Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/congmicj/cathyconger.com/wp-includes/query.php on line 751

As a writer, needle artist and photographer, I invite you to share my pursuits with me on this site. Among other things, there is a weekly post called “D-mail” that examines the spiritual meaning in current stories, both personal and news events.  I invite your comments at  cathycongerblog@gmail.com

“The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.”  N. Platt

Scripture: Psalm 46:10, Matthew 11:28, Romans 8:38-39

I have been asking you all, for quite some time, to contribute an original devotion or devotion idea to D-mail without response. Imagine my surprise when my husband, Chuck, came up to me and handed me a piece of paper. “Here,” he said. “I wrote a D-mail. I hope it’s okay.” Well, it’s more than okay. It is very clever and thought-provoking and I am happy to present it to you this week. Thank you Chuck!

What About Recom BOB ulation?
by Chuck Conger

Recombobulation? - I’m not even sure that’s a real word. It is apparently the opposite of discombobulation, which, by the way, is a real word, meaning “to confuse or upset”, according to Webster’s dictionary. A few months ago, Cathy and I had the chance to put both these words to use and it got me thinking.

Think of the last time you had occasion to travel somewhere by airplane. Assuming it was within the past 10 years, you experienced that delightful process known as the security checkpoint. Now, don=t get me wrong, I am all for safety and security for travelers. I appreciate the objective and believe the TSA are trying to perform this process in the most effective way possible. However, when it comes to the individual traveler, it can seem to be another matter altogether. The process often goes something like this (and this is on a good day) :

After the identification process at the check-in counter, you find yourself waiting in line for your turn to face the first TSA screener, who usually inspects your identification with a magnifying lens and pronounces that you are indeed who you and your boarding pass say you are. From there you head to that stack of gray, plastic bins and proceed to remove everything you have that is portable. In short order, you have separated yourself from your carry on, your coat, your jacket, your belt, your shoes, your jewelry, your wallet, your purse, your computer, your blackberry, your i-pod, any metal objects in your pockets and pretty much anything else that can be removed without defying decency. You stuff all of it into a couple of the bins and send them down the conveyor belt to the x-ray screener. Meanwhile, you head, stocking-footed, to the metal detector, x-ray screener or microwave detector.

After a brief pass through whichever machine you are sent to, provided that the alarm doesn’t go off, you are promptly reunited with your belongings. The only catch is that instead of being neatly organized, as you were when you left home, now you find yourself (still stocking- footed) with everything from the bins in your hands and your pants in danger of falling down. In addition, you know that there are hundreds of others behind you chomping at the bit for you to get out of the way so they can do just what you are doing. To add to the confusion and activity of this relatively confined area, there are always a few pushy travelers who expect you to clear the way because they are either very late for a flight or because they just feel they deserve special consideration for some reason. Now, freeze time at just that moment. I can’t think of a better embodiment of discombobulation!

Back in February, Cathy and I were flying to Boston from the Milwaukee airport. Thoroughly discombobulated as we emerged from security, we happily discovered a row of benches under a large overhead sign that read RECOMBOBULATION AREA. (In the event that you are able to receive an image as part of this D-mail, I have included a picture of this sign.) In some way, this sign gave you the feeling that it was okay to stop at this point, let the other rush of activity go by, and put yourself back together before going on. Kudos to the Milwaukee airport!

As I said, it got me thinking. How often in life do we find ourselves at a point of disarray, confusion or chaos? My friends, God has a recombobulation area for us! It is a place where we can be with Him and know that He has the ability to put our lives back together the right way so we can go on. It is not always a physical location. Often it is a state of mind. But God is always there to take our handful of burdens and to equip us with whatever we need. In Psalm 46:10, He invites us to that place. “Be still and know that I am God.”

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus speaks to the discombobulated. “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

The Apostle Paul knew that place of recombobulation well. In Romans 8:38-39, he says,
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Thankfully, we don’t have to be in the Milwaukee airport, or any special place for that matter, to recombobulate. All we need to do in the midst of confusion and chaos is to stand still and seek God’s peace and wisdom and He promises He will give it.

