“It is finished.” {an Easter without the trimmings}

I had grand plans this week of scribbling down stories of the passion and sharing them here. {I always have grand plans.}

Of thinking of what it was like to be there, of what was running through Mary’s head, and grief of Peter’s denying words. Even Judas in his remorse…what if he had waited just one more day before he hung myself…what would the resurrection have been like for him?

But instead of keeping my nose to the grindstone, I’ve chosen to actually write that to do list and cross things off, to jump pajama clad in the van to Chick-fil-A for a picnic breakfast with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, to cuddle and make library runs, to plan our Easter weekend–a simple meal, no new clothes, not even an empty tomb craft.

And I’m okay with that.

In a culture that applies pomp and circumstance to every little occasion and holiday, I’m okay with celebrating in a meek and humble way. That’s not to say I’m taking Easter lightly, of all the occasions to celebrate the Risen Lord and the life and hope he brings is the utmost.

But here, right there…the Risen Lord—Jesus? Today, the day we remember his death and the vicious way in which our sins were paid, He is alive. And in that I will celebrate.

I will not wallow in my sin. I will not mourn the activities I haven’t planned. I will not feel guilt that I haven’t redeemed every aspect of a pagan holiday turned Christian turned pagan once again.

{Guilt is counter-productive to the work of the cross.}

Yes, we should remember. Yes, all too often we take the cross for granted. Yes, there is reason to celebrate. Yes. Yes. Yes.

But remember this, every Sunday is the Lord’s day. Every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection. Every Sunday is Easter.

And all the days in between? Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.

He is risen. He is risen. He is risen.

He is risen. He is risen. He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Continue your celebrations, your memorials, raise your Ebenezer’s,  good friend! Hail Him, our one true gladdening Light!

Sing our anthem loud,

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!”

Death has been trampled today. There is no better day than today to walk in freedom. Don’t wait until Sunday to breathe free.

Rise up from the grave and proclaim,

O death, where is your sting? O hell, where is your victory? O church, come stand in the light. The glory of God has defeated the night!

Be the dead walking. Run laughing and singing into kingdom come.

 

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And he entered the temple. {stories of the passion}

Jerusalem swelled with pilgrims and worshipers coming for Passover. The group of men fought their way through the crowds, pushing up toward the temple’s steps. As they approached its entrance, a small crowd still following the man Jesus, the house of the Lord rang with the smell of a pasture and the clamor of greedy men.

Walking into the stoa, he stopped. Rows of tables lined the temple, people shopped, sold, and exchanged their currency to pay the temple tax

He walked past the first few tables. A loose lamb bleated at his feet.

A pilgrim in a tattered cloak with hands open, with a few coins resting in his open palm, pleaded with a moneychanger, “But this is all that I have! The temple tax was no more than this just the year past.” “Oh, friend,” said the opulent man, “is that all you have for the good Lord? You would do well to repent of your sins and perhaps He will bless you next year.”

Shaking his head, the Man muttered, “Would you have known…”

“Master?” one of his friends spoke hesitantly.

Jesus bent low over a table, coming nose to nose with the occupant, and with a quick swoop of his right hand knocked the stacks of coins to the floor. They trickled to the floor, clicking and clashing with one another on their way down. Few noticed the disturbance through the bargaining and bleating of creatures.

“Excuse me!” yelled the moneychanger, but before he could stand up Jesus had already turned away. He scrambled to pick up the money.

“You!” the Man shouted, his close friends quietly following him. “You! Do you not know whose house this is?” pointing to a man selling pigeons. His table cluttered in feather and feces. Jesus flipped the table to its side knocking opening cages and scattering pigeons. Moving with a fierce determination, he ripped the cloaks off the next table throwing them to the ground.

“And you!” he yelled pointing to another money changer, who upon seeing him coming gathered his coins close to his chest. The man scampered to stand up as he did his table met the floor as well.

“Jesus…Lord, what are you doing?” one of his men asked in disbelief. Jesus looked back toward him with compassion and a quiet smile.

