that. I am reminded of the light and beauty of God. Joyfully.
We may be coming back around, the church today, to a preference of a more classic and sacred worship space…a place where stained glass windows draw our eyes and hearts up toward Heaven and all the hope and joy it reflects.
Worship the Lord of light and beauty with me today. Hallelujah!
[My only piece of stained glass at home – again a reminder of the Lord’s great gift of a Godly mom who taught us the Word and brought so much beauty into our lives – including an iris garden.]
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1
Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”.– John 20:18
On this Sunday, this most glorious day in all of history, death gave way to life. The grave could not hold Jesus. Those who loved Jesus most came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 saw him alive. Jesus himself, bearing the wounds of the cross, walked with them, ate with them, taught them again…as he promised.
“He is alive! This man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.
With the breath of creation, He speaks of peace, faith, and mission.
With lungs full of air, He breathes on His disciples and grants His Spirit. My Jesus – alive!
The eyes that saw the darkness of death now drink in the sunlight of Easter. My Jesus – alive!”* – Trevin Wax
Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 55-57
Sadly, there are those who think the resurrection of Jesus a myth, or a fairy tale. Even his life is treated casually. Yet, for sure, anyone who does a careful examination of the life and teachings of Jesus would be radically changed. This certainly was my experience. I know too well how wicked my heart can be…my thoughts and actions. God draws us to Himself, and in the drawing we recognize our desperate need for a savior, a strong arm to pull us out of the muck and mire of our own making. Jesus did that for me.
I know Jesus is alive from the historical accounts and the writing of eye witnesses, and because of his own word. I also know he is alive because of how he has transformed lives through the ages. He has changed my life, and he continues to do so.
For the past 20 years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking. I would like to close with a portion out of his Easter reading.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” – John 20:19
“On that dark Sunday morning, Mary could never have guessed the cosmic significance of the empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead the ancient engines of order were fired once more and, in his body on earth, chaos was defeated. And what a wonderful moment for Jesus and his disciples. Neither locks nor fears could withstand the peace and security that the risen Saviour brought, and still brings to his people. It is the peace of knowing that, however rough the road may need to be (and it often is), we shall indeed, in the most real sense, live happily ever after.” – Adrian Plass**
It was a day like no other day in history. For years we lived in countries where Christianity was a minority religion. While the few of us passed this week in reflection and wonder, it was, of course, just another week for most of our friends and colleagues. Easter had its name – Eid Al-Qiyama (“Feast of Resurrection”) – but Good Friday was shrouded in the ordinary. For Jesus and all who have experienced life through his teaching and example, this day was and is wholly extraordinary.
Jesus had no opportunity to sleep in the hours of night before this dawn. From the garden where he prayed, he was forcibly taken into the custody of the high priests. Through the early morning hours, he was bounced brutally between the Sanhedrin, the high court of Israel, and the Roman authorities (Pilate and Herod Antipas). While in their custody, Jesus endured hostile interrogation, false accusations, trumped-up charges, relentless attempts at public humiliation, and repeated beatings. Yet, he somehow retained his full faculties, responding to the authorities, when necessary with great wisdom and understanding of both the proceedings and the people. In the midst of all this trauma, he even made eye contact with one of his dearest friends and followers, Peter, hiding himself nearby…in his own painful moment.
The outcome of all the wrangling between the Jewish and Roman officials was an unwarranted, undeserved death sentence. Execution by crucifixion. Pilate even washed his hands of the matter, literally, declaring Jesus innocent but still consenting to the death sentence. He didn’t know then but the “blood” he tried to wash of his hands was truly innocent. Still, it wasn’t Pilate who put Jesus on that cross, nor was it Caiaphas, head of the Sanhedrin. Not a Roman, nor a Jew.
Jesus’ death, that day, was an outworking of a divine plan. We cannot begin to understand the holiness of the Father, the resolve of His Son, or the steadfastness of the Spirit. This three-in-one God orchestrated a path for us, His fallen and broken people, to be restored to Him. That we, though wrecked by sin, can be whole again and one in Him, in that unity of Father, Son, Holy Spirit (John 17:21) is a miracle of grace.
Jesus gave his life for us that day. It was not taken from him. He laid it down. For us. Though completely undeserving, we are ransomed and redeemed. At such a great cost. This Jesus. This life. This cross.
Jesus spoke seven times during the three hours he hung on that cross. Each time he spoke, as in all the other times his words are recorded, there was something for all of us. If you don’t know what he said, in those seven brief cries from the cross, read them and discover more about him…and about us.
Just before he died, he cried out, “It. Is. Finished.” What? What was finished? His life…oh no…not at all…that story comes later. His work? Not completely…for he continues interceding for us (Romans 8:34). What was finished? The perfect sacrifice – the lamb without spot or blemish – his life for ours. “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Hallelujah!
There is so much more to say about this day and the people present. Pilate’s wife who warned Pilate about ruling against this innocent man. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ betrayer, who tried to return the money and killed himself in remorse that same day. Simon of Cyrene, a pilgrim, who was drawn into the dreadful drama of that day to carry Jesus’ cross when he could not. Barabbas, a notorious criminal, who gained his freedom, through a strange twist of the day. The nameless thief on the cross who cried out in repentance to Jesus. The Roman centurion who in his witness of Jesus all those hours professed faith in him. John, Jesus’ closest disciple, and Jesus’ mother to whom Jesus gave each other. The women, lives changed by their faith in Jesus, who stayed at the foot of the cross through all the horror of his crucifixion. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a Christ-follower, who tried to appeal for Jesus with the Sanhedrin. Joseph of Arimathea, another believing Pharisee, who went to Pilate to receive Jesus’ body for burial, to place in his own tomb.
So many stories of lives changed. Good Friday. This marked the day of Jesus’ trial, his death, and his burial, but it does not mark the end of the story. It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.*
[Postscript: In the links are several beautiful songs of worship. Tributes to the Lord on this day. Don’t miss the articles and the great sermon “It’s Friday But Sunday’s a Coming” by S. M. Lockridge.]