Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Carry the Cross

Who was Simon the Cyrene? We read about him in 3 of the 4 gospel accounts of Jesus' crucifixion. We know he was a dad. We even know the names of his two sons: Alexander and Rufus. We know that he didn't volunteer to help Jesus...he was seized, forced to carry the cross. I wonder if his boys were with him. How old were they? What did they do when the soldiers grabbed their Daddy?

Simon was just "passing by". We read that he was on his way "in from the country." Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I looked it up on a map. Cyrene is in Lybia, Africa. Simon was actually a long way from home and I'm sure he had other plans for that day in Jerusalem. But here he is, yanked into the suffering journey of a Man like no other. Don't you wonder how he felt? Was he fearful? Begrudging? Did he keep his distance or did he take a moment to look into Jesus' sinless eyes?

The Bible is full of interesting details like this. Proper names that lend great historical value. Paul mentions a "Rufus" in Romans 16. What if it that was Simon's Rufus? I can only imagine that the journey to Golgotha would have been life-altering for all three of them.

It is interesting too, that in these same three gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus is recorded saying "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me." Simon had no choice but to submit to Rome and carry the cross of Christ. I, on the other hand, must choose. I'm not very good at denying myself. My Self is loud and demanding and works really hard to make sure it gets its way.

And what is "my" cross anyway? We've come a long way from the Roman Empire. It is not the cruel cross of ancient days. And mine is not a brutal submission. I know this because Jesus also said "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Could this yoke be my cross? I'm not sure...maybe...

Look at the contrast:

Most likely Simon was exhausted at the end of that climb to Golgotha, weary and burdened after carrying the cross. It is those who are already weary and burdened that Jesus gives his invitation to come. Jesus is gentle and humble, a far cry from the Roman Soldiers who coerced Simon. The cross that Simon carried was heavy. The yoke that I am to carry is light. I have no doubt that there was great unrest for Simon and his boys that day and in the nights that followed when sleep was hard to come by. Jesus said if I carry his yoke I find rest. This burden is not the end of me. It involves learning, the promise of a future changed by growth.

Jesus is asking me to carry my cross. He is asking me to be yoked with him. This is a tender call to companionship. I will not walk alone. I love that Jesus did not walk alone. I'm glad Simon was there.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stations of the Cross

I am digging in my heels this week and refusing to be swept away. Refusing to surrender to the chaos of all that needs to be done in preparation for Easter and choosing to surrender to the heart of the story.

I thought about all-out fasting this week but I just can't do it. I don't care if I ever see another bean in my life. Last night was our last beans and rice meal and we are all rejoicing! With the physical demands of our rehearsal schedule and late nights this week, wisdom is telling me that my body will need good healthy fuel. I feel like Jesus is suggesting.... instead of taking more away this week how about adding something?

OK, I can do that.

One thing that I know will help is our plan to attend the Stations of the Cross as a family this Friday, April 2nd. (You can join us from 5-9pm in the Shoreline Special Event Center, which is the first building on your left as you enter our campus from Burnet Rd.) We went two years ago and it was an amazing worship experience. I have a great anticipation about attending this year. I went through an online version of the Stations today and was so touched by how personal each reading was.

This story of Jesus' Passion is not just church history, something that happened hundreds of years ago. It was and is and will always be a NOW story. Paul emphasizes this is 2 Corinthians 6

As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,

"In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you."

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

Now is the day. Now is the time. Its amazing how this story changed history, forever altered the future yet is meant to be experienced TODAY. How can I remember the cross today?

I can sing redemption songs. I love Paul Baloche's new project Glorious I think I'll keep it in my van this week.

I can read my Bible, there's a thought! Walking with Jesus in Matthew 26, or Mark 14 or Luke 22 or John 16.

