The Moon

Have you ever been loved well by someone? So well that you are secure that person will receive you and will forgive your worst fault? That’s the kind of security the soul receives from God. When the soul lives in that kind of security, it is no longer occupied with technique. We can go back and do the rituals, the spiritual disciplines, but they are no longer idolatrously followed. We don’t condemn people who don’t do it our way. All techniques, rituals and spiritual disciplines are just fingers pointing to the moon.

But the moon is the important thing, not the pointing fingers.

~ Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

We are entering the end of Lent and Holy Week is fast approaching. This is a Christian’s most sacred time, when all our pretensions should be stripped away, and we reach for the poor, the humble, the hurting both outside and inside ourselves.

Don’t get distracted by the pointing fingers. Everything we need is inside of us. Just look to the moon.

Because what is the moon?

A bright light shining in the darkness.

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Mary Meets Jesus~ Jen

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It’s Holy Week. So I’m going to be repentant and reflective one more time. And then, with the Easter season, we will embrace the warmth and light and love of Spring.

When I first saw The Passion, it was on DVD. There was no way I was facing that thing down on a large screen. I knew it would hurt me, and it did. Not when they flog Jesus. Not when they nail Him to the Cross.

When Mary meets Jesus.

She’s following her Son, but not where He can see her. She’s hiding. She knows she has to witness her Son’s pain. But she’s terrified.

She leans against a wall, agonized. He’s coming, she can hear the crowd, and if she doesn’t turn now, He won’t see her. Then He falls. And in her memories, she sees Him fall as a baby. As she did when He was young, she runs to Him and says “I am here”.

Watch it here.

Jesus’ suffering was immense, and purchased my salvation. He is my Lord and Savior.

But I relate to the women of the Passion: suffering Mary, brave Veronica, and the weeping women of Jerusalem. Now that I have children, Mary’s story is personal.  She was obedient, but God asked so much of her and her faith never waivered.

How did she survive it?

My journey this Lent has been to let go—of the paralyzing fear that feeds my need to control and steals my joy.

And Mary’s story, the loss of a child, is the thing I fear the most. The Worst Thing.

I found a story a few months ago, when Glennon from Momastery posted it on her Facebook page. I think that reading this story was the first step on my Lenten path. I believe that examples of Mary walk among us. And I believe this is how we survive the Worst Thing:

Nelba Marquez-Greene’s daughter, Ana, died at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14.

On January 14, Ana’s parents gave an interview to Good Morning America. You can see it here. It’s rough. Nelba’s pain is fresh, her face is worn.

Afterwards, through a mountain of love and support, some folks also called her motivations into question.

Nelba responded on Facebook:

I wept when I read some of the comments after our interviews. Most were beautiful. Some suggested we were actors. Oh how I wish that to be so. It was purely by God’s grace we had the strength to stand yesterday and everyday since December 14th. One comment read, “So fake. These people are actors. What 6 year old loves God”? Well I’m here to let you know that our six year old loved God! So DOES my eight year old. So do I. So does my husband…For me, love is not about what others choose to feel or act or say. It’s about what I choose to feel or act or say. I choose love. 

Then she said this:

Evil visited Newtown. Now it’s our choice to respond. We choose good. We choose life. We choose hope. We choose that even though we’re sad and we weren’t perfect parents we got one thing right- we invested in eternal things.

Eternal things. An Ultimate Plan. A Life after Death.

Jesus died on that cross to save us. It was horrible and painful and bloody. But it was also Glorious and Loving and Amazing. God’s love wins.

That’s what Mary knew. That’s how she survived the Worst Thing. That’s what Nelba knows. That’s how she’s surviving the Worst Thing.

On Sunday morning, we celebrate the victory. No more fear. God’s love wins.

https://www.facebook.com/RememberingAna

Revival ~ Jen

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Our church does a Revival during Lent. I’ve never been, but the picture in my head was a version of the movie style tent Revival—songs, scripture, Spirit. Loud and joyful.

This year I decided to go, looking for some Lenten feel good. The speaker was a young, hip missionary named Ennie Hickman. You can see his website here. He rocks.

Within five minutes, he was inside my spiritual kitchen, talking about the sad state of the world and how Christians are instinctually, compassionately, emotionally moved to help. I was feeling it. Loving others, helping others. Here comes Easter, when Jesus gave the Greatest Help of All. Bring it, brother. Call me to help.

Except  Ennie said this: “We don’t get to heaven by helping others. We get to heaven by belonging to God.”

Whaaaaat?

This is a Revival! I’m not here to talk about my personal relationship with God. I want to talk about how I can score double bonus points by helping others during Lent.

“You know when people come to your home for the first time, and you show them around? Do you open the closets? Or look under the beds? Right? Because that’s where we hide stuff. We present the home we want people to see. What do you do when you welcome God into your heart? Do you open the closets and show what you’re hiding?”

Oh wow. So when you say Revival, you don’t mean fluffy, feel good, pump us up for being people of God. You mean down and dirty in the muck, shine the light and find some Truth.

Well, all right then.

I think Ennie knew he had us on our heels. He gave us a moment to pray. And I noticed something, in the quiet.

Have you ever felt like gravity increased and grounded you in a moment, holding you right there, where you needed to be?

It happened to me at Revival.

The idea of walking away from the belief that helping others comes before helping myself. Even though it feels counter-intuitive, it’s true. I have to be right with God before I can serve others.

The idea that we can’t only show God the lovely parts. We have to open the closet doors. God already knows what is in there, but he wants us to show Him, to lay it all at His feet. Then He will show us that even so, we are worthy of love, and He loves us.

The idea that my intentions in helping others are important. I can’t tap dance my way to distracting God by helping others. I can’t help to cover up or polish what’s in my closet. I have to help from a place of good intention towards the other and not towards myself; I can’t use helping others to fill what’s missing in my own heart.

The idea that I can walk away from the stress of the world, to take care of myself. I don’t have to be driven by anxiety. I don’t have to worry about the upheaval, the strife, the suffering. God is Here. He will handle it.

I went to church this week to feel good about myself and my faith. I came away knowing that I have some housecleaning to do.

Good thing Lent is a time of Reflection and Repentance. Those are heavy words.

As it turns out, so is Revival.