If you find yourself in the margins this Christmas season, know that there is One who sees you. He was born into and lived His life in the margins and He'll meet you right where you are.
Posts tagged ‘Jesus’
I’m so frustrated. I have been for quite a while now. Frankly I’m tired of writing about things that seem negative. Why not just be a cheerleader for God? I believe in His power & His healing embrace. The problem is it wouldn’t be honest of me to say I live in victory, when I often struggle. Read more
One by one, candles were lit, pinpoints of light leading the way to the grand celebration of the birth of the Christ child – midnight mass. Golden light shone from the tops of paper bags glowing with warmth. Every year we celebrated this way, a coming together of community from all different denominations, a celebration of light and life.
Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds
by Govert Teunisz Flinck, 1639
Waiting is a part of life, often an unwanted, unavoidable reality. The silence that comes with waiting can be deafening. The silence so real, we hear it echoing in our minds when we pay it heed.
A heart wrenched with pain – a by-product of grief. I understand, all too well, that a heart can physically hurt. Squeezed in a vise and so heavy, the next beat takes superhuman effort. Those of you reading this who’ve experienced great loss know this pain. You may be hurting this very moment. It’s very real and in those moments, you wonder if it will ever end. If that is you, I am so sorry for your pain.
The Raising of Lazarus – Vincent van Gogh
He was a close friend, this Jesus. First welcomed into their home by Martha; now he was a part of their lives. He’d made an indelible mark on their hearts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, the three siblings had found a friend, one they loved like a brother. Perhaps for Lazarus, he was glad to welcome another male into the home he shared with two sisters. Martha, always the hospitable one, was eager to welcome a new friend. And Mary, she was entranced. Listening at his feet, she drank in his words, his teaching. He spoke into her heart, like no one had before.
Martha had been upset with her at first, mistaking her eagerness to listen and to be in his presence, with an unwillingness to help prepare the meal. “Only one thing is needed, Martha. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her,” he’d responded, when she asked him to tell Mary to help.
“Chosen what is better.” Mary learned at the feet of Jesus and a spark of faith was ignited, one that would soon grow into an intense blaze. But not yet.
And then, the unthinkable happened. Lazarus fell ill, gravely ill. Only now Jesus was no longer with them. He was a day’s journey away. Immediately, they’d sent a messenger to him, telling him, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Jesus wasn’t surprised by the unfortunate news. “This sickness will not end in death. No, it’s for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it,” he responded.
He loved them, Martha, Mary and Lazarus…deeply. But he didn’t return immediately. He waited two days before beginning the day’s journey to them in Bethany.
Lazarus’s sickness proved fatal. He passed away before Jesus returned. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to wake him up.” Jesus had a plan all along. The One who loved deeply, would speak life into his friend.
Responding to Grief: Jesus and Mary
When he arrived, Martha immediately went out to meet him. If only you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died, she told him. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Martha’s faith in Jesus was rock solid. She knew he was the Son of God.
Mary held back, remaining in their home, until Jesus sent Martha to tell her he was asking for her. Quickly she went out to see him, falling at his feet saying, “Lord, if only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” The depths of her pain and despair were brought to the surface as she wept, at his feet.
Seeing her weep, feeling her brokenness, He wept. “Jesus wept.”
Knowing his dear friend Lazarus would soon breath life again, Jesus wept. He saw Mary’s grief and felt her brokenness to the depths of his being. And God wept. Regularly we ask, does he care about our pain, our grief, our broken, aching hearts? The God who created Lazarus, who’d formed him in his mother’s womb, who knew him before he was born, who breathed life into his being once, and who would speak life into him again, wept. Why?
One commentator I found said Christ wept at the enormity of the cost and despair of death itself. The words of Scripture tell us simply, he saw Mary weeping at his feet and He wept.
Moments later at the tomb where Lazarus’s lifeless body lay, Jesus commanded, “Lazarus, come out!” And he did. The once dead man, rose and walked out into the light of day.
