Good Friday – Dayenu

Good Friday – Dayenu

Today is the Thursday before Resurrection Day. The day before Good Friday. A day I’ll be spending in part making unleavened bread and apple clay . . . we’re not having an official seder this year, but eating these familiar, symbolic foods will help me get my head out of “prepare for book launch!” mode and into “focus solely on Christ” mode. As I pondered what to post for these holiest of days, I decided that I’d actually share a portion of a post from 5 years ago. Originally, this was part of a Bible study I did on my blog during Lent. Which means the passage below was buried at the end of a very long post with a lot of scripture. I recently recorded it for my podcast, and I think it bears repeating here in general. I don’t know what you do or don’t do to observe Good Friday…but it’s always been an important day for me, in my own faith journey. Good Friday was the day I wrote the short story that inspired A Stray Drop of Blood. Good Friday was the day when it really hit me what my Jesus did for me. Good Friday stirs the depths of my heart each time I pause to really dwell in it. And so, here it is. My reflections on the day…and why “it is sufficient.”

~*~

I never understood, as a child, why this day was called Good Friday, when it seemed pretty darn bad to me. My Jesus was killed on this day. He was mocked, he was beaten, he was reviled. He was hung upon a cross. My Lord, my King suffered on this day like on no other. Why, if I love Him, would I call such a day Good?

There’s a very thorough look into the origins of it in this blog post. (German actually calls it “Sorrowful Friday,” just FYI.) But the one all linguistics experts agree on is that good used to mean holy. And we can certainly agree it’s a holy day without the more modern connotation of “happy” getting put on it.

Let’s dwell today on this sorrowful, holy day that we commemorate on this Friday before the Resurrection. Part of the Seder meal we observe the night before Good Friday has a traditional Jewish responsive reading called “Dayenu”–it would have been sufficient. In it, they go through the events of the Exodus, proclaiming after each one that if God had, for instance, led them out of Egypt but not parted the Red Sea, “It would have been sufficient.” Dayenu. It would have shown His glory still. The Messianic portion of the seder goes on to add Jesus into it in a way that I find so striking.

“If He had come but not died –
dayenu.

If He had died but not risen –
dayenu.”

He came. He came to earth for no reason other than his love for us. He came to live among us, to teach us how to approach the Father. He came, and when he walked this earth, it was sufficient. Those who believed him to be the Savior before his death, before his resurrection, tasted of the faith that leads to Heaven. If any of them died while he still walked the Earth, I’m confident that faith in him saved them.

But coming wasn’t all Jesus did. He didn’t only show us how to live, how to approach the throne. He died for us too. He died for our sins, like the passover lamb. That was enough to cleanse us. Just as the sin offering always did, but more. Once, for all. Forever. Had he only died, it would have washed us clean.

But He rose again to prove that death would not have the final victory even over our mortal bodies. He rose again because he wasn’t just a sin offering, he was the Passover Lamb. The lamb whose blood saves us from death.

Oh, my Jesus. Every year it strikes me anew. The things you suffered. The things you did. For me. And this year, like every year, I lack the words to thank you. So I walk that path with you in my mind. And I no doubt fail to picture it fully. But my eyes burn with tears for you. My heart aches. And my soul weeps out its thanks. Because your sacrifice on this day all those years ago saved me.

Dayenu.

Walking Worthy

Walking Worthy

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.”
~ Ephesians 4:1 (NKJV)

 

Walk worthy of the calling.

This is a phrase that’s been lingering in my heart and mind for the last year, ever since I really began studying those opening verses of Ephesians 4. How do we do that? How do we walk worthy of the calling of being a Christ-follower?

Well first there’s the idea of walking. Walking is an ACTION. More, it’s one of the most common actions we take. It’s something we do every day. We walk. We walk to each thing we’re doing, through each thing we’re doing. We walk out our faith, our beliefs. But walking is still WORK. It uses up energy. It involves the whole body. Walking with God means that we’re working alongside Him, engaged in active communication with Him. Much like in the opening chapters of Genesis, right? Adam and Eve walked with God. Enoch walked with God before he was taken up to haven.

But Paul doesn’t just instruct us here to walk. He qualifies it. We need to walk in a particular way: worthy. Like, we can all walk, stride along, living out what we think is good. Everyone does that, whether Christian or not. What’s special about our walk? What makes it worthy?

The calling. We’re not just called to do our own thing. We’re not just called to have our own opinions. We’re not just called to make money or accomplish what we dream of. We’re called to be Christ to the world. 