Standing in the middle of the stoa, sellers and moneychangers scrambling to protect their goods while pilgrims and worshipers stood in shock, Jesus raised his arms to his side as if to beckon heaven down.

“You!” he yelled, circling the put-together market, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus marched through the temple terrifying man and beast alike with his proclaimed determination. Sellers and money changers began to flee, taking what they could with them. Jesus’ disciples stood apart from the crowd–slightly embarrassed and cautious  unsure of what to do.

“This is my Father’s house!” the Man proclaimed, overturning table after table.

With a nervous determination, one of the disciples stepped out from the pack. Looking to the two men still exchanging currency to his left, he slapped their hands down sending  the money to the floor, “Get out!” he yelled at them as he flipped the table. The men scurried away.

Two more of Jesus’ followers broke away and began to knock tables and push people out of the temple. One grabbed bag of money and dumped it on the floor.

“Peter! John! Stop! What are you doing?”

“We are following the Master, Judas!” Peter shouted as he turned over another table and pushed the seller toward the door. “We are to be about his work, are we not?” John shouted as he shoved a table to the floor.

“But this is a place of worship!” Judas exclaimed, dumbfounded at their giddy deliberate destruction. “And so we must make it a place of worship!” Andrew proclaimed pushing stools and tables aside as he followed Jesus.

A group of priests and scribes began to gather, “What is this!?” one cried. “The man called Jesus…it is his doing!” answered a moneychanger as he scrambled to gather his belongings, “He’s forcing us out. Saying we’ve made this place a den of robbers!”

“A den of robbers?!” a priest cried indignantly.

Plummage, feces, and broken wood scattered the walk. The mayhem continued until Jesus was satisfied with his work.

And when he was finished,

…the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,

” ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”

And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

 

Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, Luke 19:45-48

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The man they call Jesus. {stories of the passion}

I love Jesus. I love writing. I love writing stories of the faith. I think all too often we read the Bible and it’s like an episode of our favorite show we’ve seen 15 times over. We watch without really seeing. We hear the stories of miracles and resurrections and prophecy and we see it all. We understand it.

But do we really? I think, more often than not, we skip by and assume we know. We’ve heard this story played over a million times in sermons, books, poetry, and film. We know.

But in our knowing we forget. We forget that these stories aren’t just a chronology. They aren’t just facts. They are of people and lives and are filled with emotion. Sometimes I can’t help read the Bible and wonder what was it like to be there. To be in the crowd. To witness the miracles. To be in the inner circle.

What emotions and thoughts did they feel? Did they have moments of doubt-=-times when they wondered if they were following a crazy man?

The Bible is so much more than a one-dimensional story. That’s why I share these stories from the week of passion. It’s my own way to engage in the reality of this humble grace beyond the age old Sunday School lesson. My hope is that you would too.

* * * * * * * *

 The Man They Call Jesus

{the triumphal entry}

The sun is warm. Sitting on the steps, I wait for my brother to finish his errands. There seems always a fervor during the Passover preparations. Still captive, I think to myself, we prepare to remember our release from Egypt and here we sit captive in our own land. The Lord will deliver us again. But how long, O Lord, how long? When will your kingdom draw near?

I hear whispers among the crowd…someone is coming.

“Who?” “Is it him!? Really!?”

“I’ve heard of the works of his hand!”

“Sure. But is he a prophet or a charlatan?”

I stand, coming out from the shade of the buildings. Excitement fills the air.

Children gesturing friends to “Come, come quick!” Women carrying baskets ladened for the Passover meal huddle together with fingers pointing toward the road. Men stop their work. Soldiers notice the crowd’s fervor, nervously surveying the growing throng.

Caleb should be here by now. The crowd is growing strong. I hope the lamb doesn’t get lost.

“There he is!” someone shouts. A boy, maybe. The people have grown thick and I can’t quite see the voice in the crowd. I look up, but see nothing.

“Who is this that is coming?” I ask a young boy as he runs down the stairs. “Jesus! It’s Jesus of Nazareth!”

“Nazareth?” I mumble to myself, “What good could come out of Nazareth?”

The woman next to be grabs my arm, “Oh, child!” her arms wave in satisfied relief, “He’s made the blind see and even raised a man from the dead!”

“From the dead!?! What man can raise the dead, but the Lord alone?! Surely this is some act?”

“I tell the truth! My sister…she lives in Bethany and she saw him call a dead man–the man Lazarus, four days dead…and he called him out of the tomb. And he walked straight out!”

Each of her hands cup my face, eyes radiant, “We shall see the glory of God today!”

This man…a man from nowhere. Could he be the Messiah?

“Rebekah…Rebekah!” I hear my name called out. The crowd pushes against the buildings parting to leave room for whatever procession this is. I see my brother fighting his way through the crowd. “Caleb!”  I reach out my hand to grasp his. “Rebekah, what’s going on?”

“Do you have the lamb?” “Yes, yes,” pointing to the small creature soft with its bleating. “I think the crowd is making him nervous. What is happening?”

“I’m not sure. They say a prophet is coming. The man they call Jesus.”

“Jesus!?”

“You’ve heard of him?” The crowd shifts as some fight their way to carry on, tossing the two. Caleb puts his arm around my shoulder, pulling me closer, “Yes, my friend has told me of him. He spent a whole day just listening to him talk. They call him teacher, say he is a prophet and a healer.”

“But, Caleb, people are whispering saying…saying he is the Messiah. This woman,” I point to the woman pushing her way to the front of the crowd, “she said he has raised the dead.” Standing on his toes, Caleb stretches his long body over the crowd, craning for a better look. “Caleb, do you think…do you think he could really be the Messiah?”

The crowd grows louder, he can’t hear me over the clamor. But the voices of the procession grows louder. They sing, “Hosanna! Hosanna!

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Caleb begins to inch further into the crowd. I follow clinging to his robe. The lamb is hesitant, but goes where he is lead. They are here. Cloaks thrown on the ground, some even lay palm branches.

I hear the sound of hooves beating along the path and there he is. The woman who’s sister is from Bethany let’s out an exuberant exclaimation. The man Jesus. He rides a donkey. A man who heals and raises the dead on an ass? Men run into the streets quickly laying their cloaks on the ground, their exaltation loud, their joy high,

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Throughout the crowd I hear the ringing of his praises,

“Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”

A woman places her hand on my shoulder to balance and shouts, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

He’s coming closer. He looks like any ordinary man…their is nothing remarkable. He’s quite homely. I see a pharisee step out from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples,” he demands.

In a joyous, most confident voice the man on the donkey speaks, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

Stones crying out?

I can already hear the shouts of the crowd following him,

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Is this man a prophet of Elohim? His followers call him son of David, is he the Messiah? Is he the one to sit on the throne of David forever? Could this man–only a man–be our deliverance? Him?

No, no. It can’t be. I look at Caleb. He’s enthralled. He hopes, I can tell he hopes.

I watch, carefully, as he passes. There must be something, I search his face, his body, his clothes. Something to give him away as king and Messiah. Looking into his face, I am met with the eyes of the One who sees me.

Out of the depths of my perplexed soul, the words roll off my tongue, barely a whisper, “Who is this?”

Next to me I hear the contented sigh of a disciple, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

The woman who cupped my face cries, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob!”

 

(The Triumphal Entry: Mt. 21:1-11Mk. 11:1-14; Lk. 19:28-40Jn. 12:9-19 )

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Rescue is Coming {the exodus road}

The Exodus RoadAs we approach Holy Week, we reflect on the blood price, the ransom set upon our heads that our King of Glory in all His richness came and died on a sinner’s cross in our stead.

We waited. Hoped. Believed. Even in the darkness, we looked for a sign. Anything to tell us there was still a chance that hope was possible. A kindling in our hearts said, “Rescue is coming.”

Rescue did come.

And we ran to the open tomb amazed, leaving in a myriad of shock and disbelief of the mysterious, wondrous gift of grace. Our redemption is here.