Martha knew Jesus could do the impossible. Mary struggled to see beyond her grief. Was it that her belief wavered or that it wasn’t strong enough yet? Jesus never rebukes Mary for unbelief. His response to her is to call her to him and when he sees her broken before him, he weeps alongside her. He sees a sister mourning for her beloved brother and he, too, weeps.
A Lavish Gift
Later in the Gospels of Mark and John, Jesus is reclining at a table in the home of Simon the Leper, when a woman comes with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She breaks the tiny neck of the alabaster flask and pours out the rare perfume upon Jesus’ head. This woman is Mary, Lazarus’s sister.
We know from John, that upon witnessing this display, Judas rebukes her for wasting such a lavish gift, a gift worth an entire year’s wages. It should’ve been sold and the proceeds given to the poor, Judas reasons. John tells us Judas’s real motivation was to get his hands on the proceeds, to pilfer from them. Jesus responds that this perfume was intended to be saved for the day of his burial, to prepare his body for burial. The fragrance of this perfume, of Mary’s anointing, of her extravagant, lavish gift fills the entire house. The scent of sacrifice, the scent of gratitude, the scent of faith made alive, the scent of love. It is her offering to the One she loves.
I’m so moved by Mary’s lavish giving and her complete lack of self, as she humbles herself even more by using her hair to wipe Jesus’ feet, without any regard to who is around her. This is a woman who’s faced grief and brokenness and has seen her God respond in absolute love. In her time of greatest need, He came alongside her, weeping with her. Then, she saw his power at work.
In many ways, I can relate to being broken and seeing God come in and move in miraculous ways, feeling his love come alongside me, during my most difficult times. Those times change you. Times where there is really no sense of self-awareness. Times when all that remains is an outpouring of love and joy for the One who gave you back life, whether it be through the healing of a loved one or the giving of life to a heart that out of brokenness had died and now was alive and filled with joy once again.
What response would be appropriate for a gift such as that, other than an outpouring of everything, of all I have and all I am? I hope I can continually do that in my life. I know I waver and often fail. I hope to be like more like Mary.
Weak. Fallible. Imperfect. Me. I don’t have to look far to see wrong in this world. Looking in a mirror, staring back is the reflection of one who falls short daily. Easter is a life-line – for me, for all who struggle. A life-line held out by the scarred hands of a God who loves big.
The hope of Easter isn’t just a fairy tale. It is the living, breathing God who rose from the dead after conquering all that is wrong in this world – sickness, greed, selfishness, death. All that is wrong in me. And for that I’m eternally grateful.
Jesus’ death ushered in a spring-time of sorts. The promise of all things being made new. We celebrate the One who came to make all things new. To redeem. Rebuild. Give life to the fullest.
Grateful to be a work in progress, being made new. With limited vision, I only see the work along the way. Trusting the great Artist, who molds and shapes each day. Trusting the God, who sees the finished masterpiece.
And so I celebrate, because Hope rises.
Photo courtesy of PhotoXpress
A middle-aged man, hair slightly thinner than a few years before, turns to yell at his young son, “C’mon! I told you to run faster. What’s wrong with you?” Anger followed by disgust, a shrug of disappointment for all to see. Head lowered, the boy moves slowly before slumping down on the bench where his teammates sit. Each of them fully aware it could easily have been them. It was a close call. They wouldn’t have made it to the base before the ball did, either. No one could have. Now wounded and shamed, the boy doesn’t even look up when his name is next called.
A little girl carefully cradles the enormous cereal box in her arms. It’s her favorite, the kind she likes to pretend are cookies when she hosts tea parties for her animals. Too big for her little hands, she quickly loses her grip and the box tumbles to the floor. Cereal spills out into a messy pile on the newly cleaned tile. Immediately she begins to pick up handfuls, tiny handfuls that match the size of her tiny hands clasped together. Scoop by scoop she tries her best to clean up the mess she’s made. “What are you doing?” the woman’s voice shrieks, as she rounds the corner. “I told you. You are not to touch. Look at what you’ve done. You’re always making a mess.” The voice grows louder and louder. Every word hissed tears, like a ravenous animal, stripping away piece by piece, a part of the little girl’s soul.
