Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday: Week 14 of Only One Thing

Today my thoughts are with Mary.

Mary, the mother of Christ, who sat at the feet of her son as a died on the cross.

I can't think of anything more painful than a mother watching her son die, completely helpless to end the pain or to thwart death.  This is unlike other moments in the gospel, when we are told to fall to our knees and pray and ask and we will receive and have faith and we will be healed. It is unlike the times when God asks us to go to our knees for deliverance. This is something else entirely. This is not a time when it seems there is a resolution to be had--this is not a time when the kingdom of God seems near nor when paradise is just a step away. It is not a time when it seems faith will make you well. It is a time when the price of sitting at Christ's feet is unbearable and unfathomable.

On the cross, it seems there is no deliverance from the darkness.

The hours when Mary watched her first born son die had to be the worst of her life. In the midst of pain, did Mary have faith? I am sure it is blasphemous to ask--but how could she? Could her mind have faith that it would all work out because her son, the son of God told her so, but her heart--her heart must have been doubting and broken and searing with the love for her child who was nailed to a cross dying for the sins of all mankind.

I imagine Mary must have asked herself a million times, Why my son? Why my son? For a mother, what God has planned for her children is not always the same as what she has planned for children. We wish to give our children beautiful lives with minimal suffering and joy that spills over. We want beauty. We want joy.

We do not want the cross.

I find Good Friday to be so deeply sad and impossible to write about. It is easy to rush to the end of the Easter story--right to resurrection. But if we do, we miss out on sitting at Christ's feet. And today, his feet happen to be nailed to the cross.

The scene at the foot of the cross and the pain that was in Mary's eyes makes me speechless, yet I cannot leave the scene. I cannot turn away. Today, Good Friday, is the day when we all must sit at Christ's feet--his feet as they bleed and ache and hang from the Cross.

It a day when sitting at Christ's feet means remembering the painful, horrific death he died for us. Today we sit with that pain. We mourn his body. We share in Mary's pain. We stay right here, with our own brokenness, with the brokenness of Christ's body, with the the brokenness of Mary's heart , with the brokenness of the world and know that it is done.

For on Sunday, Christ will rise. But for today, we sit at the feet of a dying man and remember how much his mother loved him and how much we love him, today and always.

Wonder what you've stumbled upon? Catch up on Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians  here.






Thursday, April 10, 2014

John 3:16 (Week 13 of Only One Thing and Ependymoma Awareness Day)

Us. Lily. Recovering May 2007.
When Lily was diagnosed with cancer 7 years ago, we felt so entirely alone. We were surrounded by love and friendship and family.

Yet, there was nothing anyone could say--there was no level of understanding any mother or father could offer us. Our daughter had cancer. Our daughter had brain surgery. Our daughter could die at the age of 14 months. 

Our world was collapsing and falling into a bottomless pit. 

Even now my friends who finally have the courage to tell me how Lily's diagnosis crushed their worlds, they just cannot understand. No matter how crushed their world was--mine was crushed more. My world was destroyed, crushed to dust. There was no hope rebuilding the pieces. 

And while we celebrate Lily's 7 years of being cancer-free, the truth is, it is not enough. A huge part of me needs the cancer to have been a dream or a delusion. I cannot bear witness to my full healing and recovery, because my child was nearly lost.  How I wish it was not my child. How I wish I could wave a wand and heal my battle worn heart.

I can't. Those scars are something I will carry for my lifetime. 

There is no empathy or sympathy or understanding anyone can offer. It simply is what it is. 

No parent would sacrifice their child for yours. No parent would give up their child for Lily. 

Well, except for God, the father. 

And that's it friends. God loves us so much he sacrificed his son. It is the strongest, purest love. It is love I will never be capable of; but it is the love I want to dwell in everyday. It is the love that is gifted to me without condition or expectation.  I want to remember that God sacrificed his son--his heart and soul and love, for me and mine and yours and every single living soul that has come before and after. 

That's the Good News. 

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16


This week that is all I remember: that God loves me. 

PS Today is Ependymoma Awareness Day. Two hundred kids are diagnosed with ependymoma, a form of brain cancer, each year. It sounds rare, but it is not anymore. If you are reading this, you now know Lily. Lily was diagnosed at 14 months old. She endured surgeries and proton radiation and years of physical and occupational therapy. She lost the ability to sit, crawl and walk. 

