The Value of Good Friday

Recently, a mother of two boys shared this story:

“Mom, when I was at Aiden’s house, he dared me to pull off a scab and eat it,” her eight year-old piped. “I did it and actually, it didn’t taste too bad.”

Mortified, my friend, strongly fighting the gag reflex, turned to her older son. “Did you hear what your brother did?”

He shrugged nonchalantly,”yeah, I have done that before” and gave her a look like this was the most normal thing in the world. She was dumbfounded.

Swinging to the other end of the scale is my nephew. When it was time to go to kindergarten, his parents decided a Catholic school would be a good fit for this very black-and-white thinking fellow.

He lasted part of one day and had the most sage of Sisters in tears. Terror filled his eyes when his parents pried him out from under the pint-sized table.

“They were talking about drinking blood and eating flesh! And that’s just WRONG!” Yes, Dad and Mom had lots of explaining to do.

But Jake was not alone. John 6:53-55 quotes Jesus when spoke to a crowd of his followers, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” The crowd’s EEEWWW meter pegged out for and “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (verse 66)

If I hadn’t been raised with communion and lulled over time by routine, Jake would have had to share a table leg with his dear auntie. After all, I got a 100% on my blood-borne pathogen test and know all the dangers and procedures. (Bet you didn’t know that no matter how well they disinfect a basketball court after blood is spilled, they are to wait ten minutes before resuming the game? Who knew?)

My, hasn’t our world has done a 180 from “Kids, just rub some dirt on it.’ My blood clots at the thought of how cool it was to do the blood brother each-cut-themselves-and-mix-the-blood exchange–right up there with attaching leeches for a good bleed.

But by reflection, I have sadly become a nonchalant scab eater.

No, I’m not into blood drinking or cannibalism by any stretch, but when my family morphed into the Iron Chef Communion Critique Panel, weighing the dryness of the manufactured cross engraved wafer vs the sliver of hard pie crust, and unanimously agreeing on the round King’s Hawaiian loaf as their host of choice, I knew we were off track.

Since when was this sacrament begin to go down as smooth as French silk chocolate? Isn’t the sacrifice to redeem us supposed to stick in our throats and make us wonder if the knot would permanantly lodge, stopping dead our hearts’ rhythm?

Instead, we prefer it to ‘not taste that bad.’

God saw this coming and sent the Old Testament folks with their Grand Champion 4H lambs to teach us. When the Hebrews approached the altar with the sheep, they had built an emotional connection from at least three days of the lamb living with the family in order to find physical flaws in the animal. How sad it must have been once the verdict of purity was given.

I guess I pictured the next scene much like the solemn routine when you put a pet to sleep at the veterinarian’s. You say your good-byes, and tearfully hand Fluffy over to Mr. Priest. Of course, a little Biblical law requires that we’d have to see some sprinkling of blood and a clean skinned carcass, much like the sixth grade field trip to the locker plant. Sad, but spared of the hands-on approach.

Wrong.

Once the animal was tied down, YOU would have to put your hand on the forehead as the jugular was sliced. How could anyone ignore the light dimming in the innocent’s eyes or feel the limpness as life floated away on the tide of a scarlett river.

Doesn’t that make you physically heartsick? I am so thankful I was alone when I learned this. How many times have I taken my sin flippantly, not letting the ramifications sink in? I pray the thought forever makes me quease.

When The Passion of the Christ came out, no longer could I approach that altar with a hint of casualness. While I’ve never viewed the sacrament as just a crouton followed by a grape juice chaser, I have taken it extremely lighter than warranted.

Today is Good Friday. Nine years ago, our soft-hearted son was infuriated that we did not allow him to view it. But when the kid couldn’t handle the USA Network’s version of Braveheart without fleeing from the room, no way would we push him to be more spiritually mature than he was. He needed to understand the why, not overwhelmed with the grisly.

Time has drummed by and last week my now 21 year-old mentioned that he had yet to see it. Good thing I picked it up last spring, because we have a date. While I’ve only seen it once and do not relish experiencing anything but the last scene again, I look forward to the reminder of what Christ did for us. As unsettling as it is, there is a great gift in the gore–the punch in the gut of how ugly our sin is.

