Exploring where life and story meet!

Monday, March 28, 2016

On finally 'getting' Easter

This Easter season has been especially poignant for me, just having figured out last summer that my whole childhood was a lie: a thin veneer of 'normal' over a literal hell of abuse and neglect, the worst part being I can't really discuss it with anyone without them thinking I'm overreacting or lying or trying to get attention or them being in complete disbelief.  I've had to mourn a lost childhood, the lost family/parental relationships of any sort, to address the emotional damage and dangerous thinking patterns/coping mechanisms I had learned over the years just to survive, and to grieve over the continued absence of any sort of extended family relationships or support, this doesn't just affect me, it also denies my children their grandparents…but that isn't what this post is about.  I never before entered into Good Friday and Easter truly understanding what it was all about, what was sacrificed and endured for my sake.  Yes, I had an intellectual understanding but this year I finally 'got it.'

I've seen 'The Passion of the Christ,' numerous times, I've read the stories times beyond count, but this year I finally understood.  We all want a God who understands us, but for the first time, I think I begin to understand God just a little.  He willingly left Heaven's glories for this: to live a peasant among mortal men, not just a poor man, but one whose birth was thought the result of sinful behavior which would mar his social status for life in that place and time.  But it wasn't just enduring the ignominies and sorrows attendant unto mortality, He then went and died the most hideous death imaginable at the time for crimes He did not commit, but worse, He felt at that moment what it was to be rejected by the Father for the sins of the world.  I have felt the agony of the rejection of mortal parents, what must He have endured for my sake?  What a terrible, wonderful thought!  That is the 'Good' in Good Friday: 'that God the Just was satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.'

How deep the pain of searing loss,
the Father turns His face away,
as wounds which mar the Chosen One,
bring many sons to glory.
~How Deep the Father's Love for Us~

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Timely reminders

Life has been a little stranger and harder than usual of late, at times I have very much wondered what is the point of pressing on, of trying so hard, of having suffered so much.  But suddenly I was reminded that it is right before Easter, of what that 'holiday' truly means, of what Good Friday is all about.  Amidst all the bunnies and colored eggs, even in the shadow of my own struggles, I came across this song and my world turned upside down, or perhaps I should say right side up.  I've been so focused on me that I've forgotten it should be all about Him and my troubles are pretty petty compared to what He did for each of us and the hope we therefore have in Him.  This is an old hymn (~1863) that was set to new music in the 1990's and it is just beautiful, it reminds me very much of 'Be Thou My Vision' and  'How Deep the Father's Love for Us,' there's a you-tube version beneath for the full effect.  Happy Easter!

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One with Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased with His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

I bow before the cross of Christ
And marvel at this love divine
God’s perfect Son was sacrificed
To make me righteous in God’s eyes
This river’s depths I cannot know
But I can glory in it’s flood
The Lord most high has bowed down low
And poured on me His glorious love.

~Before the Throne of God Above~

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Too close to see

A friend took me to a little nook tucked away not an hour from here where great hunks of sandstone stuck out of the ground and had been sculpted by wind and weather over the centuries while red pines had grown up through and around them, it was quite an interesting and strange landscape, as if I had opened a book of fairy stories and was literally drawn into that peculiar and wondrous world.  It is strange that we will drive or fly hundreds or even thousands of miles to see some sight or wonder or event but obliviously overlook the selfsame right in our own neighborhood!  Sometimes it seems we are too close to see clearly.

What do I mean?  If you are standing right next to an elephant, you can probably see little but a chunk of gray wrinkly skin, a tale, or an eye, but if you back away to a proper distance you can truly admire this amazing animal.  It is the same with landscapes and even our own lives.  That is the happiest part of a vacation, at least in my estimation, the coming home and realizing what it is you missed and just how wonderful life as usual truly is.  Sometimes we just need to step back and reevaluate something to which we were standing too close to see clearly.  What are you standing too close to at the moment?

I watched a show once wherein an individual temporarily lost his sight, he 'saw' more in those three days of blindness than he had in his entire life and when his sight was restored, he was the happiest and most grateful man alive.  Sometimes we need to step back or even cut off something in life, perhaps just for a little while, to truly understand its impact or import (or lack thereof) in our lives, to regain perspective, to lose something not worth keeping, or to truly appreciate something we are taking for granted.

Even Jesus, God Himself in human flesh, often 'went out to a lonely place to pray,' when He could have been spending that time 'better' by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, etc., at least to His disciples' thinking, but even He needed time alone and away from the teeming masses and curious crowds, the stress and the noise and the pressure.  His followers and the Jewish nation wanted one thing: freedom from Roman oppression, while He had come to give the entire world something completely different, something none could understand at the first, and which even 2000 years later leaves many scratching their heads.

