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.

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

That kind of woman

As if fashion magazines weren’t detrimental enough.

It’s common knowledge we, as women, feel more inadequate after viewing “women’s magazines” that are supposed to be targeted to us. Ridiculously thin, gorgeous models and unrealistic beauty expectations can make even the most confident woman shudder with self-doubt.

But if you really want to feel inadequate, read Proverbs 31. This is Super Woman, personified. And I wonder just exactly who was the inspiration for such praise? Because she doesn’t sound like anyone I know. And certainly not me.

Before we collectively throw up our hands in despair, know this….. the Proverbs 31 woman does not literally exist.

Nope. Never has, never will. Sure, there are those who may have come close, but they are few and far between. The majority of us will never evolve into this dream woman.

And that’s okay.

It’s speculated that King Lemuel may be King Solomon, which makes the person giving advice none other than Queen Mother, Bathsheba, wife of King David. A woman who knows a thing or two about what sort of wife a king might need by his side.

It’s also speculated the Proverbs 31 woman is most likely a combination of many women. She is the personification of years of wisdom…not a literal checklist to determine a woman’s worth. Of course, we should aspire to the virtues in this passage, but reality is such that most of us will never be able to live up to all these expectations.

So stop obsessing. This is not the gold standard for women. Stop and think about the women who are considered role models in Scripture. They may surprise you.

Eve: a woman who can’t follow directions.
Sarah: a barren woman who conspires with her servant, Hagar, to give Abraham a child. Then she turns on Hagar in resentment and bitterness, and has both her and her son exiled.
Rahab: a prostitute.
Ruth: a pagen daughter-in-law and despised foreigner.
Naomi: a woman who is without husband or sons.
Esther: a woman who manipulates events to sway the odds in her favor.
Bathsheba: a woman who succumbs to adultery with King David; and after her husband is murdered, she is made queen. Years later she plots against David to make sure her son, Solomon, inherits the throne over his older brother.
Mary, mother of Jesus: an unwed, pregnant teenager.
The woman at the well: a Samaritan woman who’s had five husbands and currently living with a sixth man. She is despised in both religious and secular circles.

Not a Proverbs 31 woman (in the literal sense) in the bunch. In fact, some ‘virtues’ are seriously lacking. What is important is God used each of these women to fulfill a larger, divine plan. He used their strengths and weaknesses and equipped them to be women he wanted at that given point in time.

I read Proverbs 31:10-31 and can’t help but feel I don’t measure up. When that happens, I have to remind myself that even though I’m seriously flawed, in Christ, I’m accepted, free from condemnation and can never be separated from God.

I’m a work in progress….just like all the other women listed above. But, the one thing that ties us all together can be found at Proverbs 31:30.

Proverbs 31

Playing along with those at Life Through the Lens

LTTL & Song-ography

daff and drops 72Texture by Kim Klassen; Lily, 80% screen with selective masking

‘Cause what if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise.
~Laura Story, Blessings

Rain. Storms. Tears. Perhaps the hardest part of being a Christian is the resignation that we will have storms in our lives. We will have tears. We will have trials and hardships…sometimes unbearable hardships. Being a Christian doesn’t give us a fee pass from experiencing any the hard stuff in life. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we’ll magically live a charmed life. In fact, many times, it’s exactly the opposite.

This is a hard concept to explain to a non-believer. Why is there pain and suffering? Why are there trials, disasters and disappointments? Why would we look at these things in our lives as blessings and mercies in disguise?

Well, isn’t that a good question.

By human nature, we don’t appreciate pain and suffering. So, why are Christians so tolerant of God, who may not grant their wishes answer their prayers with desired results? Wouldn’t it make sense that God would want his children to be happy? Wouldn’t he want us to live a comfortable life, free from stress, trials, despair, fear and disappointment?

Not all the time.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
~Romans 8:28

Well, that sounds a bit trite, doesn’t it? It sounds like a great way to excuse God from ensuring “his children” are safe and happy. After all, isn’t he a Cosmic Vending Machine…a Divine Sugar Daddy…that’s there to grant our whims and wishes, and give us what we want if we agree to stick with him?

