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Today is Easter Sunday, a day on which Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on the third day after his crucifixion.

The Cross is the universal emblem of the Christian faith, and its poignant significance resonates around the world. But another symbol I hold dear is the rock. The stone that was rolled away after the resurrection always reminds me: you don’t have to stay in bondage. If you think you can’t get out of an abusive or untenable situation, remember the stone that was rolled away. You can and you will. Pray about it, then get up and go.

There’s also something solid and unchanging about the symbol of a rock in a changing and challenging world.

When I think of Psalms, this is the one I always return to:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 18:2 NIV

In that passage, there’s so much “strength” mentioned that I feel encouraged every time I read it. Like I’m getting stronger just sitting here. Now that would be an exercise plan I’d sign onto: sit and strengthen. That could be a thing!

The core principles we learned as children are like bedrock. Treat people well. Take care of your body like a temple. Do the work in front of you with all your heart. Be forgiving of yourself and of others.

I may not belong to a particular denomination, and my pew may be this chair I’m sitting in right now, but between the rock and the cross, my faith has a firm foundation. Easter blessings to you and yours!

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Today, Holy Thursday, begins the Triduum, the three days that recollect and celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Most of us know this story well. We’ve pondered that journey. But how often do we think about the people who walked the path with Jesus?

Simon of Cyrene was picked out of the crowd to help Jesus carry the cross. How and why was he chosen? Well, we know he was from Africa. He might have been a person of color. Or the Roman guards simply noticed he wasn’t Jewish — he was “other.” Or he might have expressed sympathy for Christ. Whatever the reason, he is an outsider, someone from the fringes — the type of person Jesus favored in life.

The women of Jerusalem wept for Jesus and were comforted by him. Women weren’t exactly valued commodities in Jesus’ day. They were mostly seen as possessions, with no voice or agency of their own. Yet Jesus turns to women again and again in his life and along the road to his death — he listens to them. He values them. He speaks to them. Again, Jesus chooses the outsider.

Veronica wipes Jesus’ face. Again, a woman does the unthinkable, and Jesus rewards her with kindness.

The penitent thief (sometimes called Dismas) is crucified next to Jesus. What do we know about him? People were crucified for all sorts of crimes in Jesus’ day, but to be crucified for mere petty theft would have been a long shot, unless the thief was from the lower classes, or worse, a slave. Or the theft was far from petty — it was violent and extreme. There is some conjecture that the “thieves” were more like terrorists. Once again, it someone from the fringes, someone most unlikely, who responds to Christ’s call. In radically changing his heart, Dismas is promised paradise.

Women. Foreigners. Criminals. These are the people who walked the way of the cross with Jesus. Not his apostles. Not religious leaders. It was the most unlikely of people who shared the journey.

People are always amazed when I tell them that SueBE, Ruth and I have never met in person. Yet in my dark nights of the soul, they consistently walk with me. This Easter, take some time to ponder who walks with you. You just might be surprised.

Funny that this should pop up as we head into Easter.  This year, women throughout the Presbyterian Church, USA are studying God’s promise to us all.  I am with you.  Again and again throughout the Old Testament, that is what he tells his followers.  When Haggai, the prophet, comes to God’s people, he comes with a message.  “I am with you.”  When King Ahaz asks for help, Isaiah brings the message, “I am with You.”

Christ is that promise in the flesh.  I am with you here and now.  You can hear me if you will listen.  You can see me if you will look.

Imagine how hopeless all must have seemed on Good Friday for Christ’s followers.  He was crucified, dead and buried.  He had been among them. He has spoken to them, broken bread with them, and walked beside them on the road.  What now?

I know that I often feel like that.  What now?

As Christians, we celebrate the risen Christ.  I am with you here and now.  You can hear me if you will listen.  You can see me if you will look.

–SueBE

 

This week in women’s Bible study we read 2 Chronicles 20 about King Jehoshaphat and his defeat of several enemy kings.  It wasn’t that Jehoshaphat didn’t have a mighty army.  He did!  But God told them to stand firm and watch and God would take care of it all.  And the two allied armies defeated each other.

Read the Bible and time and time again you will find stories of impossible things – a few loaves and fished feeding a multitude, water turning into wine, a sea parting.  These things don’t happen because someone worked super hard or had a plan for instant success.

Nope.

God did the impossible.

If you are a type-A control freak like I am, the thought that great things can be done if I stand firm and believe is disconcerting.  Isn’t there a plan?  Five easy steps?  A schematic?

But no.  The key is standing firm in God.

Now if only I could remember that when I’m scrambling around trying to figure out what to do.

Stand firm.  Believe.

–SueBE

What does it mean to be a patriot?  For some people, it means a willingness to serve in the military.  For others it means voting in every election.  For others, it is a matter of saluting the flag.

Right now we are studying Ephesians in adult Sunday school.  This letter emphasizes that the people who originally made up the church were divided – Jews and Gentiles.  There were hard feelings between the two groups.  Yet, through Christ they became one.