That is one thing I really like about the 'dechristianization' of America, or whatever this strange modern era is called wherein we shuck off our Judeo-Christian roots and strike out boldly into post-modernism, secular humanism, materialism, diversity, political correctness, or whatever this 'brave new world' is.  We were too close to the story.  Everyone was a Christian, but then again, no one was.  We all knew the stories, our grandparents went to church, we had been confirmed or baptized or something like that, we didn't do illegal things, we were 'good' people, we weren't Muslim or Jewish or Buddhist so we must be Christian, that is until that word became stigmatized and culturally 'uncool.'  Now, standing at a distance, we can truly appreciate that we never truly understood what that word meant, that we were only going through the motions, that we were only pretending, that we must make a choice to 'take up our cross and follow Him,' or to go our own way.  We can finally see the elephant for what it truly is.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


Yesterday in church, a missionary called all the kids up front and then proceeded to ask, in front of everyone, what they wanted to be when they grew up.  There were the usual doctors, astronauts, and so forth, but my toddler insisted he wanted to be 'a star wars movie.'  Cue the good natured laughter at the antics of adorable children, but when the anecdote was related to my in-laws, instead of laughing, they were horrified and asked aghast, "you let him watch THAT?!"  Which really made me scratch my head, what was so bad about Star Wars (the original trilogy)?  We haven't sat down and watched it as a family, he is a little young yet, but we watched it with friends while the kids were in and out playing, watching a snippet here or there and I saw nothing wrong with that.  But then, we've received numerous animated DVDs from them of late, none of them are bad but none of them are good: they are downright boring, having been stripped of everything that gives life depth, zest, mystery, color, and interest.  While they may be 'safe,' any child with half a brain would be insulted that you thought they would find such insipid drivel interesting.

Which sent me back to my own childhood, which was stripped of all joy, peace, hope, and fun, and I certainly wasn't allowed to have my own personality, tastes, and interests.  Anything I loved was taken from me or used against me and I ever lived in fear of offending my mother, who would then threaten to turn me out in the street and demand to know why I was so stupid and couldn't do anything right.  It was only years later that I learned that life wasn't horrible, hopeless, and dull.  While my in-laws mean well, wanting to 'protect' their only grandchild from the horrors of the world, in a way they are doing something very similar to what happened to me in an abusive home: distorting the world into a shape not its own.  My mother stripped it of all joy and wonder.  They want to remove any danger, risk, and darkness.  But what is a person to do when they must actually go out and confront a world they do not recognize?  I found it more wondrous than I could ever dream.  If raised as they would have him, my son would find it an intimidating place indeed.

I found the comparison and contrast quite interesting, especially considering the season: the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter.  Especially when my in-laws profess to be Christians.  The very center of their beliefs is the gruesome death of an innocent man, nay God, on a 'hill far away.'  Should I protect my son from THAT as well?  We have many 'children's Bibles' in our home, most gifts from various friends or relations, but there is really only one we have really read and focused on and that tells the story of the crucifixion, it is certainly no Passion of the Christ, but it does not leave out that rather disturbing detail, which is the very center of the faith, as many of the others do.  There are several that have nice pictures and charming little stories, but they end with Jesus holding the children on his lap and smiling.  Just a nice man and a nice, clean, safe story.  No death, no messiness, no resurrection, no hope.

There is a rather famous line in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which goes, "“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver,“who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good."  The other day my son, right before getting in trouble, said, "mommy a nice mommy," I could only smile and say, "no, I'm not a nice mommy, I'm a good mommy," I was very much reminded of the above quote, and knowing he was trying to get out of the consequences of his actions, but being 'good' rather than 'nice,' I knew it was for his good that he face the music.  We all want the world to be safe or nice rather than good, we also want the same of our god.

There has been some trumpeting of the theoretically dying Church in America, how people are fleeing 'the faith' and sensibly embracing the secular materialism of our day.  The problem with that assertion is that those 'fleeing' the faith, really were never a part of it to begin with.  Yes the mainline, liberal leaning denominations are shedding adherents like a cat hair, but that has been happening for decades, it is only with the cultural revulsion of the word 'Christian' that 'christians in name only' are finally doffing the offensive title to maintain their hipness and cultural acceptability.  There is no crisis in the orthodox churches, they've been 'offensive' for the last two millennia.  Who else can say they were offending the Romans 1500 years before we even discovered there was such a thing as the Americas?

But those denominations, like the insipid children's Bibles and the insular worldview of my in-laws, are all about being nice and safe and acceptable and inoffensive, but that isn't life and it certainly isn't faith in Christ.  I love Star Wars, it is perhaps the most human movie ever, portraying courage, risk, struggle, good, evil, an openness to the supernatural and mysterious, friendship, love, betrayal, adventure, peace, war, hate, beauty, ugliness, greed, cowardice, sacrifice, redemption, humor, tears, and all the weird, wild, and wonderful traits that make this world so tragic and so beautiful.  I want my son to grow up understanding that, I don't want to water down the world, or the faith, to 'protect' him.  I can't and I won't, it does him a huge disservice.  I want him to grow up understanding and appreciating this world, this story of which he is a part, and to know that he can not only survive but can also thrive, he can face the darkness and know that the light has overcome it.

The Apostle Paul sums it up well, "and if Christ has not been raised [from the dead], your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." It is a complex, strange world and the only answer must be as strange, as offensive, as unsafe, un-nice, and un-pretty as the darkest sin.  Pretending it isn't there doesn't make it go away.  Sanitizing the story only insults people, as those boring, 'safe' cartoons offend the very children they were made to entertain.  The world is what it is, the story is what it is, don't make it nice, accept it or don't, but it is a grievous insult to all our intellects to pretend that it is only safe, when it is actually good.