He Is Risen, Indeed

I brought spices to Jesus’ grave because I thought he was gone (Mark 16:1). I had forgotten what he said (Luke 24:6). I took spices in mourning and defeat, wondering how I would push the heavy, stone-like burden away (Mark 16:3).

I’ve got to be honest with you. This Holy Week has been hard for me. This time means so much to me and I usually try to attend all possible worship services. I love being reminded of the meaning of it all and the deep connection I feel to Jesus during this time. But life has seemed to kick us while we’re down and I’ve not allowed God to help me withstand the blows. I’m weary.

Life’s circumstances have caused us to miss many things, including numerous Sundays at church. All my life, I’ve been there every time the doors were open until this illness. I only made it through fifteen minutes last Sunday and we made it approximately zero minutes of the Good Friday service. This was only a small fraction of the things weighing on my heart and I was deeply grieved, mourning for what might have been: a powerful, touch-and-heal me kind of Savior, the kind who rescues in the way that I imagine he will (Luke 24:21). I braced myself for Sunday. I was tempted to not even set an alarm because somehow not planning to go to church on Resurrection Sunday meant less disappointment than planning to go without being able to do so.

I awoke this morning sometime in the 4:00 hour with an agonizing stomach pain. Jason awoke several hours later with an agonizing eye pain from an old abrasion that had re-opened. I’m not sure if I’ve seen him in so much pain. I took care of him, blacking out the windows, and tore myself away from him to go to church by myself. I prayed the whole way that God would be my strength and let me feel his presence with me. And I walked in with an agonizing heart pain.

I walked in with my spices, mourning for a Savior who didn’t rescue me. I walked in with the worry and weight of a heavy stone I thought I needed to roll.

Then, an angel said, “Good morning! He is risen” (Matthew 28:6)! And another took my hand, looked me in the eye, saw my pain and said a version of, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5). Still another, face lit with God’s love, embraced me with gladness. I stood with the rest of the disciples (Matthew 28:17), crying outside the empty tomb, wondering what had happened (John 20:11). Wondering where my Jesus had gone. “You are the only King forever”, so where are you?

Later, I was walking along the path. I did not feel Jesus’ presence with me. I did not know that he had been walking with me the whole time (Luke 24:15-16).

Then, Jesus said my name (John 20:16). He said my name and my eyes were opened. My name, on the lips of a risen Savior. My eyes were opened and my mind recalled the words of Jesus (Luke 24:8). I clung to his feet and worshiped him (Matthew 28:9). I worshiped Jesus on the mountain. He broke bread with me and I recognized him, heart burning within me (Luke 24:30-32). He reached out his arms and held me. He was not angry that I had doubted and he invited me to touch and see (Luke 24:39).

Then, Jesus asked me if I love him and I said, “yes”. I said, “yes, yes”, over and over, “yes”. I was hurt that he kept asking me until I remembered how often I denied him with disbelief (John 21:15-17). Jesus, I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24)! Jesus said he had to suffer and then enter into glory (Luke 24:26). If I have to suffer, it is for God’s glory, and I want that. God, be glorified! In my eagerness to be with Jesus, I want to run to the empty tomb (Luke 24:12). I want to jump into the water and swim to shore (John 20:7). I want to cast off the burdensome stone and let God roll it away. I was afraid I would take my life back into my own hands again, like so many other times. And a prayer that refused NOT to be prayed left my lips, a prayer that stopped me in my tracks, pierced my heart and left me breathless. I asked God not to take my pain away until the moment it will give Him the greatest possible glory. One of the most difficult prayers I have prayed, but one that has given me hope again. Hope that whatever happens to us will be used for God’s glory.

I have been looking for the Living among the dead (Luke 24:5). I have been overwhelmed by the darkness hiding what God is doing. I have been living in a second day world without hope in our third day God (based on Curtis Booher’s sermon). God’s rays of Light bursting through the darkness reminded me that his Presence has always, and will always, be with me.

