Sunday, April 24, 2011

The LORD is Risen, Indeed!

I am not a natural morning person, but this Easter morning I was awake in the darkness quietly nursing the baby while half-dozing, half-praying in bed. When I first noticed the light changing I knew it was nearing dawn. I remembered it was Easter and that soon Kevin and the three oldest kids would be needing to get up for choirs and orchestra and the early service at church. I looked at the gray pre-dawn light making a small patch of light on the wall and thought about the women who were up before dawn, to walk in the cold to the tomb where Jesus lay as soon as they could call it day, dreary with grief–and found the stone rolled away.  Then the joy that rose in their hearts as they and then the disciples first discovered that Jesus had risen from the dead and then encountered their glorious Risen Lord and remembered all that He had taught and promised.

Just before the early alarm sounded, the light patch on my wall exploded into a magnificent rose-orange color such that I knew there must be a beautiful sunrise this morning, a reminder to me of the Resurrection, an encouragement deep in my soul.  As Kevin stirred, I pointed out the light patch of amazing color to him and he got up and opened the drapes.

Yes!  A glorious dawn and encouragement to our souls . . .  awake and hear the good news!

Gather Christians, this Easter morning, rejoice and be glad!

The Lord is Risen, Indeed!

I felt strangely drawn to open my computer this morning.  I say strangely because I have a "rule" to never open my computer before church on a Sunday, and it seems strange to use my unexpected peaceful alone time in that way.  Yet, I had a question about the holy spirit on my mind and so decided to look it up on the Desiring God website. I never got past the front page of DG however because I found the following post about the The Overflow of Easter, an encouragement for my soul about the resurrection and it's achievements, and I'm so glad I read it before getting the children up and going, to get ready for church this morning. My Easter worship will be richer for thinking through this.  Then I decided to share the article here and so, here I am writing before the children even wake on a Sunday morning, even Easter.  A first for sure!

And now I am about to begin my day–thinking of Brothers and Sisters throughout the world all gathering together to rejoice in the good news. And thankful for the amazing light on my wall this morning that woke me up with unexpected ease in order to remember and shout to my own soul and the world ~  Yes! The LORD is Risen! The LORD is Risen! The LORD is Risen!

The LORD is Risen, Indeed!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Irrepressible light

Recently, I was thinking about the meaning of communion and the symbolism of His body broken for me, and His blood poured out for me, and unexpectedly I had an upwelling of love for our Lord Jesus and His sacrifice for us. It was wonderful for affections for Him to break through the mundane superficiality of my life and the experience was received as a gift. I knew there was nothing in me that had changed. He had opened my heart and I was grateful. Heading into Holy Week and Easter weekend I was hoping that by my own observance of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and then the joyful Resurrection Sunday that I could somehow recapture those feelings I had a few weeks ago, and also, somehow think deeply and dig deeply into my heart to get the whole picture of what He has done for us, for me. Instead–I've been sleep deprived, busy, irritable and distracted and I'm flying up to Easter with only surface attention to the passing days. How like God to give me a gift when it is obviously not of my own work and then to let me see what happens when I try to "make" my own experience!

When I was in the middle of my deeper affections a few weeks ago, I found myself reading through the Passion Week scriptures and really noticing the experience of the women who were closest to Jesus. Oh, what love! What darkness they experienced to the core of their being! And finally, what joy! They followed Him to the cross; they watched the horror unfold; they clung together; they watched their last hope fade; they watched Him suffer on the cross; they stayed until He died from crucifixion; they watched as His death was confirmed with a spear thrust to the side; they stayed to see Him taken down; they followed to see Him laid in the tomb; they left to prepare spices and ointment as darkness fell; they observed the Sabbath and left the tomb alone for agonizing hours as He lay alone, His body unprepared; they came again to anoint His body as soon as they could possibly call it dawn; they arrived to find an empty tomb; they were greatly distressed; they received the good news and explanation of the resurrection from angels; one stayed and heard the Lord Himself speak her name; they returned to the disciples to share the news of the angels and with the report of seeing Him alive... only to be received as women speaking idle talk.

But–their story was confirmed–He appeared again, and again, and again.

They loved, they feared, they followed, they watched, they were devastated, they were confused, they grieved, they cared, they waited, they went to care for his body–all dark, dark days. I try to imagine the darkness of their grief, but it is well beyond my experience. Then they were the first to hear the good news from angels, to find the empty tomb on the third day . . . just as He promised. Mary, lingering and thinking that her grief had been compounded by enemies stealing her Lord's body, is instead called by name by the resurrected Jesus. Her joy is well beyond what I can imagine.

