20 April 2014

Easter Morning

They walk up the dirt path close together, swaying toward each other for comfort, their steps slowing down and speeding up in turn. Speeding up at the thought of seeing their Jesus once again. Slowing down when the ache in their chest reminds them that only his body awaits. They each carry a jar of sweet-smelling oil, and some soft, white cloths. It’s a last, small service for the man who had truly seen them, the one who changed them with a few words and the look in his eyes.

Neither woman speaks, save in broken murmurs, sentences dying away half-formed, when they realize that their words don’t matter anymore, even to themselves. The sobs have passed for now, leaving only a shocked, bewildered daze. One woman is dry-eyed, painfully so, like every last drop of moisture has been cooked away in the kiln of grief. The other is liquid, with an unending supply of tears building up in her eyes and spilling down her cheeks. And yet they plod on toward the grave, with the terror of yesterday behind them, and the grief of today and the rest of their lives looming in front of them. The path winds around a small hill, and they are gone.

The crash of a falling pot, and then down the path runs one of the women, like she can never run fast enough. She pauses to catch her breath, but can’t keep still, skipping, walking, suddenly looking back toward the grave and smiling. Her tears still flow, but she is gasping and laughing and then running again, running toward town, as if she can’t wait to get there.

A few minutes later, the other woman walks slowly down the path. She takes deep, gulping breaths. Her dry, haunted eyes have filled up with wonder.  She watches the rising sun like she’s never seen it before. She stands tall and majestic in the dawn light, paused there in the middle of the path, lifting her empty hands up, up, like they could hold the sun. “He is alive!” she whispers to the sun, the air, the birds of the morning. And then the tears finally spill, but she doesn’t notice. She starts again down the path, steps strong and sure, and her whispered words deepen and echo, taken up by the birds and the dawn and time itself. He is alive!

17 April 2014

Maundy Thursday

“This is my body, broken for you. This is my blood, shed for you,” and a few days later, after he’s beaten and killed and buried and raised from the dead,  his disciples finally recognize him, after a long walk and longer conversation, in the breaking of the bread.

And so we come, to hear those words and eat little pieces of bread or pita or wafers that get stuck in the teeth. We drink sweet wine or sweeter grape juice out of little plastic cups or big silver chalices, given us by a man or maybe a woman, in long robes or a suit and tie or dress or khakis or maybe jeans and a T-shirt, as we kneel down at the altar or sit in pews or gather around a campfire or whisper in someone’s living room so as not to attract attention from authorities.

We are his body, his hands and feet, his arms and legs, with Christ as the head, says Paul. His body, broken and bloody, blood pouring down, not a shiny gold cross necklace, but blood and guts and tears and sacrifice. We are his body now.
And so we come, scrubbed and shiny, in our Sunday best, but inwardly broken and bleeding, confused and faithless, bitter and angry and lost and searching.
Some say the bread and wine is “just” a symbol, as if symbols have less power, are less real. Some believe a  mystery—that these things of earth transform into things of heaven. Some wait for a special occasion, like tonight, like once a quarter or once a month, and the eating and drinking is set apart, special, holy, and unusual. Some need it more often,  once or more a week, plus tonight and tomorrow and again on Sunday, and the eating and drinking is intrinsic, necessary, holy, and usual.
We walk, we skip, we hobble. We make our way to the place where bread and drink are handed out. We crush the body between our teeth and swallow down blood as if it’s our last true drink. We hope the broken pieces will make us whole.
But his body was broken, and our bodies are broken, and the Body of Christ is broken. Broken, and blessed, and handed out to all comers. And all seek to be blessed, but few seek to be broken. Except One.
And so we come, again and again, dragging ourselves, step by step, burden by burden, sin by sin, with barely enough awareness of the Presence to kneel and open our mouths like baby birds, and accept the gift of bread and wine, of flesh and blood.
We will fail again, we will sin again, we will strive or not, we will be faithful or not. But the Broken One is faithful to every last one of his broken creatures, every last petty or selfish or evil or longing heart.

And so he comes, in the breaking of the bread, and stops, and waits for us to recognize him.

13 April 2014

7 Things I Wanted to Post to Facebook

On one of the first spring-like days, K. had chorus practice after school, so I took A. to play on the school playground. Their elementary school had a brand-new, beautiful playground built just last year. A. played on the playground for exactly 20 minutes before she abandoned it for the adjoining woods. She recruited the  other kids there to work on a building project.