My hope was hanging by a thread this morning. And, to be honest, I will probably need reminded of this day more often than should be necessary. Maybe writing it down will help me remember the nearness of God when the darkness overwhelms. Jesus told me not to be afraid anymore (Matthew 28:10). He told me I could lay down my spices and stop pushing the stone. He told me He is with me always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He told me He is in Heaven at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). He offered me peace (Luke 24:36). He gave me hope for this In Between. He Is Risen, indeed.

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The In Between

Deep, excruciating grief. That’s how I imagine Jesus’ disciples felt the day after they watched their Savior die.

Savior. Perhaps they weren’t even able to call Jesus a Savior on that Saturday. They pictured a mighty king sweeping in to conquer their enemies and rescue them. Instead, their Savior died.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Defeated and disappointed. Perhaps even a bit betrayed. Where is this peace you promised, Jesus? Overcome the world? The world just murdered you! They believed Jesus was the one who would make everything right again… and then they watched him die an excruciating death. When the mockers told Jesus to prove them wrong and come down from the cross, did the disciples secretly beg him to come down too? Or did they even believe that was possible? Was the one they loved really gone forever?

Loved. The disciples loved Jesus and he loved them. He was their teacher and they deeply loved him. They did not understand what was happening. The one person they had come to rely on had been taken from them. My heart breaks with their unimaginable grief.

All of these feelings in the In Between. And they were forced to rest. It was the Sabbath so they could do no work. They could not keep busy. Instead, they had to think about it. They had to feel the full weight of it all. Grief, defeat, disappointment, betrayal, sadness, love. They had to just sit… and wait.

Sometimes I have a vision of the way Jesus will rescue me and he doesn’t do it. I am disappointed and deeply grieved. The In Between is hard. It’s amazing how tiring just sitting and waiting can be. I’m tired of getting my hopes up for something that doesn’t happen. And I am often just forced to rest and think about it, to feel the full weight of it all. I’m tempted to give up hope. I’m not proud to say there are times I have given up hope.

But I know something the disciples didn’t understand. I know how the story ends. I know my Savior is not dead, but alive. I know my grief will turn to joy. I will forget this anguish because Jesus has overcome. I have hope in the In Between. Jesus always does the best things for us, no matter how painful, even unt0 death.

"I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you. Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." - John 16:20-22

I’m sure many of you are right here with me, begging Jesus to come back, on your faces in agony, pleading with him to end the waiting. We miss our Home, the physical presence of our Friend, and the comfort of unspeakable Joy. I grieve with and for you too. The In Between is hard. The full weight of it all overwhelms. But sometimes we have to feel the full weight of the pain to understand the fullness of the Joy. We will get through it together. Because we know the outcome. Take heart. Take Jesus’ heart. He is the strength of our hearts. He has not betrayed us and he is not defeated! Joy is coming and won’t ever be taken away. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

I Wait For You

God, remember when
You said you'd lift my head
Well, I'm bowed to the ground
In wait for you
God, you promised good
As only you could
Oh but God, where are you now?
I wait for you.

How long will I wait?
How much more can I take?
Oh God, do you hear my cries?
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
I wait for you.

God, you said you'd fight
If I would just hold tight
Well, my strength is wearing thin
I wait for you
God, you said you'd be 
A shield around me
But I'm bruised and broken down
I wait for you.

How long will I wait?
How much more can I take?
Oh God, do you hear my cries?
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
I wait for you.

God, I do believe
That you're still holding me
And this desert path I walk
I walk with you
God, until the day
You reveal to me your ways
I will thank you for the gift
Of waiting for you.

There's beauty in the wait
So I will give you praise
Oh God, you will be my strength
Through the land of suffering
I will count all the blessings
And know that there's meaning
In waiting for you.