Thinking through my impossible plan to try to feel my way through the weekend really experiencing the dark leading up to Easter, and then the joy–I find that I'm never able to get to that place of grief because the joy and light keep poking in. I'm too tired to concentrate on keeping them out and feel the darkness. I know He is alive! I can't forget the Good News because it is the strength and joy of my life. I don't feel separated from my Lord during Good Friday. I am, at times, overwhelmed with what He has done to atone for sin, once for all. But death could not keep Him in the grave. His sacrifice is perfect and He conquered death for Love and His Glory. At the same time He is here with me on my superficial, tired days, leading me and carrying me and taking me where I need to be step-by-step and giving me the gifts of feeling His presence and feeling deep affection for Him when it is best for me.

Let us remember His suffering.  Let us believe in Him and receive His salvation. Let us be transformed into His bride. And if in our weakness, poor affections and pale imagination we can't grieve properly on this Good Friday for our Lord's dark day or for our sins, let us rejoice that we live on this side of Easter and that what He has accomplished is not dependent on what we do at all.

Yes, let us rejoice this Easter and every day, for the Lord is Risen, Indeed!


ps.  I wrote this on Good Friday 2010, but it reflects so much of my feelings this year as well, I decided to repost.  We are weak . . . Rejoice!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pierced with joy

Yesterday, our family read through Psalm 1 as we began to memorize those verses as a part of the Fighter Verses program at our church. Then we looked closely at the first few words, "Blessed is the man . . ." What exactly does that word Blessed mean anyway? Some of the kids had an idea of what it might mean–righteous, loved, happy, receiving a gift, getting a reward. We couldn't pin it down exactly, so we looked it up. Lydia found a note in the Reformation ESV Bible that explained that there is more than one Hebrew word that we translate as "blessed." The Hebrew here was a word used to denote something stronger than happiness, but English doesn't have a perfect word for that. I later found some information mentioned by a number of sources: in the Greek translation of Psalm 1, and in the New Testament original Greek, the word that we translate as blessed (makarios) had a flavor in the Greek culture of godlike joy attained by specially favored people–royalty, the exceedingly rich, or the gods themselves–enjoying all the riches of their position in a state of happy contentment, living above the normal cares of earthly life.

In a tired, brain-foggy sort of way, I've been thinking about this word Blessed in the midst of Holy Week, wanting to abide in Jesus especially as we look forward to Easter. Mostly, though, these thoughts were just on the fringes of my mind with lots of distracting things going on all around me. Suddenly, thinking about the explanation of the word Blessed having connotations of royalty and the powerful privileged enjoying their riches brought the beatitudes of Matthew 5:1-12 into my mind with a small catch of my breath.

Oh! Jesus was saying something so counter-cultural to the common meaning of those who are "blessed."  The contrast must have been startling to those who were listening that first time on the hillside. He said, blessed are those who are poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, those who are peacemakers, those who are persecuted, and those who are reviled and falsely accused of evil on account of Jesus. Those who suffer now in these ways and put their hope in God are blessed beyond measure in the kingdom of heaven.  They are comforted, made heirs of the earth, satisfied in righteousness, they shall see mercy, see God and be called the sons of God. Theirs is the kingdom...the KINGDOM... of heaven!

Therefore rejoice and be glad!

As I thought through these things, my definition of blessed meaning strong happiness shifted to thinking of it as piercing joy. At the same time I'm thinking of Jesus, pierced for our transgressions and enduring the cross for the joy set before Him. Perhaps to those described in the beatitudes, the promise of being blessed is a painful happiness, as though they are pierced with joy.

This week as I look forward to Easter Sunday and remember the cross and the resurrection, my hope is that God our loving Father would pierce me with His joy, capture my wandering thoughts, and turn my eyes to Jesus.


The Beatitudes
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
                                   ~Matthew 5:1-12

Blessed is the man 
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

                            ~Psalm 1~

Friday, April 15, 2011

O Snow!

When snow in April inspires bad poetry~

O Snow, O Snow, must you stay so long?
I'm weary of your games.
Half the year seems quite enough . . .
Another storm? How lame.

Now it's time for April's showers,
and green to shine anew.
Better yet, let's jump to May
with all its flowers, too.

O Snow, O Snow, I'm sad to say . . .
Get out of here! We're through!
Your welcome, Snow, is all worn out.
I'm so, so over you.

Treasure from the Junk Drawer
copyright © Sara Shull
•All text and poetry by Sara
•Art illustrations by Sara
•Photos by Sara or the Shull kids
~~~~All rights reserved~~~~

Bible verses:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV)