holy week: a reflection

It’s Holy Week, and I find myself wanting it to be some huge spiritual experience. And as with every other week of Lent, it is in the ordinary and the commonplace, and the day to day where Jesus keeps on showing up. Body and blood. God with us.

I’m going to be charitable to myself and say that I didn’t do the best at my Lenten goals this year. Other than a successful fast, I think I only did any of my other proposed activities a handful of times, if that. And I feel this tension, pulling me. That same tension that pulled me when my husband invited me into feast day tv watching. The tension between propping myself up with my works and freely receiving grace. Between chastising myself for failing and thanking God for the ways he has been present.

I had a lot of good plans for observing Lent this year. Plans that came from a good place. Plans that I was excited about. Plans that I think I’ll probably try to make again. But can I say that my failing has been the place where Lent has been so meaningful? Every day, when I see the unopened devotional email I was supposed to read, or I realized that Eliana ripped her “Lenten Path” paper in half, and it’s hanging there sad on the side of our fridge, I remember that sin is a part of me, that brokenness is where we live.

And I remember grace. I remember mercy and forgiveness and redemption. I don’t think a day has gone by since Ash Wednesday that I haven’t breathed thanksgiving for that shield of grace that Jesus bought for us with his blood.

Now I realize that it’s not necessarily sin that I don’t read all that I planned to or do all the activities that I planned with my kids. I don’t think it’s sin to have a messy house or to get behind on the laundry or to forget that you have company coming. But, oh how those things remind me of how flawed I am! How broken I am. How I fall short in ways that really do matter. Like being holy.

And this morning, when I did read Walt Wangerin’s Maundy Thursday devotional with cat piano background music and a room-temperature cup of coffee, I felt a little twinge that I haven’t made reading a priority. That I didn’t make more of an effort to anticipate. To participate. But it was a different kind of pain than the kind of pain I am so used to feeling when I realize that I’m not enough. When I remember that I’m broken to the very core of me.  It was a hunger pain more than a stifling pain. A growing pain more than a crushing pain. An ache for more Jesus instead of a desperate grasp to be good, do it better, try harder. wpid-img_20150113_112036.jpg

Instead of my mind being filled with all the ways I have fallen short, it is filled with all the ways that he has been faithful with my broken little obediences. The ways that he has given himself to me. How he has been Immanuel, the God who came to live with us.

When I look back at the weeks between Ash Wednesday and today, I realize that I have to choose what story I tell, I have to choose where my heart is going to focus.  The story of my failure or the story of His grace? The story of my dirty feet or the story of how he washed them? The story of my sin, or the story of his redemption?

Because really, aren’t they the same story?

wounded deep for our transgressions

bruised for our iniquities

you brought us peace

and bought our healing 

now eternally we sing

hosanna in the highest.

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Third Sunday of Lent

Gracious Father, we give You praise
And thanks for this Holy Communion
The body and blood
Of Your beloved Son

ah, this is so good. I need this.

Maybe this truth will help me be in a better mood,

give me a better attitude,

help me focus in the right place.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for mercy,

for grace.

Abba Father, we bless Your name
And take part in this Holy Communion
Make us all one
To love like Your Son

Yes, Lord.

How my heart longs for that true fellowship of believers.

Wait. Is Phoebe fussing? Didn’t the downstairs neighbor say that she can hear Phoebe crying sometimes? Does she think I’m a terrible mother? I better go make sure Phoebe is okay.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

CRASH.

My eyes snap open. Despite the one million times I have told her not to, Ellie has climbed into her doll crib, and, obviously, the bottom fell out.

ALREADY? I just wanted to listen to this one song. I just wanted two minutes and fifteen seconds of peace.

The body is broken
God’s love poured open
To make us new
Lord, make us new

“It’s not your fault, It’s my fault.”

Before I can even open my mouth, my two year old short circuits the thoughts that would’ve made this situation all about me and not about her. All about guilt and not about grace.

And somehow, we have a quiet conversation about how important it is to listen to mommy and to choose to obey, even if my eyes are closed. And I gently remind that little girl that she has her own crib and this one is not it.

And somehow, the bottom of that plastic doll crib fits right back in there and it’s almost like it never broke in the first place.

And somehow, He keeps finding ways to be Immanuel. God right here in our life. The God who came to live with us. The God who isn’t only there when I have a quiet space, ancient prayers, and cup of coffee, but the God who wants to be found. Right smack in the middle of crying babies and disobedient toddlers, if I will only ask to see him. The God who doesn’t need silent spaces or special weekends to change my heart.

The God who is right here in my living room, making me new.

Ten Weeks of Tuesdays: Instrument of Peace

I have to start by saying that I found out today that I’m a part of the launch team for a Jenny & Tyler covers EP that’s coming out in November. I’m super excited because a) I LOVE J&T (but you knew that already) and b) because 100% of the money they make on this album goes straight to fight human trafficking and c) because it means that I got early access to the album.  So, check back for more info on the album in the next few weeks.

Anyway, Ellie and I were dancing around to a certain U2 song included on the album and she kept grabbing my face and kissing me.  It was awesome.  Not only because baby kisses are the greatest, but also because I usually have to beg, beg, beg for them….and that really has nothing to do with the short post that follows. I just couldn’t help myself.

I repeatedly notice this tendency in myself to run away from things that make me feel uncomfortable. Just human nature, I guess, but when I don’t like a situation, I usually just leave… That’s not entirely true. I usually mock on my way out.

I don’t think college helped this tendency at all.  Every semester, things changed. I loved that. I loved that if I hated something, an escape was just a few months away. At all times. During the last few months that we were at Trinity, I started to ache for consistency. The temporary-ness of life was wearing on me. I had gotten to the point where every 3-4 months, I was experiencing significant life changes, and it was exhausting.  I dreamed of the day when I would know, with reasonable certainty, where we’d be living, working, etc. for longer than a few moths.

And now we’re getting there.  And it’s terrifying. It feels like suffocation.

And I realized why. It’s because I’m not going to be able to push the eject button. I’m not going to be able to just run away from a situation if I don’t like it. I’m going to have to stick it out. pray it out. live it out.

And if I can be honest, my attitude is going to have to change. A lot. I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit while I was listening to this song on the way home from church the other day.

“All that we do without love
It means nothing
Grant us the courage to give
As You’re calling

Make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is darkness let me shine light and
May Your love cause us to open up
Cause us to open up our hearts
May Your light cause us to shine so bright
That we bring hope into the dark”*

The first half of the chorus of that song is from the Prayer of St. Francis.  His prayer continues:

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Oh, friends. I don’t think this is something I can do in my own strength. I don’t think this is something that can come from a heart of pride.  Friends, I think only a broken person can live like this.  Only a broken person living in the strength of the one who was broken first.

*Open Up, The Brilliance