Prayer: Lord, we thank you that in the midst of turmoil, we have you to turn to for what we need. Even when we can’t see a clear way to go, you know how to recombobulate our lives according to your plan. We ask that you give us that kind of guidance whenever we need it. We also ask that you would do whatever is necessary to get us to stop and seek that place, where you are waiting. Remind me when life seems overwhelming, that I have you to hold me up and that it is in the midst of my shortcomings that your strength provides what I need. It is a comfort for me to know that you are always there. Amen.

p.s. As we think of how this may apply on a national level, consider this advice:

DON”T PRAY that God will turn to America to bless her, but rather that America will turn back to God to be blessed by Him.

Palm Sunday
It was Palm Sunday and because of a sore throat, five-yhear-old Johnny stayed home from church with a sitter. When the family returned home, they were carrying several palm branches. The boy asked what they were for. His mother said, “People held them over Jesus’ head as he rode by on the donkey.
Wouldn’t you know it,” the boy fumed. “The one Sunday I don’t go, he shows up - and with a donkey too!”

Easter

One Easter Sunday morning as the minister was preaching the children’s sermon, he reached into his bag of props and pulled out a plastic egg. He pointed to the egg and asked the children, “What’s in here?”
“I know!”
a little boy exclaimed. “Pantyhose!!”

As I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as well as fibromyalgia, I like to share the latest information that comes across my desk.  Energy, or rather lack thereof, is a major proble for people with CFS and fibromyalgia.  I thought this article by Bruce Campbell was informative and helpful.  Feel free to pass it on to anyone you know who is struggling with this part of the disease.  Cathy

Finding Your Energy Envelope by Bruce Campbell

Living with CFS or fibromyalgia is frustrating. Not only do the two conditions bring pain and discomfort, they also impose limits. If we fight against or try to ignore those limits, the result is an intensification of symptoms. This article and the next one will propose another way to live with CFS or FM. I’ll suggest how finding and honoring your limits (your energy envelope) can give you some control and improve your quality of life.
The Energy Envelope
To use the idea of the energy envelope, think of your situation as having three elements. The first is your available energy. This is the energy you have to accomplish things. It is limited and is replenished by rest and food. The second is your expended energy, the energy you lose through physical, mental and emotional exertion. The third is your symptoms, fatigue, brain fog, pain, and so on. In this view, if you expend more energy than you have available, you will intensify your symptoms. This is called living outside the energy envelope. An alternative is living inside the energy envelope. If you keep your expended energy within the limits of your available energy, you have a chance to reduce symptoms, and over time may be able to expand your limits.
Many students in our program have found it helpful to think of their life using the idea of the energy envelope in this way. To explain higher than usual symptoms, they may say “I was outside my envelope this week.” This statement may sound like an admission of defeat, but it implies the possibility of control: if you can live differently, you may be able to gain greater control of your symptoms.
Finding Your Limits: A Quick Answer
If you would like a general idea of your limits, rate yourself on the CFS & Fibromyalgia Rating Scale. Most of the students in our course have rated themselves between 25 and 45 at the start of the course, but we have had people across almost the full range of the scale.
Everyone’s Situation is Different
CFS & Fibromyalgia Rating Scale
CFS & Fibromyalgia Rating Scale
100 Fully recovered. Normal activity level with no symptoms.
90 Normal activity level with mild symptoms at times.
80 Near normal activity level with some symptoms.
70 Able to work full time but with difficulty. Mostly mild symptoms.
60 Able to do about 6-7 hours of work a day. Mostly mild to moderate symptoms.
50 Able to do about 4-5 hours a day of work or similar activity at home. Daily rests required. Symptoms mostly moderate.
40 Able to leave house every day. Moderate symptoms on average. Able to do about 3-4 hours a day of work or activity like housework, shopping, using computer.
30 Able to leave house several times a week. Moderate to severe symptoms much of the time. Able to do about 2 hours a day of work at home or activity like housework, shopping, using computer.
20 Able to leave house once or twice a week. Moderate to severe symptoms. Able to concentrate for 1 hour or less per day.
10 Mostly bedridden. Severe symptoms.
0 Bedridden constantly. Unable to care for self.Each person’s limits are different, because each person’s situation is unique. To understand your limits, I suggest you look at three factors.
The first, which you can think of as the medical aspect of your situation, is your illness or illnesses. While some people have just CFS or fibromyalgia, about two thirds of the people in our program struggle with two or more medical problems. The most common pattern is people who have CFS and fibromyalgia, but frequently people who have one or both of these conditions also have one or more other medical issues, such as arthritis, back and spinal problems, depression, food and chemical allergies, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), lupus, myofascial pain, sleep disorders like apnea and restless legs syndrome, and thyroid problems. (For more, see our article on overlapping and related conditions.)
Long-term illness is much more than a medical condition. The second factor that defines your unique situation is your general life circumstances. Illness will have a different impact depending on such things as your stage in life and family situation. In this context, finances and support are particularly crucial.
Some patients find their financial situation to be similar to what it was before they became ill. They may be supported by a spouse or receive disability payments that replace their previous income. For others, however, financial pressures can be great, even overwhelming. Some may live alone, trying to get by on little or no income. Others may feel forced to work when their bodies are asking for rest.
Patients’ levels of support can vary greatly, also. The term “support” applies to both practical and emotional help. Practical support may mean assistance with tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. Emotional support means feeling that someone understands and cares. Some patients have supportive spouses or other family members, while others may find themselves in stressful circumstances. Some people have good friendship networks, others not. Many patients’ level of support can be improved through effort.
The third factor is coping skills. Your ability to live well with chronic illness depends in part on your own resourcefulness. We have seen many people respond to adversity with flexibility and resilience. Luckily coping skills, like other skills, can be learned and improved through practice.
In summary, each person’s situation is different. Your limits will be shaped by your particular combination of illness, financial and family circumstances, and coping skills. While some factors are fixed, support and coping skills can be improved over time.