If Jesus had only covered our vileness with his blood, it would have been still been unfathomable love and more than enough. But no! He rose on Easter and conquered death. We are free with the promise of eternity. That’s why I love my Jesus!

Oh yes, He is risen! Indeed!

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“Oh Great, I’m Pregnant Again…” The Deliciousness of Not Seeing the Future.

 Have those words come tumbling out over the rim of your quivering and frightened lips? Of maybe they are about to, you don’t see how this could possibly be good. If so, let Cliff and I encourage you. We’ve quivered to our liver, down to our toenails, and back to the ends of our hair on more than one occasion. 

Those words tended to project of my mouth just every little whip-stitch.  Not because we didn’t want to have kids and not because we were trying. Oh my land, no! Out of six pregnancies, only one time were God and us on the same schedule.

Our original plan was two children–a girl and a boy through adoption. What we got were three girls, one boy, and two we know nothing about, but anxious to meet at the gates of heaven someday.

Back in Cliff’s high school baseball career, due to a freak baseball accident, a verdict came in that we would never be blessed with babies.

Wrong!

For the first one, we weren’t married. EEEKKK!! Talk about the most obvious consequences of sin. Didn’t get away with pushing God on that one, huh?

Then, after queasy mornings of turmoil, strung in a row like laundry in a turbulent windstorm, I would break the news to my husband. It’s not that we didn’t want children. But they came along so fast and past any barrier we faithfully put in place. (Trust me we were so seriously faithful. We did not make the task easy for God. My mom’s theory was the baseball knocked something loose instead.)

But God was faithful to see us through diapers, bleacher butt, laughter, tears, and a plethora of scares and joys. What Happens When Your Son Climbs on a Casket, Cat+Dishwasher=So Not Good, The Long Nesting Season and many more posts.)

Now it is roughly 30 years since the first time I uttered those words. Little did our internal crystal balls share was what that would mean to us now. Who would have dreamed that while those little interuptions came screaming into our our family as wonderful blessings, they would be hard proof that God knows what he exactly what he’s doing.

While it’s happened gradually–the shift from molding-and-shaping of our four life-wired responsibilities to mentor-best friends–lately we have been soaked from the the torrents of being blessed by our children.

During those shaky hours and days after Mom’s passing, they swept us up in a cloud of ‘what do you need us to do?’ Cole muscled boxes from cleaning out Mom’s room at the care center and handled an awkard incident with Mom’s ashes with the finese of a funeral home pro. (Shouldn’t there be at least one iffy ash adventure with every cremation package?) Misty was a white tornado and kept the house and us spiffed and organized. Casey listened to Ting-Tang-Walla-Walla-Bing-Bang so many times, she was about to hunt the witch doctor down to club him with the stubborn slide show she created for the service. Robin accompanied me to florist, the funeral room, and the church for arrangements. Newcomers to the family, son-in-law Karsten stood in the wings as my understudy,just in case I blubbered through the eulogy, and grandson Bren provided a joyful message that life continues through belly-laughs, snuggles and his four month old rendition of How Great Thou Art. Back when, no way could morning sickness and lack of health insurance ever seen through the fog to these crowning gifts.

Then, if that wasn’t enough, last weekend we were spoiled rotten to commemorate our anniversay. A slide show of our 30 years and a coffee table book of friends and family sharing memories and congratulations brought hilariaty and surprise emotions. Since our blood dribbles to the beat of a basketball bouncing, our supper was sprung for, complete with two imported K-State fans to antagonize during a Kansas Jayhawk victory. Our pick-up mysteriously disappeared and was returned, gassed clear to the top of the tank instead of the usual empty one when it gets ‘borrowed.’

Along with the Long Offspring Anniversary Package came a photo shoot. For some reason our kids thought we needed something a little more classy than this.