In church, we’ve been reading through I Clement (not part of the cannon but one of the earliest Christian writings; a letter from the leaders of the Church in Rome to the Church in Corinth). In the chapter we read last week, Clement drew on this same phrase. He calls out the Corinthians, who had been pursuing selfish ambitions and had ejected good men from leadership for these ambitious reasons, not because of any actual complaint against them, that they were proving themselves “unworthy of their Christian profession.”

Now, profession here means that they have professed Christ–they’ve claimed Him. But I think our modern idea of a profession being a vocation or job actually adds some interesting understanding. Because the thing we profess to do or be becomes a huge part of our lives, right? We introduce ourselves with it. We think in terms of it. It defines quite a lot about us. Christ need to be what we profess most. We need to be Christian above and before writer, homemaker, lawyer, accountant, teacher, engineer, farmer, vet, dentist, driver, or whatever. Because whether we put it first or not, others know we have claimed it. And they judge CHRIST according to what WE do.

Yep, lots of pressure there. WE are how the world sees Jesus. WE give Christianity a good or bad name. So if we’re more concerned with how we’re treated than in how we’re treating other…if we spend more time serving ourselves than them…if we only love our own and not our enemies…then we are giving Jesus a bad name. We’re unworthy of that profession of being His. We’re not walking worthy of the calling.

Now, HOW we walk out that greater calling is going to look different for each of us…and it’s going to get into the particulars that each of us are called to do. Whatever you’re called to do–to teach or create or make music or minister to the poor or encourage others, etc–you’re called to do in a way that’s worthy of Him. A way that glorifies Him. A way that points to Him.

So are we? Are we living out our callings in a way that’s worthy of Him? 

This is something we tend to notice pretty quickly in others…let’s take some time to examine the question for us

I’d love to hear what everyone here is called to do! What calling are you walking out now, and what dreams do you hold in your heart?

Imitation or Truth

Imitation or Truth

Last week my husband was reading The Picture of Dorian Gray — a book that neither of us had read before, though we assumed we knew what it was about. Turns out our preconceptions were a bit off, LOL. As he was reading, he would update me on what was going on in the story and the thoughts he had about it (those first chapters were just FULL of quotables!). And at one point, as the title character was drawn into the corrupt world of indulgence and hedonism by the point of view character, David said, “You know, Oscar Wilde makes it really understandable. Because vice looks so interesting. And virtue looks so boring.”

He likes to say these sorts of things to goad me, LOL.

Well, I was quick with a comeback this time: “No–imitation of virtue is boring. Real virtue is absolutely fascinating.”

I may have come up with it as an off-the-cuff retort, but it settled in my spirit. Because I think it’s so very true.

We’re living in a culture that was built on Christian ideals, and though said culture has shifted away from those values, they’re still present enough to be recognizable…but also to be undesirable by so many. Why? Because generally speaking virtues are pitched to us as a bunch of negatives: don’t drink, don’t curse, don’t overindulge, don’t be prideful, don’t be vain, don’t be selfish, don’t lie, don’t have sex, don’t party, don’t…don’t…don’t…

We all know what human nature says to a list of Don’ts though, right?

Here’s the thing, though. Virtue isn’t about what we don’t do. It’s about what we do. This is what I absolutely love about reading the Gospels–Jesus, too, lived in a society that was all about the Don’t. And He shook it up by focusing instead on the Do. Do good on the Sabbath. Go the extra mile. Give more than people demand. Love your enemy. Love your neighbor. Be born of the Spirit.

Real virtue looks like doing the illogical thing for love. Real virtue looks like crazy selflessness in order to demonstrate who Christ is. Real virtue looks like choosing the radical way instead of the fashionable way.

And that, my friends, is fascinating indeed. Christ didn’t have crowds of thousands following him because he was boring, or because of the things he didn’t do. He had people following him everywhere he went because of what he was doing. He was healing, casting our demons, making a feast out of a famine. He was challenging people to demand more of themselves, to go a step further, to not just ACT right (imitation) but to BE right (in their hearts).

Where are we just imitating the right actions today but not really meaning them? Where are we just saying the words without actually living them out? Where are we content with having a portrait of faith in our lives instead of a live-action version?

Following the rules for the sake of being a rule-follower doesn’t ever change the world. And isn’t really virtue. It’s just an imitation. A counterfeit.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have a counterfeit faith, an imitation of faith. I don’t want to face my Savior at the End and have him say, “But what did you do? Who among the outcasts did you love? Who saw Me through you?” I don’t want people to look at me, wrinkle their nose, and say, “Man, being a Christian looks boring.”