This play is being produced at Christian Life fellowship church on Good Friday 2011.  I wanted to share it with you who won’t be there that day to see it.  In transferring it to the blog, I made some spacial mistakes so please excuse the big spaces and some of the misplaced drama script indentations.  Cathy

WAS HE THE SON OF GOD?

 

The Story of Simon of Cyrene

a

PLAY IN ONE ACT

by

Cathy Conger

 

Copyright 2011 

 

CHARACTERS:

1)      Rufus- 16 year old son of Simon of Cyrene, a Hebrew who has made the pilgrimage to           Jerusalem from North Africa for the Passover 

2)      Alexander- Rufus’s 13 year old brother

3)      Ruth – 16 year old Hebrew slave of the household that is camped next to Simon and his sons

4)      Simon of Cyrene – Hebrew resident of Cyrene in North Africa.  He is a 36 year old widower, very strong and muscular.  He has brought his two sons on this pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover.  They have been camped outside the city gates among other pilgrims who have come from afar.  They have been in Jerusalem for a week. 

PROPS:  1) an artificial fire that can be switched or plugged in  2) a canvas drop cloth that looks like a downed tent and some poles that look like tent poles  3) a pottery cup  4) a pack. 

COSTUMES: The characters are dressed in the common Bedouin clothing of the times. 

SETTING:  Late at night the day Christ was crucified.  Two teenage boys huddle by an unlit camp fire, alone amongst a caravan camp just outside the city gates of Jerusalem during Passover,  33 AD.  There is a collapsed tent and poles behind the boys.

 

                  ********************************************************** 

AT RISE: Complete darkness.  In the darkness of night, Rufus and Alexander are huddled by a small fire pit.  Behind them is a pile of canvas and some poles on the ground.  The night is still.

Lights come up just enough to see the two characters center stage. 

Alexander

Rufus, I’m scared. What are we going to do? Father should have been back by now. What if the Romans still have him?

Rufus

(puts his arm around Alex’s shoulder, speaking as though he’s trying to convince himself too) 

Calm down, Alex.  He didn’t do anything wrong. He just did what they said – he carried the poor man’s cross. He said he’d meet us back at camp and that’s just what he’ll do. He will. 

Alex

O.K., but it’s getting awfully late.  Can’t we build a fire, Ruf?  I’m getting cold. 

Rufus

I guess so.  I think the flint is in Father’s pack – which is probably inside the dumb tent.

(He stands up to look inside the tent)

Pg 2

Rufus (cont)

I can’t figure out how this tent collapsed.  Humpf.  Someone’s idea of a bad joke, I suppose. 

Alex

Here it is. It wasn’t in the tent.  I was sitting on it.  When Father gets back we can pitch the tent again and get warm. 