It’s a hard mindset to adopt…this suffering-for-no-apparent-good-reason thing. In reality, this is why many people walk away from Christianity. We seem to think this is a negotiable “you do [this] for me and I’ll do [this] for you” type of arrangement. Mutual benefit….but only on our terms.

Newsflash: we need to get over ourselves and see what is actually happening. After all, if you’re a parent, how many times do we say ‘no’ to our children when they whine about what they want? How many times do we let them struggle with a project or learning a new skill? Parenting is hard…it’s difficult to mold our children into responsible adults. If we step in and make their lives easy all the time, what does that teach them?

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. . . . Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
~James 1:2-4,12

Trials, persecution, suffering, despair, disaster, challenges, failures….they all work to build character. When facing the challenges of life, the Christian realizes these things cannot be overcome without help….and that strength comes from a humble heart and the reliance on a sovereign God that knows what we need, and when we need it. Although, during those time, it usually bothers the control freak in all of us that we’re not privy to the bigger plan. We like being masters of our own destiny…just like our children.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:9-11

Paul said it so well. All to often our prayers sound like this: “Puleeeeeze God…take this (fill in the blank) away from me.” When, in fact, it would be better to pray: “Help me through this, Lord, and show me what I’m suppose to learn from it.” Big difference.

While on this earth as a man, Jesus asked God the Father to take away what was about to happen to him. Jesus, the divine, accepted the persecution, suffering and, ultimately, death knowing his suffering was fulfilling a larger, more beneficial plan for redemption and salvation. And because Jesus experienced suffering, fear, disappointment, pain and despair while as a man, He uniquely understands when we experienced the same. Christians draw closer to Jesus during those times in our lives because we know He understands and will not abandon us. We may not like His methods, but we trust in His mercy and grace to make us stronger and shape us into a better being.

Linking up with those who share
at Songography and Life Through the Lens.

What is the Liturgy of your Life?

RestorationTexture by Kim Klassen; 0216 Magic

When God forgives, he at once restores.
~Theodore Epp

Liturgy. The word most likely conjures up negative impressions of stuffy, stale religious services that don’t really speak to our enlightened, contemporary culture. By definition, liturgy means: a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observances; a prescribed form for public religious worship. Now, admit it…your thoughts went straight to rigid, boring and conforming. Am I right?

But, it doesn’t matter if we describe our worldview and beliefs as Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Agnostic….or even Atheist. The fact is, every single one of us embraces some sort of liturgy that guides our life.

Granted, the term, liturgy, is mainly associated with religious worship. But there are other types of liturgy present in our culture. Liturgy is simply the set of beliefs and ideals that we embrace as part of our life. It’s how we live at our core….and many times, that can be very surprising….regardless of what we admit in public.

Our culture has been programmed to pursue personal happiness above everything else. We hold sacred the need to have a positive self-image and crave affirmation in oder to feel worthy. We get hurt emotionally and hunt tirelessly for self-help ways to cure our damaged psyches. We search for someone…anyone….to blame for our unhappiness. And if we were just a little richer, a little thinner, a little taller, a little more successful…then we’d be so much happier. If we had our perfect job, perfect spouse, perfect children, perfect house, perfect car, life would be…..perfect! This is part of our culture’s liturgy.

The condition of our hearts is the determining factor in what type of liturgy we adopt for our lives. Many people experience tragic losses or become deeply hurt psychologically and emotionally. Some descend into an endless cycle of brokenness and their lives reflect this in their actions and how they live. Others are able to shed tears, feel the pain….yet they aren’t incapacitated and live forever in an abyss. Why is that? How can some people accept brokenness without letting it consume them?

Brokenness is a symptom of our heart’s condition…It’s only when we realize the world is broken….life is broken….we are broken…that we can take steps to truly heal and be whole again.

