Friday, April 18, 2014

Lenten Dig: to be continued

Oh, you guys, I'm sorry.  I really, really wanted to get these last two discussions up before the end of the Lenten season. Unfortunately, it's just not going to happen - I'm not yet done with the book. But we are going to finish this, just a bit delayed. I hope you've enjoyed the reading thus far and if you are reading along at home and are done with the book I would really like to hear your thoughts.



In the meantime, on this Good Friday I'm leaving you with this video of Kelley Mooney's Easter version of Hallelujah.  If you haven't seen this yet, take a listen; it is simply beautiful.






Friday, April 11, 2014

5 going on 35



I've put away all traces of winter decorations but, sadly, I have yet to pull out the Easter/spring stuff.  I'm hoping to get that done this weekend.  I did, however, make over our nature table and because our daffodils are already starting to droop and peter out I figured I better snap a picture before they are gone entirely. We're currently reading the book The Story of the Root Children and oh! it is so cute. The new Spring book is also up - the boys just love these, there are no words but they love the pictures and making their own stories - and the set of three tiny white books in the middle are a few in the Peter Rabbit series - Peter Rabbit is also big around here. Keaton painted that bird house while we were living in the duplex and Nolan rolled that candle at Christmastime. The other various things have been collected by the kids out and around the yard.

Yesterday morning while I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth Keaton walked in and said, "Mom, the truck was stuck in the pillow so I took some scissors and I cut it out."

"What? You did what? What did you cut?"

"The pillow. On the couch.  The truck, it was stuck in those things. So I just cut....I cut'em off." He was kind of flapping his hands around like, you know, no big deal.

And then I remembered, the little matchbox truck, it was all tangled up in the fringes of the pillow.  I had meant to grab a pair of scissors and do the same. "Oh yeah, Nolan's dump truck.  Yeah, I saw that...okay...you didn't...hurt the pillow, right?"

"No.  I just...little cuts.. snipped it off." And then he held up his hand to emphasize just how serious he was, "Mom, I have just HAD IT with those pillows, everything keeps getting stuck in them."

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Dig: Week 4 - The Passerby & His Loved Ones

Welcome to Week 4 of our Lenten Dig where we will be reading and discussing the book What Jesus Saw from the Cross. I'm realizing now I shouldn't have called these "weeks" but "installments" because technically we should be at installment five by now.  Buuuuut, we're a tad bit behind.  My goal is still to have the book completed and the last post up before Easter but I'm not exactly sure what days that will happen.  I do think breaking them up into two more installments would be the best just because there is so much material in each chapter. Feel free to join the discussion at any time. For those of you reading along at home, I've been meaning to check in and just see what you are thinking so far; I'm interested in your thoughts! Please note, all items I've put in quotations below are excerpts directly from the book.

***

As I've read through this book it has stirred a lot of emotions, there have been moments that I have felt like I was going to throw up, moments that my whole body physically ached, moments of surprise and moments of wonder.  In reading these two chapters I mostly felt heart-heavy.  I think that feeling stemmed from reading about people rather than places or structures. 

The Passerby

This chapter takes us with Christ on his walk to Calvary. The streets are narrow and winding there is a great buzz in the air because people have flocked to the city for the festival; Jesus - after suffering the scourging, I always have to add that little detail in my mind, a constant reminder that he wasn't just carrying this mighty, heavy wooden beam through little these narrow little roads, he was carrying this mighty, heavy wooden beam through narrow little roads after being whipped furiously - is being jostled around, slipping and falling, at one point it was very unlikely he would have been able to make it any further and all around him - ALL around him, bumping into him even - are these people.  The author breaks the "passerby" down into five categories: friends, sympathizers, strangers, indifferent, and enemies.

I'm not sure which category of these draws up the most emotions in me....the reaction of the enemies makes me feel....angry, I think is the best word.  I can't understand getting enjoyment out of watching this.  I don't think it would matter for me who it is what he/she had done, I could not watch the torment of another and find it pleasing - I just...I can not understand how these people could see this and not, at least, turn away, be unable to watch rather than throw insults and further suffering.  But I think the category of people that might make me even more upset are those in the crowd that are indebted to Him and are still there to mock him. I can't remember what category the author put these people into, maybe indifferent?  The ones He had healed and saved and now they turn their back, now they stand in the crowd and also jeer Him.

Spasimo di Sicilia by Raphael;
picture from Wikipedia
But despite all of this Christ remained gentle, calm, collected. Even under this tremendous amount of pain He bore the suffering of His Cross without uttering a word at those subjecting Him to this. Huh....yeah, I can honestly say that that would be nearly impossible for me...  Maybe, hopefully, what made it a bit easier were the friends that were forever by His side and Simon of Cyrene who, by happenstance, crossed His path and picked up His Cross - picked up His burden - and bore the weight of if at a moment when He simply couldn't go any further.

