Waiting with Jesus

In the past few weeks something has been changing in my partner’s life (and my life), something that I’ve been hoping would happen for a few years now. It’s a good thing and I’m on some pins and needles waiting to see if it’s really going to stick around or if I’m going to have to be a little more patient for a little longer. The funny thing is I wasn’t really aware that I was waiting for it, until things began to change a few weeks back. It got me thinking about Jesus this week and how challenging this week must have been for Him after the big celebration of Palm Sunday.

Palm Sunday is in some ways like a big countdown, the beginning of the end for Jesus: the road to the cross and the grave and the resurrection. Since He knew from the very beginning that He would be born on Earth to save us (and agreed to come for exactly that purpose), and He was fully divine while here on Earth, He knew this would be coming at some point in time, and now that we’ve reached and passed Palm Sunday, the wait is almost over.

But how challenging was this week for Jesus, waiting for Thursday and then Friday to arrive, and knowing the challenges that those days would hold? There’s nothing like it that we can really relate to, because as much as we might understand the anticipation of waiting for Christmas or our birthdays or the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny, there’s not a huge challenge to face before we get there. Jesus had to wait through the week knowing that coming up would be the toughest days of His time on Earth, and also tough for those who loved Him. He couldn’t rush through the week or His life to get through Good Friday to get to Easter, He had to live it one day at a time.

In this virus situation that we’re facing as a world we’re all waiting too. We may be hopeful for an Easter Miracle, but whether that shows up or not, we’re all hoping that we can return to some semblance of normal before too long. But unlike Jesus, we don’t know how it will all end or exactly what we’ll face to get to that point. In some ways I think that if Jesus waited some 30 years to get through this week, the rest of us can get through these few weeks and months of the virus. But on the other hand I think it was easier for Jesus because He knew exactly what was ahead of Him and exactly what would be required of Him, and exactly what victory would be achieved on the other end, He just had to wait for it all to happen.

Whatever you’re waiting for today, know that Jesus can identify with what you’re facing. He will wait with you and encourage you each step of the way if you let Him. Jesus had to go through what He did this week very much alone, but we don’t have to, and for that I’m very thankful.

Remembering Jesus

I know as people of faith we’re supposed to think about faith topics more than other people, and hopefully we do. Hopefully you do make time for devotions and prayers each day and think about how God would want you to act or respond in different situations. I wish that more churches really invested in Lent like some churches do. Or maybe I should say that I wish more people took their faith a little more seriously and invested a little more in it, just like we may take our health or relationships or work seriously and invest in it on a daily basis. Just like we can’t avoid Christmas and Easter, maybe the secret to spending more time with Jesus is to make it more rememberable. It sounds a little silly, but maybe scheduling in time with Jesus is exactly what we should be doing. After all, Jesus made time on a regular basis during His most active years in ministry to spend time with God. So if Jesus, who was highly in demand, could make time for God, can’t we?

Yesterday in one of the faith-based emails I got, was a reminder that Holy Week is about remembering Jesus. It may sound a little strange, after all, isn’t He the central figure of all the action this week? Don’t we follow His life journey in the first books of the New Testament? Isn’t He the one we’re talking about on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday? Yes, but Jesus was and is a whole lot more than just what we talk about happening in 8 days’ time.

Jesus spent some 30 years on Earth with people just like you and me. He had a mother and father and brothers and sisters. He went to weddings and church and learned things like carpentry. I’m not up on the dating practices of His time, but it’s possible He went on some dates, and it’s very likely He thought about girls (fully human, remember?). We know so very little about the majority of His life on Earth, and maybe that’s because those years were so very ordinary and didn’t seem worth reporting by the men who wrote about His life and work.

But what we do know about Jesus is that He was extraordinary in many ways. He was born and had angels cheering and wise men bringing Him gifts. He turned water into wine. He fed thousands of people with next to nothing. He raised people from the dead and healed many from diseases and sicknesses that doctors of the day couldn’t do anything about. He calmed seas and cursed plants. He gave people hope and encouraged them to see their worth by letting them know that He saw them and believed in them. He championed for the downtrodden and always led with a wise thought and caring heart.

