Monday, April 25, 2011
But, alas, it is Monday. Today my house lies in the wake of our celebratory feast. Discarded jelly beans and bits of Easter grass are blowing around my back yard. Candy wrappers and mismatched plastic Easter egg halves are strewn across the floor of the girls’ rooms along with their soiled Easter dresses. There are dishes in the sink and leftovers in my fridge that I cannot possibly eat by myself this week. Now, I sit alone in the quiet of a cloudy morning pondering that first Easter “Monday”.
Friday left the disciples (and all who had hoped Jesus was the Messiah who had come to save Israel) disillusioned. Bereft. Completely desolate. What had happened? Had they been misled? What now?
Saturday was a day sandwiched in between utter despair and the coming victory. No one understood or believed fully everything Jesus had said would happen. They didn’t expect what was coming next.
Sunday was full of the most exhilarating joy imaginable. But, for some, it left unanswered questions. Could this possibly be? What does it mean?
After Jesus’ resurrection, Acts 1:3 says that He, “…presented himself alive to them (the apostles) by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” The four gospels detail some of the different accounts of the interactions of Mary, Mary Magdalene, Peter, Thomas and the other disciples with the risen Christ. Two of the gospels (Mark and Luke) and Acts tell of the ascension.
And, then there was “Monday”. Since 40 days passed between the resurrection and the ascension, I am not really sure what day of the week it was, but it must have at least felt like a Monday! Just imagine for a moment that you were there. Jesus had taught among your people, showed himself to be a prophet. You thought He might be the Messiah…the king who had come to save your people. Then, He was condemned to die a most gruesome and humiliating death. You questioned everything you had started to believe. Then, two days later He came back to life! He appeared to you and taught you some more. He gave you a task: tell everyone about me! Be my witnesses to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Oh, and by the way, I’m taking off. Don’t worry, though, I will give you what you need. The Holy Spirit will come to help you. Wait on Him. Stay in the city of Jerusalem until He empowers you. (Luke 24:49) Even though you can’t see me, I will be with you until the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20b)
Then, as He is taken up to Heaven through the clouds and out of your sight, two men in white clothes tell you that Jesus will come back in the same way you have seen Him go. (Acts 1:11) But, as you go about your days rejoicing and doing what Jesus told you to do, you encounter opposition…persecution. Maybe you even face death for obeying Jesus’ commands. You receive the power of the Holy Spirit to do miraculous and amazing things, but still He does not return. You get up every morning and gaze back into the sky and wonder: Will He really do what He said He would do? When will He come for me? When will He set things straight?
Figuratively, it is still “Monday” in our world. We live between the ascension and the return of Jesus. And, we wait. We exist in the aftermath of a big celebration. It is the “morning after”, so to speak. We sometimes experience the classic emotional let-down that comes afterward. Sure, I know that Jesus rose again. I am so glad He is alive and active in my day to day affairs. But, I am still waiting on Him! I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to do amazing things as I obey Jesus’ last command (tell others!), but there is unfinished business here that only Jesus himself can accomplish when, like the men in white proclaimed, He comes back in the same way he went into Heaven. And, oh how I hate to wait.
Don’t you? I don’t know a single person who could truthfully say, “I just LOVE to wait on things!” In our flesh, we are simply not capable of waiting joyfully. Take children, for example. A couple of weeks ago, my girls wanted to try buying toys online. Bryan and I let them, educating them about the added expense of shipping. They paid us cash from their piggy banks for their desired prizes. Caroline ordered a Zhu Zhu Pet Pizza Parlor, and Mary Claire ordered Squinkies. Every day that passed brought the expected questions: “Mom, did our package come yet?” It was SO hard to wait! It only took three days, but it seemed like an eternity to them.
On the day the box arrived at our door, I picked the girls up from school. They, of course, asked again, “Mom, did our package come yet?” This time, I happily said that it had indeed come and that they could open it as soon as we got home. They ran in the door and ripped open the box, plotting what they would do with their toys once they got their hands on them. But, when we opened the box, only the Zhu Zhu Pizza Parlor was inside. Along with it was a note that read, “Partial shipment”. In other words, Mary Claire’s Squinkies would be arriving in another box on another day. Oh, the tears that were shed! You would not have believed it! “Mom, it’s not fair! It’s never going to come! Never!” It is simply not in our nature to wait.
