A Holy Week Juxtaposition

I read this psalm about the powerAnd greatness of our God The same week I am thinking about the humiliation And suffering of our King.

The juxtaposition is palpable.

“Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.” – Psalm 97:3

Sometimes. Except for the day His Son was surrounded And there was no fire to be seen. Only the silent restraint Of a God that replaces sending fire With receiving lashes For the sake of His beloveds.

“His lightning lights up the world; the earth sees and trembles.” – Psalm 97:4

Sometimes. Except for the day darkness covered the earth And there was no lightning to be seen. Only the sacrifice Of a God who replaces trembling subjects With a buckling body His own Son crushed By the weight of His beloveds’ sins.

“The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.” –Psalm 97:5

Sometimes. Except for the day the empire seemed to win And there was no melting to be seen. Only the weakness Of a Messiah who seemed to perish Before the wrath of a nation. His beloveds left wondering If they got it all wrong.

For they didn’t know the subversive truth That strength given up For the sake of another Is the most powerful force of all.

Psalm 97


That was my reflection on Psalm 97. Link up with your own reflection below. Or stop back next week for a reflection on Psalm 98.

What was Mary really like?

Mary

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“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. –Luke 1:38

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” –Luke 1:46-47

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. –Luke 2:5-7

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I am fascinated by the biblical character of Mary.

I can’t help but wonder what she was really like, compared to what our traditions and assumptions have made her out to be.

When I look at nativity scenes, Mary is calm and demure, almost unrelatable in her seeming other-worldliness. But when I look behind the words of the biblical account? I see strength and bravery and fortitude way beyond her age. (Which, by the way, is also never reflected well in our pictures. Have you ever scene Mary look like the young adolescent girl she probably was?)

Mary was a woman who accepted the words of the angel, likely knowing that as a result, her community would ostracize her. She was a woman in the midst of a patriarchal culture who penned a song about how God was with her and others who were oppressed. She was a woman who gave birth, without an epidural, in less than ideal conditions, in a place that was not her home.

On Sunday, my friend Matt wondered if Mary might be compared to Katniss Everdeen, a young girl brave enough to accept a difficult challenge in order to help her people. (Yup, that comparison was really made in a church service.)

In the midst of a season when I get so focused on myself, on my schedule, on my to do list, on the stress of all that is December, I wonder how I could emulate Mary. Willing. Sacrificial. Brave.

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Spirit, give us the strength you gave to Mary. Provide us with the fortitude to do the hard things when they are what are required. Give us the vision to see the oppressed, the hurting, the downtrodden, and to stand with them and for them. Give us willing hearts to set aside our own visions of what we should do this month and pick up Yours. Amen.

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Breath of Heaven – Maywood Band

“In a world as cold as stone, must I walk this path alone?

Be with me now.”


NoticingImmanuel

Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

Strength and Hope for Times of Transition

I stand on a cliff at the edge of a life transition. I gaze across to the other side, and know that I have to cross. But how will I get there?

My hands sweat and my stomach turns as I look over the chasm between where I am and where I am going.

I am moving in less than a week. In just a few days, all our stuff is going in a truck and being driven across several states.

This move is good. The things we know about what we are moving towards make this transition exciting.

But the things we don’t know? They are fraying my nerves.

I wonder what to do. I contemplate how to get past this gap. And as I do, I think of a movie scene.

Have you seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade? Indiana is on a search for the Holy Grail. Near the end of the movie, when he is close, when he finally knows where to find the grail, there is seemingly no way to get there. He stands on the edge of a cliff, with a deep, dark chasm in between him and the place he needs to go.

Eventually, Indiana decides the word “faith” means taking a step, even when you don’t know what will happen when you do. And once he moves forward, he sees. It turns out there was a path over the chasm, but it wasn’t visible until he was on it. (Want to see the clip? Check it out on YouTube.)

This is my vision of faith for these days of unknowing.

Often, I think I need to know all the details. I want to understand everything that is coming in the future, and all it will take to get there. But this is not the way life operates.

Sometimes you can’t see the path to take until you begin to move forward. Then you find your way, one step at a time.

But how do I do it? How do I find the strength to move?

Two Bible passages come to mind.

The first passage is often used to inspire people toward impossible things. But in context? It’s about contentment and daily living.

“I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” – Phil 4:13 (NET)

We find what we need, when we need it, through the One who gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other.

The second passage is one that is sung more often than it is read.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:21-23 (NIV)

This verse of hope speaks to us from the middle of laments. In the midst of unknown, surrounded by anxiety, we can call to mind God’s faithfulness, and have hope.

And so I call to mind one year ago, when I moved to this place in the midst of the same kinds of unknowns. My head swirled with the uncertainty of my role. My heart echoed with the loneliness of being in a new city with no connections. But that is not how I leave. I move from here with a contentment I did not think I would find and friends I know I will not lose.

It was here that I saw answers to prayers almost forgotten in the time that has passed since they were first raised.

God has been faithful with every step.

So as I stand on this precipice, I wring my hands while I lift them in praise. My legs buckle while I move forward with a strength that is not my own. And I pray.

God give me the strength to move into the unknown, for I know that You are faithful.

Do transitions bring you anxiety? How do you find strength and hope?