DSCF5104

So for fun, here is what we ended up with~

etown 2

And this

etown 10

And we must have a make-out pic for the kids to say ‘Ewwwww!!!”

etown 5

“Children are a heritage from the Lord,
offspring a reward from him.
4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are children born in one’s youth.
5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame. Psalm 127:3-5

Our most excellent warriors are these flaming arrows, an unexpected legacy, who blesses more than we could have ever imagined.

Christmas Gator pic

Be encouraged! God has you in this pair of shoes for a reason…or many reasons…and it is for good. Good enough that, he will ripple joyful quivers right down to your tip-toes, to the ends of your hair, and right back to your heart.

When Life is Chipping Away, Remember Chippie

Only this sized Chippie would be safe at my house.

Only this sized Chippie would be safe at my house.

One of my favorite stories is Why Chippie Doesn’t Sing Much Anymore by Marvin Phillips. A lady in Texas was vacuuming the cage of her parakeet, Chippie. The phone rang, she turned, and ZIP, Chippie disappeared into the sweeper’s abyss. She rushed to open the canister, and sure enough, there sat Chippie–a little dazed and filthy, but alive.

In a panic, the owner ran Chippie to the sink and stuck him under a full-blast of water. If that wasn’t enough, she grabbed the blow dryer, set on HOT/HIGH and fired away.

When the news picked up the story, the reported asked how Chippie was doing. The reply was, “Well, he doesn’t sing much anymore. He just kind of sits and stares.”

Do you feel like Chippie? Have disappointments and disasters sucked the life out of you? Or maybe you’re not able to wrap words around the problem, but something is not right. You just feel bleh. Your song has left you.

To break the grip of discouragement, I believe there is something to the singing. Doesn’t Scripture say if we cry out to God, He hears us? It works when it comes to prayer, so why not put our pleas to music?

If we sing, don’t you think God’s dial would be constantly set to frequency 100.% MY CHILD, featuring Today’s State of the Heart? For example, let’s look at the prison worship leaders, Paul and Silas. Here they were beat to thunder, unsure of the future, and up way past their bedtimes. They had no reason to pump up the prison jam, but they forged past the wounds, worries and weight of exhaustion. They ‘were praying and singing hymns to God, and other prisoners were listening. Suddenly there was such an earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open and everybody’s chains came loose.” Acts 16:25-26. God blessed their sacrificial offering so explosively that he set the captives free and saved a freaked out jailor and his entire family in the process.

How guilty I am of forgetting the power in the praise. Are you? There is a preciousness in the private, where one can blow the cobwebs out of your pipes and off your soul. And it’s one thing to sing alone, but at church with this voice, I always feel like I need to extend a heartfelt apology to the poor souls who sit in front of me. I tend to crawl into my muffled hole and not grasp that this is a voice God created like none other–one that is so special, He made it only so He would appreciate it. Mix it in others in this elite club, and I trust Him to balance out the tone with His divine mixer.

And what about those gifted ones who sing like canaries? You get to bless those who hear in ways that cannot be fathomed. The point is to do what He has called us to do: Sing to thrill him. It’s that simple

No matter what the circumstance, God has got the bases covered for us –even when we are wounded, worried, and have the weight of exhaustion bearing down hard.

So my friend, do you think you could muster up a little tune? Are you desperate for an earthquake to shake your situation and set you free? If so, when you eek out some praise, remember that He is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

He sings over us….how I love the sound of that promise!

Why Putting Your Mind in the Toilet Can Be Quite Heavenly

“You have to come visit! I want to show you what all little ol’ Lucas, Kansas has to offer.”

My buddy, Michaela, has been cranking my arm through the cell phone waves for over a year to come visit.

And I have honestly meant to, but you know how time just meanders away and no one knows where it went. She’s only three hours away, however I had failed to head north. Eventhough I would be totally entertained by her, a porch swing and a Coca-Cola, she kept throwing out lines of enticement she knew I wouldn’t be able to refuse. She knows me too well. Give me something with a funk-a-delic factor and I’m in.

