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.

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April Photo Blogging Challenge

photo blog challenge

The year is marching along and here it is already the end of April. And that means it’s time for PJ’s photo challenge. This month’s prompt was Family and Friends. With Easter falling within the first week, there was no shortage of family shots from which to choose. So, unlike past months, this time I’m going to be very predictable in my interpretation of the theme,,,,and it’s heavy on the under three-foot tall crowd.

1. Easter finery. A rare shot of Peanut and Twix, in the same place, at the same time….with relatively pleasant expressions…at the same time. This was before Easter Sunday worship. And before the chocolate candy sugar high deluge that followed.
Peanut-Twix Easter 2015

2. Egg hunts and bunny ears. After church we headed to Entrepreneur’s parents’ house for the obligatory egg hunt. And here’s Peanut rounding the bend and coming down the home stretch.
Peanut egg hunt
And one more of The Investigator sporting some fine bunny ears while helping Twix navigate her basket of goodies.
twix Easter basket

3. A girl and her dog. Tanner has always been a patient pupper. I can’t tell you how many times Peanut has crawled over and sat on him since she was 6 months old..and he doesn’t mind a bit. Golden Retrievers….best. breed. ever. for a family dog.
Peanut and tanner 2015

4. One year and counting. Twix turned one in February and it’s amazing what she has accomplished just in the last two months. She is walking and talking nonstop. Most of the time she is a happy baby…except when she’s teething…or overly tired….or told she can’t go somewhere….or you take something away from her….or she realizes she is by herself…. No, really, she’s a happy baby!
Twix 2015

5. Everyday moments. With Entrepreneur’s recent cancer scare, I’m more observant about these mundane, everyday snapshots of life. What might look like a nothing-special shot of him walking with Twix in the yard takes on an entirely new meaning now. I can keep these images in my mind’s eye, but be certain I’ll be looking to capture them digitally whenever possible (thank goodness for camera phones).

papa and twix

So, that’s my five for April. Be sure to make your way over to a ‘lil hooha and see what family and friend memories the rest of us shared.

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.

 

Sweet, simple things

Peanut Easter72
Texture by Kim Klassen: Lilly 100% soft light

It’s the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.
~Laura Ingalls Wilder

Why do we make life so complicated? It’s so easy to get caught up in our culture’s idea of what it tells us we need in order to have a happy life. We fix ourselves on the idea of what our perfect life looks like…and, inevitably we’re disappointed when life doesn’t meet those expectations.

Because life is messy.

When disappointments crush my Pollyanna view of how my life is suppose to be, all I need to do is look at this face. And my priorities and perspective are instantly put back where they belong. For it’s in life’s simple pleasures where we find the most happiness.

And I hope my grandbabykins can learn that lesson as well. I hope and pray they grow up realizing that even when dreams are dashed (by their own choice or someone else’s), that they don’t need to be defined by their disappointments; that life holds so many possibilities if they will simply embrace the change and look positively towards the future…even if it’s not the one they may have planned. I hope they learn how to let go of bitterness and resentment that will consume them and suck the joy out of the good things in their lives.

They say children can be resilient and learn how to roll with the punches. That they eventually adapt to their circumstances…mainly because they are not in control of their destiny…but maybe it’s because they tend to look at life more simply and know how to trust they will be cared for regardless of the direction of their life.

Maybe we all should try that approach.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding. ~Proverbs 3:5

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. ~Isaiah 40:31

Happy Easter and may we all embrace the rebirth and new life that comes with becoming a transformed person. A person that realizes it’s the simple things of life and love that give the most sweetness to our lives.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday, Texture Twist,
Sweet Shot Tuesday and Life Through the Lens.

Texture Tuesday   texture-twist
P52 Sweet Shot Tuesday with Kent Weakley   
Life through lens

A spirit of youth

PeanutEaster2013
Texture by Kim Klassen: Cora 100% soft light over feathered vignette photo

Kim’s prompt for Texture Tuesday is Free and Easy. I thought this shot was perfect for the prompt. It’s Peanut in her Easter dress last Sunday acting a little free and easy. What little girl can resist a celebratory dress twirl on such a nice day?

We’re so ready for spring here in Middle Missouri.

Linking up with Texture Tuesday
Texture Tuesday

A blessed Easter to you

crossToday is called Good Friday and I’m trying to write this post about Easter. On Sunday we’ll say Happy Easter to each other and probably not give it a second thought. After all, there are brunches to eat, egg  hunts to attend and let’s not forget the chocolate in the Easter baskets!

For much of the world, this is how Easter is observed. A celebration of spring and renewal. Colorful eggs, bunnies, new outfits and much-welcomed spring flowers are the themes of the day. The season where we can put winter behind us and look forward to better days.

