Holy Saturday: Shadows

Last night we watched The Passion of the Christ and I cried and cried. It was a good thing to do on Good Friday—a hard thing, but good. All day I carried the passion inside of me. Our church does not hold a Good Friday vigil, but the readings from our Maundy Thursday service were still fresh in my mind. We observed a Tenebrae service, as is the tradition during the latter parts of Holy Week. Tenebrae is Latin for shadows, and during the readings and singing of the Psalms, the light is gradually extinguished in the sanctuary. We leave the church in silence and darkness, contemplating. Shadows.

Lent has a way of casting my shadow-self in clear relief. I am aware of all the ways I have failed in my promises to our Lord, all the ways my fickle heart betrays. In Jungian psychology, to truly know yourself, you must not only become acquainted with the shadow-self, you must accept it as a part of the whole of you. Understanding your shadow-self will help you understand and love the shadows in others.

So there is this: admitting my failures allows me to more completely love. As I ponder Christ’s last days, last moments, last breath … I am aware of the many falsehoods in my life that lead me to live in the shadow realm. There is nothing more true than a love that leads to sacrifice, and yet, so many days I resist giving up my own will.

I cannot stop thinking of his body behind the stone. And yet I know the stone will be rolled away.

The whole of life feels like the waiting. Sealed in this tomb, locked in darkness. Light is the stuff of legends, flits across the mind the way a bird lights on a tree limb. Scripture tells us, “For all creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19) I feel the sharp intake of breath, the stiffening of awaited release.

Resurrection Day is the already-here-but-yet-to-come day; the day we search our hearts for every bit of light that is hope. The work of the cross is done but still working within us.

If the God who revealed life to us, and whose only desire is to bring us to life, loved us so much that he wanted to experience with us the total absurdity of death, then—yes, then there must be hope; then there must be something more than death; then there must be a promise that is not fulfilled inour short existence in this world; then leaving behind the ones you love, the flowers and the trees, the mountains and the oceans, the beauty of art and music, and all the exuberant gifts of life cannot be just the destruction and cruel end of all things; then indeed we have to wait for the third day.”~ Henri Nouwen

There must be hope. Even among the shadows. Especially there. And so we wait.

Playdates with God: Give Yourself Away

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To choose the little people, the little joys, the little sorrows and to trust that it is there that God will come close—that is the hard way of Jesus. … Something in me always wants to turn the way of Jesus into a way that is honorable in the eyes of the world. I always want the little way to become the big way. But Jesus’ movement toward the places the world wants to move away from cannot be made into a success story.” ~Henri Nouwen

Palm Sunday comes crashing in with all its raucous celebration and we have been caught up in the noise of life. I read every version of the triumphal entry to prepare for my sermon but the days are the thickest text. I know how important it is to withdraw to a quiet place when life thrums like a bass drum in my ears. But I am still learning to turn this knowledge into action—to heed the still, small voice that beckons me away from the triumphal parade into the olive grove.

When I step away from my schedule, my obligations, my worries, my deadlines—this is when God comes close.

The greatest joy for me lately comes when I read aloud to the children in Mrs. Crum’s third grade class and Mrs. Ashworth’s kindergarten. When I drive out to their little school, it feels like a tiny retreat—like I am driving into a different world. Those kids welcome me with hugs and smiles and for a time, the little way is the biggest of all ways. My heart swells for them. And when I am reading them a story? What a gift to see how their faces reflect the story back to me.

Beauty is tucked away in the places the world forgets.

Here are the books we read this week.

With the third graders:

What do You do With an Idea? Written by Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom. Oh, how I love this book, which celebrates the thinker and encourages entrepreneurship and creativity. Having fought with my own ideas and dreams for so long, I think this is an excellent book for grown-ups too. This book stimulated conversation about ideas that changed the world. We talked about the Wright brothers and space travel and all kinds of good stuff.

How to Be Interesting (In 10 Simple Steps) by Jessica Hagy. This is really a book for teens so I have to edit it a little (For example, one of the suggestions is talk to strangers. I skipped over that one). We read one step each time I visit the classroom and it’s been fun to watch the kids’ reactions.

More than Anything Else story by Marie Bradby, pictures by Chris K. Soentpiet. This is one of my all time favorite books to share with kids. It’s the story of Booker T. Washington’s dream to learn to read. We talked about what it would be like if they weren’t allowed or able to go to school and how their worlds would change if they couldn’t read. The kids got it. It was awesome.

With the kindergartners:

Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino. This story about a cute pug-faced dog was one of Jeffrey’s favorites when he was younger. My copy is falling apart but the kids didn’t mind. They loved this sweet story that makes us think about the way we treat others.

My Little Artist by Donna Green. This is a sweet story but I mainly wanted the kids to see the illustrations, which are beautiful, intricate watercolors. We talked about the hard work that goes into becoming a good artist and how that applies to most everything in life.

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. Yes, they begged me to read this one again. In fact, they insist I read it every time I come. They would have me read it twice if I allowed it. It’s such a silly book and they all have most parts of it memorized by now. It’s so fun to watch how excited they get as we approach the silliest parts.

