A Rise Up Mashup

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Rise.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

I will admit that the minute I heard the word prompt, my mind was all over the place. In fact, at one point, my head was full of a mashup of three different songs: the hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” Matt Mahrer’s “Rise Up” and Shawn MacDonald’s “Rise.” Now try to make sense of all of that! And besides the mashed up tune in my head, I was reminded of the theme for the ELCA National Youth Gathering this summer “Rise Up.”

The Theological statement for the Gathering reminds us that the youth and adult leaders in Detroit will “learn that to ‘rise up’; doesn’t mean pursuing power or victory over another, but choosing weakness over power so that they might be together. The experience of death and life held together on the way is the “beginning of the good news;” it is God’s narrative into which we are inviting young people, and in which we hope young people will nest their own stories.

And as I contemplate this statement, I realize it is a word that we all should listen to and follow. We all need to learn that to ‘rise up’ means that we need to stop pursuing power or victory over another, but choosing weakness over power so that they might be together. When you weep, I will weep with you. When you rejoice, I will rejoice with you. When you are in the depths of death, I will sit with you. When you are afraid, I will remind you that you are not alone. Because together we are stronger than we are apart. Jesus calls us to ‘rise up’ together.

Jesus was the first one to show us what it means to ‘rise up’. Jesus died on the cross for us. But then after three days, he rose from the dead. The ultimate example of what it looks like when we ‘rise up’ together. We see that life not death has the final word! God has the ultimate power to overcome death. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there.” (Clarence W. Hall)

*I think of the words to the chorus to Shawn MacDonald’s song “Rise.” The chorus goes like this:
“Yes I will rise; Out of these ashes rise; From this trouble I have found; And this rubble on the ground; I will rise; Cause He Who is in me; Is greater than I will ever be; And I will rise.” Even in the most debilitating darkness, God rises up and shows us the light.

Because many times we will feel like we don’t have the power or the energy to rise up, but the truth is that God always has that power. God always will raise his Son from the dead. God always will have the ultimate power over death. God’s love always breaks into God’s kingdom here on earth.

Rise Up –Matt Mahrer

*This is where my five minutes ended!

The Master Risk-Taker

I AM NOT A RISK-TAKER! You won’t catch me jumping out of any planes! Or driving around a race car track going 100 plus miles per hour. I am more than comfortable knowing that things are going to stay the same. Yet during college, my friend Kristi and I (neither of us being risk-takers) decided to hop in the car and drive from Bismarck ND to Fargo ND about a four drive. Kristi was craving Olive Garden and the closest OG was in Fargo so in the car we went. I remember looking back on that experience thinking how crazy we were especially being the hotel we stayed at was not the classiest hotel.

Yet Kristi and I learned something that day! It is more than okay to take risks. God wants us to trust fully in him and to know that even when we take risks, he is standing there right beside us. I honestly don’t know if I would have gone to work at SuperAwesomeBibleCamp, or gone to seminary, or…..if I hadn’t taken that risk that day during college.

But because I have learned to be a little bit of a risk-taker, I have had some amazing blessings occur in my life. I graduated seminary even after struggling immensly with systematic theology. I remember my advisor telling my candidacy committee that it took more guts for me to stick with it. I wouldn’t have gone to work at a Bible camp for seven summers if I hadn’t taken the chance. And I wouldn’t have gotten that job if the camp director didn’t take a risk with me and hire me. I remember very vividly him saying to me, “I didn’t think you would make it but now I can’t get rid of you.” And I wouldn’t have listened to all the times God told me to take a risk…like leaving my last call to come to my new call.

I may not be the risk-taker that many others are. But what I am slowly learning is that when I, when we fully trust in God, God has a way of showing us that taking risks can and will pay off. Jesus himself is the master risk-taker. Jesus lived his life in the eyes of many who believed wholeheartedly in him and in the eyes of others who ridiculed his every move. Yet Jesus turned the world upside down, by taking his own risks, washing the feet of his disciples and sitting with tax collectors and sinners. Then ultimately, Jesus stood, arms outstretched, a crown of thorns upon his head, and breathed his last “It is FINISHED!” But he said those words knowing that God (his father) wouldn’t risk his life if he didn’t have the power to overcome death and the tomb. That my friends is exactly what happened.

