Good Friday Sully

I’ve done a lot of running this week. When things get crazy, run. It helps.

Sully running

We watched the movie “Sully” with Tom Hanks and Aaron Eckhart the other night. He was stuck in New York as the FAA investigated him. He couldn’t sleep. So he ran. A lot. Sometimes with his co-pilot and sometimes alone. During the day. At night, by the bright lights of the city. I had to laugh, despite the heavy content of the movie. Runners know. Burn off some of that anxiety and stress instead of eating a whole pie, or drinking yourself into a stupor. Get your head in a good place.

Running, it seems, can be a type of prayer. You pour out your concerns and frustrations to God as your feet hit the pavement. I know it’s been like that for me. I can hear the Lord once I come to the end of my homemade solutions.

I’m thinking about pouring out frustrations today as it’s Good Friday. How it must have hurt Jesus to be betrayed by one of his closest friends. Of course, He knew it all would happen. But I doubt that made it any easier.

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” –  Matthew 26:36-39

He felt fear. He understood the weight of what came next, the suffering and pain awaiting him. Judas led the group of men with clubs and swords who came and arrested him, a citizens’ arrest. Then, the betrayal, mock trial before Pilate, beating and crucifixion.

At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” – Matthew 27:46

We all have seasons where we feel abandoned or lost or completely alone. Jesus knows. He went through it all. We remember what He did for us today, and what it cost.

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. – Hebrews 4:15-16

Heroes

hero

I’ve been thinking about heroes lately. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was yesterday. We consider him a hero and honor him by giving him an entire day each year. It’s fitting. He headed up a movement that helped shape our country.

We celebrate other heroes, too. President’s Day commemorates both Lincoln and Washington. Veteran’s Day celebrates those who have served; Memorial Day celebrates those who died while serving. We have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. We look up to most all of these people, in one way or another. We need people to admire. We need someone to pattern our lives after. We need the inspiration, the guidance and direction.

We talked about superpowers during our game night.

“What superpower would you like to have?” I put to the family.

“Teleportation,” Ruby said, without hesitation. “You could snap your fingers and be in France,” she said. “Or Paris.”

This provided an opportunity for me to tell her Paris is *in* France. Been there. Guess we need to work a bit on geography.

So, what is a hero?

he·roˈ hirō/
noun: hero; plural noun: heroes; noun: hero sandwich; plural noun: hero sandwiches
a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.”a war hero”(in mythology and folklore) a person of superhuman qualities and often semidivine origin, in particular one of those whose exploits and dealings with the gods were the subject of ancient Greek myths and legend
Or –North American: another term for submarine sandwich.
    • Just to be clear: although delicious, we’re not talking about sandwiches here.

I pick and choose heroes with care. I’m pretty independent. I won’t take any hero who is foisted upon me. I’m not impressed by wealth or social status. Heck, I live in Shelton. People often come here to hide, not to be seen. I don’t think all heroes have superpowers, however.

My pantheon of heroes is very small. I have to believe I’m not alone.  Jonathon is up there, too. He’s the sunny-side up guy who gives and serves everyone. Plus, he’s funny, smart and cute. A couple of close friends have talked me off ledges and wooed me back to normalcy when things got nutty. That, to me, shows heroism. The courage to stay with someone when it all falls apart shows nobility.

Which is why, in the end, Jesus is the ultimate hero. He knows me and loves me. He’s there for me all the time, every day, whether I’m on my best behavior or a complete brat. He doesn’t even need a cape. He’ll be there for you, too, if you let Him.

It’s Personal

toothbrush

No sharing.

“Now, today, try this personal hair removal system! Only $19.99, plus shipping and handling!”

“Wanted: personal assistant. Must pick up dry cleaning and love dogs.”

I’ve been thinking about the word personal lately. I found this definition:

per·son·al
ˈpərs(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: personal
  1. 1.
    of, affecting, or belonging to a particular person rather than to anyone else.
    “her personal fortune was recently estimated at $37 million”

    direct, empirical, firsthand, immediate, experiential

    “I have personal knowledge of the family”
    • done or made by a particular person; involving the actual presence or action of a particular individual.
      “the president and his wife made personal appearances for the re-election of the state governor”
    2.

    of or concerning one’s private life, relationships, and emotions rather than matters connected with one’s public or professional career.

