Friday Winter to Sunday Spring

it is finished

Older daughter Em’s work hanging in the foyer of the church, ready for our Good Friday service

This day I’m thankful for

springtime rain,

birdsong from feathered friends

(persisting in choir practice

despite the drizzle),

trees budding in grey light,

greening grass,

and scents of something fresh and raw

rising from dark, soft soil.

I’m thankful for promise!

Yes, promise:

That the dark, the cold, the separation—

Each of us holed up, weathering out the weather—

These will not last forever.

Warmth will come.

Life will burst forth from the earth

Spring will shake a fist, defiant against

The dark and the cold,

And winter will be swept aside.

I am thankful—

Yet I am reminded, in this Holy Week,

That the promise is only for a time,

The jubilee of spring is temporary,

And indeed is not complete.

Temporary, for the dirge of winter will return;

the seasons will cycle: summer scorch, autumn shrivel, winter burial,

Newness fading to death again and again.

It is, as well, an incomplete jubilee, for even in the best of springs, there is

Blight and sickness, death of young and old,

Fresh emergence of old grudges, old divisions.

On the most beautiful of days, all is still not well.

But this holiest of weeks holds forth greater promise

Than a passing, unfulfilled season.

I am reminded that beyond Friday’s death,

Beyond the now,

There is an eternal Then.

Oh, blessed Sunday,

Day of Celebration

Day of Declaration

Day that assures us

That the eternal Then already has

Crucified death,

Vanquished darkness

Swallowed despair, and

Erased all divisions.

And someday, the eternal Then Himself will transform our hoped-for Then into Now!

When all will be right; all will be fully well.

Sunday life—all the time!

So at present we hold onto hope, we hold onto promise

That though we endure the wintry mix of Friday now,

Clinging to promise in the decay of the tomb,

Yet an eternal Sunday will spring,

Fully finished.

The stone will be rolled away

And we will emerge into a new, abundant Now

That has no end.

 

 

 

 

 

I “think” and she “letters”

churchI have a poem up today at The Well, InterVarsity’s online blog for women in graduate school and beyond. The poem is titled “Let Me Think.” While you’re at The Well, check out some of its other content. It’s fast becoming one of my favorite sites.

I’m also sharing some of daughter Em’s hand lettering today. She, Judy (the older of our two international student “daughters”), and I spent a LOT of time at our church during Holy Week. Judy, Em, and I went to every single service, spending nearly 20 hours at church between Maundy Thursday and Easter Day. It was wonderful, and Em took her notes from a few of the services and created a booklet. The only page I’m not allowed to share with you is the Easter Festival page (it’s a service at our church on the Saturday before Easter) because some ink from the facing page bled through.

maundy

good friday

easter vigil.jpg

easter sunday

wick and wax

 

wick and wax 2We vigil the night before Easter,

Entering sanctuary in silent darkness—

Till spark meets candlewick and

Fire shines.

Passed from one taper

To another,

Flames grow strong above candles held steady,

And collective glow pushes back the gloom.

We wait in already-but-not-yet time,

Anticipating Resurrection daybreak,

Still grieving in the night of death.

This greater reality is

Held small in my hand—

The flame of glory

Rising from wax,

Melting it,

Dripping tears.

Wick and wax,

Flame and tears,

Glory and sorrow,

Rise and fall—

Already and not yet.

 

Weeping endures for the night

But joy comes in the morning

The Exultation of an Easter life

This is PJ (my youngest) exulting in the bubble pool at the Birmingham, AL, zoo last week!

This is PJ (my youngest) exulting in the foam bubble pool at the Birmingham, AL, zoo last week!

“Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice and exult in our hope of experiencing and enjoying the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 AMP (emphasis mine)

Here are some synonyms I found for “rejoicing”: elation, delight, jubilation, exuberance, celebration, revelry, merrymaking, euphoria.

This past Sunday we celebrated the Resurrection of Christ. In my church, we sang, we clapped, we rang bells, we danced. Many joined hands and skipped up and down the aisles. It was wonderful.

And it shouldn’t be a once-a-year event.

Our senior pastor often reminds us that every Sunday is a celebration of the Resurrection. Each and every one.

And while we often may arrive at church needing encouragement, needing prayer, needing to weep and confess and be healed…

we ALSO need to rejoice, to engage in elation, delight, jubilation, and exuberance.

It’s a necessity for our souls. It’s a reminder that the troubles and sorrows of this life will not last forever.