We can make light of the tears of a little girl who has everything in the world and can’t wait one more day for a silly toy, but we are not much different. I would venture a guess that almost everyone is waiting on something right this very minute. And, it isn’t easy. We may have worldlier or smaller things we are waiting on, but we also have some really big, important things we long for that we cannot have right now. Waiting has been the theme of April in my world, and maybe that is why this topic is on my heart. I have been called on time and again this month to counsel with people I love who are waiting. ..waiting on the sale of a home and the dream of retirement with family to become a reality… waiting on the birth of a baby who was wanted for 9 years and who was overdue…waiting 8 weeks on the homecoming of a precious preemie from the NICU…waiting on the outcome of a pregnancy that wasn’t going as planned and now waiting on God’s comfort for the devastating loss of miscarriage…and me, waiting to be reunited with my child in Heaven (I may be waiting for a while longer!).
Yes, we stand in the gap between the ascension and the second coming. And, Lord, we are waiting!! A couple of weeks ago when we were riding in the car on the way to church, a song came on the radio. It was a common worship song. Perhaps you know it. “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord. We will wait upon the Lord.” The song barely got through the chorus before my husband reached over and changed the channel with a grumble. “I hate that song,” he said. “Why?” I asked (wanting to know his heart). “Do you feel like you are waiting on something particular right now?” “Everything,” was his reply.
I get it. I really do. Sometimes I really detest a praise song that looks to make something simple and trite out of something that is so hard to do in the real world. But, I got to thinking about that song more over the next few days. It is a reference, I believe, to Isaiah 40:31.
Amplified Bible (AMP)
But those who wait for the Lord [who expect, look for, and hope in Him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up [close to God] as eagles [mount up to the sun]; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint or become tired.
The Message (MSG)
Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
or, whine, Israel, saying,
"God has lost track of me.
He doesn't care what happens to me"?
Don't you know anything? Haven't you been listening?
God doesn't come and go. God lasts.
He's Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn't get tired out, doesn't pause to catch his breath.
And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
they walk and don't lag behind.
I think the main problem with that simple chorus is that the em-PHA-sis is on the wrong syl-LAB-le, if you know what I mean! When we sing the song, the word “wait” is the one that is emphasized. “Strength will rise when we WAIT upon the Lord. We will WAIT upon the Lord.” Yuck! We hate to wait!
But, I guarantee you that for Isaiah, the emphasis was on the word LORD. In other words, even young men will fall, BUT those who wait upon the LORD will get fresh strength. Fresh strength to wait. Fresh, hopeful expectancy. Fresh eyes to look upon this life and its woes in perspective. Fresh hearts that have the courage and the perseverance to continue looking up into the clouds confidently knowing—knowing that we know that we know--Jesus is coming again!
Even though it is still Monday, and the bloom is off of the rose…even though the resurrection and Jesus’ promise to return occurred 2000 years ago and we live in the aftermath on the day after the celebratory feast…even though we endure many hardships…even though we must wait, we must never give up hope!
We must remember that we know the One on whom we wait! And, He is faithful! It won’t be Monday forever.
In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart]. Psalm 5:3
Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord. Psalm 27:14
Our inner selves wait [earnestly] for the Lord; He is our Help and our Shield. Psalm 33:20
Then [Israel] believed His words [trusting in, relying on them]; they sang His praise. But they hastily forgot His works; they did not [earnestly] wait for His plans [to develop] regarding them, but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness and tempted and tried to restrain God [with their insistent desires] in the desert. Psalm 106:12-14
I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in His word do I hope. Psalm 130:5
And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [expecting, looking, and longing] to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship]! Isaiah 30:18
But as for me, I will look to the Lord and confident in Him I will keep watch; I will wait with hope and expectancy for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7
We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God's sons). For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure. Romans 8:22-25
**I’d like to give a special shout-out to my new friend Kristi Bothur (via the wonder of the internet ) who was apparently inspired by a very similar thought this week. You can read her article “Stuck in Saturday” at http://www.gloryandstrength.com/. She also has a new website and ministry to people who have miscarried or lost children in their first year of life. Visit her at http://www.naomiscircle.weebly.com/. **
Monday, April 18, 2011
Arms that encircled a perfect little frame,
A lap that cradled a quiet, thumb-sucking snuggler,
And hands that reassuringly clung to chubby fingers.