(They light the fire. Light on them changes to red. There is a noise.) 

Rufus

(jumps, startled) 

Who’s there? 

Ruth

(enters from the darkness) 

It’s me, Ruth.   You sure are jumpy. 

Alex

You’d be jumpy too if you’d seen what we saw this afternoon. 

Rufus

What are you doing here?  Shouldn’t you be at your master’s camp? 

 

(Ruth sits down by the fire.) 

Ruth

Nobody’s there. After they ate the evening meal, they went somewhere to do business. I stoked the fire and laid out their beds. Then I saw your fire.  Where’s your father?  I heard there was a riot in the city over some rabbi getting crucified.  You were in town all day.  Did you see anything? 

Alex

You remember this morning when we left camp with Father? We were going to the Temple to give our offering.  

Ruth

Right. To celebrate the Passover. (Boys looked surprised.) Hey, even a slave girl knows about Jewish festivals.  After all, I am a Hebrew, you know.

Rufus

OK. OK.  Well, when we got there, there was all sorts of commotion. A mob was gathered in the Temple courtyard and they were crazy! They kept yelling “Crucify him, Crucify him”.

Pg 3

Ruth

Crucify who?

Alex

We’re trying to tell you!  That rabbi we told you about, Jesus of Nazareth.  The one they say is the Messiah. 

Ruth

The one who was going to free us from the Romans.  That’s what my master and his friends say.

But that man preaches peace. Why would the Romans care about him? 

Rufus

It was the chief priests that wanted to get rid of him. Father said the first time he heard Jesus teach, the words were revolutionary.  He was bound to make the Jewish leaders angry calling himself the son of God! 

Ruth

But why?  Your father said Jesus preached peace.  And he healed people!  They’re going to crucify him for that?  I don’t understand. 

Alex

They’re angry because he said he was God.  That’s blasphemy. 

Ruth

But you said earlier this week that the people loved him.  You said they had a big parade and called him their king. 

Rufus

You should have seen those same people today.  It was just like that parade never happened.  They were vicious.  I don’t understand it either. We’ve been following Jesus all week with Father.  We’ve listened to Jesus teach.  He was – I don’t know – gentle somehow. But at the same time, he seemed powerful, his words anyway.  Father told us that he believes Jesus really is from God. A lot of other people thought so too. 

Alex

And where were they when Jesus was put on trial today?  Father said they just let Jesus be thrown to the wolves. 

Ruth

I guess they didn’t believe him after all. 

Rufus

Not only didn’t they believe him, but Father said they set him up. They brought in people to lie about him. And then they talked the Romans into killing him. The Procurator – um, Pilate I think his name was- even he thought Jesus wasn’t hurting anybody.  But the mob ruled.

Pg 4

Alex

It was horrible!  One minute we were standing in the crowd and the next we were being pushed along behind the Roman soldiers. Father held onto us tight or we might have been trampled! 

Ruth

Where was the crowd going?  You mean you were following Jesus and the guards? 

Rufus

To that big hill where the Romans crucify people. Father said it’s called “The Skull”. 

Alex

All of a sudden this soldier pushed me aside and I saw him!  I’ve never seen so much blood in my life.  I almost threw up!  And they were making him carry the heavy cross beam. I knew he’d never make it.  He could barely stand up! 

Rufus

(looks as if he will be sick)

Ruth, they’d whipped him so badly that the skin on his back was hanging in pieces.  They’d beaten him so much … (his voice breaks)  He was so swollen, he didn’t look like a man anymore. 

(Ruth puts her hands over her face and cringes) 

Alex

On top of that, they made this ring of sharp thorns from those bushes, you know, the ones along the desert road? They pushed it down so hard into his head that there was blood running down his face. He couldn’t open his eyes.  Blood was dripping from his hair! 

Rufus

All right,Alex!  Enough. 

Ruth

How could anyone stand it?  Why didn’t you run away? 

Rufus

Because Father said “He has not one friend here. Someone has to stand by him.  If he looks up, I want him to know I am his friend.”  I suppose Father thought he could help, but there was nothing anyone could do. 

Alex

It was the first time I’ve ever seen Father cry. He was sobbing. He kept saying, “Oh God, why?  Why are you letting them torture your son?” 

