Why I wear a cross

Do you wear a cross necklace? If not, you probably know someone who does. Do you ever wonder why?

I’m not going to debate whether a cross is a pagan symbol for various Sun-deities. Nor, am I going to debate whether Christians should or shouldn’t wear a cross. I’m also not going to debate whether Jesus was crucified on a “cross” or a “stake.” A case can be made for the later from some Greek translations of the New Testament, but that’s splitting hairs and we’re not going there.

It’s true, the cross symbol predates Christianity centuries before Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t until around 430AD that crosses began to be seen in churches. Over the centuries, this symbol has been both celebrated and perverted by religions worldwide.

In today’s culture I believe the cross has been domesticated…tamed to the point of being irrelevant. It appears on so many things, and its original intent (pagan or sacred) has been largely lost in translation. We see celebrities and athletes adorn themselves with crosses….sometimes in numbers that would cause drowning if they ever fell into deep water. They must be super religious, right?

I have a small cross I wear pretty much 24/7, but not as a fashion statement or good luck talisman that protects me from bad juju. There are no special powers about this piece of gold. I don’t pray to it or worship it in any way.

Soooooo, why do I wear it, you might wonder? After all, a cross or crucifix is representative of one of the most horrific methods of execution known to humankind. History states it was probably the Assyrians and Babylonians who originated this method of torture; but it was the Romans who perfected the art around the first century. It was so torturous that, by decree except in cases of treason, it was rarely used on Roman citizens.

According to Britannica.com:

Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or “scourged,” dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment, where the upright shaft was already fixed in the ground. Stripped of his clothing, he was bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. The crossbeam was then raised high against the upright shaft …. Next, the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft. A ledge inserted about halfway up the upright shaft gave some support to the body. Over the criminal’s head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime. Death ultimately occurred through a combination of constrained blood circulation, organ failure, and asphyxiation as the body strained under its own weight. It could be hastened by shattering the legs with an iron club, which prevented them from supporting the body’s weight and made inhalation more difficult, accelerating both asphyxiation and shock.

If the sacrificial death of Jesus was needed to redeem and reconcile humankind back to its creator, there surely were less gruesome ways other than crucifixion to make that happen; surely there were quicker methods that would have accomplished this atonement. Why so much brutality? Why so much savagery? Why death on a cross?

What’s missing from our 21st century view of the cross is exactly that….the raw realization of that brutality and savagery Jesus experienced….for his creation. Why did Jesus, the incarnate God, choose to suffer to this extent at the hands of evil? Why…since at any point he could have stopped all of it by simply stepping down off the cross…did  he voluntarily endure six hours of pain, broken bones, thorns pressed into his head, and eventual suffocation of his human form? Would blood from a finger prick make the same statement? It surely could have sufficed for a blood offering. How about a quick spear through the heart? Surely that would have been preferable to six hours of agony.

Which makes this historical event all the more an epiphany moment for me. The cross is representative of both darkest evil and radiating goodness. It’s message is one of both humble surrender and powerful victory. For six hours, evil was unleashed and allowed to do its damnedest against God the Son. And in the end, it appears evil was successful in silencing both Jesus and the movement.

Until three days later when the seemingly impossible happened. Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are the perfect bookends to show his sovereign power over sin and death. And, the fact that so many people witnessed and encountered the risen Christ after the fact makes this seemingly impossible event all the more relevant. The authority of the empty tomb trumped the agony and savagery of the cross. It was the ultimate statement that evil did not, could not and will not win in the end. And, that is why this “movement” exploded during the centuries that followed. Too many people witnessed the impossible and Christianity became impossible to stop, despite continued torture and crucifixion of its followers.

That symbol of torture is my reminder of hope; it’s my reminder of how much pain Jesus suffered for my sake; a reminder of how much my life means to God.

A finger prick could never mean as much.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

Am I the storm?

Fate whispers to the warrior,
“you cannot withstand the storm.”
The warrior whispers back,
“I am the storm.”

~Unknown

When I came across this quote, it really struck me as a powerful way to combat the fear, doubt, worry, anxiety and sheet exhaustion that goes along with the battle with cancer. While I’m not the one with the horrid disease, when cancer strikes, it affects the entire family. So to read this quote seem like it would be empowering, right? We look fate square in the eye, lean in close and, with an antagonistic smirk, declare we are the storm.

I don’t know about you, but left to my own capabilities, I am anything but the storm. In fact, left on my own, I tend to struggle to stay afloat in the pity puddle created through worry, fear and anxiety. And closely related to those are the ugly cousins of resentment, irritation and impatience.

Left on my own, this is more what I tend to do.
I would hasten to my place of refuge from the stormy wind and tempest. ~Psalm 55:8

No, as much as I would like to identify as a warrior who can confidently take on what may be considered the lies of Fate (or the Devil in some quote variations), I cannot do it alone. I am wonderful at talking the talk, but sometimes walking the walk is a completely different story.

I need the rest of the army….and let’s throw in some marines, navy seals and air force fighter pilots as well. And let’s make sure the commander is one worthy of taking on the brewing storm.

Your right hand, O LORD, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy. ~Exodus 15:6

That ideal Commander-in-Chief would be the one who not only has the power to create the storm, but the one who also is sovereign over the storm.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. ~Matthew 8:24-26

And that army of warriors? Those would be everyone who has come to our aid in prayer. And, we have awesome prayer warriors…from here in our church to across the country…and jumping across the pond as well. Without these intercessions, I assure you we would be feeling more overwhelmed and lost than we already feel now.

Some days I feel strong and fearless in the eye of the storm. But then there are the days when I feel like a single drop just might drown me. Lately, some complications have arisen that are testing both our patience and resolve. And, I can confidently say I’m somewhat terrified. And, there are many nights after he’s asleep where I find myself feeling overwhelmingly sad that there’s a chance all the plans we’ve made for the future just might never happen.

So, am I the storm? Not hardly. But when I’m aligned with the one who created and has the power to calm the storm…and with those who know how to use the powerful weapon of prayer…and the mere mortals in whose hands we put our health care….

…we can become the perfect reciprocal storm.

Playing along with others over at Peabea’s Pictorial Tuesday.

A little glimpse of Joy

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.
~William Shakespeare

I think I came across my first Joy encounter last week. Of course, there’s been some moments of happiness, but like we discussed earlier this year, Happy is not necessarily the same feeling as Joy.

This Joy encounter came from an unexpected source….the cancer radiation treatment center. Yes, you heard correctly.

Entrepreneur was scheduled for three radiation treatments last week. We drove to the hospital entrance for radiation patients with more than a little anxiety building about how these procedures could end up. Radiating the brain….the stuff of which anxiety is made.

It was a dreary, chilly, spring day with on and off rain showers. Much like our frame of mind. But as we drove into the private parking area for radiation patients, this is what greeted us.

A sea of yellow daffodils planted between the reserved parking spaces and entrance.

I felt my heart lift as soon as I saw them. Of course, they didn’t negate the harsh reality of what was about to happen inside, but for a brief moment, I was caught up in the beauty of the moment. I thought of all the hours it must have taken to plant these bulbs last Autumn. I thought what a wonderful gift to those experiencing the challenging darkness of cancer.

And, I noticed some of these splendid blossoms had been mercilessly beat down onto the ground, unable to hold up against the spring storms. What a shame, I thought. So, I rescued them to live in vases in my home. There is some poetic justice in this, right? 🙂

Joy. It can surprise us in the strangest of places.

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.
~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Photo Blogging Challenge: Four

PJ, over at A ‘lil HooHaa has been hosting a photo blogging challenge for four years this month. And, in honor of that momentous occasion, this month’s challenge is centered around……you guess it….Four.

I thought this would be a slam dunk this month. But I would have been misinformed. This was a much bigger challenge than I anticipated. On one hand, I’m still dealing with Entrepreneur’s post-brain surgery adjustment. He’s doing well…I’m the one who seems to be struggling.

So, you all will need to give me a little bit of latitude on some of these selections. 🙂

#1 Four
Included in this row of Bradford Pear trees are FOUR trees in full bloom. They lasted all of about four days before a late spring hard freeze turned all those lovely white blossoms brown..

#2 Four
Bridget is one of FOUR kittens that came to live with members of our family 12 years ago. The no-kill shelter nicknamed them the “Irish Kittens” because they found them on or around St. Patrick’s Day. Three are from one litter, the fourth was found somewhere else, but was assimilated in with the others. All four assimilated together nicely into the bed.

#3  Four
My grandfather’s violin (or is it a fiddle?) still has all FOUR strings in tact. Circa early to mid 1900s, I really don’t know its story other than he owned it. Wish I knew more.

#4 Four
Twix has a puzzle with FOUR separate puzzle scenes in one, which may be a little confusing when you’re only three years old. 🙂

#5 Four
Here’s where I need a bit more latitude. Since March is the month to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, what better way than to look for FOUR-leaf clovers. What? You don’t see any in this shot? Neither do I. But, there may be one hiding in there so I think it should count. 🙂

Bonus FOUR foto!
Twix turned three years old in February. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, she was not able to have her “official” party until this month. So, here is the ONE-YEAR-LESS-THAN-FOUR-year-old birthday girl with FOUR presents. I thought it only fitting to include this since PJ’s photo challenge is celebrating FOUR years old this month.

Whew….Be sure to visit PJ’s place to see how others interpreted the prompt this month.

Renew and Replace

The flower that wilted last year is gone. Petals once fallen are fallen forever. Flowers do not return in the spring, rather they are replaced. It is in this difference between returned and replaced that the price of renewal is paid.

And as it is for spring flowers, so it is for us.
~Daniel Abraham, The Price of Spring

Yesterday was the “first day of spring” although here is felt more like mid summer with temps in the mid 80sF! And, last week we had a hard freeze. So it is with spring in middle Missouri. I thought this was an interesting quote and am still processing its meaning.

My thoughts are still pretty much a jumble in my head these days and I’ve not been successful in penning anything worthwhile. But, with yesterday’s teaser, I’m ready for warmer weather. Although winter was not a harsh one, it came with its own set of challenges.

As I look ahead to warmer…and hopefully, better days…..I’ll leave you with some of the hopeful signs I found around the yard and vow to come back soon with something of more substance.

Asiatic lilies

Iris

Houttuynia (Hoot-en-ia) Caution: this plant is awesome, will grow anywhere, and is invasive. Plant at your own risk.

Comfrey

 And my favorite:

Happy spring!

Musings from an Outlander Addict

You know what a cult show is, don’t you? No? Well, let me clue you in. A cult show is one that sucks you in so completely that you become obsessed with it. It’s the show that causes you rearrange your schedule just so you don’t miss any episodes even though you have a DVR. My first experience with a cult show was LOST. There have been a few since then, but none as powerful as the one I fell completely head over heals for last year….Outlander.

outlander-dvd

I blame The Recruiter. It’s her fault for watching the show in my family room when she, Peanut and Twix lived with us. It only took one time and I was hopelessly hooked. So hooked that I refused to let Entrepreneur get rid of Starz when he downsized our satellite TV package. So hooked that I talked The Recruiter into going to Starz on Demand and downloading the first two seasons for me. Last summer I binge watched Seasons One and Two while Entrepreneur watched sports.

So, if you are not familiar with the storyline, here it is in a nutshell.

Claire Randall, a former British Army nurse, is enjoying a second honeymoon in Scotland with husband Frank Randall after WW II. Frank is a former English military officer and has taken a position as an Oxford historian. Unexplainably, through an ancient stone ruin, Claire is transported back in time to 1743, into a world completely different from her own. Because of her medical background, she is perceived as a healer. To survive, literally, she agrees to an arranged marriage to Jamie Fraser, a strapping Scottish Highlander and becomes caught up in the Jacobite rebellion against the English. After a tumultuous beginning, a passionate relationship develops between Claire and Jamie and her feelings become torn between two vastly different men across two centuries. Outlander is adapted from the best-selling book series by Diana Gabaldon.