Today, she runs. I want every child to run and to grow up and to know that ependymoma is extinct like the dinosaurs. 

Wonder what you've stumbled upon? Catch up on Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians  here.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Nail Polish on the Walls (or Week 12 of Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians.)

Does anyone have tips or thoughts on removing nail polish from ceilings and walls and floors and sinks? anything? 

I was considering matches. And fire. But this seems extreme. 

However, this is what I am dealing with:



Do you see it? It is a multitude of colors. And apparently, the nail polish has been painting itself on the walls for weeks. Like, it is nail polish that is possessed. Just yesterday, the self-empowered nail polish did this:





And then this afternoon it did this:





It is very busy, according to my five year old, who is now laying on the floor of her bedroom screaming hysterically, while I remain stress paralyzed. 

Honestly, HOW THE $$$!!!!!!! AM I SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH THIS?

And that's motherhood, right? A series of bizarre episodes and misbehaviors and chaotic events that leave you feeling like you are living in a mental institution as a patient. 

Because there is no escape. And there are CRAYONS EVERYWHERE. 

I totally skipped writing last week in Yoke and in my weekly #OnlyOneThing Bible Study because I was spent. One kid had shoved something up their nose, there was a HORRIFIC smell emanating from the nose and we spent an entire morning getting mystery item removed from nose. The ENT had to use nose numbing cream. (I considered stealing some for emergencies. )

The Bible does not have a verse on nail polish painting nor is there anything about nose shoving or anything about crazed mothers who are considering stealing nose numbing cream just in case all of the above happens again. 

There is nothing.

NOTHING. 

There is a long, long Proverbs about that ideal lady, you know, the Proverbs 31 lady, who is quite possibly the MOST ANNOYING WOMAN ON EARTH (I shall write about her in the near future). There are reassurances about discipline being unpleasant, but the fruits of discipline being worth it (Hebrews something or other). There are countless posts about never being alone and God loving all of us and forgiving us and on and on and on and on.  But, there is nothing that is specific to my-kid-painted-everything-in-the-house-with-nail-polish-and-not-the-cheap-kind-or-the-kids-kind-no-they-used-the-OPI-and-Essi-and-that-stuff-will-outlast-the-rapture OR my-kid-shoved-something-up-their-nose-and-now-we-are-pulling-it-out-at-the-hospital. 

NOTHING. 

Surely, the Proverbs 31 woman had to deal with such episodes--maybe little Josiah painted the hunt with some mud or shoved a chick pea up his nose. What did she do? Smile and continue doing the laundry while looking fabulous and calm? 

Honestly, there is NOTHING. 

This is the first time I've looked at the Bible and found nothing. But, then I looked up--right into my 5-year-old nail polish painter's eyes and she said, 

"Look at me, Momma.  I love you."
'
And there is it. The Bible Verse was right under my nose the whole time and I missed it because I was flapping. 

John 16:21: 
Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.

All these episodes of chaos and misbehavior are instantly erased the moment I see my children for what they are: my love bugs, my joys and my gifts from God.  The nail polish painting and tantrums and hysteria, those are just labor pains. Those are just the tide I have to ride through to get to what has always been in front of my face. 

This week, as my children bring chaos upon my house and my psyche, I shall remember it is just the labor. Once the pain ends, the storm clears and there we will be, utterly in love with one another (and covered in nail polish, etc.).










Wonder what you've stumbled upon? Catch up on Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians  here.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ephesians 2:13 (Week 11 of Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians)

Remember when I started this AMAZING Weekly Bible Study for Bad Christians called Only One Thing? Remember when I said I would post every Monday and every Friday? Do you? Do you?

I remember, but I am pretending I forgot, apparently, because I've been horribly inconsistent lately. 