Pg 5

Ruth

                                                           So of course you had to stay.

 

Rufus

Then, when I thought I couldn’t stand any more, Jesus collapsed. The beam fell on his back. I thought he was dead.

                                                                                Alex

But this woman ran over to him and poured water over his head and in his mouth. She kissed him and he put his hand on her face.  I don’t know.  It might have been his mother. 

Rufus

That’s when two Roman soldiers grabbed Father. “You!  Carry his cross!”, they shouted. 

Ruth

What?!  Your father?  He is one of the strongest- built men I ever saw, but, oh my gosh!  Your father! 

Rufus

My heart went to my throat.  Father looked back at us and it was so strange. He didn’t look scared at all. He said, “Boys, I’m going to carry my Lord’s cross. Listen to me. I want you to go right back to camp and wait for me there. Everything is going to be all right.” 

Alex

Then Father picked up that beam.  He lifted it up across his big shoulders and kept walking. The soldiers picked up Jesus. They had to practically carry him the rest of the way. 

Ruth

The rest of the way?  You mean you followed them?  Your father told you to come back here. 

Alex (teary)

I know, but we couldn’t just leave him. We stayed, moving along with the crowd as long as we could until we got shoved off into an alley.  We don’t know what happened to Father!  We’ve just been sitting here in the dark waiting. 

Rufus

This city is full of nooks and crannies.  We got lost.  We must have wandered around for hours until we finally recognized the right gate.  We barely made it out before they closed the gates at sundown.

Ruth

But that was hours ago. Where is your father now? 

Rufus

That’s just it.  We have no way of knowing if he is OK or if he’s in prison or…why didn’t I stay? 

Pg 6

Alex

Rufus?  Do you think we could pitch the tent now?  Maybe Father is on his way and then he’d have a warm bed to climb into when he gets here.  What do you think?  Ruf? 

Ruth

(Rufus just sits staring. She stands up and motions to Alex)

 

Come on Alex.  I’ll help you with the tent.

                                                                              Alex

(stands and goes over to help Ruth spread the tent out) 

Hey, Ruth.  You were here all afternoon.  How did our tent get knocked down?  

Ruth

Did it get real dark where you were – I don’t know- maybe about three o’clock? 

Alex

Yeah!  It gave me the willies.  Like a giant rainstorm, only it didn’t rain.  It did something worse. 

Ruth

Did the ground start to shake all of a sudden? 

Alex

I’ll say!  We were in this narrow street and I thought the buildings were going to fall on us.  Right,  Ruf? (speaks in Rufus’ direction but with no response)  I’ve never run so fast in my life! 

Ruth

It was an earthquake then, for sure.  The camels and donkeys started braying and acting wild. Then the ground shook all around camp. I was petrified! It knocked me flat on my face in the sand. Next thing I knew, it was over.  Quiet.  But everywhere I looked the tents were on the ground. 

Rufus

(solemnly with a flat affect)

It’s when Jesus died.  God made the earth shake and he hid the sun because his son was dead. 

Alex

Oh, Rufus, what if the Romans crucified Father too? 

Rufus

They didn’t.  I just know they didn’t.  I have this feeling in my gut that God didn’t let that happen. 

Pg 7

 

(Simon enters looking muddy, sweaty, and exhausted with streaks down his face from tears) 

Alex and Rufus

It’s Father! Oh, Father! (The boys run into Simon’s arms) 

Rufus

See, I told you he was all right.  Father, you are all right, aren’t you? 

Alex

Father, where were you? What happened? 

(Simon looks dazed and sits down by the fire) 

Simon

Bring me some drink, will you son?  I’m so thirsty. 

(Ruth hands Alex a pottery cup and he gives it to Simon who drinks long) 

Simon

(Tearfully) 

Oh, my dear sons.  Our Messiah is dead. They crucified him.  He died right before my eyes. 

Rufus

But Father, you said he was the Messiah. Was it a lie? Was Jesus of Nazareth the son of God? 

Simon

(Speaks as if he still can’t believe what happened- sort of in shock)

 

You know, when they were ready to cut him down from the cross, the sky turned black … angry.  I have never felt so lost in my whole life. Not even when your mother died. I can’t explain it.