    To me, personal has always been, well, personal. It’s about a person. It’s meant their private thoughts, attitudes, emotions and dramas. If I tell someone, “It’s personal”, that means butt out. It means I’m not ready to share it now, if ever. It has to do with things better left unsaid except to the chosen, vetted few.

    And by default, personal denotes belonging to someone. Like my personal hairbrush – not that I own one anymore, with this mane. Toothbrushes are personal; we don’t share. Ideally.

    So when I hear an altar call that says, “Do you want to make Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?”, I get antsy. Jesus can be everyone and anyone’s Lord and Savior. In fact, that’s the goal for us Christians here on earth. The Great Commission from Jesus states: Go and make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:16-20). Jesus doesn’t belong to me alone. He belongs to millions of believers around the globe, and to any potential believers as well.

    The other part of this that sits wrong with me is “personal” anything usually points to a tool. Remember the hairbrush example? The hairbrush serves to smooth my hair, or would, if such a tool could work on curly tresses. The toothbrush cleans my teeth. It works for me. So, a personal savior would…take care of all my messes? “See that spot Jesus? Right back there? Could you tidy that up, make it spotless? That’s it. Put your back into it.”

    Jesus doesn’t exist to do my bidding. I exist to worship Him and do HIS bidding. I hear you say, “Susan, this is all semantics. Nobody means anything by it.” Probably true. I have nothing against people who use this phrase. But maybe I need to think differently of “personal”, give it another chance. Because choosing to follow Christ, it will get personal, real fast. He changes lives.

     

     

Smooth Sailing?

sailboat on rough seas

(source)

I’ve been navigating choppy waters lately. Sometimes, when you try to help someone, you botch it. Sometimes people end up thinking badly of you. Your integrity comes under scrutiny. Sometimes you make mistakes. You fail. You lose at whatever you went after. You did your best and it didn’t work out.

It’s a little painful. It makes me want to run, to lash out, to defend myself and maybe retaliate. It also makes me want to tell God, “I’ll take it from here. You didn’t do so hot back there. I’m the captain now.”

Don’t worry: this matter, in the larger scheme of things, results in small potatoes. It just blindsided me, like a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. You know that saying “no good deed goes unpunished”? It fits here.

But God never leaves us. He never forsakes us. Hebrews 13:5 says so. The great thing about it all is that even when (not if) I deliberately rebel, God remains with me. I can repent and come back. He forgives and forgets. I can let Him have control, especially when the outcome looks uncertain. This safety net of love and care keeps me buoyed up on the rough seas of this life. I can stay the course, guided by the star of His eternal faithfulness.

What are you facing today that makes you want to go rogue?

 

Stick Man

After kettlebells class, a much-needed shower and dinner, Ruby and I watched a show together.

I recognized the voices and animation immediately from the BBC’s “The Gruffalo”. Ruby and I spied that one several months ago.

For those of you who haven’t seen “Stick Man”(voiced by none other than “The Hobbit” himself, Martin Freeman),  here’s the skinny. Stick Man lives in the family tree with his stick wife (I assume) and 3 stick children. They form a happy band. One spring morning, Stick Man decides to go out for a jog. He prances outside in the balmy clover. He runs down the hill. He helps a snail score a leaf. Then…a dog spots him. You can guess what happens from here. The dog, only too happy to have a self-throwing stick, grabs him with his mouth and carries him to his human. I suppose this isn’t a great advertisement for physical fitness.

“I’m Stick Man! I’m Stick Man! I’m me!” Stick Man protests, jaunty green leaf growing straight out of his head. In fact, this sort of thing happens over and over again. His only defense in every situation is to flop down on the ground and look inanimate. It never seems to work. Each time Stick Man escapes from one predicament, a small animal warns him of the next.

“Stick Man, beware the girl!”

This just before the girl plucks him up to use him to float in a stick-boat race down the river. Another child uses him as a sword. Another as a snowman’s arm, or a hook. See, Stick Man ends up out at sea and completely loses sight of the family tree.

A year of seasons pass by. He’s hiked through the snow, frosty and cold. He’s exhausted, yet still helps little creatures less fortunate. He overturns upended bugs. He plods on. Finally, he collapses on Christmas Eve, right in front of a small village.

A little girl picks him up.

“Look! A stick for the fire!” she exclaims.