There are still days that I look at Jesus’ sacrifice and wish I was more of a risk-taker. I wish that I wasn’t so afraid to be vulnerable; to share my own story. My friend Dana who I met through her blog and as part of the 31 days challenge continues to teach me about what it means to be vulnerable and to take risks even though it is SCARY! I honestly cannot put into words how much I love this woman (and we haven’t even met in real life yet!) because she reminds me that its about leaning in and trusting in this one who reminds us of the words we hear so many times in Scripture “Do not be afraid.”

You see, there is power in those four little words. Mary came to the tomb that Easter Sunday morning to see her beloved Jesus’ body. Yet when she came to the tomb, the stone was rolled away and Jesus was no longer there. Oh how risky….risky for Jesus to be raised…risky for us to believe like Mary and see that his words had come true. Jesus is no longer dead…he is alive! And because Jesus is risen…and because he is here, I find myself clinging to the promise that he will never leave me or forsake me. He will never leave YOU or forsake YOU either…..especially when we lean in and trust in him.

So my friends, as I come to the tomb and still see the tomb rolled away, I am going to try and be more of a risk-taker…a risk-taker who uses her gifts; the gifts God has given her to share his own messages of grace, love and being the master risk-taker; the one who sent his son knowing that death would not have the last word but that he would.

I am linking up with these lovely ladies today Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory, Meredith Bernard for #Woman2WomanWednesday, Kelly Balarie for the #RaRa LinkUp; and Holley Gerth for #CoffeeForYourHeart. 

 


Easter Joy Comes in the Morning!

“Easter says you can put truth in the grave, but it won’t stay there”–Clarence W. Hall

Today is the day that continually reminds us that death does not have the last word but that God does. In the midst of our own struggles, there are days that we cannot even comprehend that death does not have the last word but that God does especially when we sit with those we love and say goodbye to them. We find ourselves overcome by darkness looking for even just that little bit of light. We find ourselves looking for the hope that we have lost. But today Easter reminds us to hang on and to trust in this one who overcomes death in the grave. “Resurrection announces that whatever way death, despair, and destruction have got you in their grip, they do not have the last word (Rob Bell).”

There are days that I am mightly aware of how death, despair and destruction have me in their grip. And I am sure there are days you are mightly aware too. There are days I desperately yearn to be a wife and mom. There are days I desperately wonder if God hears my prayers. Yet, even in that despair, I want to cling to the promise that we proclaim today; “Jesus Christ is risen today! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Alleluia!”

One of the things I love about Easter is continually being reminded of the joy that comes on Easter morning. I watched as the group I am taking to the national youth gathering this summer served breakfast this morning. I watched as the kids excitedly found Easter eggs as part of our egg hunt. I listened as the fanfare of my favorite Easter hymns were sung. I found myself realizing how this day reminds me again and again of what Christ did for me.

But again we cannot experience the joy of Easter without first experiencing Jesus’ seven last words. We cannot experience it without standing at the foot of the cross as his hands and nails are nailed to the cross. There are times, in my life, that I find myself guilty of holding that very hammer. We cannot experience it without hearing Jesus’ utter his last words, “It is finished.” And we cannot experience it without seeing him laid into the tomb.

Then today we come to the tomb like Mary and the others finding the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body gone. I cannot imagine what it was like to come that day and not see Jesus laying there because the dead are not supposed to leave. Dead is dead! But that is the thing, my friends, when death, and despair, and destruction think they have the tightest, most unbearable grip on us, God shows up and shows us that death in no way has the last word but that God does.

Last night as I read one of my favorite Psalms (Psalm 30: verse 5) “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes in the morning” it took on a whole new meaning for me. For it is in Christ’s death, that we weep; weep with Mary and all those who loved him but then we come on Easter morning and see with our own eyes that joy especially Easter joy does come in the morning.

Mourning into Dancing (Ben Larson)
(Click on the link above to hear this version of Psalm 30)

Linking up with Anita at Blessed but Stressed for Inspire Me Monday

I Don’t Ever Want to Forget!

Standing arms outstreched
A crown of thorns upon his head.
The sound of the hammer
Driving the nails into his hands and feet.

Thunder rolling.
Lighting flashing.
The curtain being torn in two.
Jesus uttering his last words.

IT
IS
FINISHED!

And then pure and utter silence.

(His Last Day by Tara L. Ulrich)

Today we sit in silence as Jesus lies in the tomb. And as Jesus lies in that tomb, I find myself reflecting on what he has done for me. I don’t want to ever forget what Jesus did for me and for you. Yet in the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Sunday, I find myself realizing how easy it is to forget. I had to go to Walmart this morning to pick up groceries for our youth Easter breakfast. As I walked around the store, carefully placing items into my cart, I found myself watching the crowds of people busying themselves for tomorrow too.

I bought our groceries and headed back to church. The youth and their parents met me there. We decorated for tomorrow, cut fruit, and I hid some eggs for our Easter egg hunt. After about an hour, I came home and finished my butterfly craft for my children’s sermon for tomorrow. And then I mixed up some muffin mix and placed those in the oven. As I was washing my kitchen counters, I came across a gift that my aunt gave me several years ago. It is a cookie jar but this cookie jar is unlike any cookie jar I have ever seen. This cookie jar is a Nativity. This jar stopped me dead in my tracks as I was washing my counters.

That jar has been sitting there  for months. There are times I think, oh, I should put that away until next year. But then I get busy and forget about it. So it still sits upon my kitchen counter. Now Nativities in my house are not unusual because I collect them. All of them are carefully packed away after Christmas. But there is one that sits on my tv stand. That Nativity is there to remind me that Christ did not come one day a year but is here all the year round.

The Nativity sitting on my tv stand is always there and I love that it reminds me of the love of this man who gave his life for mine…for yours. But the Nativity in the kitchen, it so easily has just become a part of the decor. Yet today, on this Easter Saturday, this eve before we come to the tomb and find the stone rolled away, it stopped me. It reminded me again of the nails being driven into his hands. It reminded me again of the tears that his mother shed for him. It reminded me of the deafening silence after he uttered his last words. It reminded me again that death does not have the last word but that God does.

Christ has done so much for us. Christ has put on the victor’s crown (Thanks for sharing that song, Karrilee). Christ will come again. But for now, let us sit in silence and remember as Jesus is lying in the tomb. We cannot experience the joy of Easter without Good Friday.

Sunday is coming, my friends. And because I don’t ever want to forget, that Nativity will remain on my kitchen counter.

I am linking up with Barbie and Mary at My Freshly Brewed Life for the Weekend Brew.

It is Good!

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Good.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

God created the light and called it day and created the dark and called it night. Then he said, “It is good.” And on the 7th day God looked at the world God created and said again “It is good.” Then God rested.

Later God sent God’s son into the world to die on a cross for our sins. But what is good about this day in which the crown of throwns is placed upon his head? What is good about Jesus breathing his last? What is good about Jesus just the day before sitting silent among his accusers and washing his disciples feet knowing that some of them would soon betray him? I don’t know about you but I have a hard time finding good as I stand and watch my savior crucified on our behalves.

But the thing is God loves us so much that God sent his Son into the world. But then on the third day, God reminds us of the good God has when God raises Jesus from the dead. It is good when the women come to the tomb and find the stone has been rolled away. It is good when we see that “Easter says you can put truth in a grave but it won’t stay there (Clarence W Hall).” It is good when we find the holy hopeful found in the Easter promise. It is good when we cling to the love of this one who gave his son for us. It is good when we come and can triumphantly proclaim “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!”

Post-Easter Sabbath

Can you believe Lent is over and that we began the season of Easter yesterday? Holy Week was crazy! I don’t know if it was the full moon or what. We survived! My colleague suggested I run away and/or take a few days of Sabbath. I took him up on it. I didn’t run very far but it has been glorious. Sleeping in, watching tv, napping, napping and more napping. I even booked a facial tomorrow at a local spa. I have never done one but am looking forward to it.

It’s amazing how a little Sabbath can truly make a difference. Thank you to my dear colleague for the suggestion and encouragement. I hope my friends who work in the church have found some post-Easter Sabbath too! How do you like to spend extended days of Sabbath? What do you do for yourself?

Hope and Restoration

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”

Palm Sunday begins the journey through Holy week and to Jesus’ death and Resurrection. As we celebrate on Easter Sunday, we are reminded that Jesus came into the world for us. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God. And in return we are called to be forgiving and to be forgiven. One thing I love about the 40 days of Lent and Holy week is the reminder of this awesome hope…a hope that comes in the midst of death and the Resurrection.

And in that hope, we are reminded of life…that life does come out of death. What a beautiful reminder for us all. This week I have spent a lot of time around new life. On Friday, a dear friend and I met up for lunch where I got to meet her new son who is almost a month old. We sat and visited for quite awhile. And as we visited, the little guy snuggled down on my chest and just slept. I think I held him for like an 30 minutes or more. I was hoping he would open his eyes for me but he never did. Apparently he was content just the way he was. Today, I sat and held a church member’s new little baby who is about two months old. Again he snuggled right down into my chest and listened to my heart beat. I literally could have sat their all day with him snuggling in. I returned home to open up FB and read that my dear friends J and C’s daughter decided to make her entrance into the world today too. There is something absolutely spectacular about new life. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t have to be asked twice to hold an infant?

(It also happened to be First Communion Sunday at DLC this morning for our 5th graders and their homes. In coming to the table, we are reminded again of what Jesus did for us. Jesus died on the cross for us; to restore our relationship with God and each other. At the table, God also reminds us of God’s grace and hope; reminding us that we are forgiven and that we too should be forgiving as well. Yet another reminder of God’s grace, mercy, love and hope…)

And in the midst of this new life, I am reminded of this amazing grace…this amazing hope that God offers to all of us; a hope that is always there. Yes, I still deeply yearn to be a momma and to have someone call me “mommy”. However hope outweighs that yearning. (I’ll be honest there are days when that hope is clouded by the deep yearning but most days, God reminds me of this hope; a hope that I cling to in the midst of this thing I want so deeply!)Because God in sending God’s Son into the world reminds us of this amazing love, grace, and mercy that only God can offer.

“This is how much God loved the world; He have his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him,anyone can have a whole and lasting life(John 3:16-17;The Message).”

The Resurrection; Here and Now!!

My cup is absolutely overflowing today!!!! I think so often it is simply so easy for life to get in the way! We get so caught up in the busyness of life that we can so easily see the darkness in our midst but we have a hard time seeing the light. This weekend has been absolutely full of light for me! Yesterday with about 500 other people, I witnessed new love…and new joy at the wedding of my friend Renee. Now some of you, my blog readers, know her story but others of you may not so I’ll give a quick snippet. Renee, Renee’s husband Ben and Ben’s cousin Jon were all in Haiti in January of 2010 when the earthquake hit! They were all seperated and Ben lost his life in the rubble. Ben spent his last moments of life singing! Over the course of the past two years, Renee and Jon have found their way to each other and formed a new love! This to me is light! This is the Resurrection in our midst; here and now!

Then yesterday morning I met up with a good camp friend over Breakfast. As we were visiting, she was telling me about her foster child. She does “parent support” fostering. As many of you know, it is something I have been praying about and thinking about for a little while now! I couldnt help but smile and think about how smart the Holy Spirit is; showing me another opportunity. More light…more Resurrection in my midst here in now! Then later that afternoon, I Skyped my mom for the first time! So much fun to see the light in her as she saw me and got to talk to me at the same time! Perhaps the Resurrection in my midst yet again?!?!

This morning I went with a good friend out to the church Renee serves at. We met up with another camp friend and her family who recently moved to town. The church is on the campus of the youth correctional center. We gathered with the boys and girls who are currently staying at YCC! I couldn’t help but wonder what their stories were! While at Heart River, I got to hear a dear Diaconal sister preach (She preached a rockin’ sermon that inspired this blog today!)More signs of light….more joy….more of the Resurrection in our midst here in now!

The weekend isn’t even over yet. I will get to see college friends later this afternoon who I havent seen in forever! We are gathering for an adoption benefit for a college friend and her family who are adopting from Bulgaria! I am sure I will see more light…more joy today!

Hard not to see the Resurrection in this Easter season as I look around this weekend yet it also is so easy like the gospel story we heard from Mark last week to be afraid, to let fear creep in, to doubt, and to see the darkness. May we spend more time always looking for the Resurrection in our midst! And in the midst of seeing the Resurrection, may your cups begin to overflow with love, joy, and countless blessings!!

Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!