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Posts Tagged ‘Easter’

Mary Martha 2Having been a Martha type most of my life, it takes some strong intention on my part to return to the “one necessary thing.” In our Lenten devotional, the word for this week is Service and the first meditation is on Mary and Martha and I am reminded again, that service must come out of devotion or burn-out comes next.

The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” [Luke 10:41-42, CEB]

A group of us at the church are participating in the Daniel Fast for the next 21 days, right up to Easter Sunday. And although there’s a lot of talk about the foods and food preparation (basically vegan – very Martha), the essence of it needs to be Mary, or the entire process becomes another diet or fad.

Clearly, we clutter our bodies with junk food & drink in the same way that we clutter our minds with noise, screens, and distraction. Where we can cleanse our bodies by changing our diet, it seems harder to clear our minds. This is one of the reasons why we all need times of solitude and silence. We need to stop multi-tasking and instead, put our single focus on God, on Christ, on the Holy Spirit, on the Word. Pick. Be. Rest.

In the journey toward simplicity, the questions that must be answered over and over again are, “do I need this?” or “do I love this?” Having just been through my first downsize, I practiced these questions quite a bit. Nonetheless, and despite giving away over 35 boxes of book, I still have eight shelving units filled with the books that remained. It’s a process. But I am getting better at it. Triage.

And I’m thinking this same process happens in the mind and spirit. Do I need think about this right now? Do I love contemplating upon this? Is it edifying or destructive? Will this practice move me closer to God?

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PiercedHandOn that resurrection day and for 40 days thereafter, Jesus appeared to his disciples and to others. I call this the “Second Forty,” and will be doing another systematic walk through these days. But today, this Easter day, I share three experiences I had mirrored a day the followers had:

 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” [John 20:19-22]

The doors were locked and the followers were hiding from authorities still, and yet, Jesus revealed himself to them. He was no longer limited by time and space. He appeared. (He was the first one to really experience the Star Trek-like transporter.) And his first words were a blessing for peace. He showed him some tell-tale signs, like the nail prints, but I always wonder if there were other prints: did his back show the scars from the lashes of the whip, did his head show the gashes from the thorns?

And so, with his appearance, they believed again; their faith was reborn in that moment and their fears abated. For some, it was a confirmation (for they never gave up — particularly the women) while for others, they did an about face (they had started to doubt, like Thomas). How long could they have sustained themselves without his appearance? We’ll never know. Like Peter had to carry his public denials of Christ, they would carry their secret ones in the heart.

And then, just like that, they were given their commission: Go! And with that commission came the companion: the Holy Spirit – given through the breath of the Christ. Jesus breathed out and we are asked to breathe in.

Today, when I woke, I had such a lightness of being, and a Presence: the nearness of Christ Jesus. And with that revelation of the Jesus resurrection, came a renewal within, one I have needed for some weeks. And so, I breathed in and filled up again.

And so, I was one with the followers of the Messiah who had been locked up in that room, afraid to take the next step. And Christ came to me with peace and confirmation and hope. Alleluia.


You Won’t Relent by the Jesus Culture.

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It’s hard to change and then return to one’s old environment. So often, acquaintances and even family can’t see the metamorphosis, or they resist the transformation, or worse, they treat the person as though nothing has happened. It’s obvious, if Onesimus changes, then so must they.

Philemon 10-12
I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you.

When I first accepted Christ, back in the day, I woke up the next morning (Christmas morning, actually), and felt compelled to tell my family that I had made a huge decision in my life, a new commitment to Christ. My mother stared at me momentarily and then said, “Don’t worry, this too shall pass,” and went back to drinking her morning coffee. In essence, don’t be ridiculous.

Men and women who are released from prison often find themselves thrown back into the same crowd and ultimately the same behaviors that got them into trouble in the first place. Generally, a former prisoner is better off starting over in a new setting, a new town, a fresh beginning. But the loneliness and lack of support is overwhelming. Everyone wants to be loved and acknowledged for the “new” self. The decision to change is hard work.

Alcoholics and addicts are constantly undermined by friends and family, with phrases like, “oh, just once won’t hurt you,” or “it’s a special occasion, come on!” Even dieters are sabotaged with offers of cookies and treats over and over again. What is the message? Don’t change. Don’t make me adapt this new self. Don’t make me look at myself in a new way by your decision to take a different path.

Onesimus escaped the household of Philemon as one person and under the loving care of Paul, became a believer and follower of Christ. He was not longer the same man. In order to successfully return to Philemon, he would need the support and acceptance of that family. They would have to look with new eyes, hear with new ears, and willingly, break old habits and build new ones.