This past Sunday, I grinned from ear to ear as I sang “Oh happy day/o happy day/when you washed my sin away” and watched the children—who often lead us into joyous abandon—skip down the aisles, tugging adults along with them. My mouth stretched wider (if possible) as I saw a woman in a motorized wheelchair join their line. She zoomed (carefully, of course) around the corners, small children bouncing behind her. Her joy was infectious.

It was a foretaste of heaven, when we will rejoice in the glory of God.

Except she won’t be in a wheelchair there.

After the service, one of my children whispered to me, “Mom, I wish I’d joined the other kids in skipping through the aisles.”

“Why didn’t you?” I asked.

“I don’t know. A little embarrassed, maybe?”

“Do you regret it now?”

The child nodded.

pj bubbles 3“Whenever you’re faced with something like that, you need to think ahead. Ask yourself, ‘Will I regret it if I don’t do this?’ If the answer is yes, do it.”

Some of us rejoice more quietly than others. That’s okay. We’re not all dancers. But we still NEED to rejoice fully, without embarrassment. Our souls require rejoicing like our bodies require water. We must join with other believers in this foretaste of heaven, in our understanding that the awful-beautiful sacrifice of our God for us has set us free to love and enjoy Him, to love and enjoy others. We must let our voices belt out, no matter how out of tune they are. We must sing of our redemption.

In public, here on earth, I may never dance like David—or like my insanely rhythmic youngest child. I’m introverted—and awkward. I am, still, a product of my particular culture, my particular upbringing.

But I can rejoice with my full voice, with my whole heart, with the brothers and sisters surrounding me. I can spread my arms high and wide. I can kneel. I can cry. I can clap. I can tap my toes and shuffle my hips in the only dancing I know how to do.

Let’s celebrate Easter again—

Every Sunday!

The Good Friday “ending”

We traveled to my growing-up state (Alabama) for the first part of spring break, and spring has sprung there! I took this while on a walk in the woods.

We traveled to my growing-up state (Alabama) for the first part of spring break, and spring has sprung there! I took this while on a walk in the woods.

I recently participated in a journal-writing session. “Write about an ending,” the instructor told us, “whatever ending comes to mind. Don’t hold back, don’t erase or scribble out, just write.”

I wrote about a relationship I would like to end—in order to start it anew, with no expectations other than authenticity. I was not surprised by the pain I felt as I wrote, but I was startled by the hope that edged its way in as I dreamed about a new beginning for this relationship. I thought I’d given up on it.

After the instructor announced, “Time’s up!” she asked if any wanted to share. Several brave writers did, and my heart broke for the pain they revealed. Suicide, divorce, death of an infant child… We felt weighed down by the sorrow of it all and yet freed to share our own hurt. After each person read, a moment of silence hung. Those near the reader often reached out and touched a shoulder, a hand. Others pushed the tissue box down the long table. Some looked directly at the reader, conveying sympathy with their eyes; others bowed heads in prayer. Often the next person who volunteered sat next to the one who’d just read, as if to say, “I share your pain. Mine may look different, but I’ve known an ending that brought loss, too.”

I’ve thought off-and-on about that journal writing session, sometimes praying for the relationship I wrote about, sometimes praying for one or another of my fellow writers. It’s what came to mind this morning when I sat down at my computer and thought about this Good Friday post. And though I soon had a focus, the actual writing of it was choppy, interrupted by my children (home on spring break), meal prep, and a visit to church.

I went to church for the Stations of the Cross: fourteen stations, fourteen crosses. We walked from one to another of them, following the figurative path Christ took, beginning at the garden and walking then to betrayal, condemnation, denial and desertion, scourging, the bearing of the cross, the crucifixion, encounter with the thief, care of the Virgin Mary, death, and entombment.

When we finished, my mother-in-law, who’d walked with me, said, “I kept thinking about how He knew what was next, how He knew what was at the end of it, yet He kept going.”

As I came home and continued writing this post, the stations and the journal writing connected. I realized Christ went purposely toward His Good Friday ending so we could have a beginning, so we could have life (I Thessalonians 5:10).

So that one day, that life—that Easter life—could be fully realized.

John was given a vision of that Easter life. He shared it with us in Revelation:

“’Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’ And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’ And he also said, ‘It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End.’  (taken from Revelation 21:4-6) 

Christ is the End of all sad, bitter endings.

He is the Beginning of all that is new.

And His Beginning will have no end.