Being a Christian should be edge-of-your-seat excitement. Because it should mean going where others are afraid to go, doing what most people would never do, living on faith instead of “security.” Being a Christian should be completely fascinating to those who aren’t (yet). If instead they’re looking at us and calling us boring…maybe we’re doing it wrong. Maybe we’re not really living out the true virtues of Christ…maybe we’re just a faded imitation.

Where do we need God to breathe some life into our faith today?

When Fear Whispers

When Fear Whispers

Fear.

As Christians, we know we’re not supposed to live in it. We have all the awesome verses to trot out in proof. And I even hear it as the reason behind not wanting to be cautious–we don’t want to live in fear, after all. I admit it: I’ve said the same things myself. I’ve said, “I’m not going to be afraid. I’m just going to live.”

And then I seek out information to make me feel better. Maybe you’ve done the same. We seek the news articles that’ll back us up, even if we have to sift through page after page of Google results to find them. “Validate my choices!” we cry to the world. “Prove me right!”

We do it with medical things. We do it with politics. We do it with _________. (Fill in the blank; I think we tend to do it with everything.)

But here’s the thing I’ve been seeing lately: this is, in fact, letting fear win. And worse, it’s creating a self-fulfilling prophecy situation.

Last weekend we had a talk in our church about the new vaccine and people’s views on it. The resounding conclusion? People are afraid.

I flip through the news or read my email lists and see the same thing when it comes to politics, court decisions, culture: People are afraid.

We’re afraid of the government. We’re afraid of people trying to harm us. We’re afraid of our rights being taken away. We’re afraid of health crises. We’re afraid of losing power. We’re afraid of persecution.

This then leads to a spiral. Because we fear it, we want to be alert–so we go looking for it. Hunting up evidence. We tell ourselves we’re just researching so we can be well informed, but are we really reading things that show all sides? Generally not. We’re not digging deeper, we’re just adding more of the same sort of “information” to our well, often more articles from the same sources. We think, “Oh man, this is obviously bad.” So we find other “bad” things connected with our original subject. We look for people linked to it and seek out other terrible things they may have done. We seek faces to put on it, people to blame. People to fight. And any time we come up against opposition or something just goes wrong, we think “This is it! I’m being attacked for my beliefs!”

Why do we do this? Why do we deliberately construct a narrative of fear for ourselves and then put a face to it? Why are we always looking for (and often creating) hidden agendas on our oppositions’ part? I think it’s because we feel like if we can uncover something dastardly, we’d know what to fight. We’d know who our enemy is. We’d know what to DO about it.

In college, we had to read Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, and one of the concepts we really had to work to understand was how EVERY dream could be, as he posited, “wish fulfillment.” How, my classmates and I asked, could a nightmare be wish fulfillment? We don’t want these bad things to happen! But Freud didn’t say we wished for the bad. What we wished for was a resolution to the bad. We wanted it out in the open and dealt with, not living in the shadows, not breathing down our necks, not a constant whisper of fear in the back of our mind. We wanted to see it, to know what it was, to resolve it. This, he theorized, was the purpose of a nightmare: to root out our fears and let us face them.

Think what you want about Freud in general, LOL, but there’s something to that. We don’t WANT our fears to come true…and yet we want to know. We want to know how to fight it. How to respond. We want to see those shadows clearly. We want to be validated. We want to be told we had a reason to fear. Because, see? Look! There’s this terrible thing, and we saw it coming!

But perhaps this is why God speaks again and again about how we should NOT be afraid. Because this sort of fear doesn’t just render us immobile. It makes us act in ungodly ways. This sort of fear leads us to create villains where really there are just people doing what they think is best, whether we agree that it’s the best thing or not–equating what may be false opinions with bad motives. It leads us to lash out preemptively, to get defensive, to get entrenched. And do you know what happens then? The thing we feared happens…because we forced it to. When we lash out in fear that sounds like anger, the opposition responds in the same. Battles begin. Politics on both sides get further and further apart. We all become known for hate and anger and bitterness instead of love. And so, yes, then each side tries to persecute the other. Each side tries to take away rights. Each side becomes, in the others’ eyes, a villain.

We let fear dictate to us. And then it laughs in our face when we bring the consequences upon ourselves.

Here’s what God promises though: Perfect love casts out fear.

Because if I love that person on the other side of the aisle, I don’t have room to fear them. I’m too busy praying for them and trying to understand them.

