Friday, April 22, 2011

If you need a synopsis...

If your day proves to be busy or distracted, or if you are intimidated by those old, sometimes odd words, or if you have ever wondered why Christians celebrate Good Friday, here is the briefest synopsis I could mash together:

"When Jesus had finished saying these things, he said to his disciples, 'As you know, the Passover is two days away - and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.'" (Matt. 26:1-2) (I love this! He knew it was coming; He talked about it openly...)

"Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John saying, 'Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.'" (Matt. 26:17-18)

"When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer...he took break, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me...This cup is the new covenant of my blood, which is poured out for you.'" (Luke 22)

There were mind-boggling and perhaps awkward moments:
  • a foot washing (an act so degrading that even a Jewish slave could not be forced to do it.);
  • a piece of bread handed to Judas with the order: "what you are about to do, do quickly.";
  • a prediction that Judas would not be the only betrayer, that Peter would deny Him three times;
  • perplexed disciples who whispered to one another "We don't understand what he is saying.'" (John 16:18);
  • drowsy, confused and sorrowful disciples in an olive grove (Luke 22:45);
  • this Messiah pouring out honesty like blood, with hard words like "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" and "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done."
  • perhaps the most awkward kiss in the history of mankind, when Jesus caught his betrayer off-guard: "'Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Rabbi!' and kissed him." (Luke 22:48)
  • the impulsive, badly-aimed sword of Peter, that cut off an ear and earned him a rebuke from the One he was trying to defend: "No more of this!" Jesus healed the ear.
  • chaotic, unorganized trials before a wicked priest, a deep-thinking governor (Pilate ends his conversation with Jesus by asking a seemingly unanswerable question, "What is truth?"), then, a curious and almost giddy Herod who receives nothing but silence from Jesus.
  • The screaming, riotous crowd choosing Barabbas the Bandit to be mercifully freed; for Jesus, their choice was clear: "Crucify! crucify!" (How skewed was their idea of mercy!)
  • The people convincing Pilate to hesitantly give them what they wanted, even taking the blame for Jesus' imminent death: "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Matt. 27:25) (To which I say, Amen!)
  • A crown of thorns, a royal purple robe to parade this King through town, then a poorly timed passerby who was forced to carry Jesus' cross to Golgotha. (Matthew 27:27-32)
  • "From the bullying game of Blind Man's Bluff in the high priest's courtyard to the professional thuggery of Pilate's and Herod's guards, to the catcalls of spectators turned out to jeer the criminals stumbling up the long road to Calvary, and finally to the cross itself where Jesus heard a stream of taunts from the ground below and even from the cross alongside. You call yourself a Messiah? Well, then come down from that cross. How you gonna save us if you can't even save yourself?" (Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 260)
  • This Rabbi Jesus hung on the cross, no modest white cloth covering his nakedness like it was on the Sunday School coloring pages. His shame was complete. Still, he said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Not only did he forgive his accusers, but he provided for his mother and welcomed a thief next to him - "Today, you will be with me in paradise." (John 23:43)
  • "King of the Jews" said the notice, much to the Jewish leaders' dismay. "No, [t]his man claimed to be king of the Jews." (Matt. 27:37) Pilate was done with them: "What I have written, I have written.
  • There was darkness, and weird words uttered from dry lips: "It is finished." "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." and the most baffling of all, words that haunt me every Good Friday: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (These puzzling words seem to convince folks of the authenticity of the accounts. "For what reason would the founders of a new religion put such despairing words in the mouth of their dying hero - unless that's precisely what he said." Yancey, pg. 261)
  • In that moment, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.'" (Gal. 3:13)
On the cross, Jesus shows one of two things: that God is completely powerless or that God is nothing but Love. I choose to see it - or, He has opened my eyes to see it - as the latter.

"Power, no matter how well-intentioned, tends to cause suffering. Love, being vulnerable, absorbs it. In a point of convergence on a hill called Calvary, God renounced the one for the sake of the other." -Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 267

Resting Here,

Thursday, April 21, 2011


If you have talked to me this week on the phone or in person, you knew I was going to write this blog post. I just couldn't resist.

Because this week, I had my nose in a book.

This book:
The book I stole from the basket by my dad's recliner, the book that has the following inscription on the inside cover: "Happy birthday, ole man! Hope it's a great year, Dad." Yup, my sister sent it to my dad for his birthday and I stole it, plain and simple. Now, I have to fess up and give it back.

From a purely selfish perspective, it was the most satisfying read I have ever had the privilege of undertaking. I didn't want it to end, and yet, I couldn't get to the end fast enough. Even my kids would come and ask me, "How's that guy doin'? Did he get out of the plane yet?" The best part: it's a true story!

I'm not gonna spoil it for you, but if you are looking for a good book this spring, you can't get any better than this.


P.S. This book is not religious in any way. It is a true story and it's about war - which includes lonely, bored soldiers with potty mouths and dirty magazines; and brutal war scenes that Laura Hillenbrand brings to vibrant life in words. If it had a rating, it would be R.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cleaning House - Oddballs Welcome!

Wouldn't it be fun to clean house like Jesus did?...

From Matthew 21:

12And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

13And He said to them, "It is written, 'MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER'; but you are making it a ROBBERS' DEN."

14And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them.

15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant

16and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF'?"

17And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Philip Yancey explains it this way (excerpt from What's So Amazing About Grace, page 139, 1997):

Jesus appeared on earth just as Palestine was experiencing a religious revival. The Pharisees, for example, spelled out precise rules for staying clean: never enter the home of a Gentile, never dine with sinners, perform no work on the Sabbath, wash your hands seven times before eating. Thus when rumors spread that Jesus could be the long-awaited Messiah, pious Jews were more scandalized than galvanized. Had he not touched unclean persons, such as those suffering from leprosy? Had he not let a woman of ill repute wash his feet with her hair? He dined with tax collectors - one even joined his inner circle of the Twelve - and was notoriously lax about the rules of ritual cleanness and Sabbath observance.

Moreover, Jesus deliberately crossed into Gentile territory and got involved with Gentiles. He praised a Roman centurion as having more faith than anyone in Israel and volunteered to enter the centurion's house to heal his servant. He healed a half-breed Samaritan with leprosy and had a lengthy conversation with a Samaritan woman - to the consternation of his disciples, who knew that 'Jews do not associate with Samaritans.' This woman, rejected by Jews on account of her race, rejected by neighbors on account of her serial marriages, became the first 'missionary' appointed by Jesus and the first person to whom he openly revealed his identity as Messiah. Then Jesus culminated his time on earth by giving his disciples the 'Great Commission,' a command to take the gospel to unclean Gentiles 'in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'

Jesus' approach to 'unclean' people dismayed his countrymen, and in the end, helped to get him crucified. In essence, Jesus canceled the cherished principle of the Old Testament, No Oddballs Allowed, replacing it with a new rule of grace: 'We're all oddballs, but God loves us anyhow.'

The Gospels record only one occasion when Jesus resorted to violence: the cleansing of the temple. Brandishing a whip, he overturned tables and benches and drove out the merchants who had set up shop there. As I have said, the very architecture of the temple expressed the Jewish hierarchy. Gentiles could only enter only the outer court. Jesus resented that merchants had turned the Gentiles' area into an oriental bazaar filled with the sounds of animals bleating and merchants haggling over prices, an atmosphere hardly conducive to worship. Mark records that after the cleansing of the temple, the chief priests and teachers of the law 'began looking for a way to kill him.' In a real sense, Jesus sealed his fate with his angry insistence on the Gentiles' right to approach God.

He opened the way for me - a woman and a Gentile - to draw near to God. In a culture that needed to wash seven times before eating a meal, I am most surely 'unclean' in many ways. Jesus didn't abolish all of those rules; He fulfilled them. And I come near.

Resting in His Nearness,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

What Manner of King? Palm Sunday

Words keep popping up in my head these days. Weird words like spit...cheek kisses...a baby donkey...a cup...sweat like blood...dirty feet...bully...

I could go on, but I won't yet. I'll let the Word speak for itself...

Matthew 21

The Triumphal Entry
1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2saying to them, "Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord needs them,' and he will send them at once." 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 "Say to the daughter of Zion,'Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"

6The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, "Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" 10And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, "Who is this?" 11And the crowds said, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee."

This week, I am focusing on Jesus. It's the "Holy Week" and I can't resist writing what moves me. Call me a Jesus freak and I just might kiss you. Join me, if you would like.

A few practical addendums:

As an amateur writer, I can't help but wonder why the Gospel accounts weren't "polished" up a bit, clarified here and there. Which is so comforting - the very "unpolished" nature of the accounts seems to lend them an air of truthful reality. Nevertheless, they can be tricky to follow the timeline. One great resource I have appreciated lately is a Holy Week timeline. With four different Gospel accounts, I found this to be helpful in understanding the sequence of events.

If you want or need more words, here are some of my favorites, from one of my favorites: The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. If you have read it, then you know why I love the book. If you have not read the book, perhaps this week will give you a taste of it. And if you aren't sure about Jesus, just know that He may be different than what was presented on the flannelgraph board at Sunday School, vastly more than what you may feel at a church, read in a theology book, or receive at a soup kitchen.

He is life itself, and abundant life at that.

I'm resting here on Palm Sunday...

"All four Gospels mention this event, which at first glance seems the one departure from Jesus' aversion to acclaim. Crowds spread clothes and tree branches across the road to show their adoration. 'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!' they cried. Though Jesus usually recoiled from such displays of fanaticism, this time he let them yell. To indignant Pharisees he explained, 'I tell you, if they keep quiet, the very stones will cry out.'

Was the prophet from Galilee now being vindicated in Jerusalem? 'Look how the whole world has gone after him!' exclaimed the Pharisees in alarm. At that moment, with several hundred thousand pilgrims assembled in Jerusalem, it looked for all the world as if the King had arrived in force to claim his rightful throne.

I remember as a child riding home from Palm Sunday service, absentmindedly tearing apart the palm fronds, skimming ahead in the Sunday School quarterly to the next week's topic. It made no sense. With such a throng throwing themselves at his feet one week, how did Jesus get arrested and killed the next?

Now when I read the Gospels I see the undercurrents that help explain the shift. On Palm Sunday a group from Bethany surrounded him, still exultant over the miracle of Lazarus. No doubt pilgrims from Galilee, who knew him well, comprised another large portion of the crowd. Matthew points out that further support came from the blind, the lame, and the children. Beyond that constituency, however, lurked danger. Religious authorities resented Jesus, and Roman legions brought in to control the festival crowds would heed the Sanhedrin's assessment of who might present a threat to order.

Jesus himself had mixed feelings during the clamorous parade. Luke reports that as he approached the city, he began to weep. He knew how easily a mob could turn. Voices who shout 'Hosanna!' one week can shriek 'Crucify him! the next.

The triumphal entry has about it an aura of ambivalence, and as I read all the accounts, what stands out to me now is the slapstick nature of the affair. I imagine a Roman officer galloping up to check on the disturbance. He has attended processions in Rome, where they do it right. The conquering general sits in a chariot of gold, with stallions straining at the reins and wheel spikes flashing in the sunlight. Behind him, officers in polished armor display the banners captured from vanquished armies. At the rear comes a ragtag procession of slaves and prisoners in chains, living proof of what happens to those who defy Rome.

In Jesus' triumphal entry, the adoring crowd makes up the ragtag procession: the lame, the blind, the children, the peasants from Galilee and Bethany. When the officer looks for the object of their attention he spies a forlorn figure, weeping, riding on no stallion or chariot but on the back of a baby donkey, a borrowed coat draped across its backbone serving as his saddle.

Yes, there was a whiff of triumph on Palm Sunday, but not the kind of triumph that might impress Rome and not the kind that impressed crowds in Jerusalem for long either. What manner of king was this?

(I will continue this series all week long. Feel free to add any questions, doubts, defenses, or comments in the comment section, and I'll feel free to respond or not, depending on the chaos of the moment.)

Friday, April 15, 2011


There was a time when children slept in the beds we intended for them, all snuggled up in well-coordinated blankets and themed rooms.

There was another time when we had a mutiny on our hands, when the kids decided to buck that tradition, and sleep all together in one bedroom, often on the floor. After a few months of cleaning bedding every morning, I realized there was a solution.

So, we took down all the kids beds in our house and slapped together some bunk beds. (My husband and friend Joel will say it was more than "slap together some bunk beds," as they did the actual construction.)