Now that my binge watching is complete, I’m in the middle of what is referred to as “Droughtlander” before the next season begins later this fall, I believe the show has more to offer than a complicated, layered storyline, breathtaking scenery, hauntingly beautiful intro music, and Highlander eye candy (aka: Jamie Fraser). It’s the perfect mix of passion and romance paired with war, torture and rugged testosterone. Here are my observations and life parallels:

Love takes turns being the hero.
Both Jamie and Claire take turns rescuing each other from certain death at the hands of the British…more specifically, a British officer named Jonathan Wolverton (Black Jack) Randall, who has personal vendettas against both of them. They risk their lives for each other because their love trumps the possibility of living without the other. In successful relationships, the depth of commitment operates selflessly and without regard for personal safety, physically and emotionally. The well-being of the other person is of utmost importance and each will move heaven and earth to make that happen. The respect, devotion, gentleness and passion Claire and Jamie have for each other is enviable. It’s the platinum standard in relationships…real or otherwise.

Not everyone is capable of redemption.
Speaking of Black Jack Randall, he’s one of Frank’s (Claire’s 1940s husband) distant relatives. And where Frank is a kind and loving gentleman, Jack is diametrically the polar opposite. And to make the dynamic more complicated, they look exactly alike. The author and the actor succeeds magnificently in creating visceral contempt for this character. Just when you think there is a glimmer of hope in his moral character, he chooses to act in the most heinous way imaginable…and admittedly, without remorse. While my faith teaches no one is beyond redemption, a person like Black Jack Randall could make me believe some people may be irreversibly evil. The tricky question is, who gets to judge whether that is actually the case? The person I write off as hopeless may simply be a lost soul who hasn’t yet encountered the experience needed to change. Maybe I’m to be that experience? One thing’s for sure….I would not want to encounter a Black Jack Randall and be faced with that moral dilemma.

Feminism with femininity.
Claire is a progressive women of the 1940s. She is a veteran Army nurse and doesn’t put up with crap from anyone. She is opinionated and vocal. She takes that mentality with her to the 1700s, but quickly discovers this type of “strong woman” is not going to get her anywhere and could, quite possibly, get her killed. What results is a woman who becomes intellectually savvy and gives the appearance of restraint (for the most part). However docile she appears, underneath there’s a strong, cunning, resourceful woman who understands how to use her femininity (not sex) to her best advantage. Victoria’s Secret can parade those angels all they want; they’ve got nuthin’ on Claire Frasier.

Situations are not always as they seem.
Claire and Jamie would like nothing more than to see Black Jack Randall leave this earth….however, Jack is Frank’s ancestor and to eliminate him too soon could cause Frank to never be born. Enter, Mary Hawkins; a wisp of a girl who, according to Frank’s genealogy search, is supposed to become Black Jack’s wife and continue his lineage. The problem is, Mary loves Black Jack’s younger brother, Alex. Claire knows the genealogy of Frank and how Mary and Black Jack fit into it. She logically reasons Mary cannot marry Alex or Frank will never be born. So, she intervenes and talks Alex into leaving Mary. Months later, to her horror, she finds they’ve reunited, but Alex is very ill. Claire is begged to heal him, but she recognizes he suffers from tuberculosis and congenital heart failure. There is no known cure in this era. And, Mary is pregnant. Faced with his fiancé’s uncertain future with no husband’s wealth to provide for her, Alex’s dying with is for his decorated, military brother, Jonathan, to marry her. As abhorrent as this idea is to everyone, including Black Jack, Claire knows (according to genealogy and history) Jack going to die in the next day’s battle…so, it’s all good. Mary will not have to suffer at the hands of this depraved man. Claire breathes a sigh of relief knowing Frank’s future is secure.

