Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday, the Best Indeed

It's an incredibly important day today. Today is Good Friday. Today is a day to commemorate the most significant day in all of history. It is the day on which all time is measured. Everything in history happened either before (B.C.) or after (A.D.) the events that happened on the very first Good Friday.

My heart is full of reflection as I think about this most significant day. I wonder when and who began to call it "Good Friday," because I am pretty certain the original day felt anything but good. How must it have felt for the disciples to see Jesus suffer? I know He warned them, tried to prepare them, but I cannot begin to imagine that they actually comprehended what would happen on this day. I wonder what did they think, how did they cope?

What of Simon of Cyrene? A bystander, suddenly pulled into the center of the moment in which all time turns. What must he have thought dragging the cross of this brutalized man down the street. What did he think as he dragged Jesus' cross behind him? Were his thoughts filled with self, of the burden forced upon him, or was he overwhelmed with some emotion at what he must have witnessed, following the back that had been torn to shreds by the cat of nine tails. When they arrived at Calvary and Jesus was hung on the cross, what did Simon do, did he stay, did he go?

Peter, what were his thoughts? He had promised never to deny Christ, and yet he had, just as the Lord told him he would. It was the last thing he had done for the Lord, he had failed Him, and now Jesus was dying, not just dying, but dying a horrible and brutal death. How did Pater's heart ache?

The disciples were his closest friends, what of John? The night before had laid his head against Jesus' chest. His friend, so intimate, now brutalized. What did he think as he stood beside the women, including Jesus' own mother?

And what of Mary, His mother? I think of painful times, watching my children suffer, and how my heart would ache. What was it like for Mary to watch her son be brutally murdered? How did she stand up beneath the heartbreak that surely she felt.

What of the thieves who hung on the cross? The mocker, there are so many like him these days. He laughed at Jesus, ridiculed Him, His power, His position, He did not believe any of it, like so many today. And the other thief, who as he hung on the cross had the scales fall from his eyes. He looked upon Jesus and saw the truth. His eyes were opened. I know he hung painfully on a cross of his own, but when Jesus said the words to him, "Today you will be with Me in paradise," was his heart flooded with peace? Did hope overwhelm him? Two men, looking at this Jesus from very similar perspectives and coming to very different conclusions. That too continues on today.

What of the men who sentenced Him to this brutal end? Were they delighting in it? Did they relish every moment of it? Were they so pleased with their "accomplishment" that they could disregard the brutality? Did it turn their stomachs even for a moment as they whipped him. The one who who forced the crown of thorns into His brow. Was there pleasure as he strained the muscles in his arms to dig the thorns more deeply into the flesh on His face?

These are just some of the things I wonder. I want to watch the Passion of the Christ some time this weekend. Much of it I will watch with my eyes covered, burying my face in a pillow. It's hard for me to watch the re-creation of the crucifixion. The bloodshed, the cruelty, it assaults my senses. It makes me wonder how a crowd of people were able to stand there and watch the real thing. I can only imagine the horror that it was for those who loved Jesus, knew Him, had walked with Him. They must have felt as though part of them died too.

I imagine there were so many selfish thoughts at the foot of the cross, both from His followers and His haters. So many of His followers, even the apostles, maybe especially the apostles, must have been asking themselves, "What now?" They had committed the last 3 years of their lives to this, to Him, and this is what it had come to? Surely they must have asked themselves, in doubt, what they had given their time to, it's human nature. Perhaps a Roman soldier stood there in irritation even, over the crowd, the dark weather, the inconvenience of the day.

What of the witnesses? What kind of fear came upon them when the earth began to shake? Did they make the connection when they discovered that the veil in the temple had been torn, from top to bottom. I know a centurion cried out, "Surely this man was the Son of God." He had heard Jesus cry out to the Father to forgive the very people who'd done this to Him. What did the centurion think when just before Jesus died, he heard Him commit His spirit to the Father. What thought went through his mind in that one moment of silence?

Honestly, I can only wonder. I cannot begin to know or comprehend what any of these people might have been thinking, feeling or experiencing. Their responses and reactions in this lifetime will be nothing more than question and conjecture for me. I honestly do not know.

But there is something I do know. I know exactly what Jesus was thinking, I do not know that I can begin to comprehend what He was feeling and experiencing, but the thought of God, that I at least can begin to comprehend.