(pauses, takes a breath, and looks into the fire)

And there was a Roman soldier - just standing there, looking up at the dead body hanging on the cross.  Do you know what he said?  He said, “Surely, this was the Son of God.”  Isn’t that something?  And then they cut him down… 

(he wipes his eyes and looks back at Rufus, Alex and Ruth) 

And then the earth began to shake!  It shook so hard that we were all thrown down , sprawling on the ground, crying for our lives!  When it stopped, I found myself laying right beside his mother. (continued) 

Pg 8

Simon (continued) 

She was sitting there, holding the Lord in her arms.  She looked right into my eyes.  Tears streamed down both of our faces.  And she said something to me so powerful, I’ll never forget it as long as I live. She said, “You carried his cross. Thank you. We musn’t be without hope, you know.  This is not the end. It is just the beginning. I know now that I bore him for this purpose. His death will save all mankind. He will rise again from the grave.  That’s what he said and you and I and all who believe will surely see it.”  

BLACKOUT  (bring up appropriate music) 

 

Note to Director:

The message and solemn power of Good Friday is in the question, “Was he the son of God?”

Who knows how any of us would have reacted had we been there that day with Simon of Cyrene?  The tension created between wanting to believe the words Jesus spoke before he was crucified and  accepting the reality of his death on that cross,  tore the early believers apart - especially in the hours between his death and Easter morning.  They were frightened, disillusioned and grief-stricken. 

I chose to place the message of “confusion” in the voice of Simon of Cyrene.  The message of grief mixed with hope I gave to Mary, the woman who had been given a promise many years before that she was to bear God’s son, the Messiah, but who now held his breathless body in her arms.  To communicate this message, it is vital that the actor who plays Simon have the ability to speak powerfully, causing the audience to “hold its breath” through his final speech.  Cathy Conger

                                                  

Good grief!  It is now nearly the end of April and I still have not finished the sweater vest I began January 3rd!  I wrote before about the knitting class I joined in January at Herrschners in Stevens Point, WI.  I took the class because I had requested a class that would teach me how to read a knitting chart. The pattern is the German clock vest from Cheryl Oberle’s book, Folk Vests.  I absolutely love this vest!  But it has been a nightmare for me.  I suppose I should have realized this pattern was way over my head and quit a long time ago, but…  I just couldn’t bring myself to give up.  I had to have 2 extra help sessions beyond class time.  I have to tell you that Peggy, who teaches at Herrscners is the world’s most encouraging, gracious, and PATIENT teacher.  What it amounts to is that twisting cables are my downfall - and now my enemy!  I’ve not only torn out and re-knitted them all, but Peggy re-designed the back of the sweater to eliminate the cables there.  All I had to do was complete the cables under the arms and down the front - and still I’ve had trouble! 

Well, now it is Easter and I only have to knit the bands around the armholes and neck and the buttonhole and button band down the front. With the end in sight, I have decided that I have indeed learned to read a chart, so in one respect, I have been successful!  Concerning twisting cables, I have decided that in the future I am going to leave patterns that require an above average short-term memory to anyone else but me!  When I finish this vest, I will put it on, take a picture, and post it for you to see.  In the meantime, it’s off to the knitters’ salt mine so I can knit something easy and springy.

D-mail for Holy Week 2011

Scripture: Luke 19:28-44 (Palm Sunday)
John 12:44-13:20
John 13:21-14:31
Luke 22:1-23
John 17:1-26
John 18:1-40
John 19:1-42
Matthew 28:1-20; John 20:1-31

Sometimes It Causes Me to Tremble

Because of its revolutionary impact on our world and our lives, Easter is the most significant date on the calendar. We recognize it as a celebration because of our personal application of its truth. It was not simply a raising from the dead but a resurrection, a transformation, a victory, and a once and for all, life-changing event for all who would believe.

The week leading up this event is often called “holy” week. The word holy means “set apart”, sacred. It seems as though the ups and downs of holy week parallel the ups and downs of our lives. The horror of the events of “Good Friday” are the culmination of all the suffering in the world and the absolute worst of the worst. It’s this deep sadness, tremendous suffering and total sacrifice that leave us begging for resolution, yearning for the happy ending, longing for hope.