I have many friends who have stayed by my side and many Simons who have bore the weight, in my times of need. My heart is forever changed by their generosity and I can't help but think these are the people, in their kindness, that enabled Our Lord to continue on. He knew the will of His Father and with the encouragement and love of those around Him He was able to fulfill it.

Reading this chapter I kept finding myself thinking, how can I be more of a friend? How can I be more of a Simon?

The picture above was referenced in the book and I googled it because I was not familiar with the painting. At first glance I wasn't quite sure it did the scene justice but then I read the description on Wiipedia:
It shows the common subject of Christ Carrying the Cross to his crucifixion, at the moment when he fell and his mother suffers a spasm of agony, the Swoon of the Virgin, or "Lo Spasimo" All the emotion of the painting is densely crammed into the foreground and the background is similar to that of a stage set with distant groups of people and crosses. The man on the left in the foreground is similar to a figure in Raphael’s painting “The Judgement of Solomon” in the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican Palace, except reversed. Simon of Cyrene lifts Christ’s cross momentarily and looks sternly at the guards. The four Mary’s are depicted on the right side of the painting and towering on either side of the composition are the guards. The concept of, and devotion to, the "spasm" of the Virgin was fashionable, if somewhat controversial, in early 16th century Catholicism, although in this work the Virgin has only fallen to her kness, not collapsed or fainted, as is often shown.

And while I know the painting was largely done to portray the moment where Our Lord met eyes with His mother, I think my favorite part of the painting is actually Simon of Cyrene and his "stern" look to the guards. How about you?

His Loved Ones

Here I am once again, just getting to chapter two and already having enough written for one post - I'd let this chapter go and leave it to you but this chapter, His Loved Ones, has probably been my most favorite of all so far.  Before I began reading the book I saw a review on Amazon?  I'm not sure which website I saw this, but it was basically praising the book for the positive portrayal of women at Jesus' Crucifixion. And I have to wholeheartedly agree.  This chapter, which described the women who tended to Him before His journey, who stayed by His side throughout, who loved Him so deeply - they were, as the author says, "devoted to Him at the beginning and until the end" - has made my heart swell with love and has deepened and confirmed my feelings on womanhood and maybe, in particular, motherhood. In his description the author calls this the "authentic picture of hallowed womanhood."

"Women is essentially a consoler. Her outlook upon life leads her to be a helper because, since she herself is the giver of life, she is more conscious than man of its frailty and its needs. She protects what she is given."

She's the kisser of owies; the giver of hugs in the middle of the night. She's kind and gentle but she's a Mama Bear when she needs to be.  The is a women. This is a mother. This is so stinking beautiful! Ahhh! Am I the only one that feels so happy reading these words?  Maybe it's because I don't always feel like I'm kind and gentle, with my kids in particular.  I fail....a lot, but reading this reminds me that at my core, simply by virtue of being a women, I can find gentleness and kindness and patience....I might have to work at it, but deep down, it's there.

This chapter talks a lot about Mary in particular and I think provides some insight as to why the Catholic church honors her.  (I know this is confusing, having grown up a non-Catholic, but we do not worship Mary - I hope this post doesn't offend any non-Catholics out there, I apologize in advance if it does, but I think this provides a good explanation as to the difference between worship and honor in the Church. Only read if you are interested; I'm always interested in learning about other faith practices so that's the only reason I am including it here: Do Catholics Worship Mary?)

But aside from Mary and the other women, His Loved Ones, also includes discussion on those not present at the Crucifixion; namely, the other eleven (or ten, since Judas is gone). Jesus is suffering and in need and yet the disciples (with the exception of John) have left Him, but "for Him their goodwill has always been enough." He didn't need them there; He knew in their hearts that they were loyal to Him and He did not hold it against them that they ran when they were scared, that they abandoned Him when He needed them most.

"This is the miracle of the Cross: it saves even those who desert if, provided that the heart is not estranged."

This provides me with so much comfort, for myself and for others.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

***

Previous Discussions:
Week 1 - The View from the Cross
Week 2 - Zion & His Fathers House
Week 3 - The Upper Room & The Mount of Olives

Discussions to Come:
His Enemies & His Tomb
Heaven & the Epilogue

Friday, April 4, 2014

on the other side


There's this stretch of land I drive by every single day on the way to drop-off at Busha's or school. A few months ago this stretch was particularly icy and more than once we saw a car going into the ditch in practically the exact same spot. So my eye is now trained to take notice in this area, where otherwise I might zone out; especially when there are no kids in the car. 

