After Easter

Good morning!  So many of you are new to this blog that I decided to re-post an offering from last year about this time.  I pray it is encouraging to you today!

My cousin died last week.  And a friend was deeply wounded by something a loved one said to her.  And another friend continues to pray for healing from a painful illness.  And another is deeply discouraged.  I imagine each of you could add something to the list.

And last week, after Easter, I was reading in John 20 when Mary comes and finds the tomb empty.  It was my “scheduled” devotional reading, and I’m a rule-follower, so I was obedient, and read it, but inside I was thinking…”Easter is OVER!  Been there, celebrated that.  Let’s move on.” (I’m not proud, just being honest).

I felt like those people who leave their Christmas wreath up til May.  Easter didn’t feel relevant after Easter, which I know is soooo wrong, but like at the tomb, God was gracious and showed up

I was clonked on the head like one of the Three Stooges as I entered into this passage as Mary.  Yes, Mary Magdalene, the one who Jesus miraculously cast all the demons out of, but at the same time, someone like all of us, any of us, who are ever in pain, lost, confused... Continue reading

To All Those Who Didn’t Show

I wrote yesterday about the waiting on the Fool’s Bench at Easter.

As it turned out, I didn’t sit.  I stood near the door to church in the Great Room, craning my neck, looking over the shoulder of anyone I was talking to, hoping to see the shaved bald head of my next-door-neighbor and his blond wife walk in.

I prayed and prayed.  I saved seats at two (count ’em, two!) services, which did NOT endear me to those who did come and were tackling others for a spot, practically paying hard cash money so they could sit inside the sanctuary instead of in the overflow rooms.

It didn’t happen.  Yes, the other friend did show at an earlier service and I pray that she felt totally hogswaggled by the enormity of God’s love for her, but it’s hard not to focus on the ones who didn’t come.  photo-109

I’ve been thinking about them…All the friends and neighbors and co-workers and prodigal family members you invited to church this Sunday.  Or last.  Or any one of a bazillion times. Continue reading

The Fool’s Bench at Easter

It’s early Easter morning as I write this at Starbucks.  Husband John has already come and gone to church to proclaim, “He is risen!” at the second of six services (The first was last night.  Weird, but I guess it was already Easter somewhere in the world)

 

photo-107

As I sit here, some come in dressed in their Easter best – pastel and fancy.  All patent leathery.  Others wander in their scruffy Sunday morning grunge – either clueless or apathetic or defiant.  I wonder which as I watch them.

Last night John got an email from some friends who have had no use for church.  It started, “You probably hate those ‘dicks’ who just show up at Christmas and Easter, but ___________(his wife) has had a rough month.  Her dad died and she may show up at your church tomorrow.” Continue reading

Doing Easter Better

This weekend I had the privilege of guest posting on the Willow Creek Association blog.  If you’re a ministry leader you may want to check it out here, and take a look at their other resources!

As I write this it’s Easter morning.  Gray, and ugly as most Easters are in Minneapolis. At least it’s not snowing like it has many years.

It’s a little hard to exuberantly declare “He is risen!” when the depressing surroundings aren’t in sync with the joy of the resurrection.  Like Minneapolis didn’t get the memo to put on its Easter finery with bright spring tulips and sunshine and green grass.  Instead we’re still in the death shroud of dirty snow.

IMG_8588

We kiddingly say “Jesus may rise, but in Minneapolis He’s probably like the groundhog – tempted to go back in the grave for six more weeks and come out when the snow has finally melted.”  I know. We probably shouldn’t joke about something as sacred as the resurrection.  But it’s been a very long winter, so give us a little grace please.

Continue reading

Saving a Place on Fearless (Good) Friday

This morning I sat down at Starbucks at my table next to the fireplace with Phillip.  He’s like Norm of Cheers, friendly and fun.  Except that he’s tall and he’s from England.  He’s here every morning at 5:00.  He knows everyone and chats with all.

Today he wanted to talk about God and church and how he didn’t think God could love him.  And I wanted to listen.

img_3483

Underneath the jovial facade, what I heard was fear.  A fear that all of us have if we’re honest.  Fear of not being good enough.  Fear of not having a place in community where he would be loved and accepted.

Continue reading

What do you do with Easter after Easter?

My cousin died last week.  And a friend was deeply wounded by something a loved one said to her.  And another friend continues to pray for healing from a painful illness.  And another is deeply discouraged.  I imagine each of you could add something to the list.

And last week, after Easter, I was reading in John 20 when Mary comes and finds the tomb empty.  It was my “scheduled” devotional reading, and I’m a rule-follower, so I was obedient, and read it, but inside I was thinking…”Easter is OVER!  Been there, celebrated that.  Let’s move on.” (I’m not proud, just being honest).