I can blame all of this inconsistency on the following:

  1. I am SO BUSY. (I've written about this before. But no one seems to get it.)
  2. My three diverse, delightful and devious children. (This is alliteration! Am now English teacher.)
  3. My mother. (She apparently comes over at random and stays for "a spell." which means she sleeps over for a week leaving a trail of chocolate covered raisins and tissues.)
  4. My many freelance jobs. (For the first time ever, I am not exaggerating! I am a freelance master and should probably hire an intern. This declaration will be followed by me being fired from each and every freelance job.)
  5. My extreme dedication to volunteerism. (although lately this has been just pretend).
  6. My other blogging commitments. (Vague. And potentially untrue.)
  7. Second grade homework. (It is totally more than 20 minutes a night. It is more like 20 hours and is psychologically exhausting.)
  8. Wine. (because of the homework. Although most writers write more when they drink. I simply fall asleep.)
  9. Spin Class. (I've been exactly 2.5 times. But I do spend loads of time talking about it, planning it, etc.)
  10. Lent. (I've been considering praying in a devout monk like manner daily. I have not actually been praying, but thinking about it, which we all know takes a longer time than actually doing it. )


The thing is, lately, my closeness to God has looked like this:



I've been very distracted. I've been too busy. I been too noisy. I've been hanging out as far away from God as possible, because he wants something and I simply cannot add Item 11 to my list (I mean WHO MAKES A LIST WITH 11 Items. It is nonsensical. You would have to then had 4 more items, which would be ridiculous.)

Ironically, it is week 11. Maybe God is trying to tell me something using fancy New Math.

Anyway, before I distract myself by Googling "New Math" and "Common Core," let me get back to the point of this whole year long Bible Study. This year, I am trying my best to sit at Christ's feet more than I do not. And I am failing.

The Good News is, there is Ephesians 2:13 to save the day:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 


Thank God Paul wrote that letter to the Ephesians (whomever they were. I imagine they also had 3 children, a mother who stayed for "a spell" and wine, of course.). 

So, I am good and can strive for this:


The truth, the Good News, is that even when I am far from God, he is not far from me. He is always my BFF. Christ made that happen. 

So during Week 11 of Only One Thing, I am going to read Ephesians approximately four hundred times a day. I shall put it on Post-Its. I highlighted in my Bible. I am going to remind myself, while I am so busy listing all my busyness, that God does not need barriers or lists or pre-emptive activities or pre-planning. God needs nothing.

But I need him.

Wonder what you've stumbled upon? Catch up on Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians  here.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Matthew 18:3 (Only One Thing Week 10)

Lily is 8. She knows words like cancer, oncology, radiation, MRI and posterior fossa. She knows these words as well as she knows each of the Monster High dolls and the colors of the rainbow and the words to Katy Perry songs.

She knows she was so sick and we were scared she would die. She knows that she has to have MRIs for the rest of her life and that when I pray over her at night, I am constantly begging God to keep cancer away from her body. She knows this as well as she knows that she wants a pet cat and to be an art teacher when she grows up.

She knows that other children die, everyday. She knows that they don't grow up to be art teachers or astronauts. She knows because we cannot hide it from her; it is part of our family and our lives and our purpose. She knows things I wish I never knew. Lily knows evil exists and it is called childhood cancer and death and necrosis and brain tumors. 

She knows.

But Lily is never angry at God.

I am angry at God, more often than I'd like to admit. 

In Matthew 18, we read about the disciplines asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 

Christ answers:

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." (Matthew 18:3)

Lily turned 8 years old today. She has a beautiful spirit about her--a joy that comes from a blessed childhood filled with everything it should be filled with: family, friends, parties, sunshine, pool parties, playdates, toys, too much candy and imagination. Lily has that joy and more.  The darkness that threatened her life is not her life. It is not something she carries with her to God. She welcomes God and Christ without bothering with the baggage.

When one says children are resilient--it is more than just that they are young and strong and hopeful. It is simply that they know how shove knowledge out of the way, so they can dwell in the sweet spot.

What did knowledge ever get our souls anyway?

I want to be that child. I want to welcome that child to infect my soul. I want to ditch everything I know. I want to bring myself, as this child of God, this child who lives in a beautiful world, to the kingdom of Heaven.

I want to be more like Lily.

This week, I will try my best to bring my best, most child-like self forward. I will bring the rainbows and leave the storm behind. I will bring to God what is his:

My soul. 

Happy Birthday, Lily. You inspire us everyday to live and love.

Wonder what you've stumbled upon? Catch up on Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians  here.




Sunday, March 9, 2014

Repenting the old dirt (Week 9 Update)

I have some lingering sins to repent for.