First century Corinth has a lot in common with our twenty-first century cultural liturgy. Theirs was a culture of wealth, arrogance, immorality, permissiveness, idolatry and excessiveness. The church in Corinth called themselves Christian, yet embraced pervasive practices…which led them down a path of brokenness and unfulfillment. They spent their time seeking happiness in all the wrong places. They adopted the cultural liturgy of personal gain and happiness at any cost, and hoped it would satisfy their needs, wants and desires. But it didn’t. It just caused them to crave more and left them feeling empty.

God is not as interested in us being happy all the time as we are. He’s much more focused on making us holy than making us happy. And many times that process takes the form of making us humble and broken. He will use situations and experiences to break our arrogant, prideful hearts and humble us to ask for His help. Some of us experience the first part….the brokenness part….but don’t embrace the humbleness and asking God for help part. When that happens, we tend to spend our lives in an endless cycle of depression, self-pity, blaming others and are generally sucky to be around. The sooner we admit we’re broken and won’t be able to fix it by looking to our culture’s quick-fix solutions or blaming others, the sooner God can restore in us the hope of a better future.

Christians across the world celebrated Easter last week. The time when Jesus chose to insert himself into the culture’s liturgy and die to reconcile broken lives back to a fulfilling relationship with the Creator. As a Christian, with the saving grace of his messy death and divine resurrection, the liturgy of my life should be one of humbleness, gratitude and self-sacrifice. With that, everything else that unfolds in my life will look entirely different.

What is the liturgy of your life?

Linking up with the lovely people who share their lives over at Life Through the Lens, Texture Tuesday and Texture Twist.

 

One word for 2015

fearlessTexture by Kim Klassen; Evolve, 50% multiply

Instead of making resolutions, many people select one word to focus on for the new year. This has been intriguing to me as I am not one to make resolutions either. But time slips away and it’s usually St. Patrick’s Day before I remember I was going to jump in and do that.

But 2015 is going to be different. With our bombshell news at the end of 2014, lots of things are going to happen this year. And I need something to help me focus. On January 1st I began mulling over different words…all good words that probably would have been beneficial.

Faith: Yes, my faith is going to be tested like never before.
Courage/Strength: Yes, we all will need courage/strength to face what the coming months have in store.
Acceptance: Yes, like it or not, there’s a chance I will need to accept the possibility of life vastly different than I’d planned.
Healing/Restoration: Yes, this would have been a good word on which to focus. Regardless of whether Entrepreneur experiences physical healing, or the emotional healing rest of us will need if he doesn’t, this would have worked well.

But the word I chose for 2015 is

Fearless

I realized fear is at the root of everything I’m feeling right now. Fear is causing me to dwell on worst case scenarios….despite putting up a seemingly optimistic front. Fear is paralyzing me with the thought of having to operate our company and personal finances by myself. Fear and sadness is consuming me with thoughts that Peanut and Twix will grow up without their Papa being an integral part of their lives. The realization that all our dreams and plans to grow old together may have been made in vain is terrifying me.

Fear is central to the human condition. Fear of the unknown and twisted perceptions is what drives most of the anxiety we experience in life. Personal peace disappears, replaced with scenarios of what ifs. Despite all our efforts to be optimistic, fear causes little seeds of doubt to take root and to grow into a tangled mess. And when that happens, we have a tendency to become hopeless and our lives fall apart.

All because of fear.

So, I choose to focus on being fearless as I pray for the courage/strength to face the trials and struggles to come. I choose to focus on being fearless and accept whatever my life will look like months and years down the road. I choose to focus on being fearless, because God tells us repeatedly to fear not. In fact, we’re reminded hundreds of times in the bible to be not afraid.

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~Isaiah 41:10

This is my command—
be strong and courageous!
Do not be afraid or discouraged.
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~Joshua 1:9

Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled,
neither let them be afraid. ~John 14:27

And finally…

Be the kind of woman who,
when your feet hit the floor in the morning
the Devil says, Oh @#$%, she’s awake.

Fear less.
Fearless.

Linking up with Life Through the Lens and Friday Finds
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