Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Ten

Mark 16:1-13
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so they could go and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they went to the tomb at sunrise. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone from the entrance to the tomb for us?” Looking up, they observed that the stone—which was very large—had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; they were amazed and alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he told them. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; you will see Him there just as He told you.’” So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them. And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid.

Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.

I love the devotion of these women. While the men hid in fear, the women took action. They were going to honor Jesus in his burial. Perhaps, also, women were considered less dangerous by the authorities and so felt safer showing allegiance to Jesus.

I wonder if the women knew an angel was speaking to them? Too bad Mary, the mother of Jesus wasn't with them. She could have said, "Oh, yea, this guy looks familiar."

The angel's words, "go tell his disciples and Peter" indicates that perhaps Peter felt he could no longer be considered Jesus' disciple because of his betrayals the night before. It is awful to think about how Peter was feeling, the sorrow, the heartache. That the angel called him out by name shows such loving compassion. Peter is not the focus of this story, but the angel takes a moment to sooth his heart.

And then the women are so freaked out by what they have just seen and experienced, they completely ignore the angel's instructions and tell no one. Even when Mary Magdalene has seen Jesus and tells the others he is indeed ALIVE, no one believes. 

We have such a hard time thinking outside our preconceived thought boxes. Oh, how greatly we must desire intimacy with the Holy Spirit, so we can know what is true.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Nine

My brain does not want to think about the pain Jesus experienced, the torture. It is barbaric and I instinctively try to turn my thoughts to gentler images. I want to jump straight to his resurrection, to his restored and pain free body. How cowardly and weak I am, but my Savior deserves my full attention to ALL he endured to set me free. I pray for the courage to truly look at his crucifixion and, thus, to better grasp the gift he has given me. Please Jesus, make this so in me. Help me to live out your gift.

Matthew 27:32-56
As they were going out, they found a Cyrenian man named Simon. They forced this man to carry His cross. When they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Skull Place), they gave Him wine mixed with gall to drink. But when He tasted it, He would not drink it. After crucifying Him they divided His clothes by casting lots. Then they sat down and were guarding Him there. Above His head they put up the charge against Him in writing:


Then two criminals were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. Those who passed by were yelling insults at Him, shaking their heads and saying, “The One who would demolish the sanctuary and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross!” In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him and said, “He saved others, but He cannot save Himself! He is the King of Israel! Let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He has put His trust in God; let God rescue Him now—if He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am God’s Son.’” In the same way even the criminals who were crucified with Him kept taunting Him.

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over the whole land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling for Elijah!”

Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, and offered Him a drink. But the rest said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to save Him!”

Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked and the rocks were split. The tombs were also opened and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. And they came out of the tombs after His resurrection, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.

When the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they were terrified and said, “This man really was God’s Son!”

Many women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and ministered to Him were there, looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Eight

Mark 15:33-41
When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “Look, He’s calling for Elijah!” Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, fixed it on a reed, offered Him a drink, and said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take Him down!”

But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, “This man really was God’s Son!”

There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they would follow Him and help Him. Many other women had come up with Him to Jerusalem.

Didn't those watching Jesus die, think it was strange it became dark at noon? What were the religious leaders who had helped orchestrate this event thinking? Were they beginning to feel uneasy? And how did they explain the tearing in half of the sanctuary curtain. A curtain that was 60 feet high, 30 feet wide and four inches think. How did they explain that it tore from top to bottom? Who was up there to tear it if not God? A God who wanted to open wide the door to Him.

"There were also women looking on" and possibly a lot of them, as "many other women had come up with Him to Jerusalem." I love the loyalty of the women, their love for Jesus. These members of society who had very little voice, very little respect. They remained faithful friends to Jesus through the horrible, scary events. I love reading the words of the Roman soldier, "This man really was God's son." He is the first person (in Mark's gospel) to confess Jesus as God's son. He, a Roman soldier, someone hated by the Jews. I see a God who loves the lowest  in society. He loves the outcast, the voiceless. He opens the door wide to them - to us all. The door to Jesus is closed to no one.

This door is open because of Jesus on the cross. The door is open because all my selfishness and pride and lack of concern for the pain of others was heaped on Jesus. He carried all my stuff onto the cross with him and now he says to me, "Shawna, I have made you clean. Walk through the open door. Walk with me forever."

I am never able to wrap my thoughts fully around the enormity of this. But I am so very grateful. I have walked through the open door and I am never leaving.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Seven

John 19:1-17
Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged. The soldiers also twisted together a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and threw a purple robe around Him. And they repeatedly came up to Him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and were slapping His face. Pilate went outside again and said to them, “Look, I’m bringing Him outside to you to let you know I find no grounds for charging Him.”

Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” When the chief priests and the temple police saw Him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” Pilate responded, “Take Him and crucify Him yourselves, for I find no grounds for charging Him.” “We have a law,” the Jews replied to him, “and according to that law He must die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” 

When Pilate heard this statement, he was more afraid than ever. He went back into the headquarters and asked Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus did not give him an answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You’re not talking to me? Don’t You know that I have the authority to release You and the authority to crucify You?” “You would have no authority over Me at all,” Jesus answered him, “if it hadn’t been given you from above. This is why the one who handed Me over to you has the greater sin.” 

From that moment Pilate made every effort to release Him. But the Jews shouted, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Anyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar!” When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside. He sat down on the judge’s bench in a place called the Stone Pavement (but in Hebrew Gabbatha). It was the preparation day for the Passover, and it was about six in the morning. Then he told the Jews, “Here is your king!” But they shouted, “Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Should I crucify your king?” “We have no king but Caesar!” the chief priests answered. So then, because of them, he handed Him over to be crucified. 

Therefore they took Jesus away. Carrying His own cross, He went out to what is called Skull Place, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

This is a scene I don't want to visualize in my mind. I don't want to see it and yet it happened. And it happened for me. For you. For all the world. This is such a huge thing to accept.

The crowd mentality is grotesque, moving as one in their horrific thirst for Jesus' torture, his blood, his death. It is grotesque and frightening and yet Jesus voluntarily experienced every slap, every lash of the whip, every angry hated-filled word hurled at him. For me.

Can I view this horror knowing, accepting that Jesus willingly experienced this for my sake? How does that change me? How does that change today for me?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Six

Mark 15:1-15
As soon as it was morning, the chief priests had a meeting with the elders, scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin. After tying Jesus up, they led Him away and handed Him over to Pilate. So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You have said it.” And the chief priests began to accuse Him of many things. Then Pilate questioned Him again, “Are You not answering anything? Look how many things they are accusing You of!” But Jesus still did not answer anything, so Pilate was amazed. At the festival it was Pilate’s custom to release for the people a prisoner they requested. There was one named Barabbas, who was in prison with rebels who had committed murder during the rebellion. The crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do for them as was his custom. So Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?” For he knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had handed Him over. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he would release Barabbas to them instead. Pilate asked them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the One you call the King of the Jews?” Again they shouted, “Crucify Him!” Then Pilate said to them, “Why? What has He done wrong?” But they shouted, “Crucify Him!” all the more. Then, willing to gratify the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. And after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

This passage is frightening because it is so reflective of what humans are capable of when a crowd is formed, when we allow our thoughts to go from our own individual thoughts to the thoughts of one angry or excited body of people. It is not uncommon. We can see it at any sporting event, concert, political gathering and even in church. 

There is such evidence here of the brokenness of us all. Here we see a controlling, authoritative organization (the religious leaders) who have a predetermined goal. They are not interested in truth. They want only to rid themselves of Jesus and his disruptive teaching. They want to maintain the status quo and their elevated place in it. They have made God in their image and are unwilling to humble themselves and learn who God really is. 

Sadly, I wonder how often I do the same? Where have I closed my mind, my heart to the truth of who God is because it is just easier to make Him into the God I want Him to be. Where have I let my desire to be accepted push away my ability to think clearly, to open myself up to God's truth rather than my own truth? Where do I need to humble myself? Where is pride blocking Jesus from my view?

Jesus, please forgive my pride. Forgive me for not letting you be you. Fill me with your wisdom and revelation. Help me get out of  your way.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Five

Mark 14:66-72
While Peter was in the courtyard below, one of the high priest’s servants came. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.”But he denied it: “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about!” Then he went out to the entryway, and a rooster crowed. When the servant saw him again she began to tell those standing nearby, “This man is one of them!” But again he denied it. After a little while those standing there said to Peter again, “You certainly are one of them, since you’re also a Galilean!” Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” Immediately a rooster crowed a second time, and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” When he thought about it, he began to weep. 