He was thinking about me. His thoughts were filled with the importance to Him of making a sway to reconcile me to the Father. He knew all the times I would fail, all the wounds I would inflict, hurts and harms I would put upon others. And His heart broke for me, because He knew how the gap between us would continue to grow more and more wide with every passing day. He knew how I would struggle with selfish thoughts, and at times even evil intentions. I would have lust and greed, I would want to put myself on the throne of my life, even at the expense of others. And with each word, each thought, each action, I would widen the wedge between us. He thought of me, and His heart broke, because He knew there would never be anything I could do to overcome it. I myself would make the bricks and build the wall that would keep me outside of heaven for all eternity.

It actually wasn't just me He thought these things about, it was you too, and Peter and John and Mary, of the centurion, the roman soldier, even both of the thieves He hung between. He thought it about the man who swung the cat of nine tails, and the man who pressed down on the crown. But those are thoughts for each one to ponder for himself. For me, my focus is on the fact that Jesus was thinking of me. He looked at me, and He looked at the gap I created and He knew I could never fix it. No matter how hard I might try to live a "good life" and do the "right things," it would never be enough. I would shock myself with my selfishness, I would astound myself with my own sin, I would miss far more than I would realize and every day I would fall further from eternity with the Lord.

He thought of these things and decided them unacceptable. The night before He was crucified as He prayed to the Father, He asked Him if there was any other way. In His humanness, He feared the pain He would suffer, and He asked, but the Father clearly said "no." No, there was no other way, the blood offering required to atone for my sin, that it would be "finished" could only be accomplished through his suffering. "Once and for all" the Bible says, but the importance of this truth behind it is better stated, "once and for me." You ought to consider for yourself also, "once and for you." The Father clearly said it was the only way, and Jesus said "yes" because it was worth it to Him.

This video I share is graphic. It's only an excerpt from the movie The Passion of the Christ, and it isn't real, it's only Hollywood's best attempt to interpret what happened that Good Friday. But I share it because I am struck by the contrast between the harshness and brutality with what my eyes see against the sweetness of the simple truth my ears hear playing in the background.

Oh Lord, I'm so sorry but thank You. Thank You that you looked upon my situation, my condition, my sentence and took pity on me. Thank You that you looked at the great divide and put yourself upon the cross and built me a bridge across it. Thank You for the reconciliation You made through Your blood and sacrifice. Thank You for Your amazing grace, the grace that saved a wretch like me.

That Friday must not have seemed good at all. They did not know what we know now. They did not know that Sunday was coming. But Sunday did indeed come so I will forever "thank God" for that Friday. It was indeed the best Friday ever.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Traditional Easter Devotion - Wednesday

From the Book of Mark Chapter 14:3-9 While He was in Bethany at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. But some were indignantly remarking to one another, “Why has this perfume been wasted? “For this perfume might have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they were scolding her. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you bother her? She has done a good deed to Me. “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. “She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. “Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.”

Will You Pour Out Your All?

Will you pour out your all? Give the best that you have?
Do whatever it takes to honor the Son of Man?

Will you sacrifice your best, give Him all you have to give?
Make him your purpose? Your reason to live?

Others will look down upon you, unable to understand,
Why you have this devotion to the Son of Man.

Are you willing to give back all that's been given to you?
Do whatever it takes to give Him the honor He's due?

by Diana DePriest © 1998

(Original Art by Alice Whisman)

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Monday, March 29, 2010


I can't stand treadmills. I've never had a liking for them, even since my healthy obsession with working out has developed, the treadmill is not my thing. When Neal and I were out of town for the weekend a few weeks ago I broke down and used the treadmill at our hotel out of desperation, but even as a fan of working out, I did not care for the treadmill.

I will admit that the companies that manufacture treadmills have done their best to increase the treadmill appeal, they've added TVs and iPod docs, but for me the bottom line remains the same, it's a lot of hard work and effort, but you never get anywhere. You run and you run, and you never move an inch... I hate it.

So here's the thing, I've been feeling like I am chained to a treadmill in life lately. I feel like I run and I run, and I never seem to move an inch.