My point? My point is sometimes situations just are not as they seem. There was a reason Mary and Alex were together….but no one knew what it was until Alex was on his deathbed. All of Claire’s efforts to discourage Alex and Mary’s relationship were misguided…and based on her assumption of what would/would not happen if she didn’t intervene. Sometimes, we jump to conclusions about situations before we know the circumstances. Sometimes our actions to steer events the way we think they should go are misguided and shouldn’t be pursued.

Things happen for a reason.
Dovetailing with the above observation is this one. The driving story behind Seasons One and Two is Claire and Jaime’s desire to change history and avoid the Jacobite rebellion. Believing Jamie will die in the Battle of Culloden, Claire’s focus is on how to alter the events leading up to that fateful battle. Jaime is on board and the two of them work towards disrupting Bonnie Prince Charles’ plans to overthrow the current king of England…. all the while appearing to be a supporter of the rebellion. But, despite their scheming and manipulative efforts, they are unsuccessful and the battle happens as planned.

As much as we’d love to go back and change some things about our past, events and experiences happened for a reason. For those of us who believe there is a plan for our lives and a path we must travel, it’s easier to accept this. Events are tied together for a reason; change one and you unravel everything because nothing exists in a vacuum.

I’m now (im)patiently waiting for the debut of Season Three to be announced. I admit, I’ve cheated a bit and gone online to read summaries of what we can expect to see based on the next book. And, I’m following Outlander sites on Twitter and Facebook.

Yep, definitely a cult show.

Playing along with those over at Life Through the Lens.

 

 

 

Might have been bad timing….or not?

Can you believe I chose “Joy” as my One Word for 2017?

Joy. Really?

When I picked this word back in January, my crystal ball was evidently malfunctioning. For who in their right mind would choose Joy knowing their husband would be facing brain surgery in a month and a half? How in the world is one to be able to pay attention to Joy in the middle of crisis and chaos?

I had good intentions choosing Joy for my word this year. Yep, those good intentions were to try to see moments of Joy around me. But it’s oh so much easier to notice Joy when life is beautifully smooth, isn’t it?

Joy seems more elusive when we’re weary with one challenge after another. It’s hard to see the Joy in life when we’re up to our eyeballs in worry and anxiety. Choose Joy is a phrase batted around by those trying to offer help for people facing hopelessness, despair and uncertainty. Like “choosing” joy is as easy as choosing which pair of shoes to wear…or choosing what to order for dinner.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34

Isn’t that the truth.

Back in January, it was so easy to write that Joy doesn’t come from a worry-free, prosperity-filled life. In a more self-reflective moment, I wrote this:

I believe Joy is something felt deep in the soul. Something apart from the temporary warm fuzzies of pleasure and happiness. It’s something intangible that grounds the mind, despite the circumstance. Joy settles deep in the heart and soul, creating peace and a strength that makes a person feel they can endure the worst life will throw.

Very profound if I do say so myself. I just don’t know how well I’m doing in this department while in the middle of these “circumstances,” which are hard and more than little overwhelming at times. Left on my own, I don’t feel anything has settled in my heart except mental exhaustion, much less peace and strength.

But there I go again, confusing Joy with Happiness.

I have discovered my hindsight is working fairly well. In hindsight, I’m thankful for the flu. Yes, you heard correctly. I got the flu the Sunday before we were to leave on vacay. By Thursday, Entrepreneur was showing the first signs of it. A flu headache, coupled with the headache he already was experiencing is was drove us to the ER…and to the discovery of the cancer mass.

As terrifying as this event has been, in hindsight, I see it did provide opportunities to repair some family rifts, and opened up heartfelt conversations that otherwise might not have happened. I suppose there are things to be thankful for in the middle of chaos. Focusing on being grateful can result in experiencing Joy.

So, even though 2017 has not started the way I’d hoped, I am going to try and feel those moments of Joy in the middle of chaos and confusion by focusing on being thankful and grateful.

february-rose-72