It is indeed, Good Friday

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 2.09.34 PM

And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’”  Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His garments and made four parts, to each soldier a part, and also the tunic. Now the tunic was without seam, woven from the top in one piece. They said therefore among themselves, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says:

“They divided My garments among them,
And for My clothing they cast lots.”

Therefore the soldiers did these things.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.  John 19:17-30

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Celebrating Holy Week

Anticipation, understanding and hope!  One of the things I love most about the church calendar is learning about Christian history and applying it to my life today.  Just like the season of advent, the season of lent is also a time of anticipation.  This year, because we’ve been on the road, Ryan and I have done less to mark the passage of lent.  However, this week we are taking time to read a Holy Week devotional which focuses on the cross.  It’s a beautiful reminder and helps me to focus on what makes Easter and resurrection Sunday so amazingly special.Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.51.53 AMWe are also participating in two different Seder meals.  Tonight will be a Passover Seder at our Camarillo church.  It’s beautiful to hear the Hebrew prayers, learn about and remember the significance of this meal that has been celebrated for so many generations.  If you’re in the area, please join us at 7pm on Mobil Ave.  Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 11.48.14 AMAnd tomorrow we will celebrate Maundy Thursday with a meal at our church in Santa Barbara.  We love being able to celebrate and reflect during this week with our different church families.

These are just some of the ways we are anticipating this Sunday, learning to understand our Christian history and celebrating the hope that is represented with the cross.  The hope of the resurrection!

My Favorite Time of Year and Car Trouble

I love Easter and that is why I love Lent.  I love the season of Lent.  I love this time of remembering, the building up and anticipation of why Easter Sunday is special.  The resurrection doesn’t mean anything without the reality of the cross.  Lent is also traditionally a time of self denial.  Of course, on the road our remembering and traditions will look different but I’m still excited to see how God meets us during this time.  Our need for God in every moment of our lives continues to be very apparent.20160211_122307You never want to start a car trip with car trouble.  Therefore we thought we were being proactive when we had a little work done on the car.  However, the next day our check engine light turned on.  It could be something small or it could be a sign of a much bigger problem.  Please pray for wisdom and for things to get sorted out so that we can safely be on the road again early next week.  Thank you for praying us through our travels.

Preparing for Holy Week

Lent began with Ash Wednesday on February 18th.  Another local church marks this season with soup dinners and Lenten services.  I’ve been attending (Ryan works that night of the week) and I have enjoyed the community as well as learning about the Lord’s Prayer. At home for Lent Ryan and I have been reading daily and remembering the season, focusing on Christ and the cross.  My favorite reading so far, that I think encompasses the spirit of Lent, is called The Mourning.  It is part of a Lenten series that can be found on Redeemer New York‘s website. We began this season with seven lit candles which you can see here in my February 19th post: Lent and Remembering.

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But now there are only two candles lit in anticipation of Holy Week.  Each Sunday we blow out another candle and read from this devotional called Lenten Lights from Desiring God Ministries.  Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, the Sunday where we remember Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  At that point we will have only one candle still lit.

At some point this week, I will make hot cross buns.  I’m not really sure when, where and why hot cross buns started being made for the Easter season but I do know that they are delicious and another sweet reminder of the cross.

Ryan and I are excited to celebrate another sweet remembrance of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday.  We will be driving up to Santa Barbara to connect with our church community there as we share a Christian Seder meal.  The Seder is the meal that is traditionally eaten at Jewish passover.

And on Friday, the 3rd of March we will attend services for Good Friday.  Good Friday is the day we remember Christ’s death on the cross.  This solemn occasion isn’t fun but it is a pivotal part of the Christian faith. Without Christ’s death, his resurrection is meaningless.  On Good Friday we will also blow out the final candle symbolizing our final descent into the darkness of sin and death.

But darkness doesn’t win.  Hope remains because we know how the story ends.  Christ defeats death and comes back to life. (Luke 24:6-7)  On resurrection Sunday Ryan and I, along with Christians across the globe, will celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  At home we will light all the candles again as a symbol of light reigning over darkness.  We serve the creator God, the one who endured death on a cross for our sins but was not defeated, instead he won the battle and rose again.  Easter is the celebration marking the fact that Christians serve a living God.  He is Risen indeed.

Lent and Remembering

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and remembering.  Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the season leading up to Easter.  Lent is a time of preparation and I love having tangible reminders of the meaning of this sweet season.  Ultimately Easter, Resurrection Sunday, is a joyous and celebratory time.  But from my perspective, the celebration is enhanced if we truly understand why we are celebrating.  Unless we understand the reality and impact of Christ’s death on the cross, we will never fully internalize and therefore don’t fully celebrate the resurrection.  I could write more but I think this article Why Lent Still Matters does a great job explaining this concept more fully.