I feel stuck. Oh what an ugly thing feelings can be. They can be so strong and powerful and they don't even have to be based in any reality at all. And right now, mine are raising their ugly heads, and I feel like I am shackled to a treadmill.

A little over a week ago I felt like I had this epiphany. "Seek Me." I heard the Lord say it. I know it was Him, and then the problem arose. I don't really know what He meant by that, or how I'm actually supposed to do it. I just don't know.

I think about the Lord all the time. Everything I do is immediately filtered into that relationship above all else. I wonder if I am pleasing Him or grieving His heart. When I know I have failed Him, I worry about His anger, I wonder if He'll forgive me. In my head, in the knowledge on Him and His word, I know the answers, but in the moments of the day, I wonder. He's on my mind all the time. So obviously, that's not what He meant when He said, "Seek Me," because when I heard Him speak, I knew He was calling me to a next step, or a new step... I knew it was more than the status quo.

In the moment that I heard it, it brought peace, excitement and anticipation, it brought hope. It was as though for a moment, I was off the treadmill and actually running. For an instant, I actually felt like I was going somewhere. Now I just feel like I'm on the treadmill, and it's not even running anymore, but I still don't know how to get off of it.

Unlike my disdain for the treadmill, I adore a good long walk. A couple weeks ago I took a really nice long walk. I set off without any predetermined destination, without any timetable, and I just walked. It ended up being a walk down memory lane. I walked past the field where I graduated high school, and I walked past the house where I had my first off the block sleepover. I ended up text messaging with a friend from my childhood and just enjoying the memories on the journey. It was a great walk, because I knew however far a I walked from home, I was only half way there. No matter how far I might decide to walk, I still had the journey home ahead. I loved it. And 2 hours and 5 miles later, I was really proud, and had really enjoyed the journey.

Last week I took another walk. It wasn't round trip, it was one way. Unlike the first walk I knew exactly where I was headed, I was walking to church for our midweek evening service. It was a great walk, I had a goal and a purpose, and I was doing my best to make it the best walk I could, watching my time, striving to meet my goals, and when I had, I had a great sense of accomplishment, and I was proud.

I like those feelings, pride, purpose, accomplishment. I like them not only on my walks, but in my life. But the truth is, it's been a while since I have felt them in my life beyond my walks and my new found passion for exercise. And I feel like I am getting to the point where just little moments of those feelings aren't enough for me.

...for me... Maybe that's my problem, it isn't really all about me. And yet I know my motivations are not completely corrupt. It's hard to be stuck on the treadmill when you know you have been called to greater things. When you've had those moments, those experiences of accomplishment, the sense of fulfilling your purpose. They can become addictive. But is it a bad thing to want to be used in your gifts? Is it wrong to want to fulfill your purpose? I honestly don't know, I think the line is fine between it being about me and my purpose, or my purpose and God.

As I sit here rambling on (very treadmill like) taking inventory of my life, my job, my ministry, or lack there of, my mind keeps wandering back to the purpose of the treadmill... strength and endurance are built there.

This weekend my hubby and I were ambling. It was my 40th birthday, and what I decided I wanted to do on the actual day was just hang out with the people I love. So we took the kids and went to the dollar movies and then wandered all the way around the mall. When we found ourselves alongside a blood pressure station where you could take your own blood pressure, and my hubby recommended I do. I was super excited when I did too. Not so long ago my blood pressure and pulse had been getting pretty high. And I was blown away when I took it there in the mall and discovered both had improved significantly.

Today I was sharing with a friend a little of my frustrations and she brought up the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert. She said something to the effect of the purpose of that time was for God to make them "something better" but they missed the opportunity by focusing only on their circumstances and grumbling their way through the process.

They are words I need to heed, because as unhappy as I am to feel stuck on the treadmill, or to be wandering in the desert if you will, I certainly don't want to miss the promised land altogether by complaining rather than growing. I'd much rather press on, and then suddenly discover one day that somehow along the way I have become better, a better believer, a better person, a better steward of the very gifts I find myself frustrated in.

So though the treadmill may not hold the exhilaration or accomplishment of a good purposed walk, or even the sense of adventure of an open-ended journey, I must trust that the Lord will bring forth fruit in persistence, and somehow accomplish His purpose in my life, if I can keep my eyes on Him, and let him plot the steps, even when they seem to be on the treadmill.