Yes, Jesus did do everything that we will talk about during Holy Week, but He was so much more than just born on Christmas, dead on Good Friday and risen again on Easter. Jesus did all those extraordinary things, including Holy Week, because He cares about you and I. He wants us to remember Him when we’re having good days and when we’re feeling challenged. He wants us to remember Him as someone who could hang out with friends and lead a nation. He wants us to remember Him as fully human and fully divine. He wants us to remember Him as someone who was both confident and loving. And ultimately, He wants us to remember Him. What are you remembering about Jesus this week?

Palm Sunday Pride

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. It’s never looked like this in my lifetime, and I hope that we don’t have to go through something similar in the future. As I’ve been contemplating our journey right now and thinking about Holy Week this week, it almost seems odd to have a big celebration like the one we usually have on Palm Sunday. No, it’s not as big as the one we have for Easter, but it was the big celebration for Jesus. Spoiler alert: He didn’t have trumpets sound and throngs of people celebrating on Easter like we do today. No, He appeared first to Mary and then to a few hundred people before He Ascended some 40 days later, not to thousands as we typically gather to celebrate on Easter.

I can’t begin to understand what Jesus went through when He came to Earth to live with us. To go from being a God with divine powers to now being totally human (and fully divine), it had to be frustrating to not get any of the recognition that you’re used to getting. Yes, it was essential that He did it this way so that He would truly understand us, and we could know that He does truly understand us, and to fulfill what the prophets had said practically since the beginning of time. And yes, He did show not only what it means to live having faith in God, and also shared glimpses of His divinity while He was with us. But it’s not the same. It’s like being told that you can only eat a portion of your dinner that’s in front of you or only live a portion of your passion and purpose or only connect with some people on some days or not fix an issue because it’s a certain day of the week.

So for Jesus Palm Sunday was a big deal. He finally got to be proud of and acknowledge and be acknowledged for who He really was in public to crowds of people, and He was celebrated for it. If you’ve ever been in a big church on Easter, you know there’s nothing like feeling the joy in the air and knowing that you’re all there to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Palm Sunday was like that for Jesus. Maybe in some ways it was God sending Jesus a little ‘get you through this’ blessing, knowing what Jesus would face in the week that was/is ahead.

We can’t be together physically to celebrate like they did on the first Palm Sunday, but we can still be proud of Jesus for coming to Earth and dying on the cross for each of us. We can still be proud of our faith and the God we love. We can still celebrate all that God has done, and all that God will do in the days and weeks to come. We will likely face more challenges in the days and weeks to come than we ever have as a world, but I have faith that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that we will be able to celebrate together again. Maybe you’re not celebrating what you usually do in your life, but if we all look, we all have something we can be thankful for. What are you able to celebrate today?

Reality Reflection: Questions and Faith

One of the secrets of success is asking questions. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way, either in trying to work with clients or in having a healthy relationship with my significant other, but going the extra mile in some cases to ask a question (or three) is usually worth it because it means I’m not repeating anything or having to redo something. But lately we’ve been dealing with a question that doesn’t have an answer, or at least not a good one: this virus that’s sweeping the globe. It has given me a new appreciation for families who are dealing with cancer and other currently unfixable or not easily fixed disabilities or illnesses, including Alzheimers which we’ve dealt with in my family. It’s tough to face a question that you can’t answer or get answers to and there are so many unknowns at this point, and so many people affected or potentially going to be affected.

Everyone faces some challenges in their life, some of us seem to be gifted more challenges than others. We all have to decide how we’re going to face those challenges and how we’re going to deal with questions that we just can’t answer at this time. We shouldn’t handle each challenge with the same action steps or plan of attack, because each challenge is different. This virus has taught us though that it’s important to have some items in stock with at least a month’s supply and to have a bigger plan about work and school and other things that could be impacted by a challenge.

We have to decide if the questions that we raise are really that important to answer, and if so how can we individually and collectively make steps, baby or big, in the direction of finding out what is or isn’t true and what the answer is to the question. As part of that investigation, we have to consider whether we’re even asking the right question(s) or if there are other questions that better address what we’re dealing with or questions that have to be answered before we can get to the question that’s really on our minds.