If I love those doctors working to help, I’m going to be asking God for wisdom and guidance for them, not subscribing terrible motives to them or looking for reasons not to trust them.

If I love that transgender person, I’m too busy praying that they’ll understand God’s love for them to worry about whether my own rights are being infringed upon.

If we’re acting in love–love for each other, love for the very people who seem to oppose us–then we don’t have room for fear.

There are a lot of websites and “news” stories out there today specifically geared toward engendering fear in our hearts. Because then we’ll be swayed to act in the ways they want us to act. We’ll be so afraid of what “they” are doing that we won’t even consider listening to anything they ever say. If they say it, then it must be wrong.

This is not the way God and faith work, my friends. He does not move through fear. He does not move through selfish ambition. And Christianity did not change the world by seeking its own. It changed the world through acts of selflessness, sacrifice, and radical love. It changed the word by being courageous and bold for Christ. It wasn’t about gaining a voice in politics. It wasn’t about avoiding persecution. It was about risking it to reach one more soul. It was about giving even when it hurt, trusting that God would make what we had enough. It was about being willing to give up our own–our possessions, our ambitions, our very lives–to show others that this is what Christ did for them.

The Gospel is too often being drowned out today by our other goals, though. By our ambitions for power. By our desire to be proven right. The Gospel is just a whisper behind the fears we’re shouting so loudly.

Something I’ve been trying to do before I share any opinion, though, is to ask, “Does my saying this show Christ? Does it speak love to my enemies? Does it seek the best for them instead of the best for me?” If not, then I can be pretty sure I’m acting out of fear, not faith.

But we can combat it. We can combat it in our own hearts by focusing on how to LOVE those people we don’t agree with. We can focus on praying for supernatural protection for our heart of hearts, for our minds, for our lips. Pray for deliverance from fear. For ourselves, and for those around us. Pray that its stranglehold is broken, that its strongholds are torn down. Pray that its pernicious whisper is silenced.

We are not children of the night, my friends. We are children of day and children of light. We are not children of fear. We are children of faith.

What can we do today to silence that whisper of fear? What can we do today to show love for those who seem to be against us? What can we do to try to understand instead of assuming bad motives? These aren’t hypothetical, rhetorical questions. Seriously–let’s come up with a list of things. And then…let’s do them.

Fear makes us worse. But let’s #BeBetter.

Interruptions

Interruptions

Interruptions. We all know them. And we all hate them (unless of course we’re being interrupted in a task we don’t want to do, LOL). They are distractions. They are things that keep us from doing what we want to be doing, or what we should be doing. They are those annoying, frustrating moments that pull us out of our groove, throw a wrench in our works, or otherwise discombobulate us.

Interruptions are life’s hiccups. And we ALL know how annoying hiccups can be!

Back in September, one of my devotional readings from Live in Grace, Walk in Love by Bob Goff was all about interruptions. I read it while I was away on a writing retreat–one of the few times of uninterrupted writing I manage in a year–so I was especially aware of how far I will go to avoid those dratted interruptions. When I returned from my retreat, I took the time to muse about this topic to the #BeBetter group, and it was something we could all agree with. A few days later, my life was seriously interrupted by a 5-day hospital trip and diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes for my son.

For the next few months, I was left feeling like all I had left were interruptions. My plans, derailed by health issues. My days, interrupted constantly by the need to check blood sugars. My sleep, thoroughly broken by the same. I’ve always loved uninterrupted spans of time in which I can just work. Just be. Just do what I feel I need to do. (Which makes it rather ironic that we chose to homeschool and have both of us working from home. Because lemme just tell you, there is no such thing as a day without many, many interruptions, LOL. As in, the interruptions even have interruptions, until I sit back down hours later and don’t even know what I’d originally been doing! Bet we can all commiserate with that too, right?)

But here’s the thing. Maybe…maybe we’re looking at it all wrong. That’s what Goff pointed out in the devotional, and it’s something I’ve been pondering for months since.

He points out that Jesus was met with constant interruptions too. He was on His way to help one person when He’s stopped by another. Or was on His way to the mountaintop for a much-needed retreat and refresher when He’s interrupted by crowds swarming Him. He was trying to enjoy a nice meal when someone came in to pour oil on His feet. His life was a life of constant interruptions too.

But how did He react?

Well, we don’t see Him complaining. We don’t see Him pushing the interruptions aside. We don’t see Him sighing and getting overwhelmed by frustration.