She doesn’t know the other little girl in the picture. But she got her to help carry big branches to add to the teepee thingy that other kids have started. A week later, on a different playground, she managed to get 4 boys and 1 girl (all the boys were older and bigger than she is) to play a “princess” version of tag. All of the kids did exactly what she told them to. The girl is a force of nature, in the most charming way.
And then there’s the other side of being 5 years old. Yesterday, the girls and I drove up to visit my parents in PA for a few days.
As we’re driving away from a rest stop about halfway through the trip, at about 2:30 pm, A. says from the back seat, “Mom? I got dressed all by myself this morning.”
Me: “Oh, yeah?”
A.: “And I put on panties, but now they’ve disappeared.”
Me: “What? Are you saying you have no underwear on?”
Big sister: “What? You don’t have panties on!?”
Me: “And you just noticed at the rest stop?”
A.: “Yes”
Me: “Ummmm….Ok, then.”

What else could I do?


Big sister K. kindly (it seemed) invited A. to sleep with her at Gram and Pap’s house (other options: for A. to sleep with me or in a room by herself). A. was thrilled that Big Sister actually wanted her. Of course, when it came right down to trying to share a (queen-sized) bed, then A. was touching K., or was too close to her, and A. refused to move, and K. was taking up too much of the bed, and yada, yada, yada--and a half-hour of bickering and multiple threats from me later, they finally both went to sleep. Tonight, it started out the same way. Then A. decided that she didn’t want to sleep with K. but with me. Fine, sure, no problem.
Except then K started to cry because A rejected her. “But you were just complaining that her arm was in your face!” says I. “But now it feels like she doesn’t love me anymore!” wails K.

I....just…there is no logic among siblings.
Earlier today, I told K. to “let it go,” which I tend to tell her often, because, well, she needs help doing that. Now, of course, those words are a cue to break into “Let It Go” from Frozen. And then K paused and said,  “Do you know what the boys at school do now? They sing Let It Go and then pass gas. Why are sixth grade boys so weird?”
I told her that it sounded like sixth-grade boys had changed very little since I was in sixth grade. And I thought to myself that I’d like her to see boys as weird for as long as possible Some of the kids her age are already “dating” and “breaking up.” I think she’s had a few crushes, but nothing like the rudimentary flirting and boy-craziness of some of the girls her age. With a little luck, we can delay that another few years. And it sounds like the singing, farting boys may even help with it.

I’ve been working on writing a Bible study/devotional. I’ve never tried this before, so it’s a bit of an experiment. I showed a bit of it to my mom, who said it seemed familiar to her…then she pulled out a Max Lucado book she’s been reading and said, “Here, read this section. I think you write a lot like him.” So now I’m torn between being hugely flattered (Max Lucado is a giant in the Christian publishing world) and a bit discouraged (why publish me if Max Lucado does the same thing and already has a huge platform?). Of course, once I finish this thing, I can market to a competing publisher: “My mom says I’m the next Max Lucado!” I’m sure that would go over well.
Last weekend, hubby took the training wheels off A.’s bike. She did amazingly well. I don’t know how she got her agility, but she’s definitely more coordinated than K. and me. She needs a bit more practice in starting out on her own, but if hubby steadies the bike and gives her a little push, she can ride it just fine. In addition to some natural ability, I also think her little German bike with two wheels and no pedals helped her with balance. Wish we had known about those when K. was small.

Every so often, I end up listening to music I haven't listened to in awhile. Audio Adrenaline has reformulated with a new lead singer, so I've been listening to their newer releases. But I downloaded and started listening to their old "Best Of" album a few weeks ago, for the first time in some years. And I nearly forgot about the last song on the album, which God used to get me through my pregnancy with Katrina. Having already gone through one miscarriage, I was incredibly anxious during my pregnancy with her. At some point, I heard this song, and something clicked. I hung on to the chorus of "Rest Easy" for months, whenever my anxiety ratcheted upward. Listening to it again, I see why. The verses are faster and kind of a barrage or words--very similar to how my brain feels when I get anxious. Then the chorus comes in, relaxed and slow, reminding me that God is with me. I don't know whether it will click with anyone but me, but it's a reminder of a hard time in my life that brought me such joy on the other side. A good thing to think about as we enter Holy Week.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary