Resurrection? Really?

A few years ago, I heard a newscaster begin his report about the upcoming Easter season with something like this:

“Easter is the holiday when Christians around the world mourn the death of Jesus”.

Hmmm… Not quite. I think he should have done his research. You see, Easter isn’t about the death of Jesus; that’s Good Friday. Easter is about the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a day of celebration – no mourning allowed.
Hostas3-1
I suppose all those Easter programs put on by churches every year have done their part to perpetuate this “day of mourning” idea. Most of them spend 55 minutes laboring over the suffering and the death, and only 5 minutes rejoicing in the resurrection and the life. I don’t get it. I love the resurrection. It’s my favorite story in all the Bible.

But it’s only a nice little Sunday School lesson, right? You can’t believe it really happened.

Right?

Well, I do believe it happened. I believe it because I have no driving need not to believe it, and every reason to celebrate the tantalizing reality in which such things are possible. The resurrection is one of those events in history that breaks the rules. It violates the so-called “laws of nature” we’ve always been told were immutable, and declares that there are no limits other than the artificial ones we’ve set in our own narrow thinking.

There is so much more to me and you and to this world than we can classify and pin to the Styrofoam. The resurrection of Jesus is one of the touchstones of my faith that reminds me I’m here to push the boundaries, not lock my spirit up inside the uninspired catacombs of the rule-makers and the naysayers. It gives me one more reason to believe that when Jesus declared, “All things are possible to the one who believes”, He meant exactly what He said.

Hostas2-1This spring as I watch our hostas stubbornly push their way up through the pebble mulch, performing their annual version of  “rolling away the stone”, I realize I have a front row seat to nature’s own Easter pageant. Having lain dead in the long, cold winter, those hearty little believers have risen again in all their variegated glory. They make me think that, far from being impossible, resurrection might actually be the most natural thing in the universe. And they transport me once again to the joy and hope of that first Easter morning.

He is risen!
He is risen, indeed!

:D Hallelujah, and Happy Easter, everyone.

What Does God Look Like?

KarenBaby2If you’re ever out looking for God, and you ask some people what He looks like, you might get a description something like this:

White male
70-75 billion years old
Shoulder-length white hair
Long white beard
Approximately 10 feet tall
Last seen wearing a glowing white robe
Armed and dangerous

That’s how He’s been pictured throughout history, isn’t it? Big. Angry. Scary. Not someone you want to meet on the street in the middle of the night.

But is that really what God looks like?

It’s kind of a trick question, really. God is a spirit. You can’t actually see spirits unless they choose to manifest themselves in some visible form. So what if God decided to come to visit planet earth? How would we know Him? What form would He take?

Well, according to the Christmas Story, God did cross the spiritual/physical barrier a little over 2100 years ago. Yep. Landed smack dab in the Milk Way galaxy, third stone from the sun, in the city of Bethlehem, Judea. He sent none other than the “Angel of the Lord” to announce his coming. And He chose a bunch of sleepy shepherds to get the amazing news first.

Imagine for a moment that you’re one of those shepherds. This week it’s your turn to pull the graveyard shift and keep watch over the flocks by night. You and your buddies are sitting out there in the fields, abiding your own business, when suddenly the sky lights up bright as day. Then the Grand Poobah of all angels comes swooping down out of the clouds, accompanied by a blaring trumpet fanfare. And this is what the angel says to you:

“Don’t be afraid! I bring good news for everyone. The Lord Your God has come to earth tonight, and He wants to meet with you.”

“Wow, we must really in trouble with the Big Guy”, you think to yourself. But you have to go. After all, this is The Lord Your God, okay? He sent His best angel all the way out here. Best not turn down the invitation. Anyway, the angel said it was “good news”. So maybe it’s not going to be so bad. Slowly you work up enough courage to stammer, “But say, uh… Mister Head Honcho Heavenly Vision… sir… how will we know who He is? What does The Lord Our God look like?”

And the angel answers: “He’s a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”

Wait a minute…

He’s a who?
Wrapped in what?
Lying in – don’t animals eat out of those things???

It all sounds really strange, and very unceremonious for such an event as this. But he has to be serious. This is the Angel of the Lord, right? He wouldn’t swoop down out of the clouds and light up the whole sky just to snooker a bunch of shepherds into looking for some insignificant little nobody.

Right?

So you and all the rest of the shepherds decide to go into Bethlehem, in the middle of the night, to find none other than The Lord Your God. But you aren’t searching for some big scary Moses-looking dude with a couple of stone tablets to crack across your sorry backside. No. You’re looking for this itsy-bitsy baby boy, wrapped up like a gift, lying in a – what? Really?

Unbelievable.