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In our home, Ryan and I are starting new traditions so that we can remember and humble ourselves during this time.  To help us get into this mindset, we will be using candles and specific readings.  We enjoyed lighting candles and doing readings for the Advent season.  So in this same spirit, instead of lighting candles, we will be blowing out candles.  We have seven candles lit this week and on each Sunday we will put out another candle until the last candle will be blown out on Good Friday.  The gradual move to darkness mimics the darkening in our hearts as we understand and contemplate Christ’s death on the cross.  It’s an opportunity for us to examine ourselves and our own hearts, while at the same time getting to know our savior more intimately.

Of course Lent, Advent or any other church season or holiday are not requirements of faith or salvation.  But as it is stated over 100 times in the old testament, remember.  Remembering is sometimes difficult when we have work, family, life, ministry, entertainment, friends, etc. all vying for our attention.  Just going to church on Sunday isn’t usually enough for me, I want to be reminded of the gospel daily.  Our Christian history is a wonderful tool that we can use to remember.  Celebrating Lent is just one of those ways to benefit from the rich tradition we have.  Whether or not you celebrate Lent this year, if you are a Christian I would challenge you to find ways to remember and prepare your hearts in anticipation of Resurrection Sunday.  We have 6 weeks so let’s remember.

Lenten Thoughts- In Feast or Fallow

We are well into the season of Lent.  For some of you this season may not even be on your radar.  For others you may use this time to give up something and that may or may not have any deeper significance to you.  Still others mark this time as reflective and set apart leading up to Holy week and Easter.

I personally love the reflective nature of this season and the time to think more deeply and contemplate leading up to my favorite holiday weeks.  Music is just one of the ways that I use to reflect and wrap my heart around the great celebration that happens at Easter.

Here is a beautiful song with thoughtful lyrics from Sandra McCracken.  You can listen to her sing it acoustically on YouTube if you want to hear the tune and if you like this, here is another website with songs and lyrics from Sandra’s In Feast or Fallow album.  But I would also encourage you to read through and contemplate the lovely lyrics.  Enjoy this song and this amazing season!

When the fields are dry, and the winter is long
Blessed are the meek, the hungry, the poor
When my soul is downcast, and my voice has no song
For mercy, for comfort, I wait on the Lord

In the harvest feast or the fallow ground,
My certain hope is in Jesus found
My lot, my cup, my portion sure
Whatever comes, we shall endure
Whatever comes, we shall endure

On a cross of wood, His blood was outpoured
He Rose from the ground, like a bird to the sky
Bringing peace to our violence, and crushing death’s door
Our Maker incarnate, our God who provides.

In the harvest feast or the fallow ground,
My certain hope is in Jesus found
My lot, my cup, my portion sure
Whatever comes, we shall endure
Whatever comes, we shall endure

O come, Emmanuel
Come, o come, Emmanuel

When the earth beneath me crumbles and quakes
Not a sparrow falls, nor a hair from my head
Without His hand to guide me, my shield and my strength
In joy or in sorrow, in life or in death

In the harvest feast or the fallow ground,
My certain hope is in Jesus found
My lot, my cup, my portion sure
Whatever comes, we shall endure
Whatever comes, we shall endure

A Different Kind of Meal

Question:  Why is this night different from all other night?  On other nights we may eat leavened or unleavened bread but on this night we eat only unleavened bread.  On other nights we eat all types of hers, but on this night we eat only bitter herbs.  On other nights we do not dip even once.  On this night we dip twice.  On other nights we eat sitting up or reclining but on this night we recline.

Answer: We were slaves in Egypt under Pharaoh, and our everlasting God brought us out with the strength and might of His hand.  If God had not brought us out, we would still be slaves in Egypt today.  Had He not brought us forth, the preparation for our redemption in our Messiah would not have taken place.  In the fullness of time He came, a son of Jacob, and in Him we have our redemption.  It is a story of God’s love and justice and care for all who are poor.  The Matzah reminds us of the haste in which our ancestors left Egypt, for the dough had not time to ruse.  The Maror reminds us of the bitterness of the bondage of slavery.  We recall our slavery to sin as well, before the salvation procured by our Messiah.  We also dip twice as a sign of first replacing our tears with joy and secondly to season the taste of bitterness.  Reclining is a symbol of the free man who can eat in leisure.  So this pillow reminds us of our freedom, for in trusting God we are secure.

Oh Lord our God, we invite the spirit of Elijah tonight, in anticipation of the return of our Lord Yeshua Our Messiah.  We pray for justice and goodness to come upon the earth.  We pray that all men may come to love You and to know the blessings of the freedom You have offered and the greater freedom and salvation that shall be manifested at Your return.  We ask these things in the name of our Messiah.  Amen.