Twitter was ablaze yesterday about men and women who made decisions to follow the Christ. But what happens next? They must still walk back through the same front door, sit at the same kitchen table, and wake to the same alarm this morning. They must go to work and wonder, can anyone tell? Should I say something? What do I say? And if I do say something, will I be under the microscope?

What is my role in such a scenario? I remember an old friend who hated being called “Tammy.” I asked what she really wanted and she said she wanted to be called “Tamera,” her given name. And so we agreed, she would commit to telling people of the change and I would commit to the new name. It took about six months but it worked; she grew into her beautiful name and so did others. Change is a team effort.

Lord, today, give me sensitivity to the personal revolutions of others around me. Show me how to be a safe haven for new things, new birth, new hope, new directions.

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Batik by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese, Malaysia

Sometimes it’s not worth engaging in discussions that will go nowhere, particularly if people are getting upset and defensive. No one gains. If anything, more is said than should have been said and the controversy escalates. I have seen this happen a hundred times. I’m done.

Titus 3:9
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

We had a controversy in our local community that was extremely divisive. Conversations were misrepresented; newspapers reported incomplete information and often, with only one side of the story or pure hearsay; while social networks were used to accuse and inflame an already unstable situation. And to what end? The people in the center of it all felt no better, just wrenched apart emotionally. The only thing that lessened the impact was the wisdom of a few who said: don’t engage, don’t add, don’t comment. And eventually, this proved the best choice; the furor abated and people moved on with their lives.

When Jesus stood before the different “authorities” on those fateful days before his crucifixion, he, too was silent. What would have been the point? No one would have believed him more that day than any other day. There was nothing more to be said. His great controversy had to be endured and he knew the meaning from the beginning. He may not have known how the whole thing would play out, the passing from one dignitary to another (think about it: he saw three “leaders” in the course of 24 hours who could have changed the world), but he knew the outcome would be the same: torture and death to the body.

But Jesus also knew about the third day. He knew about the results. He trusted God, despite the pain, the desolation, the anger, and the very air of evil that encircled him. Words were nothing.

And so, Jesus, as foretold throughout the histories and prophecies, rose from the dead. That event put all controversies into perspective.

When all is said and done, most stories have an opportunity for resurrection and transformation. With God, there is always hope. There is no irredeemable act. Even in the face of evil, we must hold fast to our belief that “love wins” — God wins!

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On Easter morning, we need to consider this detail: women played a key role as messengers of truth. In fact, from the visits to Bethany through Jesus’s Paschal journey and on into the days and weeks after the resurrection, women were players: devoted, faithful and strong. They still are.

Romans 16:1-2, 6, 12-13, 15 and more
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church . . . Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus . . . Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. . . . Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. . . . Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman . . . Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too.

At first blush, Romans 16 appears as boring as Matthew’s genealogy used to be for me. But a closer examination reveals the same mystery: the powerful women! There are lots and lots of women mentioned here and in most cases, they are clearly cherished by Paul.

The genealogy in Matthew 1:1-16 was such a sleeper for me until I experienced an epiphany and saw the reason behind mentioning the women in those verses (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary). They had a message for me: if God could use them, he could use me. And out of that revelation, I created a one-woman show that I toured for several years called Pente.

Now, in this chapter, I see another group of women with very little story to illuminate their place in the timeline, and yet, they are there: Phoebe, Priscilla, another Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus’s mother, and countless unnamed ones since households were listed by the head of house alone. But women were there, serving, loving, praying, and working in tandem with their families to illustrate the message of Jesus.

Scholars assume Phoebe actually carried the letter of Paul to the Romans. Was she allowed to read it? Did she travel from church to church (there were many house churches) in that great city? Did she carry additional personal messages from Paul? She was from a coastal city of Corinth, at least 600 miles from Rome. That was no gentle expedition. I’m not saying she was the Pony Express, but it’s amazing for that time period for a woman to travel with this type of a mission.

I know, there are other places where Paul seems to give women the back seat. I struggle with these sections too. But as I study those areas along my New Testament trek, I want to remember this Paul, who sent Phoebe with a critical letter to the gentile believers in Rome.

All of the women to whom Paul is sending greetings are commended for their “work.” I doubt he means “woman’s work” either. He is talking about the same work that all of us are called to do: being a witness in word and action: fulfilling the call of Christ in our lives, equally distributed by grace.

Oh yes, this is a day to remember and celebrate that Jesus’s work on the cross included a great emancipation for women of faith. Amen.

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