It was a cold night, cold enough for a fire. I can hear the wood popping and crackling and men and women rubbing their hands together. I see Peter staring morosely into the flames, his thoughts jumbled and terror filling his heart. His anguished thoughts are arrested by the accusations of a servant woman, and Peter instinctively protects himself with quick denials. Once started down the path of denial, he entrenches by spewing curses and oaths.

But oh the sound of the rooster. Peter freezes. He remembers Jesus' words. He remembers Jesus. He remembers Jesus' love and the tears come. Peter's sorrow is gripping, and I wonder what the accusatory servant thought as she witnessed this man weeping. Did she feel pity or did she continue with her mocking?

This night began in gentleness in a quiet room. Dinner shared among the closest of friends. A night ending in terror and abuse. Confusion. Doubt. Nothing is certain. Peter has betrayed the one he loves most and his world has come apart.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Wisdom From My Mother

My mom taught me many things about life. She showed me how to love my children well. She taught me to knit and she instilled in me a good work ethic. But one of the most important things my mom taught me is how to rest when hiking or running without looking tired.

Here is what I mean. Say you are hiking up a steep hill or running and need a breather. Instead of coming to a gasping stop and very obviously showing the world your weakness, lean up against a tree, bend over a pretty plant or flower, or if desperate a rock will even do, and say something like, "Oh, isn't nature just beautiful. Look at the lovely texture and color of this fir tree [insert name of any tree you can think of in your exhaustion]. Didn't God create a wonderful world for us!" Your companions, rather than thinking you're an out of shape weakling, will think instead you are a wonderful observer of nature, that you are truly connected with the world around you.

Boise friends can try this the next time you feel like you're about to pass out climbing Table Rock.

In a pinch, you could even use the excuse of stopping [constantly] to take photographs with your ever present iPhone. If there is nothing interesting near your feet, look up. It's just a thought. . . 

For more serious reading Walking Towards Easter, Day Four

Walking Towards Easter, Day Four

Mark 14:53-65
They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes convened. Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the high priest’s courtyard. He was sitting with the temple police, warming himself by the fire.

Peter's desire is to be near Jesus. He wants to be loyal, but he is afraid. He ran away in the garden but not entirely. He is trying to blend in and not be noticed, not have to admit he knows Jesus and maybe suffer the consequences. I feel for Peter, because how often have I wanted to blend in and let my Christianity go unnoticed. When yet another professed Christian does or says something cruel - something far outside of love - it is right about then I want to hide.

Maybe Peter was still not quite sure who Jesus was. He had professed earlier his belief that Jesus was the Messiah, but Peter is still wobbly about what that looks like. He isn't clear yet what Jesus' true purpose is. 

Sometimes I get wobbly in my faith when I start to see God as we humans say He is and not as God Himself says He is. I try to make Him into what I want Him to be, rather than who He has shown me He truly is.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but they could find none. For many were giving false testimony against Him, but the testimonies did not agree. Some stood up and were giving false testimony against Him, stating, “We heard Him say, ‘I will demolish this sanctuary made by human hands, and in three days I will build another not made by hands.’” Yet their testimony did not agree even on this.

We are really good at lying, especially to ourselves. We see it here in the testimony of the witnesses. They don't like what Jesus has been saying and doing. All those miracles from this unsophisticated, small town guy is really getting to them. All that talk about love and mercy and the least will be greatest is not what they want in a Messiah. They want power. 

So they take things into their own hands. They re-write the story, making it say what they want. They are proud and afraid and that is a scary mix. They are unwilling to see God outside of who they have made Him be. They refuse to see Him as He really is - humble, meek, honest, loving.

Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, “Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?” But He kept silent and did not answer anything. Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus, “and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?”

And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, saying, “Prophesy!” The temple police also took Him and slapped Him.

Painful words to read. Every time.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Three

Mark 14:43-52
While He was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. With him was a mob, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had given them a signal. “The One I kiss,” he said, “He’s the One; arrest Him and take Him away under guard.” So when he came, he went right up to Him and said, “Rabbi!”—and kissed Him. Then they took hold of Him and arrested Him. And one of those who stood by drew his sword, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his ear.

My first thought is that the boldness of Judas' betrayal is frightening. It was so blatant, so obvious. What was he thinking? What must the other disciples have thought as this was happening? Well, I suppose we know what the disciple who drew his sword was thinking. He was taking control of  bad situation. He was "helping" Jesus out. Wow! How often have I done Jesus the favor of "helping him out" by taking control of a situation? By not waiting to hear what He wants and rushing boldly in to control. This is a hard thing to consider, that in my need to control, I also betray Jesus. Please, Jesus help me let go of the need to control. Help me let go of the fear lurking behind this need.

But Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as though I were a criminal, to capture Me? Every day I was among you, teaching in the temple complex, and you didn’t arrest Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then they all deserted Him and ran away.

Now a certain young man, having a linen cloth wrapped around his naked body, was following Him. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked.

I so desperately do not want to be one who deserts You, Jesus. Please show me where in my life I am walking away from You!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day Two

Mark 14:32-42 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified. Then He said to them, “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow —to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”

The pain Jesus experiences here is so difficult to read. He was "horrified" at what he was about to go through. But while this is so hard to read and put in my brain, it gives me some comfort to know Jesus also was horrified. I am not being overly sensitive in finding all that is about to occur horrifying. It was horrifying. Yet even in his great distress he is teaching me. And He said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” Jesus shows me the perfect way to pray. Ask for everything - big, big things - and then find peace in putting God's will before my own. This is easily written, but not easily lived. To get to "not what I will, but what you will" requires enormous trust, and it takes knowing who my God is, knowing His character and resting in this knowing, resting in His love for me. I only get even somewhat close to this by walking always with Him.

Then He came and found them sleeping. “Simon, are you sleeping?” He asked Peter. “Couldn’t you stay awake one hour? Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Pray Jesus says. I cannot stay out of trouble on my own. I need God's help to get me anywhere close to a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. But, oh, when I live closer to this, life is so very good.

Once again He went away and prayed, saying the same thing. And He came again and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to Him. Then He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The time has come. Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up; let’s go! See—My betrayer is near.”

There is such sadness and disappointment here as Jesus' friends let Him down and cannot put their own needs aside for His. The aloneness of Jesus is what so many feel today. I must always be relying on the One who never let's me down. Once I start depending on myself or my family and friends to meet my soul needs, I will be let down.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Walking Towards Easter, Day One

I take part each morning in an online Bible study with IF:Equip. Yesterday, IF:Equip began a study of the days of Jesus leading up to Easter. The study works like this. IF:Equip tweets or posts to Facebook the Bible verses to read each morning. I read them and journal about them. I can also comment on their blog post for that day my thoughts on the day's texts. There is also a short two or three minute video each day of two women discussing the texts. Maybe this sounds complicated but it's not. I'm just good at complicating things. Apparently.

My IF:Equip posts will look different than my normal posts, as they are taken straight out of my journal. 

I hope you hear Jesus in these posts.

Mark 14:17-25
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.” They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?” “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the[a] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

What Jesus did for me, for all of humanity, for all of this world, is so big it is hard to grasp. The sacrifice he gave, the final days, I long for it all to be better understood by me and tangibly and incredibly personal. Sometimes, I am frustrated by my inability to fully take it in. But right now I give my frustration to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will help me and give me better understanding and make it more and more tangible to me. I am grateful.

“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 

Jesus tried to make it so plain to his disciples: “After I have risen, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” That is pretty specific. He even gave them a meeting place. How could they miss it? How could they doubt? And yet, I do the same all the time. Jesus is pretty clear in his words how he wants me to live: love God and love others.” It’s not complicated and yet I miss what he's telling me. I try and make it so hard. Please Jesus, help me live out your simple message to love you and love others. Help me live it well.

Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.

Oh the horror of denying Jesus. And yet how often do I deny him with my own choices to be first? Please forgive my selfishness. Please help me forever choose you, Jesus!

I feel so sad for Peter and his over confidence, because he has placed his confidence in himself. He hasn’t learned yet to place his confidence in Jesus. Jesus, please help me walk humbly with you. Not believing I can do it all on my own, can even hope to stand strong on my own. Please take the pride of self-sufficiency from me and teach me to place my confidence in you. I am grateful for your gentle forgiveness when I forget this. I am grateful you love me still – always – even knowing ahead of time I will stumble.

Today's Question: Why is it important to you that Jesus can see you fully?

That Jesus sees the real me and still loves me, always loves me, never leaves me, this just gives me so much peace. His love for me will never end. His love doesn’t depend on me. His love is bigger than my mistakes. And when I walk outside of the path he has for me. He will always pursue me. Always open his arms for me. He is so good to me!