We see Him pausing. We see Him being constantly “moved by love” for those interruptions, those people so desparate to touch even the hem of their garment that they’d haunt Him through the streets. We see Him recognizing that every single interruption is its own appointment. Not just a distraction from what He was “supposed” to be doing–but a worthwhile task in itself.

Do we view our interruptions the same way?

I’m trying to do that, to view things in a new way.

That the phone call is an unexpected conversation, not an interruption.
The kid at my elbow is a chance to love on one of the most important people in my life, not a distraction.
The email that comes in, filled with demands and exclamation points, is a chance to serve someone in a moment of need, not just something taking me away from my to-do list.
That 2 a.m. blood sugar check is an act of love for my son and a chance to pray, not a half-hour of missing sleep.

What would change in our day if we started viewing each interruption as its own appointment, ordained by God? How much less frustrated would we be if we realized that our time is not our own, and so when our scheduled activity is forced to pause, we recognize it as God tapping us on the shoulder? What if we could seriously view each unexpected thing as a chance to serve Him by serving others and showing His love?

When that woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of His garment, the man who’d been taking Him to his house to heal His daughter no doubt called it a devastating interruption. But the woman called it a life-changing miracle. And Jesus called it another chance to show the love of the Father to a hurting heart. He still healed the little girl–brought her back from death, even. He performed a bigger miracle because of the interruption. And another besides.

We serve a God whose love is not divided by interruptions–it’s multiplied. So let’s rejoice in that assurance…and try to remember that each moment matters…whether it’s filled with what we’d planned or something else entirely.

Free But Costly

Free But Costly

In the book world, there’s a lot of talk about whether it’s worthwhile to give things away for free. People are of multiple mindsets on this. Some think it’s a great way to draw in new readers. Others think it devalues our work. What I know is this: when I get something for free–by which I mean the item simply has no cost assigned to it–very rarely do I actually read it. Why? Because I have so many things waiting to be read that I paid for, or to which a definite value was attached. For instance, one of the perks of being an author with the Baker Group is that we get to pick out a few books from the catalogue each time we’re in it. But we’re given a set value. So I know every title I pick means another that I don’t. There’s still value there. The same goes for if I get a coupon or store credit/cash. It’s a set value. Each item I buy with it means another I don’t. There’s still a cost.

And then there are gifts. They cost us nothing. But we know there’s value, right? We know that someone who cares about us paid something for that item, or invested time in the creation of it. When Judith from church gave me hand-knitted tea cozies for Christmas, it wasn’t just a matter of the ten dollars of yarn, it was a matter of the hours upon hours I knew very well it took her to create that. It has value. It has worth.

Then there’s salvation. It’s free…but it’s not just free. It’s a free gift–paid for by Jesus. And my friends, it’s COSTLY. So, so costly. He couldn’t just offer us salvation with no cost to himself, because then it wouldn’t have value. It wouldn’t satisfy the debt that was owed. He paid it. And then He gave it. Free to us, but certainly not free to Him.

We know this, obviously. We use all the right words when we talk about it. But so often…so often I feel like we toss it around like a free download without really thinking about the value. Or at the least, without putting that value above everything else. We talk about the price Jesus paid, but because it isn’t a cost to us, we offer that so freely and yet don’t give of our own resources unless it’s convenient. We stop giving before it hurts.

He gave until it killed Him.

As we enter the season of Lent, those forty days leading up to His sacrifice, will you join me in really contemplating the cost of this free gift? Let’s pause each day to enumerate the cost.

  • Instead of a life of comfort, He chose the life of a wanderer
  • Instead of the security of a family, He chose to find family among the people who needed Him so desperately
  • Instead of making friends with the powerful, He brought the touch of Heaven to the weak
  • Instead of using His authority to bring Himself riches, He gave up everything to suffer with the poor
  • Instead of hoarding what He had to provide for Himself and His disciples, He took a little and multiplied it to feed the masses
  • Instead of seeking a peaceful life that ended in an easy death at a ripe old age, He offered His life up for us in His prime

Life is the most sacred thing in this world. It is so much more valuable than anything we can purchase with money, isn’t it? Who among us wouldn’t trade everything we have if necessary to keep our child or our spouse or our parent alive? Let me just tell you, when your baby is struggling to draw breath and fighting for consciousness, you don’t care how much the helicopter costs, you just want him to get the help he needs. Life is sacred. Life is precious. Life is beyond price.

And that’s what Jesus gave for us. Everything. Absolutely everything. Let’s make sure we pause to really appreciate that this year.