That hope burst through on that Easter morning beyond our wildest dreams and expectations! And for those who are humble enough to receive it - those willing to believe - it is a happiest of days, worthy of our greatest rejoicing and our most elaborate celebration. It is the reason for joy beyond comprehension, joy that does not end in death, but joy that only begins to taste it’s fullness in the forever after.

So for this “Holy Week” I invite you to take the journey. Read the passages of scripture above, reflect on what people must have felt, allow the ups and downs, the minor set backs, the short reasons for happiness and the building to the climax affect you emotionally. Go there, be there, journey with Jesus to his final hours. Listen as the last words are spoken, sense the emptiness of a black Friday and look forward with hope because Sunday’s coming!.

Were You There?

Negro spiritual

 

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Oh, O, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

 

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Oh, O, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

 

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?

Oh, O, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

Were you there when he rose up from the grave?

Prayer
Holy Lord, we stand in awe of what you did for us in sacrificing your only son, Jesus, through such a horrible death when not one of us deserves to be saved. We give you praise and thanks for Christ’s resurrection that we celebrate this Easter! It gives us concrete hope that when we trust in his sacrifice on the cross, we too will be resurrected from death to be with you in heaven. Hosanna to our triumphant Lord! Amen

D-mail for the week of April 14, 2011
Scripture: Mark 14:1-11

 

What Did You Give Up for Lent?

Many Christians have been denying themselves something for the last six weeks or so, known in the church as the period of Lent. Lent is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation for the celebration of Easter. According to Father William Saunders, a church historian at the Catholic Education Resource Center, there is evidence of some kind of Lenten preparation for Easter going back to the fourth century.
“The word Lent itself is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words lencten, meaning “Spring,” and lenctentid, which literally means not only “Springtide” but also was the word for “March,” the month in which the majority of Lent falls. Pope Leo, who died in 461 A.D. preached that the faithful must `fulfill with their fasts the Apostolic institution of the 40 days,’ again noting the apostolic origins of Lent. One can safely conclude that by the end of the fourth century, the 40-day period of Easter preparation known as Lent existed, and that prayer and fasting constituted its primary spiritual exercises.”

Of course, the number “40″ has always had special spiritual significance regarding preparation. On Mount Sinai, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments, “Moses stayed there with the Lord for 40 days and 40 nights, without eating any food or drinking any water” (Ex 34:28). Elijah walked “40 days and 40 nights” to the mountain of the Lord, Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai) (I Kgs 19:8). Most importantly, Jesus fasted and prayed for “40 days and 40 nights” in the desert before He began His public ministry (Mt 4:2). Father Saunders says, “Once the 40 days of Lent were established, the next development concerned how much fasting was to be done. In Jerusalem, for instance, people fasted for 40 days, Monday through Friday, but not on Saturday or Sunday, thereby making Lent last for eight weeks. In Rome and in the West, people fasted for six weeks, Monday through Saturday, thereby making Lent last for six weeks. Eventually, the practice prevailed of fasting for six days a week over the course of six weeks, and Ash Wednesday was instituted to bring the number of fast days before Easter to 40.”

Over the years, modifications have been made to the Lenten observances, making our practices not only simple but also easy. Ash Wednesday still marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays. The present fasting and abstinence laws observed by Catholics are very simple: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the faithful fast (having only one full meal a day and smaller snacks to keep up one’s strength) and abstain from meat; on the other Fridays of Lent, the faithful abstain from meat. Christians of many denominations are still encouraged “to give up something” for Lent as a sacrifice. Although the practices may have evolved over the centuries, the focus remains the same: to repent of sin, to renew our faith and to prepare to celebrate joyfully the mysteries of our salvation.

When I was growing up, just before Ash Wednesday, it was common to hear the question, “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” Although the idea was to sacrifice something dear to you in order to model the sacrifice Christ made on the cross, sadly the answer to the question was frequently such things as television, chewing gum, eating candy, and the like. Hopefully, as we grew into mature Christians, our understanding of Lent was that we should sacrifice the time we would normally spend on worldly things in order to spend it in prayer and scripture reading and attending special worship services.