For now, are empty.
A closet that contained dreamy dresses and bright pink boots,
Shelves that stored treasured reads like Dora’s Bedtime Stories,
And drawers that housed ruffled socks and the mini-est of mini-skirts.
For now, are empty.
A rocker that cushioned a weary mama who faithfully prayed,
And a bed that peacefully nestled a busy girl after a full day of play.
For now, are empty.
A car seat where two little arms rose to worship,
One that endured a tiny leg’s rhythmic kicking,
That sacred spot where a tired baby finally dissolved into blissful sleep time & again.
For now, is empty.
A chair reserved at a table previously set for five,
A fuzzy, mismatched carpet square in a carefree Sunday school classroom,
A toddler-filled doll stroller lovingly pushed through the kitchen by motherly big sisters.
For now, are empty.
A hallowed place in every family portrait,
The third tier in a stair-step of pure joy.
For now, is empty.
A baby book meant to chronicle lost teeth and birthdays that never came,
And a memory book meant to pass stories, traditions, and wisdom through generations.
For now, are empty.
A basket at the Easter egg hunt with cousins,
An orange plastic pumpkin for Halloween’s trick-or-treat,
A monogrammed stocking wistfully hung on the mantle,
And mailboxes that should contain the Christmas card we can’t bring ourselves to send.
For now, are empty.
An “X” that marks the spot where a miniature ballerina would have danced,
A desk where a kindergartener would have found her name and stored her crayons,
A fold-up chair at some imaginary graduation,
And a pew where the mother of the bride would have shed a different kind of tears.
In this life, are empty.
A cold stone cave where God in the flesh once lay buried,
Formerly a place of deep disillusionment and utter despair.
An empty tomb.
Oh, glorious empty tomb!
Now destroying the curse which bound all men,
Now commanding power over death,
Now shouting hope to an empty world!
Filling arms, hands, and laps.
Filling rockers and beds.
Filling the dinner table and the back seat of the van.
Filling pictures, stockings, and pews.
Fulfilling future dreams.
Promising to restore it all.
Promising to leave only one more thing empty.
In the twinkling of an eye…
A modest little grave bathed in tears,
Formerly a place of deep disillusionment and utter despair.
A grave that has been patiently and confidently waiting,
Will someday be victoriously empty.
Hallelujah! He is risen!
Many of you may be sad or lonely or depressed. "How can I celebrate Easter?" you wonder. You're stressed out. Your life is unpredictable. You are suffering. You are grieving. You are disappointed. You are afraid. I get it! This is the battle I face in my own heart and mind constantly. We live in the real world, and things can easily sway us from the truth we profess. I had my cry this morning. Happens every so often. But...take heart! For Christians, Easter is simply the happiest day of the year. I pray you will feel it in the tips of your toes--no matter what. Let us not be dismayed. Let us not look at our circumstances or even at our own lifetimes. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
Last week, Mary Claire, looking rather dejected, said to me, "Mom, why hasn't Jesus come back yet? I can bet you He won't be here by Sunday." How honest! She feels like she has been waiting for Him forever! Don't you? But, I told her that we mustn't give up on Him! Until He comes, He has placed us here with great purpose. Every day He delays is another day for people who do not yet trust Him to come to Him and follow. God will not be slow to keep His promise. And, no matter how long we wait, we can be confident that the Jesus who conquered the grave WILL come again!
As you go through this week, no matter your circumstances, will you join me in preparing your heart for worship? Take some time each day to read your Bible and imagine yourself walking along with Jesus in His last week here on earth. Then, when you wake on Sunday, I pray you will grasp the VICTORY in which you now stand in Christ Jesus--victory over death itself!
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Matthew 28:5-6a
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 2 Peter 3:8-10
Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life...Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear my voice and come out..." John 5:24, 28
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:3-4
Happy Easter, brothers and sisters! Because of the empty tomb, we have confident hope!