“So 100 years ago, there was this kind of crazy guy named S.P. Dinsmore, who made cement sculptures covering his yard. Most dealt with the Bible, and he named it the ‘Garden of Eden.’ When I give tours there, my favorite thing to do is shine the flashlight on his face, because after he died he wanted to be on display in his mausoleum in the backyard for all eternity.”

Now, who would turn that down, but she kept on with stories of the town putting in a giant toilet bowl and an art center with pop tab creations, limestone carvings and other grass-root art. My imagining took me to an artsyland, but figured I had a good idea what I was in for. Afterall, I have been out of Barber County a time or two.

I was wrong. My mind was blown on so many levels. Woe to me who is attempting to do Lucas justice!

First on the Michaela Tour was Bowl Plaza. When the 450 resident decided they needed public restrooms, the run-of-the-mill loo simply would not hold a flush. Oh no! They created the builing to look like a giant toilet. A hubcab handle and the mosaic seat left in the upriight postition had to be the mark of a male artist. The picture cuts off the giant roll of tp next to it.

bowl plaza

Coming inside, a whole world of gender appropriate mosaics summoned us in. Michaela kept pointing out embedded super-hero action figures, sports memorabilia and Avon bottle guns. She swept her arm across the pristine throne and said, “To get the full effect, you need to sit here.” I assured her that I was fine. My mind just needed to adjust, trying to drink in the barage of really uniqueness flying at me. Someone had thought outside the tank to create this. Here’s one of the unusual displays.

Cars
A swirl of Hot Wheels. How cool!

Check out the ladies room. Love the tea cups. We could have a languished in there, entertained without so much as an Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader.
gal room

Across the neighboring lot was a giant collection of forks stuck in the ground. To me, they were just funky forks, but my eyes were opened to them being a croquet wickets. Hit me in the head with a mallet, because I sure didn’t see that coming.

At the Grass Roots Art Center, I learned that to be considered a ‘grass roots artist’ you can have no professional training, but a passion that compels you to go with the colors streaming through your head and create no-holds-barred. You might make an Abe Lincoln out of used chewing gum, carve or weld anything and everything in arms reach or recycle those pop tabs to make this~
pop tab car

Or what about all those cow skulls cluttering up your pasture? Tell me this isn’t every boy’s dream?
cow skull car

And for the girls, check out the Re-Barbs. And plenty to choose from. A seven room house is filled with these remade garage sale cast-offs.
Pilar 1

And for the Barbie collector/hunter/music lover~
Rebarb antlers

A new project of the town is combing the state to find rocks to replace ones lost and restore a whole village of these buildings. And not just any rocks, but specific ones. (On Facebook, go to Miller’s Park to see if you can help their quest.) This one came to about my hip in height.
Rock house

The beauty of the town is this: eventhough the little 1920’s meat market has the scrumptious homemade smoked sausages and the familiar meaty smell from my youth to draw me back, and although, I stared boldly in at Mr. S.P. Dinsmore’s stiff ol’ corpse, there is still a treasure trove of attractions we didn’t get to. Like the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Things, an impressive snowglobe collection, and maybe even a ride in the jeep with dinosaurs glued to it and spring horses bouncing in the back–dare I dream that big?

Michaela asked me what I was going to do when I got home; she knew my brain was buzzing. I said, “Make a big ol’ mess with whatever crosses my path.” Lucas has succeeded in making my mind go places I could never have imagined. These pictures and my explanations are nothing, absolutely nothing compared to what lays waiting for those willing to wander down the very alive town.

I couldn’t help but remember how that beloved disciple John agonized over, not only giving the revelation given to him, but how could he write to give it justice deserved when never-before-seen colors flowing in front of him? Or what about the gates, each made of one giant pearl? Or the street of pure gold, that was transparent like glass? Or what about the blazing glory of God so bright that there was no night? Oh, to continually be in the Lord’s presence! How does one describe it? (Read Revelation 21-22 for a out-of-this-world refresher course)

While Lucas, KS isn’t heaven, by all means, it certainly opens a door of possibility to imagine what mind-blowing things the Lord is preparing for us. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” 2 Cor 2:9