I am good at repenting the day-to-day stuff and since I've made repenting a priority, I've gotten to my sins in real time. But there are some things that are hanging around my neck.

I do not want to ever become like Judas--a man who allowed sin to own him until the end.

It is so easy to repent as you trudge along; it is impossible for me to repent the old dirt.

There is so much of it.

God knows all of it. And I am pretty certain that he has already forgiven me. The trouble is, I have not forgiven myself. I don't have earth-shattering mortal sins in my past. Nothing I have done would make for good T.V. or gossip. But I have stuff. Stuff that I am not proud of; stuff I should have done but I did not; stuff that should not have done, but did anyway.

I've got stuff. And it is heavy.

I wish I had listened years ago to the words: "One of you will betray me." Because dredging up the old dirt is hard, but necessary to be accept the gift of God's perfect love. This dredging is not something I can accomplish in a week or a month or even a year. It will be accomplished and repented and resolved in God's time. I have to wait for it. Quietly, patiently and without fear.

He knows I've betrayed him, but he loves me still.

Wonder what you've stumbled upon? Catch up on Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians  here.





Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lenten Reflection 1 (and Week 9 of Only One Thing)

Since this is the Bible Study for Bad Christians, I think it is only fair to feature one of the most villainous characters in the New Testament:

Judas. 

It must have been super uncomfortable around the Passover table when Jesus laid this zinger on his Disciplines:

"Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me" (Mark 14:18)

Their responses are Surely, not I! Is it you? Or him? Or you? Is this guy totally paranoid or what? None of US would ever betray Jesus of Nazareth. Who would do such a thing?

They all look around, hoping they are not one who will lead their teacher to the cross. Praying it is someone other than themselves. 

Of course, we all know the truth. Judas betrays Christ. Peter denies him. Pilate condemns him to death. Judas hangs himself . Christ dies. Then He is risen. 

We move through the story each Lenten season for 40 days. Every time I heard the story of the Last Supper, I hear it:

Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.

It is harsh. It is shocking. It is brutally honest. 

Judas betrays Christ for a few coins. I've betrayed Christ for a lot less. 

I betray Christ hourly. Minute by minute there are little betrayals; some days the list of betrayals are endless. I betray him with my fear, with my doubt, with silence and with my voice. I betray my Savior, while he sits at the table offering me bread. 

While the story of Christ’s crucifixion focuses on the betrayal of o Judas---the truth of the matter is that we are all traitors. We can look around and hope he is talking about someone else; but he is talking right to us. 

Truly I tell you, you will betray me.

Christ knows who we are—he was, after all, one of us.

Truly I tell you, you will betray me. 

It sounds like a condemnation. But, really, really, what if it is not? What if this is just the truth we need to know and understand.  What if he is saying:

Truly I tell you, you will betray me. But, I love you still. 

I often wonder, why was Judas in such a hurry to end it all. What would have happened if he simply waited it out—sat with his sin, owned it and waited to see what Christ had for him.

But, instead,  Judas races to his own death before he can see how the story of Christ really ends. He forgets all the things Christ predicts; he forgets all the lessons he was taught and instead he tosses everything away in one final moment of weakness and sin. 

He heard: Truly I tell you, you will betray me and I will punish you.

He did not heard: Truly I tell you, you will betray me and I will love you, still. 

Lent is a about making a choice—we can either hang from the noose with Judas or we can walk away from tomb with Christ. 

We can live with our own betrayal, the same betrayal that led to the crucifixion and waiting for the forgiveness that comes with resurrection. We can live for 40 days and nights knowing that we will betray Christ, but that he loves us still.

When we are patient and repentant and ask for God's forgiveness, when we give ourselves fully to God, we can simply walk away from the darkness and walk hand-in-hand with Christ to the life everlasting. 

As I begin my annual Lenten reflection, I am going to be honest with my betrayal—but I won’t let it hang me. Sin that is not repented becomes the noose around our neck. Sin that is forgiven becomes a hand we can grasp in the night. 

And it is that hand, that I plan to take straight past the empty tomb and right to the love of the Father. 

Thanks be to God. 

Wonder what you've stumbled upon? Catch up on Only One Thing, the Bible Study for Bad Christians  here.