As we enter into holy week, why not give yourself away? Spend some time with others, meeting a need in your community. Maybe you could clean out your closet and give away unused items to a local clothes pantry, or visit a nursing home with Easter baskets to give away. Jesus always made time for those in need, no matter what pressing issues were on hand.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

Laura Boggess

 

Palm Sunday: Washed

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On my birthday I wash the feet of some of my dearest friends. It’s Palm Sunday, and we have small group, and my husband is worried it won’t be special enough—that my day will pass by unnoticed.
But I know.
“Tell me why we have to wash their feet again?” He wants to know.
And I want to tell him about the time we washed the feet of the children during Wednesday church. How it stilled even the most restless, how it felt to rub those grimy toes. He’s worried it will make them uncomfortable—he tells me he’s uncomfortable. And why—on my birthday—do I have to wash the feet of others? And I love him for asking, for always thinking of me.
But I know he doesn’t understand. Because the washing is the easy part.
                                                                                         
“Because we’re the leaders,” I say, and I leave it there—praying.
In church that morning, we waved our palms and the pastor spoke about the crowd that was there—the people who witnessed the crucifixion.
“Mary was there. And John,” she said. “And don’t you know that Martha and Lazarus and their Mary were there too? Could they stay away? Just imagine,” she said. “The faces of those who loved him.”
She wondered aloud about the people he had healed. Was blind Bartimaeus there?  The lepers? I wondered too. I wondered about their discomfort—their pain.
“And soon,” she said. “Soon the threatening voices would drown out the voices of love.”
During prayer time the congregation had sung Happy Birthday to me—to me. And I sit in the pew and wonder how voices so full of love could turn so quickly. I wave my palm and think how this happens to all of us—the threatening voices drown out the voices of love.
At some point, at some place in life we will all feel the discomfort. Accusations, disagreement, anger.
Can I reach through discomfort and serve in love? Will I?
At small group they bring me a cake, and flowers, and Jennifer gives me a beautiful card she made because of something I said in Sunday school. And I bend and pour water over their feet and he dries them with a towel. Luke is crying because he’s hungry and the rest of the kids are having an Easter egg hunt upstairs.
It’s a logistical nightmare—this washing of feet—with babies and dogs and furniture crowding us. But these voices of love have braved the discomfort. As I dip my hands in warm water, rub them over chapped heels and toes…I know these feet will stand firm through any pain for me.
And it’s the best birthday gift. Washed in the water. Clean.

I’m pleased to share a Lenten devotional over at The High Calling today. Will you join me there?

With Michelle today:

 

The Joy of Dying

On Good Friday we all sleep in. After breakfast, I take them for haircuts and we buy new shirts for Easter. We go out for lunch and as I study my full plate, I am wounded. It’s been an upside down Lent with none of my usual disciplines and this full plate on Good Friday feels like betrayal.
The women followed him all the way from Galilee. The Gospel of Luke tells us that when he hung on the cross, the women stood at a distance, watching these things.
They did not let the horror that was taking place before them cause them to avert their eyes. And yet…my eyes shift with the smallest of distractions.
How can I yet forget his love so easily?
When we return home, I need to step away from this world that clutches at my heart and wraps around it like ivy—weaving it blind. We go into the woods and here I can breathe. It’s the silence of the tomb but this quiet works its resurrection. And this is the joy of dying—this expectation of a new birth. 
We wait with bated breath.


With my sandy, the

Holy Thursday

We all wear black and my hand shakes a little as I put in my earrings. It seems a strange thing to dress for such an occasion. At my church, we call it Maundy Thursday. There are other names for it. Holy Thursday. Preparation Day. Great Thursday. This night, we remember the betrayal. My long black skirt floats out behind me as I join my brothers and sisters to remember.
It is a subdued service. We listen to the telling of that night. We share the bread and the wine…lift our cup on this last normal day. We sing together, as they did that night. And we pray. Because our hearts and minds can go where our feet cannot, we go to Gethsemane. Here, we feel the weight of our own guilt—these sleeping lives that cannot watch and wait even for an hour. And when the kiss seals the deal—we run. We run through the night with Peter and John and the others…abandoning our Lord as soldiers lead him away from the garden.
This is where we leave him on Holy Thursday. And when we quietly walk out of the church the eye of the full moon remembers too. It is a star-drenched sky and we drive home as dark descends.
There is a shadow in my heart as well.
This is the same sky that Jesus knew, I tell my boys.
Of course it is, they say.
And when we get home we take the dogs for a walk under the round face of that moon.
This is the same moon that Jesus looked up at the night he was arrested, I tell them.
Of course it is, they say.
We talk about Passover, how the Jewish calendar followed the moon. Every year we have this same conversation. And every year it leaves me hollow.
This moon.
He looked up at it too. He waited for the full moon. Watched the sky with other Jews in anticipation of the Holy Days. We watch too—look up in the sky and are quiet as we walk.
And on Good Friday we awaken to blue sky and the lilacs blooming. The tree is still green and this son of mine comes downstairs while I’m still having my coffee and he asks this,
“Mom, what happened to Judas?”
“Don’t you know?”
I know he does. But he’s been thinking. And like his mamma, thinking means talking. So we read the scripture. And we feel sad for Judas together. And we talk about the others who betrayed that night. About the different paths these betrayers chose.
And I tell him to never be afraid to come back. Because Jesus waits for that.
Jesus waits.
And we wait too.
I’ve been hanging out with Darlene this week. Will you join us? She’s a great conversationalist.
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