Tag Archives: forgiveness

Good Friday Favourites

Today is the most somber holiday in the Christian calendar. So my usual sarcastic, irreverent Friday post doesn’t seem like the thing to do.

If you are not familiar with the story, here it is in a nutshell.

God creates humanity. Humanity rejects God. God reaches out to humanity over and over and over again. Humanity rejects God over and over and over again. It’s kind of our thing.

God becomes human (Jesus, God the Son, is born. Merry Christmas). Jesus reaches out to humanity. Humanity rejects him. In fact, humanity strips him naked, beats him up, and kills him.

This is the part where you almost expect the giant Hand of God (a la Monty Python) to reach down and smite us all, smite us good. Instead, God the Father lets his Son die, because that was the plan all along. He was the ultimate sacrifice – the blood ransom to free us from a prison of our own making.

The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin

so that he’d see life come from it

– life, life, and more life.

Isaiah 53:10

Whatever you believe about Jesus or Christianity, this day is for all humanity. Yes, it is serious, but worth celebrating. So, here are some of my Good Friday Favourites.

Quote

This Word played life against death and death against life in tournament on the wood of the most holy cross, so that by his death he destroyed our death, and to give us life he spent his own bodily life. With love, then, he has so drawn us and with his kindness so conquered our malice that every heart should be won over.  Catherine of Siena

Blog

My friend Marc makes an important, spiritually powerful point. “Pontius Pilate is a pylon.” And how! Here is a post about the guy who just stood there and let it all happen: Pilatitus. Definitely worth a read, because sometimes we’re just like him.

Also, Laura Ziesal wrote a post that has stuck with me this week. “We serve a God who is not far from our pain.” Though Good Friday is not the main topic, My Least Favourite Day of the Year speaks to it in a powerful way, especially for anyone who has lost a child.

Liturgical Tradition

Don’t tell my Anabaptist ancestors, but occasionally I have a hankering for liturgy and the rituals of High Church. Yep, I’m pretty sure my Grandpa is spinning in his grave right now.

There is a richness and ancient meaning behind centuries old traditions. If I were going to pick one which appeals to me most, it would be Via Crucis, the Stations of the Cross. Whether it is a series of art displayed throughout a cathedral, an interactive physical experience or simply a devotional guide, each of the stations depicts a different part of the Good Friday story. Usually there are thoughts and prayers to meditate on at each station. Remembering is not something that just happens, it is something we do on purpose.

Pray through the Stations of the Cross online.

Video

It seems kind of douche-y to have a “favourite” part of Good Friday, since it’s all very grim and painful. But the time Jesus spent in the Garden of Gethsemane is what I am finding most meaningful lately. It hits me every time… Jesus did not eagerly skip to the cross with a serene smile on his face and a cheesy hymn on his lips . He struggled, he cried, he felt the bitterness of grief, and he begged for reprieve. Kind of encouraging for those of us who do not always find God’s will easy to stomach. It also makes his ultimate choice that much more meaningful.

Mel Gibson may be an enormous schmuck, but he did a great job dramatizing spiritual agony (not exactly the most visual concept) in Passion of the Christ.

So here’s me, forgiven, because He was forsaken. Take that creepy snake-satan!

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The Vomit Diaries

I have two stories to tell. The first one is true. Not internet forward true, but really, truly true. I know because I was there.

The second is one our pastor told in church today. He read it from someone who heard it from someone else, so the thread of truth is slightly murky. But it’s a good story nonetheless.

Story One

Nine years ago, I found myself on a flight from Toronto to Calgary with my two small daughters. Armed with fishy crackers, colouring books and 14 pacifiers, I was sure I could handle a two-year-old and a five-month-old on my own.

By hour three, we were running perilously low on smarties and I had detected an unholy smell in our section. With a sigh and a prayer for strength, I buckled the baby into her carrier, grabbed the diaper bag and wrestled my overtired, and extremely ripe, toddler out of her seatbelt. As I stood, I lifted her up under her arms and propped her on my hip, then shuffled my way into the aisle.

The next part of this memory plays in slow motion. She leans forward slightly, just over the seat in front of us, opens her mouth, and vomits all over the poor man’s head. I spin her around as quick as I can, spewing vomit on myself, the baby and the seat behind us.

My eldest child is a prolific puker. It’s kind of amazing.

I’m sure it was an unpleasant awakening for the man in the front seat. And he was not impressed. He began yelling and cursing and screaming for the flight attendants. They rushed over to clean him up and tried to calm him down, while I apologized profusely.

He did not accept.

Standing there dripping vomit and smelling so bad, we all three started to cry.

Worst flight EVER.

Story Two

My second story is somewhat similar. A mother and infant boarded a plane wearing sparkling white dresses. The baby looked up eagerly with each person who walked by: “Dada?” As she began to fuss, Mom pulled out a bottle of orange juice. This apparently was the best way to pacifiy Baby Girl, especially when the plane hit some turbulance.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. As the flight grew increasingly choppy, the next part seems inevitable – sticky, orange vomit from head to toe.

I’m sure she wiped it up as best she could, but that didn’t help much. By the time the plane landed, Mom was frazzled and overwhelmed. As they disembarked, the baby looked across the tarmac and shouted “Dada!”

There stood a young man, also dressed in pristine white dress shirt and pants, waiting for his family. I imagine the handoff was a quick one, as Mom dashed off to clean herself up. Most of us would hold that smelly, sticky child at arm’s length; perhaps find some way to cover up the worst of it. But not this Dad.

He eagerly scooped that vomit covered child right into his arms and held her close. With a smile on his face, he kissed her head and snuggled her all the way through the airport.

I’m struck by the contrast in these two stories:

the censure of the disapproving man

VS.

the embrace of a loving parent

It reminds me of the two gods I have believed in.

The first is a distant stranger, angry and disgusted by my mess. This god requires polite, well-behaved followers. I must carefully control each word and action so as not to offend. Mistakes will not be tolerated. I am small, insignificant and afraid. I would never approach a god like this; instead I would hide, sit behind and desperately scrub everything clean. But it’s never good enough.

This is the god most good church people expect. And he makes sense to me.

The other guy, the one who barely notices the filth, seems weak and permissive. Isn’t God supposed to be pure and perfect? Aren’t we?

I am reminded of a third story.

I’m pretty sure vomit played a part in this one as well, so it fits. There were years of hard core partying, homelessness, depression and scrounging rotten food from the slop. It got messy.

The father in this story Jesus told had been rejected and publically humiliated. He had every right to be angry. But when the prodigal son slunk back home, his Dad ran to meet him, sweeping him up in his arms and holding him close.

The God of the story is a delighted Father who longs to hold me close, no matter what state I am in. This Daddy-God is not horrified by the ugly parts of me. Nor is he surprised when I screw up. He wants me at my best, even those clumsy attempts and lopsided efforts that don’t quite work. AND He wants me at my worst, with my slimy, sick failures and vomit encrusted regrets.

This is the God of the Bible.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.

Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children.

Now we call him, “Abba (Daddy), Father.”

Romans 8:15

So here’s me, messy and screwed up… and loved, always.

How do I react to the mess of others? When life gets ugly, which story do I resemble?


The Flaw

I’ve kept quiet for many years about this. Okay, not exactly, but mostly I suffer in silence. Since I started this blog I have taken the opportunity to sing my husband’s praises through it. And he really is the best guy around – a wonderful father and human being. But sometimes he really bugs me.

It’s not a marriage thing; anyone you spend a lot of time with will find it. That thing, that seemingly insignificant, small thing that irritates you like nothing else. Other people may barely even notice, but this thing will drive you batty. Perhaps I am more neurotic than most, but I have quite a few pet peeves.

Thankfully, Glen does in fact understand the correct way to load toilet paper: from the TOP people! He understands the need to put the toilet seat DOWN (which makes my first thing in the morning dash to the bathroom much more pleasant). I am forever grateful to my mother-in-law for raising a son who puts his dirty dishes in the kitchen, dirty socks in the hamper and dirty self into the shower.

However… he does have one dark flaw, and it is something I “have a thing about”. Each week I collect, sort, wash, dry AND fold the laundry. I’m somewhat anal about it. Growing up, wash day was Monday, and I cannot feel quite right with the world if we have dirty clothes kicking around on Tuesday, or heaven forbid – Wednesday. The rest of my life may be descending into madness – dishes to the ceiling, crunchy floors and grimy bathrooms, but we WILL have clean clothes on Tuesday.

After busting my butt to produce this minor housekeeping miracle, I expect the neatly folded piles of clean laundry, which have been conveniently delivered to each person’s room, to be PUT AWAY. Each of my children puts their own clothes away. It was one of the first chores they learned. Even the baby was doing her part (as soon as she was able to stand on her own – I’m not a monster). It could be because their mom is the laundry Nazi, but I like to think it’s because this incredibly simple task is the least they can do to assist me with my Very Important Work (aka: laundry).

We talked about it when we were first married and he agreed. Not a big deal… totally something he could do… he was happy to help, and yet it hardly ever happened. All week I would eye that basket of clothes on the floor while he rummaged through it for what he needed. Determined not to nag, I decided to just ignore it and see how long it took before he actually put his shirts IN the drawer. Five laundry baskets precariously stacked with a smattering of clean clothes in the bottom of each one and STILL he would rather hunt through the stacks than empty the things.

I like to think of myself as a reasonable, peace-loving human being, but this could very well have pushed me over the edge. He really wasn’t trying to be a jerk or disrespect me in any way. He just doesn’t see it. In fact, he floated the idea of doing away with drawers entirely, just living out of the baskets.

Eventually I realized that this little, but extremely crucial issue could cause our relationship serious stress. Relationships can be destroyed by the silliest things. Friends, siblings, co-workers, room-mates… pretty much anyone who is up in your face long enough for you to want to punch them in theirs. Of course, in the end it’s not about how to fold the towels or who is a better driver, but it can start there. The spark that starts the fire doesn’t need to be a big one. I watched a bitter divorce unfold with the major battle being who should clean out the garage.

I know wives all over the world have been putting clothes away for centuries without complaint, but somehow I got it in my head that I shouldn’t have to. And I don’t, I really don’t. But I decided that this would be my act of sacrificial love. It may not seem that romantic, but it is a marriage builder in our home.

For more than a decade I have been putting shirts, pants, socks and boxers away while repeating the mantra “an act of love, an act of love, an act of love.” To be honest, I don’t think he’s even noticed. Every once in a while that irritation sneaks up on me again, but it’s good for me. Glen says it all the time – love isn’t just a feeling, it is an act of the will. And in our house, that means drawers full of clean laundry.

So here’s me, grateful that he loves me by overlooking the garbage I leave in his car, clipping my toenails in front of the t.v. and even peanut butter breath.


You talkin’ to me?!

Today I sat through a terrible sermon. There was no outline, no sermon notes, not even points on the screen (staple ingredients in any contemporary church experience). While the speaker seemed kind and genuine, he was afflicted with the most greivous of all pastoral sins… he rambled.

Round and round it went and it was often hard to discern what his point was. The object lesson may have been interesting, but he forgot to explain it and we couldn’t see it anyway (we were sitting in the third row). I was torn between annoyance that he didn’t plan his talk properly and sympathy that he was floundering in front of all these people.

I wish I could leave it at that. A few mocking comments about the haphazard preacher and a self-deprecating confession about my tendency to play the critic. Perhaps some observations about their children’s program or the interesting art on the walls. Keep it light and impersonal: a humorous recounting of a visit to my cousin’s church.

But, then he had to go and say it – that thing I’ve been chewing on for days. In “Christian-speak” I would say: “the Lord has laid it on my heart” which sounds a whole lot more spiritual than “I suck and I can’t seem to stop thinking about it.”

Apparently, God doesn’t need an eloquent speaker, an eager audience or even (gasp) a sermon outline to make His point. Ya, he was talking to me this morning.

It started last week when I spent the day with my sister. I was telling her, yet again, one of my ‘they done me wrong’ stories. It’s a doozy.

I was right and they were wrong.

I was hurt and it was their fault.

I come out looking like a hero and they are the heartless villains.

It really happened. It’s dramatic and interesting. It’s one of my favourites. And she’s heard it… several times according to her.

Modern english has a word for this:  the habitual retelling and reliving a hurt. It’s called a grudge. I don’t have many, but I keep this one in pristine condition. I am ready at the drop of a hat to pull it out and polish it up again.

Despite what pop psychology may teach, the bitter diatribe is not a healthy venting of emotion. It is the bread and butter of unforgiveness. Telling this story has reinforced my negative attitude towards people I honestly care about. It colours my perceptions of everything they say and do, until they really can do no right in my eyes. Even worse, I spread the poison to others. I come away feeling validated and leave their reputation in tatters.

Unfortunately I am not perfect. This fact often irritates me, but it is one of the theological concepts I am not remotely fuzzy about. I am in constant need of forgiveness. What a hypocrite I am to refuse to give what I have received myself. Forgiveness, not in theory, but for real and for good.

“…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” (Matthew 6:12)

Forgiveness is not a warm, fuzzy feeling you try to manufacture. It is an act of the will. Often it is something that must be done over and over again. Perhaps that is because we love to tell our stories over and over again.

As hard as it is for a life-long chatterbox like me to admit, there are some things that don’t need to be said out loud… ever. Even though I know you are dying of curiosity, you will never hear the story from me again. And that’s a promise.

So here’s me, finally shutting up about it.


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