I can remember all that the cross has done for me. My sin, my shame, my guilt, my pain, all nailed to the cross (see Colossians 2)
I can pray

Beautiful Savior. Dear Lamb of God. Help me to remember you this week. To know the love that held you to that cross. To glory in your surrender to the will of the Father. To rest in the finished work of grace. Hosanna! Save NOW!
If you are interested in learning more and actively participating in Lent this year visit this website of daily Lenten Prayers and Scripture Readings

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Transforming Tragedy

"God transformed that tragedy,
(the death of Jesus on a cross),
by letting his death pay the price for all our sins."
I'm quoting from our lenten reading for Tuesday this week. Isn't it beautiful? Somehow our amazing God was able to transform the brutal death of his only Son into our salvation, our freedom. It was his plan all along. Jesus mentioned his impending death on several occasions to his followers. How many of them at the foot of that gruesome cross could have seen anything beyond the tragic loss of their Rabbi?
It really is AMAZING GRACE!
What amazes me still is that God continues to actively transforming tragedy. He does this.
I stand aghast like those earlier followers at the small scale tragedies in my life. Redemption? Transformation? That hope trickles into the tragic scenes of my life one small drop at a time. Sudden change, unexpected loss, disappointed dreams these are everyday tragedies. Catching us of guard. Throwing us for a loop. I've been thrown a time or two.
It's interesting the longer I live, the less space there seems to be between the shock and the hope. More recently, I hear myself saying things like "God can use this" and "I see God working in this". Strange.
I remember this passage from Luke 4, Jesus reading from Isaiah:
18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
I've always loved that moment where Jesus closes the book and says "this is happening right now before your very eyes". My paraphrase.
And it IS happening. It is happening all around us. It is happening in my life. I am poor and weak, but the Good News is that Jesus came for folks like me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I've experienced rich mercy, rich grace. I am rich in so many ways. I have been a prisoner of denial, of pain, of fear, of shame, but I find myself daring to dream again. Free like I have never been. Chains are broken. Chains are breaking. I know what it is like to walk in darkness. Existing. Surviving. Not seeing any hope for me. I was blind but I am recovering my sight. Jesus released me. He walked me through! He surrounds me with his favor like a shield.
God, transforming tragedies both large and small.
Such a Glorious Redemption!

If you are interested in learning more and actively participating in Lent this year visit this website of daily Lenten Prayers and Scripture Readings

Friday, March 19, 2010


I just got a great big bag of lovely hand-me-downs from a very fashionable friend. It feels like Christmas! I love hand-me-downs! Truth is, I've been wearing then most of my life. Thanks to Jennifer across the street in my growing-up years. She was the only girl in her family and had great clothes. I always loved when Jennifer hit a growth spurt. :) I remember one outfit that I adored. Red pants with a matching snap up vest layered over a red turtle neck and a plaid shirt. The more layers the better, right? I even wore it for school pictures! You know you got some great hand-me-downs when you wear them for pictures! There was also a dreamy Hang-Ten green and white stripe key-hole-tie tank top. I had arrived with my little white embroidered Hang-ten toes.

I am fickle when it comes to fashion. Occasionally, I surf the web looking for trends. Sometimes I balk at the trends and make self-righteous vows not to get sucked in. Most of the time I just want to find a really good deal that fits well. I think that is why the hand-me-downs are such a gift. I mean there is no better deal than free! I keep the things that fit and pass on the things that don't with great freedom. There is no searching racks for a different size. How great is that? Isn't it annoying when you find something cute at the store but just need a different size and they don't have it so you call the other stores in town and search all over for this elusive item knowing deep inside that it would have been fabulous on you, only to come up empty. Bummer.

Hand-me-downs also fit well with my recent education in Fair Trade. I struggle at the mall with consumer guilt especially when I find a super great deal. It is creating such conflict! I know that a fun hand-knit sweater cape should cost more than 3 bucks. There is no way the person who made it is earning a living wage from my purchase. How responsible am I for people (often children) in other countries who sew this stuff? It's messing with me. Not enough though, because I just bought a sassy blue dress on clearance at Macy's for $12.83 with tax! I was thrilled with my find, but still wanting at some level to become a globally minded consumer. That didn't happen this week.

My fashion mindedness seems to ebb and flow with the seasons. A few years ago I was suffering closet-angst and so I printed a little reminder and taped it up right there inside the closet. It read "I have everything I need" And that could not be more true. I don't NEED a single thing in there. I have enough stuff to clothe more than one me. Still I do long for NEW. I think most of us do. There is something hidden in that longing. A new outfit feels like a new me. I want to be made new. I think at its depths that desire is a God-seed. I sell myself short when I allow new stuff to quench that desire. Something to think about when I get that fashion itch. At least for me"new" doesn't have to mean hanging on the store hanger with tags attached. I'm grateful for hand-me-downs. So is my checkbook. And so is my heart.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sea Lion Momma...Parenting Tips from Animal Planet?

