Tag Archives: the Cross

Morning

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Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; 
   great is your faithfulness. Lam.3:22-23.

This morning I wake early, while darkness softly dissolves into daylight.  I creep downstairs in the sleepy stillness, brew a steaming mug of coffee, curl into the squishiest corner of the sofa, cuddle deep in my favorite blanket.  In the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. Kahlil Gibran.

This wraps arms of sustaining grace around my day:

The Grace of the Cross

O my Savior

I thank You from the depths of my being

For Your woundrous grace and love

In bearing my sin in your own body on the tree.

May your Cross be to me

as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,     (Ex.15:22-27)   

as the rod that blossoms with life and beauty,      (Numbers 17)

as the brazen serpent that calls forth the look of faith.      (Numbers 31:4-8)

By your Cross crucify my every sin;

Use it to increase my intimacy with Yourself;

Make it the vigor of my love, thankfulness, graces;

And by it give me that rest without rest,

the rest of ceaseless praise.

O my Lord & Savior,

You have also appointed me a cross to take up and carry,

a cross before you give me a crown.

You have appointed it to be my portion,

but self-love hates it,

without the grace of patience I cannot bear it.

O blessed cross, what mercies do you bring with you!

You are only esteemed heavy because I shirk my load.

Teach me, gracious Lord & Savior,

that with my cross you send promised grace

so that I may bear it patiently,

that my cross is your yoke which is easy

and my burden which is light.

From The Valley of Vision:  A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotsions by Arthur Bennet.  

Life surges through me, settles my mind and heart, recalls a thousand renewing mercies.  Once again, the Way of the Cross does not seem so hard.

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Cocoon

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It is finished. John 19:30

My journal has a hard-cover, which I do not like.  I prefer spiral bound, so I can fold the cover around itself to open up each white blank page.  This journal cost me $24.95 at Barnes & Noble, which is silly, because I can buy journals at the grocery store for about $4.99 – paper-covered, spiral bound, fat journals just the perfect size to carry with my Bible.  But this one is special.  I bought it because of the quote etched on the front, which brought me to tears when I read it for the first time.  And many times after that.

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

That journal holds a record of my world-overness.  The world breaks every one, and afterwards many are strong at the broken places.  Ernest Hemingway.  This fallen place broke me in pieces and it is all recorded, raw and tear-stained, under the shelter of the caterpillar promise.

I thumbed through that journal recently, aching all over again as I remembered.  All that was broken, all that was lost, all that we tried to hold onto as the Lord allowed it to scatter away.  All the self-righteous poison I poured out on those pages, vomiting my vindictive rage on the battleground of an empty page instead of spewing words to God’s Image-bearers that I could never take back. Thank you for holding me in, Lord, for gathering me in strong arms and listening to my voice.  All the prayers and Scriptures that I clung to as tears fell, blurring my vision, distorting the written words with bubbled droplets of a broken heart. All the epiphanies, the healings, the explosions of piercing Truth from the tender heart of God, the violent collisions of faith and fallenness, the million moments of transforming grace.  Manna.  It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Everyone is to gather as much as they need.’ Exodus 16:15-16.  The journal holds the record of my long, dark cocoon years, when the Lord lifted me out of the life I thought I wanted and wrapped me in a deep grace, an infinite healing, a safe and holy transformation.

Another One, long ago, dwelled voluntarily in a dark cocoon called Death.  His body twisted and bloody, his skin pierced and ragged, His head bowed under the full weight of the madness of this spinning, savage planet. God, wrapped in flesh, was crucified.  He hung ingloriously on a cross.  A cross is a spiritual symbol to us, but to the Roman culture it was ugly and rough, like an electric chair or a hangman’s noose.  God became a curse.  A life of dust, a death in agony.  Then they buried Him in the same dirt out of which He created our race of image-bearers.  The end of God.  All of hell howls in triumph, gibbering in dark victory.

Until….

The cocoon twitches, then rumbles, then…….splits open.  Resurrection.  Death could not hold Life in.  Life surrenders to death, only to defeat it.  That is the cycle of the Redeemed.  We all die every day, sinking into the fallenness of this place, then He finds us, reminds us of the Cross and of the Empty Tomb, and it strengthens us, empowers us. We rise up.  We remember who we are.  We are the Remnant, the Chosen Ones, the Covenant Bearers, those who open our arms to Grace.  We are the saints of God.

