Daily Victories

We celebrated the official day of Easter a little over a month ago, but people of the Christian faith are always celebrating Easter because it signifies the hope that we have for life today, tomorrow and forever. Easter gives us the motivation to keep going even when we’re faced with the challenges of life. In some ways just the action of Jesus coming back to life is enough to bring us hope, but He went beyond that and gave us the opportunity for eternal life, because Easter was more than just Jesus rising from the dead, it was Jesus overcoming the grave and the death that could be the end for each of us, if not for His sacrifice.

The two fold challenge is that while we have the ability to live our lives in victory every day we are faced with all the stuff going on in the world. First, it’s hard to always be upbeat and see the victories of life when life is going down the tubes, and second, it’s really not right to be the happy-go-lucky person when there’s a big tragedy going on. God understands the need to take time to cry and mourn, there’s nothing wrong with dealing with those emotions in this world, as long as the sin remains in our world.   While there’s a tragedy in someone’s life somewhere in the world every day, I would hope that the good days far out-count the bad ones in your life.  And even in some of those not-so-great situations you still can choose to have a positive attitude, it may be what helps you retain your sanity through the challenges.

But when you’re not experiencing a tragedy, and the world that you live in isn’t being affected by one at the moment either, there are lots of opportunities for victories.  Victories can be found in big and small opportunities, from finding a bedspread you and your partner both like, to finding the perfect parking spot, to your home cooked meal turning out great, to the kids doing their homework without complaint, to completing the assigned task at work on time.  Those may seem like little things, but they’re the kind of thing that we run into on a daily basis in our lives, victories aren’t just about the big things in our lives like Easter.  Jesus performed many miracles before Easter that were pretty awesome to those people. so why should your ordinary victories be any less victorious than the big ones?

I encourage you to find at least one victory each day to celebrate.  If you can’t find one good thing that happened in your day, one thing to celebrate, one thing that amazed you, or one person you’re thankful for, we need to have a serious talk about your attitude and what’s going on in your life.  What victory will you encounter today?

“Wherever in your life is victory; there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is joy, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is wonder, there is resurrection. Wherever in your life is resurrection, there is Christ calling you to follow him out of death into his larger and more glorious life.” Br. James Koester

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Easter Today and Tomorrow

Today around the world people will be celebrating Easter.  People who rarely attend church will wake up early, families who don’t always see each other will travel distances, and countless eggs will be hidden and later found (sometimes even days or weeks later).  For people of the Christian faith we celebrate with a specific reason: Jesus is alive.  And more than that, Jesus died, rose again and has taken away the sins of the world.  I’d say those are some really good reasons to celebrate.

As I was thinking about what Easter means, it got me thinking about the word tomorrow.  Easter really is all about the concept of tomorrows, and all the tomorrows we’ll have, because with Easter we’re offered a tomorrow that’s promising, and filled with hope and worth living for.  Before Easter happened we had hope that someday maybe God had a good plan for us, and we worked through each day and the challenges therein clinging to that hope.  But with Easter that promise is partially fulfilled, or at the very least revealed.

So today as we celebrate Easter we’re each given the opportunity to accept that hope and believe in that revelation and resurrection.  To accept that God is with us in the here and now and celebrating with us. That He knows what’s going on in our lives, both good and bad, and that He knows what our future holds too.  We have a choice with how we choose to live our lives today and what we do with the time we’re given while we’re here on earth waiting to be called Home.  For the time being the challenges will remain, but we can choose to focus on the hope of Easter and the promises that Jesus brought to life when we have to face them and the not-so-good days.  I’m celebrating today, are you?

“We are the resurrection people.  We have hope.  We choose joy.  We overcome, always.”
“I want to live well in the here and now.”
Holley Gerth

Working on Wait

Today in some religious circles is the day known as Good Friday, the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross.  It’s a difficult day for us to think about, and it was a difficult thing for the people Jesus lived with to witness, and even more difficult for Jesus who was human to experience.  He felt what we would feel if we were crucified, He didn’t hide from the pain or use his powers as the Son of God to deflect or bypass it.  From all the records we know it was a brutal experience, which was kind of the point.  But Jesus knew what He was getting into going in because He’s Gods’ Son, and He also knew what was yet to come: the Resurrection and Easter Sunday.

We don’t always know what the end result will be in situations in our lives.  Sometimes we hope that the end we want is what will happen, sometimes we just hope for some kind of good result, other times we’re resigned to what is most likely to come.  There will always be a result, sometimes it will be what we want or hope for, other times it’s not.  But what we have to do is what Jesus did for 3 days: wait.

It’s not easy to wait, especially when we’re anticipating good things like Easter baskets or Christmas morning.  It’s also hard to wait when we know we’re faced with a not so good ending like the death of a loved one from a disease or the loss of our job when a company takes ours the one we work for.  In our fast paced world we like when things move at the speed of the internet or a fast food restaurant.  One of the reasons we wait is because while we could have a result quicker, sometimes to get to the best result it takes more time.  We’ve managed to do a lot to make things work better and happen faster in the world with all of our innovations, but two of the things we haven’t affected yet is the ability to affect the days and the time.  We’re still bound by the rules of the universe when it comes to them.

But there’s no rule that says you have to be miserable while you wait or not work towards good outcomes even if the only likely result that can occur is not a happy one. But we can make all the moments up to and following that event good ones.  I think one of the things that helped Jesus through His suffering was knowing what was on the other side of it.  We may not know what’s on the other side of our pains and life challenges, but we can certainly have the attitude that whatever it is, we’ll be able to work through it with God’s help and the help of the people in our lives.