And now we wait, we advent, for the Christ King who will come again to right all wrongs, dry every tear, and administer justice with his mighty, righteous right hand.

Oh, friends, our ransom is paid. Our rescue has come. We wait for the trumpet to sound and bring us home.

But there is still a rescue.

There are many, too many, 27 million many, waiting to be set freed. They’ve been lied to, stolen, sold, drugged, beat and treated like garbage day after day, night after night. They hope {oh, I hope they hope!} waiting in physical bondage to hear, “You are free!”

You are freed by the price of His blood. All is His. All is grace. May I encourage you to freely give what was freely given to you and join the fight against sexual slavery?

What Can You Do?

GIVE. The Exodus Road team works to gather enough evidence to encourage local authorities to raid brothels, free girls, and prosecute their captors. Unfortunately, rescue and the undercover equipment needed to gather evidence isn’t free. {Read more about how The Exodus Road works.}

SUPPORT. Help spread the word that rescue is coming by becoming an Exodus Road Blogger. Or become a Church Ambassador and represent The Exodus Road in your local community through awareness and fundraising events.

SHOP. Shop Exodus Auctions and tell friends how your purchase empowers rescue.

PRAY. Get on your knees and pray for their emancipation  Pray for the investigators leading brothel raids. Pray for convictions. Pray for communities to change. Pray for the broken hearts of these women and children that they may meet the Healer and be made whole.

Rescue is coming…and am I ever glad for that. But until the trumpet sounds and Jesus comes to take home His Bride, we must never forget, nor neglect, those still waiting to be rescued.

***

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Matthew 25:40

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Once Upon a Time I Went to England

Every literary lover needs a good pilgrimage to their motherland. It’s a year this week since I took mine.

Christmas morning I opened a canvas tote my brother had given me emblazed with the traditional “Keep Calm and Carry On.” {if you didn’t already know this about me, I’m an honoary British citizen. or at least I like to think so}

“Ah, thanks, Brandon,” I said, turning the bag over and imagining how I’d fill it with books and pens and journals. I opened it and found a half sheet of paper with a note from my brother. {there’s a picture somewhere}

His gift to me wasn’t just a bag with an English war motto, but a trip to England for me and a friend. I was shocked and the tears immediately flowed.

Going to England was a lifelong dream. All my favorite authors and stories and poetry and must-see places are found in the British Isles. And that year…just a few months prior, I had given up on ever stepping on Britain’s shore.

I was a mom with 2 little kids hoping to be pregnant again soon, when would I find the time or be able to go without my children? I was the wife of a seminarian who went to school and worked full-time, schedules and finances couldn’t afford a trip across the pond. Years ago, at the height of my scrapbooking days, I had bought London stickers sure of the day I would use them. Just a few months before I threw the stickers out believing it’d never happen. I even crossed visiting England off my 30 before 30 list.

My brother gave me a gift I never expected, a gift I wouldn’t be able to repay. I was overwhelmed that Christmas morning, my dream had become a reality.

And as any good blogger would do, I share my trip with you. Even if it is a year late.

The most adorable little town in the English countryside. Jane Austen died here, John Keats walked here, Winchester Cathedral stands here, and the Round Table sits here.

We tried not to look like tourists. Really.

Between running to Starbucks to get our wi-fi fix and striking a pose in front of Kensington Palace, I don’t think we quite blended in as Londoners.

Oh, yes…I went there. It was surreal and awesome and a house all the same.

{I may or may not have touched it. Sshh…don’t tell.}

There’s many stories to tell (but I won’t) like the many floors of Top Shop or how my brother got left behind in Winchester or eating in a 500 (600?) year old pub or walking through Hyde Park with suitcases at night or figuring out which way is which on the Tube or how English breakfast is disgusting.

Some many little magical moments and memories.

What’s your dream trip? Have you made it there yet?

 

 

Yes, my brother is very generous. I’m grateful. And a very talented graphic designer. No seriously, the new Google+ profile? That was my brother. (Hush about the huge cover photo…think of it as an opportunity for a better picture.)

 

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