Finally, you get to the manger. And there He is: this little Jewish kid with a shock of dark hair atop His newborn head. He’s just like the angel promised. You watch in wonder as He wiggles and giggles with joyful new life. You marvel as His sparkling eyes dart around the room as He smiles at everyone. When it’s your turn, you edge in closer, and carefully kneel down by the manger. The new arrival looks right into your baggy old eyes. He wraps His tiny hand around your fat, grubby finger. That’s when your weary face melts into a big smile. You can’t help it. After all, He’s such a…

happy…
beautiful…
lovable…
wonderful…
God.

If you’re looking for God this Christmas, and you want to know what He looks like, there’s no end to the people who will give you their opinion. But if you really want to know for sure, ask an angel. Like the shepherds, I bet you’ll receive some good tidings of great joy…

And maybe a God like you never expected. :)

Merry Christmas everyone!


Posts of Christmas Past

The Lord’s Prayer (Remix)

Mountains3Most Beloved,
In whom I live and move and breathe,
Your name is a blessing
In my ears.

I seek Your truth
So I may live in oneness
With You and all creation
For You are the source of everything I need.

Teach me how to accept forgiveness
By learning to forgive.
Turn my feet from harmful pathways.
Rescue me from danger.

You are the dawn that brings me light.
You are the wind that gives me flight.
You alone inspire
My grateful songs of praise.

Amen.



Author’s Note:
Lately I’ve been captured by the beauty of the Aramaic version of the Lord’s Prayer. So I decided to try composing my own English paraphrase, based on what I’ve learned about its meaning. I call it a remix because it draws its rhythms from a different source than good King Jimmy’s more familiar version.

Of course, other English translations of the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer have been done by actual Aramaic language scholars (which I most definitely am not). I certainly don’t pretend to have improved upon those interpretations. But after pondering what I learned, I felt a strong need to express this prayer in my own words and my own way. Still, I hope it transcends my own beliefs, or any religious viewpoint for that matter, and expresses the heart of anyone who embraces the reality of Divine Presence.


Related Posts:

The Age of Abundance

Okay. Actually that wasn’t the original title for this post.

My first thought for a title was to declare 2013 “The Year of Abundance”, since 2012 was such a rough year for our family. I wanted to proclaim the start of this new year as a turning point for us. But then I thought:

“Why just one year of abundance? Why not abundance for life?”

Made sense to me. So hence, the (new improved, and ridiculously ambitious) title.

Now, this is no mere “New Year’s Resolution”, mind you. Those things never worked for me. However well-intentioned the promise, somehow calling it a “New Year’s Resolution” seemed to doom it to certain failure. But this is no piddling little promise. No.

This is a whole new way of thinking and living; not out of my own sense of not-enough-ness and can’t-do-it-ness, but from a limitless abundance of Divine guidance and resources. That means I have to to stop making promises and start claiming them.

2013 is a wonderfully unique year in which to usher in a new “Age of Abundance”. The early snowfall here in Tennessee has officially confirmed that 12-21-12 was the beginning of winter – not the end of the world, as many predicted. In a weird way, I feel like humanity has been given a renewed lease on the planet. So now that we’ve dodged the Big One, I’m thinking maybe it’s time to start living as if we’ve been offered a gift, rather than handed a pink slip. I can’t speak for anyone else, but as for me, I now hereby declare that this is henceforth and evermore the “Age of Abundance”, and I intend to receive each moment with a deep sense of gratitude and anticipation.

My "Abundance Board"

My “Abundance Board”

So, in support of all these outlandish and grandiose declarations, I’ve started what I call my “Abundance Board”. Actually it’s a cork board that has hung above my writing desk for a few years. Whenever I had a short little thought or found a quote I thought would be helpful in my spiritual journey, I would write it on a piece of paper and tack it up there.

As you might imagine, the board became quite overrun with these little snippets. So I got this bright idea: I decided to remove all the sayings except for the ones that specifically dealt with abundance. That left 8 little slips of paper, randomly scattered over the surface. I pulled those down, rearranged them and tacked them back up, right down the middle of the board.

No doubt you’re wondering which 8 messages made the cut. Here they are, in the order they appear:

“I have the power to invite miracles.”

“If you’ve got to doubt something, doubt your limitations.” ~ (Rob Williams)

“There is no last piece of pie in God’s bakery.”

“Take what is yours.”

“Treating myself like a precious object will make me strong.” ~ (Julia Cameron)

“God is taking good care of everyone. I don’t have to.”

“Go play.” ~ (Aimee Dassele)

“Don’t worry about fitting in. Just be happy.” ~ (Dr. James S. Gordon)

A fantastic start for my “Abundance Board”, don’t cha think? I plan to add to it until it fills up like before. That way, I am constantly reminded of the abundance that is available to me in this very moment, and every moment still to come.

So welcome 2013. And 2014, 2015 and how many ever more years there may be. I’m looking forward to seeing how this new chapter unfolds.

Happy New Year, everyone.

And while we’re celebrating, how about Happy “Age of Abundance”, too?

Who’s with me? :)