God is Good

This week we’ll be deviating from the usual topic schedule slightly in anticipation of Easter on Sunday and this being Holy Week.  I was reading my emails today and up popped a blog post with a phrase just about every Christian has heard before.  Sometimes when we hear it we roll our eyes or feel tempted to, sometimes hearing it frustrates us, and other times we’re thankful for the reminder.  The saying?

“God is Good All the Time”

In considering Holy Week I thought this was an important topic for us to talk about.  Yes, Holy Week happened because of how good/generous/loving God is, but I know I have a hard time connecting the pain and suffering that Jesus went through with “good”.  I also have trouble with this topic thinking about all the suffering and hate in the world.  Can God really be good all the time if there’s this much pain?  The technical answer is yes, God is God, He can be good all the time.  It’s hard for us to understand how a “good” God can let us go through what we do though.

Is it technically our fault that Jesus suffered as He did and we suffer as we do, yes, it is.  But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it or intentionally choose to torture myself with suffering. Bad doesn’t have to be the in and out and up and down of my life.  So how can we see God’s goodness through something as difficult as a crucifixion?

We may not see it in the crucifixion, but we do see it in the hope that is presented through Easter Sunday and the Resurrection.  Many people have questioned as to why the cross has become the recognizable symbol for the church rather than one that’s more in line with a positive message.  One reason is that the cross certainly is a recognizable icon while something that represents the tomb would look more like a piece of jewelry or just a rock.  The cross is also a beginning, it’s the beginning of hope for everyone who believes, but that hope is only fulfilled by the resurrection.  In a way the cross is a reminder of how life is, that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but that we need the rain and rest times too.

So as we begin Maundy Thursday and head into Good Friday, if you’re dealing with some dark nights here as Jesus was so many years ago, I encourage you to keep pushing through, God doesn’t give up on His people and does have an amazing hope and future planned for you.

Reality Reflection: “Good” Friday?

Today in some of the religious world is Good Friday.  It’s the day that people remember the death of Jesus on the cross.  Many people question why we celebrate Good Friday each year.  It’s not a happy event, and to an extent I understand their skepticism in our very visual and frequent honoring of the event.  I mean the icon churches around the world use to show that they’re a church is the cross.  They don’t use a grave or a stone or angels or a manger, no, they use the cross.  People everywhere wear crucifixes and crosses as necklaces.  Do we really want to commemorate a man’s death?  Or is there more to it than that?

I think there’s more to it, I think that as important as Easter and Jesus’ resurrection is maybe Good Friday is just as or more important.  Why? Because as awesome as eternal life is, and it’s really awesome, it would not be the same if we were carrying the baggage of sin with us.  Could you imagine what forever would look like if we had to carry our sins? It would look like earth as we know it forever, rather than heaven as we have been told eternal life will be.   So in order to get the future we dream of and were promised something had to happen to free us, and that something was Jesus’ death on the cross.

This shows me how important freedom and forgiveness are.  Are you spending enough time in your life working on freedom and forgiveness or are you so focused on dreams and the ultimate goal that you’re missing out on what’s going on around you and how you’re reaching your goals?  If you’re just focused on the end result when you get there you may find out that the damage you caused along the way makes the end result not worth it.  Are there people you need to free and forgive in your life, maybe including yourself? If so choose this weekend to start the healing process.

Choosing to Live

The celebration of Christmas is long past and the celebration of Easter just past. Both of these were a celebration of the choice that God and Jesus made to come to earth and then to die for our sins. God didn’t have to save us, He could have just wiped the slate clean and started over. But instead Jesus chose to make the public sacrifice of leaving heaven to come and live among us for 30 some years and then die so that we could be forgiven for our sins. I’m sure that there are other ways that this could have been done without all the sacrifices and symbolism, but it would not have meant as much to us or been as special then.

Christmas, Easter and Jesus’ presence on earth means we now have a choice to choose to live life as He did, fully present and passionately, or to live as the Pharisees, stuck in old beliefs and rituals, refusing to see that a new day has dawned. We can choose to remain in judgment, hatred, separation and suspicion, or choose to love until proven wrong, and even beyond that.

The prayer that has stayed with me after the Easter celebrations this week was to live each day. Jesus knew that He had a limited time on earth, and while He had a better idea of when the end would be than we do, that doesn’t mean that we should live live any less fully or openly. I choose to make a contribution to the world rather than keep living on credit, to give when I could ignore, and to care for the world and others when I could leave that up to others with more finances or time. What will you choose?

“Rather than being in hatred, let me be in love. Where there is injury let me bring pardon. Where there is doubt let me bring faith; despair let me bring hope. Where there is darkness let me bring light, and where there is sadness let me bring joy.” Frances of Assisi

Jesus’ Second Chance

Yesterday we celebrated Easter. It’s the day we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross and the victory over the grave and death 3 days later. This weekend I was thinking about a blog post I wrote a year ago, about questioning what it means when we say “He is Risen”. The more I thought about it and the Easter story I was reminded again exactly how important and special Good Friday and Easter are.

While they represent and mean many things, it reveals one very important thing about Jesus: He knows all about second chances. That’s what Easter really is: it represents a second chance for each and every one of us who believe. Second chances are really important things, but they come with a choice: will we stay trapped in the past or will we choose to grab this new opportunity, this fresh start, by the horns and step into a new reality.

Throughout His ministry Jesus showed over and over again that He believed in fresh starts, not staying trapped in the past. As I talked about Friday, while Jesus didn’t want to die and would have preferred to not have to go through that He understood the power of proving to people that they, and we, absolutely have a second chance.

On this Easter Monday I would encourage you to take a good look at your life. Are you hanging back in the Garden hoping and praying to get out of the situation or are you accepting that it’s a new day with new opportunities for success, happiness, fulfillment, relationships and a future that God’s just waiting to build with you as soon as you step forward and grab that second chance?