The hidden transformation of the cocoon is a process for us.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror. 1 Cor. 13:12.  We live out our own reflection of the resurrection story, perhaps over and over, in our lifetimes.  We bleed our own stories, distorted and unfinished, so very different from what we wanted them to be.  Who of us can see the earthquake coming? Who notices the tiny cracks and foresees the fault lines of what will be?  None of us.  But…

It is finished.  John 19:30.

Take heart, for (unlike this particular saint) the Cross is a finished work.  All is ours, whether in heaven or on earth, for we are among those covered by the caterpillar promise, the resurrection covenant.  Jesus Christ died, was buried, and burst through the gates of hell.  He redeemed our tattered stories and knit them into the tapestry of grace. We do not bear the weight of unfinished sin, but the weight of heavenly glory.  All was resolved at the Cross.  All is grace.

Live in grace.  Record your story under the promise.  Set your face on the Cross.  Live under this shelter:

It is finished.

The Resurrection Promise


Alabaster

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There is an appointed time for everything.  And there is a time for every event under heaven – a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing, a time to search and a time to give up as lost.  from Eccl.3.

We have been asking questions about broken relationship.  How do we know when to throw open our arms to a hard-fought embrace and when to drop them in acceptance? When to hold on to a lost treasure and when to let it go with a benediction?  It is easier for one of us to search, and for one of us to give up as lost. Which is the way of the Cross?

Definition:  Forgive:  to give before or ahead of.

Wounds heal or fester.  When my children cry from their little bodily injuries, I pour oil on their hurts and tell them, Be brave.  It will get better.  God made our bodies to heal. When we break and are broken, I hear Him whisper over me:  Be brave.  Give before and ahead of.  I made your heart to heal.

Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.  Nelson Mandela.

Fear is the enemy of forgiveness.  Fooled me once, shame on you.  Fooled me twice, shame on me.  Right?  To let go quietly, behind closed doors, in a cocoon of self-protection, that is one thing. But to reconcile in the Light, to joyfully restore, that is something else entirely.  It is a breathtaking risk, because there is always the possibility that wounds will lacerate us again.  Trust, forgiveness, fear, danger, restoration.

Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way and time—just like it does for you and me. Sara Paddison.

I have taken my wounds and sealed them in a jar.  Perhaps we all have.  Now what do we do with the jar?  Some broken treasures cannot be salvaged this side of eternity, and that is the deep sadness of this fallen space.  Sometimes we need to greet and acknowledge that reality.  Sometimes moving on is the greater grace.  A time to give up as lost.  Other times we are called to put the full weight of trust on restoration. We may choose, each of us, to give before and ahead of, to gamble our hearts in order to gain them back.  A time to embrace.

Which time is this?

Forgiveness is giving up the possibility of a better past.  Unknown.

There once was another woman who held a sealed jar.  A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.  Luke 7:37-18.  This broken woman offered the wages of her sin to the One who considered her alabaster offering a precious gift instead of a symbol of her wicked life.  She broke open her pain at His feet, gave it to the One who forgave her, who gave before.  

I am that woman.  I have broken others and been broken in return.  I deserve rejection but desire grace.

I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little. Luke 7:47.

What happens before and after forgiveness?

Love.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. 1 Cor. 13:4-8.

With her broken offering, she reflected His Divine Love. It is not trite to proclaim that Love is always the answer.  Love is the banner He has hung over us.  Love is the triumph of the strong saints.

Love is also the dividing line of wisdom.  As we all circle our important questions, we should ask, Is it more loving to embrace or to shun embracing? To search or to give up as lost?  To do this or to do that?  That is very hard. The way of the Cross is sparsely populated because it is a bloodbath of Self. 

But that is not the end of the story. Love cannot stay buried.  Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it; if a man were to give all the riches of his house for love, it would be utterly despised.  Song of Solomon 8:7.

I do not know the resolution of your story, and I am still seeking mine.  But I have learned that if I seek a resurrection of something I have lost, I must first seek Love.  Love will either redeem it or give us something better.  Love will lift up our faces as we break open our alabaster offerings, and declare, your many sins are forgiven because I gave before and ahead of your story, because you desire and receive my Love, because you love me more than your flawed treasures. Now go in peace and continue to Love and Forgive Much.