For Christians, today and Easter Sunday should be much, much more. It’s hard to put into words the significance of Easter outside of the well-worn bible passages. I think so many times we gloss over the events of Good Friday….which was anything but “good” some 2,000+ years ago.

Easter is about renewal…but not of the springtime variety. Sure, spring is the perfect analogy for Easter. It’s the season the world awakes from the “deadness” of winter with new life. Easter is really all about awakening from a different sort of darkness. It’s the sober realization that God didn’t throw up his hands in frustration with us and all the terrible things we do that go against everything God is. It’s the realization that God loves his creation so much that, when sin entered into our lives, he had a plan to reconcile his children back to their rightful place in the universe. But it came through an act so heinous and disturbing that it’s hard to comprehend.

Enter Jesus. Born of a woman in the most humble of circumstances, he grew up and became a very unusual man. Consider him the original Renaissance Man…someone accomplished in a variety of areas of expertise…like the creation of the universe. Yeah, that would qualify.

But this Jesus person….he didn’t spend his time in libraries writing thesis papers or with scholars in intellectual debates. Noooooo, this man spent his time among the poorest of the poor; the outcasts; the ones “respectable” people shunned. He ate with tax collectors and wasn’t afraid to associate with lepers. He went out of his way to heal the sick, blind, deaf, lame….and raise the dead. His knowledge of the Scripture was unsurpassed (probably because he inspired its writing) and his ability to defy the natural laws of the universe both amazed and terrified those that witnessed the events.

As Christians, we understand Jesus was the Son of God, the second person in the Godhead Trinity. As Jesus, he was 100% God and also 100% man. He came to put an end to the separation of a holy God and his creation that fell from grace through Satan’s trickery. For it’s through the sacrificial death of Jesus that mankind is made spotlessly clean in they eyes of God. It’s an action so monumental that only God could pull it off. (If you want something done right, do it yourself……)

I understand it’s almost impossible for some people to see why one man’s death by crucifixion would hold such significance more than 2,000 years after the fact. Why we wear this symbol of torture around our necks and make it front and center to our beliefs. In a nutshell, the symbol of the cross helps us remember God’s grace and the ultimate sacrifice that was made to once and for all put to death sin’s hold on our souls. His resurrection over sin and death is both literal and symbolic…that we have new life in him through the ultimate sacrifice he made for humanity’s sake.

We remember the darkness and death of Good Friday paired with the joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday so we never take for granted the sacrifice that was made to set us free from death.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. ~2 Corinthians 5:17

Behold, I make all things new. ~Rev. 21:5

And, as a mother, I cannot imagine the pain Mary felt watching these events unfold in front of her eyes. After all, this was her first born! Even though she knew her son’s purpose, I’m sure it was little comfort during those dark hours. And I don’t believe any song personifies this more than Mary Did You Know.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv5lKdyrTIg’%5D

So, to you I sincerely wish a very blessed Easter.

More than meets the eye

Today is Good Friday, the the end of Holy Week; the week where we remember the events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Sunday, Christians will celebrate Easter as the day Christ broke the bonds of eternal death for His creation, replacing death with eternal life. We’ll celebrate decked out in our Sunday best and in casual jeans. We’ll gather in church pews and folding chairs of make-shift churches. The early-risers will show up at  sunrise services and others will roll out of bed for late services. We’ll celebrate with traditional hymns and with contemporary praise bands. But we’ll all celebrate one common belief; the resurrection and saving grace of Jesus Christ.

I’ve never understood why today is called “good” Friday. Yes, I believe the final outcome is all good, but today is all about crucifixion and death. It’s the result of a week that, for all accounts, looks like events went spiraling wildly out of control and ended badly.

As a Christian, I believe the events that happened this week circa 33AD were intended. That this person named Jesus was a man…historically that cannot be disputed…but he was also God, the Son. One hundred percent mortal and 100% divine. And as such, clearly knew and accepted his mission on earth. He willingly became the once-and-for-all sacrificial atonement needed to reconcile creation back to a holy God.

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” ~John 10:17-18

Which brings me back to the events of the week. As a mere mortal in the first century, it would most certainly have looked like things were out of control. In one week, the man so many thought was the promised Messiah…the one they hoped would liberate the Jewish people from Roman rule…went from celebrated savior to arrested heretic to convicted and crucified criminal.

But looks can be deceiving. What looked like a total mess was actually a divine plan in action. Holy week is exactly that. A week of pure chaos filled with disappointment, accusation and judgement…all rolled up in a holy, divine plan. There were no accidents or coincidences. God’s plan for reconciliation and redemption was being flawlessly executed through celebrated savior to convicted criminal to resurrected king.

And when our lives look like everything is spiraling out of control, full of disappointment and chaos, we look back to this week circa 33AD and know there’s more to what’s going on than meets our eyes.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ~Romans 8:11

A blessed Easter to all.