History Channel, Discovery, National Geographic, Animal Planet…these are the TV channels we watch when the boys control the remote. Last week my oldest son, and Killer Whale aficionado, recorded a show called Orca School. We watched it together until I couldn't take anymore.

In one part of the story, the savvy Orcas are hunting new born sea lion pups by charging up watery channels and practically beaching themselves to nab the defenseless pups. It was heart wrenching and quite disturbing because my son was giggling. He is awestruck, gleefully admiring the power of the ocean's top predator. They are fabulous creatures. The show chronicled how more experienced Orcas train younger whales to use this beaching technique that goes against every instinct. They are masterful hunters and excellent teachers.

Sea lion pups are fortunate to have a mother's care in their early days. One scene pictured a stubborn little pup trying desperately to get in the water. He was fought off by his devoted momma who pushed him plop for plop away from the water's edge. She could see the dark black dorsal fin of an Orca off shore and she knew what that meant. He barked at her and bit her neck and she barked back and pushed him away to safety. What a good momma! Then the camera shot widened to show another pup bounding alone for the beckoning waves. This momma turned over her shoulder and barked at the motherless pup but kept a strong stance in holding back her own baby.

Sure enough the Orca charges and the hapless unwatched pup is no more. More giggling, sheesh! I guess the reality is the Orca matriarch is not killing for the sake of killing. The pod needs food. Her baby weighs in at 400 lbs. The beach is her grocery store and she makes as many trips as it takes to feed the family. Mothering is a big job. You learn to pick up parenting strategies every where you can! (Click to Tweet)

Life Lessons from a Sea Lion Momma:
  1. Children do not always see what their parents see. We are larger and can see farther.
  2. Children do not always know what their parents know. Life experience has taught us to avoid certain situations.
  3. Sometimes "no" means I love you, I care for you, and I'm doing my best to protect you.
  4. When you see other kids doing what you want to do, be grateful that you are not left alone to fend for yourself.
  5. If you bark at me, I just might bark back...ha...I like that one.
  6. You will probably bite me some day, but even when you hurt me I will not abandon you.
  7. For as long as I am stronger than you, I will use that strength for your good and stand in between you and the danger ahead.
  8. You won't understand every decision I make but I hope you can trust that I am FOR YOU!

    Have you picked up any parenting tips from Animal Planet?
    How do you manage your protective instincts?
Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


We are about half way through our Lent experience.

We ate our 3rd beans-and-rice meal last night and....I still don't like beans. Yesterday morning I was tossing the pintos in the crock pot and honestly I almost cried thinking about having to eat them for dinner. "Why are we doing this? Someone remind me!" Did I just say that out loud?


Wouldn't you know, my dear boy had an answer "So we can focus more on God instead of earthly things." Gulp....long pause....say that again honey.....

"So we can focus more on God instead of earthly things, like our stuff, you know..."

Thank you son for reminding your mother of why she thought this would be a good idea. How sobering that my 9 year old remembered what my taste buds forgot. I can't decide if I should feel like a crummy parent or a good one.

I would like to take credit...but I know...he is a gift.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Trinity

So I was making one of these new bean recipes and the instructions read "saute the trinity" meaning the onions, celery and green bell pepper. I've heard Rachel Ray use this word as a cooking term as well. This is the one in my family likes bell pepper so I always leave it out...and I was wondering which member of the trinity is represented by the bell pepper....I wouldn't want to leave any ONE out of my life's recipe!

I'm being silly. Seriously now, how often do you think about this Three in One aspect of our God? Our Opening Prayer each day ends with this sentence: Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. God the Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit = The One True God.

The Shack is a wonderful fiction book that helped me experience the mystery of the Trinity in a new way. In each of our earthly relationships there is usually a dominant personality, isn't there? In The Shack, William Paul Young presents this picture of equality within our triune God that was so intriguing. Quoting Sarayu who represents the Holy Spirit: "We are in a circle of relationship. not a chain of command...What you're seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don't need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us." The character representing Jesus goes on to say of humans: "You rarely see or experience relationships apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you"

I'm challenged today to think about The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit in perfect union and how that might be reflected in my relationships.

If you are interested in learning more and actively participating in Lent this year visit this website of daily Lenten Prayers and Scripture Readings