Some questions we may struggle with for our entire lives and never really come up with any good answers, and I think that’s part of life. We’re not all knowing (that’s God’s job), and some things are beyond our ability to understand. One thing I’ve been blessed to not question seriously throughout my life is my faith. Sure, I have moments that I don’t know where things are going or I can’t see how they’re really going to resolve themselves or I’ve dealt with depression, but time and again God has sent me a little reminder, reassured me or been the one constant that’s been there through anything.

As we head into Holy Week on Sunday with Palm Sunday, all the questions and uncertainty we’re dealing with right now and how very different this Easter will be from past Easters, I’ve decided to share a post a day for the week, starting on Palm Sunday and ending on Saturday before Easter (with an Easter post on Monday since many churches and faith leaders will be sharing special messages around the internet on Sunday). We’ll take a look at some of Jesus’ story, the Holy Week events, and discuss some of the topics that we’re dealing with as a world right now in this unique situation.

It’s important right now to keep the faith and believe in our ability to get through this together, even as physically separated as we are.  With the free time and different situations we’re facing, it’s a good time to be asking questions and really working through the answers so that you’re prepared for what may happen in the future.  And if I’m asking one question right now more than any other, it would be for God to send an Easter miracle to our world.

Victories for Today

I’ve been working on some different victories in my life while much of my regular life is on hold like yours may be as well, and in reading back through some emails from the beginning of March I’m reminded of the tornado in Nashville again that happened in the beginning of the month. No one was predicting our lives would look like they do today when that tornado happened, and now that we’re immersed in this virus challenge people around the US are dealing with things that occur on a semi-yearly basis: other tornadoes and an earthquake. I pray that we’ll have this under much better control by the time hurricane season shows up or the unfortunately seemingly annual fire season begins.

All of these thoughts got me thinking about (and feeling) sayings like “when it rains it pours” and being “beaten while you’re down.” While there may be some value behind the idea of just getting everything out of the way all at once, it’s definitely a hard choice to make, and a lot harder to deal with when resources are stretched as far as they are right now, and no one really chooses to face as many serious challenges as they possibly can.

What does it mean? Well, maybe we need to hit bottom, or close to bottom, to get a reality check on how we’re living or how we’re treating each other or the effort we’re giving to living lives that fulfill us and prepare us for situations like this. Maybe we need this reality check to do something about how people around the globe live in poverty and can’t avoid situations like this, thus causing (potentially) high casualties. Maybe we need this reality check to help us advance to a better level of work, both to improve our companies and help us be more consistently able to support ourselves. Maybe it’s a reminder to update all your important information so that the right people know your wishes and you don’t leave a mess for anyone to deal with after you’re gone.

Or maybe this is just a reminder that we need to take time outs from time to time, whether they’re mental health days, vacations, or a day dedicated each week to keeping our to do lists short, or even just time each day to process what’s going on in our lives. Maybe it’s just a reminder to take advantage of what you’re given and not worry about stuff you can’t control. Maybe it’s an opportunity to be light and love in a world that desperately needs it.

It may rain and pour for a little while yet, the questions are what we’re going to do while that happens and what we’re going to after it’s stopped raining (how are we going to pick up and move on from here)? I hope you’re working to achieve at least one victory each day right now, whether that’s to eat something tasty, enjoy watching a dog video, read a whole book, get out for a walk, or take a step closer to completing an item on your to-do list (or even complete a whole item!). After the rain is done, we’ll need to take stock and evaluate what went well, what needs to change for the future, and then take steps to make our future better. Some of the action and planning you can do while it rains, but much of it we have to see how things go before you can truly establish a plan for a better future. So focus on accepting and being at peace with your current situation and making whatever victories you can make for now, and worry about the future when it arrives.  What victory or victories will you achieve today?

Psalms for Today

It’s interesting to be working through the spiritual season of Lent while the world battles this virus. During the time that we in the spiritual community are reflecting on the incredible, powerful, transformative, humbling, intense years of active ministry leading to biggest and most challenging week of Jesus (and anyone’s) life, His death and resurrection, we’re facing a challenge that we’ve not yet faced as a world, and we don’t yet know how things will end up. It gives you some understanding and intimate knowledge about how the apostles must have felt after Jesus died on Good Friday.