Then the lesson’s author asked us to think about what this might mean in the contemporary church.  What two groups might Christ bring together into a seamless whole?  One of the pairings she suggested was political liberals and conservatives.

What would our nation be like if we came together as one? I have to admit, I have no idea.  It certainly doesn’t seem to be something we can accomplish on our own.  But the first step might include recognizing that patriotism means different things to different people and that we can use our talents to be patriots, each in our own way.

–SueBE

 

 

 

 

Be patient. You never know what someone else is going through.

Not long ago, a group of us were together and one friend lost her stuff.  Full on, grown up lady-tantrum. Yes, we were stuck in a frustrating situation but wow. The rest of us exchanged looks and wondered what the heck had set that off.

Later that evening she messaged me to tell me how stressed she has been.  Um, okay.  As we messaged back and forth, more and more came out.  Everything made more sense. Then a few days later, her husband told me something else that was going on in their lives.  My husband heard about yet a third stressor.

Add it all together and we wondered how they were keeping it together.

Be patient.  You don’t know what someone else is going through.  And they may not be able to discuss it with you.

Be gentle.  Situations are often made worse when we decide a solution has to be found now.  Now.  NOW.  You need some space?  Too bad, my friend.

Be humble.  Maybe you’re made of mellower stuff than I am.  But I know that eventually I’m going to lose my cool and I will be the one in need of patience.  It may be today. It may be tomorrow.  But it will happen.

Christ charged us to love one another.  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Maybe it’s just me but I suspect that patience, gentleness and humility were at least part of what he had in mind.

–SueBE

I’m convinced that the totality of woes in this world are utterly determined, enacted and exacerbated by human selfishness — the almighty “I.” You know: I am the center of the universe; my needs are most important; everyone who isn’t me is other, and they are the problem. What we entirely forget is that we completely dependent upon one another, not just for day-to-day life, but for the overall progress of humankind. When it comes to saving the planet, saving the future or saving our souls, I is not going to cut it.

We must change our capital “I’s” into lowercase ones. For instance: I explain, sermonize, pontificate, demand; i listen. I order the world for my own benefit; i put the good of others first. I build walls; i build bridges. (You get it.) If we fail, humanity fails. No less than that hangs in the balance.

Let us whittle our serifs into tittles. (No, I’m not being obscene; “tittle” is the name of the dot on the lowercase I; serifs are the decorative little lines on a capital I.) It is the only way to become like Jesus. Yes, I know the consensus is to capitalize all things God-related out of respect, but Jesus was the littlest “i” person in all of history. Everything he did was for us — not just the “us” who lived in Middle East during his time, but all of us, for all generations, including those yet unborn. Jesus saved all of us from eternal death. Let me put it this way: Think of how many people Jesus actually knew. Now think of how many people Jesus has saved. It takes great heart and complete abandonment of ego to give one’s life not just for your friends, but for people on the other side of the planet, centuries apart from your own existence. None of us can even imagine doing that, much less do it.

The world has nearly come to ruin numerous times because of big I’s. It has always been saved by small ones. So, which do you choose? As for me, I’ll just be over here whittling down my serifs.

This phrase in the Bible shows up more than once: “And it came to pass.”

I’ve always taken that tiny snippet of Scripture as inspiration.

Here’s why: it didn’t come to stay. It came to pass!

Whatever it is in your life that’s holding you back, getting you down, tearing you up. It came here for a reason. And it’s just for a season.   

Even though I reside on the sunny side of the street, we’ve all been down that dark alley. I’ve learned some things that have helped me stay in a positive frame of mind.

Tell but don’t dwell. Tell your story but don’t dwell on the pain of the past.

Follow but don’t wallow. Follow your heart and share what you’ve been through so others know they’re not alone, but don’t wallow in the negative emotions of it.

Make sure it’s useful and truthful. It’s not helpful – to you or those around you – to talk trash about your ex or go into gory detail about the ways life hasn’t been fair to you. It is helpful to be human about it. Here’s something I’ve been through. Maybe it’s happened to you, too. Let’s share what we’ve learned from it, and if it’s still in our life, how to deal with it.

Bask in the positive. You learned from it, lived through it, found a way to rise above.

Be in the present. The past is a springboard. It may have refined you, but it doesn’t define you.

Moving forward with optimism is the antidote to a painful past. No matter what your life may have been like before, every new day is a chance to start again.

I understand that I’m not on your list, or anyone’s.
Take me anyway.
I realize I don’t fit right, run both too large and too small,
break easily and bolt through batteries like heartbeats.
Make me yours, despite it all.
Take me without bright paper or bows,
without tinsel or tags to distract from what is surely
not as dear as myrrh and nowhere near gold.
I’ve soiled the cloth you wove me of, that infantile innocence
that shone from my newly opened eyes.
Spin me anew.
May this white Christmas describe the state of my soul.
May I be the present under the tree.
May I be what is wanted:
fresh hay, animal heat, the company of shepherds,
pure and clean as a newborn star
nodding “yes” above a manger.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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