I felt like those people who leave their Christmas wreath up til May.  Easter didn’t feel relevant after Easter, which I know is soooo wrong, but like at the tomb, God was gracious and showed up

I was clonked on the head like one of the Three Stooges as I entered into this passage as Mary.  Yes, Mary Magdalene, the one who Jesus miraculously cast all the demons out of, but at the same time, someone like all of us, any of us, who are ever in pain, lost, confused...

She’s so wrapped up in her own despair she doesn’t recognize Jesus.  And He’s RIGHT THERE! With her.  But at first her grief is larger than her God.  It’s all she can see.

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

And Jesus asks her “Why are you crying?

I imagine a gentle tone and understanding in His eyes.  And I think, “What would Mary have answered?”

“I’m wrecked.  I’m disillusioned.  I’m lonely.  I’m afraid.  I don’t know what to do.”?

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those crushed in spirit.”

And then Jesus says her name.  “Mary.”  And I imagine it like a parent would softly say the name of a distraught toddler as they tried to soothe away their tears.

In that one word it seems Jesus is telling Mary, and us, so many things.

I’m here.  And it will be ok because I’m here.  I see you.  I understand your pain.  I hurt with you. Just a few days ago I was the one saying “My God, why have you forsaken me?”  So I get it.  Really.

“Do not fear for I have redeemed you.  I have summoned you by name.  You are mine.”

So for Joyce and Katie and Sue and Nikki, and so many others I pray that you might sense Jesus turning to you and asking “Why are you crying?”  That you might sense Him truly enter into your pain and gently say your name.

Sometimes I guess I just need to be reminded that Easter isn’t just about Easter.  It’s about all those days after Easter when we cry or feel desperate or disappointed or alone and it seems like Jesus has left the building.  But He hasn’t.  So maybe I’ll leave the Easter decorations up another week.

How do you prepare for Easter?

Do you ever feel like an Easter failure?  I do.

I’m not a very good Easter person.

It doesn’t help that usually the season in Minnesota is exceedingly ugly and inevitably it sleets or snows on Easter morning which makes celebrating resurrection and new life a little tough, but still…

Every year I pray to more fully enter into a deeper gut-understanding of what Christ did for me.  And what it means.

And I feel guilty that I don’t FEEL it more deeply.  That I’m not more horrified at my sin.  That I can’t better enter into the pain of the cross.

I pray.  I read the accounts of Jesus’ suffering for me.  And I wonder, with Paul, why “God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us.  Instead, immense in mercy, and with incredible love, He embraced us.  He took our sin – dead lives and made us alive in Christ.  He did this all on His own, with no help from us!” (Eph. 2:4-6 MSG)

It’s just incomprehensible.

How can any of us grasp this?  Both how wrong we are and how much we’re loved?

If I had to choose a life verse, I’d probably choose Deuteronomy 30:19 and 20 “This day I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life…”

Choose life.  I’m all about life.  I want to choose life-giving actions, words, relationships, experiences…

But as I’ve been reflecting on Holy Week, it’s all about the death that we must journey through to get to life.  So I’m thinking that in order to prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Easter, this week it would be good to choose death.   In a way.

I have a few ideas, of how to do Easter with Jesus, but they’re just awkward attempts…kind of like when I’m throwing bean bags playing Cornhole and have no form, but am all about hopeful.

As we move into Holy Week, I’d really love to hear from you what you are doing to enter in, to prepare your hearts.  Here are a few of my “death practices”…

1.  I wrote on Ash Wednesday about my non-Catholic self, processing Lent.  Yesterday I told Katy and Maggie that I was contemplating a fruit and yogurt fast for Holy week to make myself more aware of loss and to cleanse my body as a mirror of the cleansing of my soul that Jesus makes possible.  I was nervous to tell anyone because I’m terrible at any kind of fast, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to be held accountable and I was relieved when I told them because they were like “You can’t do THAT, Mom!  That’s unhealthy!” and they gave me an easy out if I wanted it, but I’m choosing different kinds of fasts – “losing” something each day throughout the week – food, internet, phone, t.v….

2.  I’m “Examening”.  I’m not an icon gal, but I’ve found this palm cross on my bedside table is a great reminder to practice the Examen before I go to sleep – to look back over my day, replaying the different interactions like video clips, paying attention to when I felt the most alive to Jesus and when He seemed absent because I let sin get in the way.  I always do this looking for life and praying with gratitude, but this week in particular I want to make sure I’m paying attention to death.  To the sin I need to grieve and ask forgiveness for.

3.  I’m trying to enter into the pain of friends and family who are experiencing loss and death right now.  These are the people I want to be praying for, listening to, sitting with, and writing to this week.

4.  And I’m trying to (ever so inadequately) walk this week of loss with Jesus, through a couple favorite devotionals that simply invite me into Scripture, lectio-like.  No commentary.

These are just my feeble attempts to do Easter with Jesus.  But the good news is, even if I fail at all of them, even if I still don’t really “get” it, Jesus will still rise on Sunday and each time I mess up I can be forgiven and He’ll say, “Let’s start again.”

Please share with us…what are you doing to prepare for Easter?