This picture was taken on Wednesday after school drop-off and days of warmer temps. The snow banks on the left have receded greatly since Monday where that whole field was still covered in white. But none the less I still laugh a bit when I drive by - snow and ice and dirt on one side, the remnants of a long, hard winter; flooding fields and standing water on the other, the first looks of what may be a nasty spring - and each and every time I can't help but think: The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

***

Do me a favor, will ya? Raise your hand if you happen to be fighting a late-season cold, flu, sinus infection. Thanks :)

Have a good weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Dig: Week 3 - The Upper Room & The Mount of Olives

Welcome to a very belated Week 3 of our Lenten Dig where we will be reading and discussing the book What Jesus Saw from the Cross. This post was supposed to go live a week ago, on Wednesday March 26th, but last week was Spring Break around these parts and that threw my schedule out of whack. My goal (if I can get through the reading) is to post another discussion this weekend and hopefully get back on track next week - but we'll see how that goes. Feel free to join the discussion at any time. Please note, all items I've put in quotations below are excerpts directly from the book.  

***

As with our last discussion, my thoughts are heavy on the first chapter, The Upper Room, and practically non-existent, okay...actually non-existent, on the second chapter, The Mount of Olives. It's not there isn't great content in these chapters it's just that getting through two chapters, thoughtfully, a week is....well, it's embarrassingly difficult. But let's dig in....

Love.  That was the overwhelming theme to me in this chapter. The first paragraph "Jesus, knowing that His hour was come, that He should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved his own that were in the world, He loved them unto the end." I suppose this theme shouldn't surprise me in the least but I remember reading this paragraph and smiling and nodding my head, these words were so fitting given our previous two discussions. He loved them....He loved us, until the end. But what makes it even more remarkable is that He knew He was near the end and He knew the betrayal that was to come and He loved anyway. I'm going to go ahead and admit right now that I don't think I could do that.  I might be able to forgive and "get over it" but to love, wholeheartedly, through it?  That's tough.

 The Upper Room is the scene of The Last Supper, but the disciples don't know the significance of it yet, they are celebrating the Passover, and a celebration it is.

" Apparently Jesus did not consider that His intention to institute a new rite upon that day dispensed Him from celebrating the Jewish Passover. It was of the Jewish Passover that the disciples spoke, and Jesus did not correct them...."

I found this passage especially touching, He did not just tell them exactly what was happening, that He was becoming the new lamb, instead He walks them through, He guides them, but He lets them discern and discover for themselves.  A true teacher. And very much what he does for us in difficult times.

This also made me think about what I would do if I knew I were leaving the next day - even just leaving for a trip, let alone, forever. The dinner would be busy, loud, there would be much talk about the kids' schedules, maybe medicines they need, bed times, etc. There would be a lot of chatter and laying out of plans...it surely would not be a peaceful celebration.

At the Passover meal, or The Last Supper, Jesus washes the feet of the disciples - a symbol of love and purity. I've often heard this act of our Lord has various meanings, love and servant hood, among them. This would have been a very bold act simply because people's feet were dirty; not even a Jewish slave would have been required to do this. And yet, our Lord kneels down and insists because, as the author notes, "all is in the cross, because all is in humility and love, and the washing of the feet is the herald of the Cross." The author later says "we need submission to cleansing grace....to have part in the gift Jesus brings." Submission. And I immediately jotted down submission -> struggle. In our times of difficulty....or, rather in my times of difficulty I struggle.  I fight. I kick. I scream. I do just about anything but submit to His will.

This thought will tie in nicely with my last thought from the chapter but before I go there I have one more thing written down....it's interesting how He spends His time the night before supporting the disciples, warning of their weakness and bidding them to be of good heart. He goes as far as foretelling them about their abandonment and saying "let not your heart be troubled...." Always taking care of others and doing it with love and grace and humility....

The chapter ends with blood streaming on the Cross and our Savior groaning in pain. The daily readings on the day I happened to finish reading this chapter included Hebrews 10:7:

"Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God."

Jesus knew full well that His will included suffering and death - it is likely that His will for me is not nearly as harsh and yet, I seem to have trouble fully surrendering. And there again is that thought of submission, surrendering, taking up my cross and following.

Pathetically, I'm realizing I have not a single note written down on The Mount of Olives and since this is long and the boys will be waking up soon, I'm going to leave that for you guys :)  I'd love to hear your thoughts and I'll chime in in the comments.