In order to make a true sacrifice, you have to understand the difference between abundance thinking and scarcity thinking. These terms actually originate with the CSO (Chief Solutions Officer) of Yahoo in his book, Love is a Killer App. He writes that he carries a sign to every meeting he attends. When anyone expresses a “but we don’t have…” thought, he or she gets the sign, which says in large black letters, SCARCITY THINKER. It is the dreaded sign at his meetings. He instead rewards abundance thinking, which says “we can use what we have here and make it work to accomplish…” He tells about an experience he had that changed him forever and gave him the idea of scarcity vs abundance thinking. He was volunteering at a homeless shelter. The men who came there had nothing except the clothes on their backs. One day he observed two homeless men sitting on the curb. As one man pulled a cigarette out of his pocket to light up, the other man asked him if he could “bum a cigarette”. Thinking for a minute, the first man reached into his pocket again and pulled out two cigarettes. There was no package - only two single cigarettes. It had probably taken him quite a while to find these two cigarettes and who knew when he could get another? To this man, the cigarettes were very valuable. But he smiled and held out one cigarette to his companion. That was abundance thinking in a scarce situation. How many of us are willing to give up something so valuable to us when we don’t know whether or not we will get another? You have two cars in your driveway. A neighbor’s only car is stolen and he asks you for the use of one of your cars. Would you give it to him freely?

In Mark 14 we find the story of Jesus and the woman with the alabaster jar of nard, a very precious oil. Nard came from India and was ridiculously expensive. When the woman opened the jar and began to anoint Jesus with it, the disciple, Judas, jumped up and furiously objected. He insisted that the oil should not be “wasted” in this way when it could be sold to feed the poor. Jesus answered, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, whenever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her. Then Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him 30 pieces of silver.” Mark 14:6-11 Judas must have been pretty disillusioned because, after three years of close companionship with Jesus, he was willing to give Jesus’ life away for the equivalent of $10,000 - roughly the price of a used car today.

So who of the two was a scarcity thinker and who was an abundance thinker? The woman had probably given all she had to buy the perfume, but she “gave it up for Lent” in order to show her love for Jesus, her Lord. She trusted that God would take care of her despite the loss of her treasure. What are you wrestling with God about? What is He asking you to give or give up? What is in your alabaster jar? It could be the tithe, or a car for your neighbor, or it may not be money at all. Maybe it is your time or your labor or anything you have in abundance. Can you trust God to take care of you as you throw off your scarcity thinking and give abundantly of what you have?

Here’s a novel thought. What if God is asking you to give up a behavior you have in abundance? How about giving up anxiety for Lent? Or bitterness? Or grumbling? They say that after 30 days of establishing a new behavior, it becomes a habit. So 40 days should be even better. This Sunday is Palm Sunday, which begins Holy Week, the week leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion. If you have been faithfully fasting or have given up something during the last seven weeks as God has led, I pray that it has been a fruitful time for you and that it has drawn you closer to God. In my church during early April, those who wished to experience what it means to feel hungry - at least as hungry as those in a refugee camp feel, had the opportunity to collect the same amount of oats, rice, and beans that a family in a refugee camp receive in a week. We were given instructions on how you could prepare a week’s worth of meals with your provisions. We were asked to take the money you would have spent on groceries or eating out during that week and give it to a mission program that feeds the hungry. It was a beautiful picture of sacrifice during Lent.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to sacrifice (or give) during Lent, the good news is that God doesn’t watch the calendar! If He is leading, you can do it any time.

Prayer: Lord, I love the story of the alabaster jar of perfume - hundreds of dollars an ounce- that the woman poured out on Jesus to show her devotion. I pray that you will give me that kind of abundance thinking, that trust that you will provide for me when I give up something. I pray that as Christians all over the world prepare to celebrate the week leading up to Easter, that you will draw us close to you. I pray that as we tell the resurrection story, unbelievers will be drawn to your sacrificial love and call out to you for salvation. Amen

APRIL FOOLS 

This pensive afternoon

as March is melting into April,

it seems that spring has lost its way

and winter, in exasperation,

has crawled to a standstill,

impatiently sputtering.

 

We talk over tea

of waiting forever for boobs to grow,

of slogging through the interminable teens,

of punching the clock for our posterity,

dropping months here and there,

until suddenly

we run out of forever.

Cathy Conger

copyright 2011

Pathway to Life

Your aspiration is your motivation,

your motivation is your belief,

your belief is your peace,

your peace is your target,

your target is heaven,

and life is like hard core torture without it!