This week I was reading one of my Lent devotionals, this one written by N.T. Wright, and while the devotional wasn’t written with knowledge of the virus in mind, I thought the words were relevant both to the situation we find ourselves in, as well as about the relevance of the Bible to our lives today:

“The deep distress we sense as we read this Psalm has, paradoxically perhaps, given great hope to millions down the years. No matter how deep we have sunk, no matter what sorrows or tragedies we may encounter, the Psalms have been there before us. Not only do they encourage us to believe that we have not, after all, fallen off the map. They give us words so that, when our own words fail to do justice to our misery, they will do instead.

The Psalm doesn’t hide. There’s no point pretending, putting a brave face on it before God….’Out of the depths!’ That’s how it is, for all of us some of the time, for some of us most of the time. Let’s tell it like it is.”

The Psalm referenced here is Psalm 130, which talks about suffering and fear, as well as hope in God and in God’s power to redeem. As N.T. Wright says, this is a recurring theme through many of the Psalms, all 150 of them. One of the reasons to love the Psalms and to read through them regularly is because of how they can speak to you about whatever situation you may be going through at the time, even though they were written thousands of years ago, which means that Jesus, who lived on Earth after the Psalms were written, can also identify with the feelings we’re dealing with now.

It may seem like we’re in a vicious, endless downward spiral right now, and that even though there may be a light at the end of the tunnel, it seems too far away to get to before everything falls completely apart. Much of our world will still be experiencing great uncertainty as we get into Palm Sunday and Holy Week next week, and Easter won’t look anything like what most of us have known it to be all our lives. And it’s OK to be struggling with this uncertainty and even have a healthy degree of fear and respect towards the problems that we’re dealing with as a world. But as we know from many Bible stories, God doesn’t give up on His people and doesn’t forget about them. So even if or as you struggle through this challenging time, know that Jesus will go through it with you, and that He’s faced much worse for you, and it’s with the type of love and compassion that Jesus showed during His years of ministry that we’ll be able to get through this too.

Reality Reflection: Looking at Limits

I don’t know about you, but I’m not a big news person. I do believe it’s important to know what’s going on in the world, so I check in on a news website once or twice a day typically and have one or two email newsletters that give me a brief overview of what happened the day prior. Of course, like many others, when there’s something really serious going on in the world like a missing airplane, in-progress natural disaster or health crisis I tend to check in on the news a little more. But I know, like many others, I can’t leave it on or it will depress me or so distract me with what-if scenarios to an unhealthy point. It’s necessary to know what’s going on in our world, but we don’t need to dwell on worst case scenarios when we could instead be doing our best to keep things moving in our own lives as best we can given whatever the circumstances.

What we’re really talking about here, especially with regard to something as widespread and still developing as this virus is the topic of limits and knowing what yours are. Some limits are to keep you from doing dangerous things or being with dangerous or less-than-healthy people, while others are really opportunities to spur growth. In some ways it’s sobering to talk about limits, because right now the world is dealing with a limit it doesn’t like to deal with: not having a cure for this virus. It’s tough to deal with limits like this one, because we don’t like being told that we can’t easily resolve a situation or don’t know the path through it or can’t help everyone as we would like to.

Families are also struggling with the current limits because they are now in completely new situations with their family members, they have to all of a sudden be teachers and master chefs and share tables at home as never before. While there are things that hopefully will change as a result of the virus like more people being able to work from home more often and people being more active and proactive with healthy practices, there are things that we’ve been made aware exactly how far we can go and why there are limits in place, such as that we’re not all teachers or knowledgeable on all subjects, and that it is important to be out and be physically present with others.

Sometimes limits have to be accepted in the short term to come up with better long term support and solutions, and that’s where we find ourselves right now. This has been a learning experience few will want to repeat, and all should learn from and plan accordingly for the future. When we are able to cross over the limits that hold us back in our lives or in our world, it give us a great victory to celebrate.

Whether you’re facing virus-related limits, or focusing more on other limits in your life right now, I encourage you to keep looking at them and working them from different angles until you decide if they’re limits you’re going to keep in your life, or limits that you’re going to work through. If they’re limits you’re going to keep in yoru life or aren’t bad for you, accept them as what they are and move on. If they’re limits you’re going to work through, with all the extra hours many of us find ourselves having right now, I encourage you to work daily on those limits.