Stick Man has the place of honor on the kindling pile. He dreams of home. Suddenly, he wakes to his situation. He hops out of the fireplace. Then something falls down the chimney. Black snow.

“Help me, I’m stuck,” a voice intones from above him.

What?

Stick Man, still doing good though miles from home, lost and lonely, manages to edge Santa himself from the chimney. Santa falls to the ground in a cloud of soot.

“Stick Man! Thank you, thank you, endless thanks,” he says, shaking the tiny tri-fingered hand. He sees and he knows Stick Man on sight.

Santa turns to go, Stick Man standing behind him in awe. Then it all changes. He beckons for Stick Man to join him. They hop in the sleigh and Stick Man gets to help deliver the presents to sleeping kids.

Funny, but the kids getting presents look just like the kids who misused Stick Man not so long ago. The girl who pretended Stick Man was a sword gets a toy sword instead. The boy who used Stick Man as an oar gets his own, and on and on. Where Stick Man could have enacted his revenge on unsuspecting children, or stood off to the side, pouty and indignant, he pointed Santa to the best toy match for each. He served with joy. Santa proved even better to Stick Man himself. He brought Stick Man home to his little wooden family, the ultimate Christmas present.

I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of most cartoons. But this little gem had something to teach me. We’re all trying somehow to get back home. Keep the faith. Keep on doing good. Don’t hit back, even if you’re close enough to scratch eyes out with your splindly little twig arms. Love your enemies. All the good things Jesus wants us to do and to be. God knows you and He sees you, right where you are. Never forget it.

 

 

Easy Yoke

yoke

 

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

The guest speaker at church yesterday spoke about this. A pastor and prophet in his early 80s, he’s been there and done that. He’s seen it and lived it. He talked about how we’re often tied to inferior yokes in this life – depression, addiction, rejection, to name a few – and those produce destruction. Why not be yoked with Jesus instead? Yoked to Jesus. What does that mean?

Yokes, from my extensive perusing of  the Little House on the Prairie book series, entail two beast of burden type animals pulling together towards a common goal. I remember Almanzo’s oxen from Farmer Boy (Ruby’s favorite of the series), Star and Bright, and how Almanzo had to train them to pull together and in a straight line. Somehow, methinks hanging in a tandem rig with Jesus would make Jesus the wiser of us two “beasts”. He would patiently guide us onto the right path, drawing us along at times.  I like this image, Jesus and I walking a path or pulling a plow in unison. It puts me in mind of the passage in Ecclesiastes talking about how two are better than one, for they can protect each other and keep warm together (Ecclesiastes 4).

Again, I struggled with finding meaning in this passage. Frankly, the idea of any yoke at all sounds oppressive to me. Yokes are for dumb animals who don’t know how to work well with others. They create a harness, with limited movement and directional choices. Hey! Doesn’t a yoke imply we’re all just dumb creatures?!

Wait a minute. Is it possible Jesus is saying, given the chance, we choose poorly every.single.time? If we pick up and put on our own yokes, be it chasing after the perfect body, the perfect man, the perfect job or just perfection in general, we are under the yoke of that belief system. Maybe we’re goal-oriented, and we only pursue noble goals. We strive to be debt-free. We raise our kids with good character and manners straight out of the 1950s (you know, the good old days before Woodstock). These targets and plans, good though they may be, pale in comparison to the great things God has for us. A classic case of good as the enemy of the great.

On second thought, living under Jesus’ yoke doesn’t sound half bad. After all, His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He is humble and gentle at heart, and we will find rest for our souls.

 

 

 

 

Zoom Zoom

This is what today has been like. Okay, make it the whole week. Makes me feel a little

Tasmanian devil

It’s Easter week. Today is Maundy Thursday. I’ve been spending extra time in prayer and worship, considering Jesus’ sacrifice. Despite everything swirling about me, I can’t let this holy season pass by without reflection and thanks.

I don’t want to complain about being busy. I want to find peace in the doing. So, like this

monet_nympheas

Peace in the extra worship rehearsals for Easter Sunday. Peace in the going to work and getting additional, funky assignments. Peace in working out and abstaining. Peace while making decisions and peace while waiting for answers. Peace when I lay my head down at night. Peace in breathing out, and breathing in.

I pray this Easter brings you peace as well.