Oh God, I know you hear my cries
Oh God, help me lift my eyes
While I wait for you.
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Dancing in the Freedom

Ballet is something near and dear to my heart. I spent 12 years of my life in class and on stage. I miss it more than I can say.

Anybody recognize Sebastian the Crab? Oh, maybe not without the claws. Trust me, the claws existed. I just wasn’t wearing them. Or how about a little Colors of the Wind, with too much makeup and a silly brother who may hurt me for this picture? It’s amazing that I still remember the songs that matched the costumes.

And finally, because I don’t want to continue boring you with my reminiscing, here is a Lady in Waiting.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t always so dedicated to the world of dance. In fact, I didn’t get serious until a couple of years before the end, which meant I wasn’t nearly as good as I could have been. Much to my later regret, I fell into the dreaded trap of peer pressure. You see, I was part of a… let’s say… rebellious class. I don’t know if most of the parents just forced their daughters to attend or what, but the class jokers would take over and everyone else was supposed to be distracted and laugh. It became particularly awful when we got old enough to start dancing en pointe, which was my favorite way of dancing. But, did I admit my love for pointe to the class clowns? Of course not! It was during this time that I received the nickname, “Pavlova”, after Anna Pavlova, the famous Russian dancer. But, don’t be fooled. This nickname was meant derogatorily. I was considered…shall we say… “uncool” because I was apparently abnormally skilled at putting on my pointe shoes. Dancers will understand that the proper way of putting on pointe shoes is an art in and of itself. It was a silly unwritten rule in our class that the first one with their toe shoes tied was a loser so no one wanted to be the loser. I cannot possibly explain how much time we foolishly wasted trying NOT to be first. When our teacher would walk in to see if we were ready yet, we all pretended we were still tying our shoes. This sounds utterly ridiculous but it gets worse. I specifically remember one day we took so long that we never had enough time for the actual class. That was the low point, pun intended.

I’ve been trying to recall what flipped the switch in us and made us actually start trying and taking dance seriously. I think it was a combination of the class clown quitting and the rest of us joining with another, much more mature class. It pains me to think of the skills I lack because of my tremendous fear of what other people would think of me. Dancing is freedom to me. Freedom of expression and freedom of self. And I was a slave to others, who didn’t care a bit about me.

I’d love to say that my mindset has changed, but sadly, it hasn’t. I still have the same, overwhelming fear of how other people view me. I am a slave to people instead of to God. I have honestly never really grasped what it means to truly own the fact that I am God’s child. His perception of me should be the only perception that matters to me… ever.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." - Romans 12:2 (NIV)

I am loved by God. Do I just hear that so often that the full weight of that statement escapes me? Admittedly, I have been following the pattern of this world, but always with a longing in my heart for something better. Something that would set me free. Something I have always known but too afraid to grasp.

Perhaps the most disturbing portrayal of bowing under pressure from others is found in Mark 15, Verse 15.

"Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barrabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified." 

Can you imagine participating so fully in the death of the Son of God simply because of pressure? I can. I do it every day. Every moment I care more about what other people think of me than what Jesus thinks of me, I hammer the nail a little further. I smash the crown of thorns a little harder. Every moment that I hold back the personality and expression that God has created in me, I spit in Jesus’ face. Oh, my heart aches to write these words!

I am slowly, painfully realizing just how much I have allowed others to influence me and how much self-loathing I have allowed into my heart. How can a child of God be so utterly wrong about who she is? I’m sure there will be other posts as I continue to crawl out of this pit. As I slowly, painfully, remorsefully clean and kiss the wounds I’ve caused in my Savior. I cannot wait until the day I no longer care what other people think of me, I can wear the name, “child of God”, and even “Pavlova”, proudly, and I no longer have the ache of self-hatred and fear in my heart. I cannot wait to dance in freedom with Jesus. It’s Friday now, with all of its darkness and chains. But I see a glimmer of light and I cannot wait to dance on Sunday!

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