***

Previous discussions:
Week 1 - The View from the Cross
Week 2 - Zion & His Fathers House

Next up: The Passerby & His Loved Ones (hopefully coming by the end of this week)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Racing the Sun


Since Daylight Savings a couple of weeks ago the boys and I have been out the door and on our way to Busha's before the sun is up; it's typically getting light as our car pulls out of the drive, but she hasn't officially peaked over that horizon. I entice them to hurry getting their boots and coats on and getting buckled into their seats by promises of racing the sun (Side note: did you ever read that book as a kid?). Our goal is to get to Busha's road before she arrives. The 20 or so miles there are filled with lots of ooohs and aaahs as we watch the sky turn from pink to yellow, the light expanding by the minute to the north and south.  
Keaton commented on our way home last night about how it was still light out, even at dinner time: the days are getting longer, mom! And he's right, the days are getting longer and it's never been so evident as it is in those few minutes in the morning as we race the sun - two weeks ago we had no problem beating her; this morning, you can see, it was a different story.  

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Dig: Week 2 (Zion & His Fathers House)

Welcome to Week 2 of our Lenten Dig where we will be reading and discussing the book What Jesus Saw from the Cross. Feel free to join the discussion at any time. Please note, all items I've put in quotations below are excepts directly from the book.

***


Zion


Chapter 2, Zion, starts out having the same sort of affect on me that Chapter 1 had; I kept finding myself thinking, wow, that is not how I pictured it.


Mount Zion, the City of David...I always pictured....what's the word I'm looking for, grandeur? Surely not "five acres of land covered by a heap of huts that were indistinguishable from the slopes on which they were erected, a number of grey hovels on grey earth, an anthill without the glory of a meadow." But I love how the author follows this up with "the reader need not be surprised or disappointed" and continues to describe life in those days; a life that really, in almost all aspects, is so entirely different than the life I know today. He goes on to say "greatness is not measured only by dimensions" and gives some examples of some of the worlds greatest places/books/paintings that take up very little space. In reading these words I immediately thought of the Mona Lisa. I remember seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time and being so taken aback by how small of a painting it was. The Mona Lisa, I mean, everyone knows that that is, right?  In my mind it was so well known that it had to be grand. Have you ever had an experience like that, where the reality of what you saw was so off-base from the picture you had in your mind simply by size alone?


In some ways it makes sense though, that Zion would be smaller than expected, I mean look at Israel in general, the author describes it perfectly "the paradoxical history of a tiny people that radiates power over the entire human race." So many great things took place in this small land.  That brings me some comfort - sometimes it's hard to imagine the Lord having the time (for lack of better word) to worry about small little ol' me when there are so many bigger, more pressing issues in the world but this reminds me that size is not a determining factor for Him.


The author notes that Zion "is not only the place of preparation; it is also the place of prophecy." He goes on to quote some passages from the Bible in which prophets, psalmists, etc. foretell what is to happen here. But it is the last line of this chapter that about brings me to my knees:


"That which the joyous Psalmist announces in exultation, Christ fulfills in pain." 


Em, you talked in our last discussion about how horribly we behave when we are in pain (I am guilty of the same!) - I acted horribly this past weekend because of mental anguish, I wasn't even in physical pain and yet I couldn't hold it together.  Jesus knew was was to come, He knew the pain He was going to endure and yet He didn't run and He didn't lash out at his disciples in those last days.  He continued to love and when the time came He quite literally "took up His cross" and bore it all.....for us.  


This past Sunday I sat in the pews and listed to Father's homily and he said those very words: "Take up your cross and follow me." I missed pretty much everything after that because I realized I was doing the very opposite of "taking up my cross" I was standing around the cross, complaining, whining, yelling, doing just about everything I could to avoid picking it up. Father's closing line (which I did happen to catch) was this: "Anything, anything is possible with God." So with a renewed commitment I'm trying hard this week to pick it up, trust, and follow.


His Father's House


Wow, this is already getting pretty long so I'll try to keep this discussion on the shorter side...


I really appreciated this chapter for the history of the temple; the building and the destruction, a cycle that was on repeat.  At the time of the crucifixion the author uses the words "marvelous" and "dazzling" and says that "at the sight of it, the heart of an Israelite pilgrim glows with pride." It was a bustling place with large crowds and great feasts, it's noisy and busy....


It was after reading this that it first hit me....destruction and rebuilding, ups and downs, noisy and busy yet marvelous and dazzling....man, the temple sounds like a metaphor for my life.  Maybe for all our lives...maybe for all of humanity. 


***


Previous Discussions:

Week 1

Next up: Wednesday, March 26th: Chapters 4 & 5 (The Upper Room & The Mount of Olives)