“Dad.” The word is choked out through falling tears. The young woman walks hesitantly towards her father, buried beneath newsprint spelling out the important things of the day. Only his hands are visible, but she knows he’s there, behind that paper sitting in his chair.
Heart broken, devastated by a young man who claims to care for her. His actions don’t match his claims. Time after time, she’s questioned in her heart, is he the one. Love shouldn’t hurt this bad. Does he really care or is he just playing an easy game with her heart, her very being? Months have gone by and she needs answers, she needs perspective. She approaches the only man she can, to ask for advice. The choice to step into potentially hostile, foreign territory is never easy, but she’s desperate. So she approaches slowly, tears streaming down cheeks. “Dad,” she says again quietly. “I need to ask you something.” Embarrassed at even having to talk of such things with a man who’d never before cared, but there is no one else to ask.
“There’s this guy,” she begins. “He seems like he cares for me. We’ve been close for awhile now. He acts like he cares, but then he….” “Can’t you see I’m busy!” the voice roars from behind the newsprint. “I don’t have time for this,” he says rustling the inky paper in his anger. I don’t have time for you, she hears. Stunned, the young woman is shaken. Baring her soul through tears, she’d allowed herself to be vulnerable. A mistake. One she won’t make again. Broken, she quietly walks away, tears dropping like crumbs on a path. Waiting for someone to care, someone to notice.…………………………………………………………………..
Angry voices that take up residence in our heads. Voices from the past that cut us off at the knees, immobilizing us. Making it almost impossible to take one step further. We all have them. From childhood, maybe the voices belonged to our parents. People set upon this earth to pour life into us, who rather than encourage, strip away the substance of our tender souls. Maybe the voices are classmates, kids on the playground who for one reason or another, found easy prey to mock, in an effort to make themselves look bigger and better. Husband. Wife. Boss. Co-worker. The voices are there. Voices that morph into an angry crowd shouting relentlessly that you are not worth ___. Fill in the blank. You’re not valuable. Who’d ever want you? You’ll never amount to anything. Why try? You’ll just fail…again. Like always. Voices that when listened to, are powerful deterrents in our lives, keeping us from the life we were created to live.
I find it interesting that movies that seem to become wildly popular often feature a hero that stands strong in the face of injustice, battling to make things right either for the love of his life or the greater good, sometimes both. Often the hero willingly gives the ultimate sacrifice, leading to death. Something in us draws us to a hero that rises above the status quo and stands strong in the face of evil, risking all for freedom, for love. A sacrifice of love that screams, you are precious to me. You are worth everything. I would die for you.
Does such a hero exist today? In our modern cynicism, most of us choose to believe heroes like that only exist in fairy tales and movies. Yet in our struggling lives, we long for one that is real. We ask is there one who could love so profoundly, one to whose voice is worth listening? Is there anyone who longs to speak life into us?
Overwhelmingly the Bible tells us that there is one. His name is Jesus. He is that hero. He is that voice. He invites us into a life he paid dearly for, sacrificing his own, that we might experience a life fully redeemed. Life to the full, he calls it. A voice of truth crying out for all to hear, inviting us to experience life with him. The cost has already been paid, on a cross two thousand years ago. When we accept him into our lives, we begin life anew.
Jesus invites us into a relationship with God, not just as acquaintances, but as sought out, dearly loved, adopted children. He lovingly calls us his Beloved. Chosen for his good pleasure; the apple of his eye; and heirs to his kingdom. We are more than conquerors in him; with a royal heritage; we are a royal priesthood; and when he looks upon us he sees the pure, unblemished, beautiful bride of Christ.
The question we’re left to ask is, “Whose voice are we listening to?” Are we giving ear to those voices in our heads bent on destruction. Why give ear to voices that seek only to tear us down?
The Voice – Jesus’ voice – is speaking love to us today. Perfect, unending, unconditional, unfailing love. We are of infinite worth to him. God proved his love to us by giving his life for us. You were worth dying for. I was worth dying for. Give ear this Lent to the life-giving voice of truth. The Voice that leads us into the abundant life we were created to live.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Photo courtesy of dreamstime