Better Homes and Gardens, it is not. But I'm pretty sure they weren't coming to shoot magazine quality photos of our bedrooms anyways. So, I've let that ridiculous notion go, and with it, we now have one big bedroom for all three kids, and a new playroom/schoolroom.

My mother teases and says that is how homeschool families have to do it, all the kids sleeping in a room all together. I'm going with it. Who knows how long they will all want to sleep in the same room, but until then, here's what we're working with: (Oh, and remember who is taking the pictures; forgive please.)

The girls' room used to look like this:

And now it looks like this:

One set of bunk beds on the left and one set on the right.

There's an extra bunk for sleepover guests, or Ginger Pie, if she's a good girl.

The kids' favorite parts are the curtains on the lower bunks,
and the individual shelves and sconces for each bed.

On to the next room, our little man's bedroom used to look like this:

And now, it looks like this:

Open those doors, and look out for the chaos. Or a pop quiz.

I forgot how exhausting all of this was, until I uploaded these pictures. Whew! Glad we're done... until this girl needs a little privacy...

Until then, we're enjoying some of the changes around here, and scared every time our friend-realtor sends us a new local listing... Because we love living right here, and are thankful for our home.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Dark Side

There have been lots of changes around here - walls and stoves and bathrooms. I will post about them as soon as I catch my breath. In the meantime, I've made a change too. And if the family's reaction is anything like yours will be, I had better give you a little warning.

So, for all of you locals' sake, here's a preview so you can scream at the computer and not at me. (Although you can scream at me too. I can take it. In fact, I'm getting pretty used to it.)

And for my identical twin, who never knows what to do with her hair, here's what you would look like if you, too, choose to move to the dark side.

Thanks to Punkin's seven-year old work behind the camera, you get the half-smile thrown in for free.

I miss this place, and will be back soon.

Resting in Him,

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Apparently, my little niece didn't like my baby bump jokes. So, to my little sister on bedrest: read on if you want, or go play a round of Bananagrams if you don't want to.

My favorite link...
  • My chore-chart nagging days are over very reduced! If you only click on one link, this is the one I'd tell you to go check out. An actual quote you would have heard from the mouth of this mother today in this house: "Please, please. Stop being responsible, stop doing chores, just go and play!" True story. Yes! This place is FREE, it is super simple to organize, and so far, kid-friendly. You set up the chores you want done for each day, week, or specific days of the week. Then, you set up each child's account, and they can update their chart as they complete their chores. You determine the value of each chore and they can even redeem their "points" with rewards of your choice, either through ideas you have at home (ice cream date, or game night, or date out with Daddy) or even through Amazon. Our favorite part - the chance to write little notes to each of my kids on their chore list. My seven-year old was caught writing me notes back. Too fun! You can also add "extra chores" that kids can do for extra points - I found a kid scooping poop today! Check it out, or forever nag your kids. (If wants to send me lots of money for this unsolicited promotion, I will gladly accept it.)

On parenting...
  • Good reminders abound here - like "formulas do not work!" and "Jesus' life is my example." I'm a better parent for reading this.
  • This daddy stayed home from work, and made me cheer at the screen!

On domestics...
  • If I needed a daybed, I'd be asking one amazing husband to try his hand at this. Beauty!

[Photo credit:]

If I needed a guest bedroom, I'd be asking one amazing husband for this. Kevin and Layla never cease to amaze me. Oh yes, that's antique gym flooring on the wall. And I'm cheering like an
old-school pompom girl!

On faith...
  • "But as Christians–as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ–our allegiance is not to causes, lifestyles, diet, dress codes or social customs. Our allegiance is to Christ and His great commandment to us is to love God and love our neighbor." Great quote, great article.
  • Is there anything more inspiring on this Christian walk then watching the victorious walk of others? This saint has long been a heroine of mine...
  • "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." One must always come before the other. Love never fails, says Big Mama.
On randomness...
  • About ten years ago, they built an In-N-Out hamburger joint within driving distance of our home. And I officially put away my patty-pounding capabilities. I could make good hamburgers, but theirs are better. So, I gave up. From some folks who ordered every item on the menu, the In-N-Out insider's jargon is here.
  • You know something is funny when you laugh at your computer screen, with no one else around. This sucker passed that test. Just ask my computer screen. Check out the hilarious comments folks made for this sacred sandwich.

Grace to You Today,