Sunday, April 17, 2011

Passion Week

Several years ago, frustrated by the bunny and egg emphasis of Easter, I began exploring ways to make Passion Week fun and meaningful for our family. Since then, the week has became one of my favorite times of the year.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday
Stained glass window from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Downers Grove, Illinois

I love Palm Sunday. Watching the kids enter the sanctuary waving their palm branches and singing "Hosanna" always makes me cry. There is something profoundly moving seeing kids worship. During his sermon, our pastor asked, "what will your response be when God presents His King?" Just like when someone knocks on your door, you can choose to ignore them or open the door. But Jesus requires a response.

The Last Supper

Good Friday

This morning as I was reading Matthew's account of Jesus' betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, a verse I'm sure I've read dozens of times stood out to me. Judas has just led a group of armed men to Jesus and identified him with a kiss (vs. 49-50), and Jesus responds, "Friend, do what you came for." Friend!!!!

One of my greatest fears, to the point that it is often the subject of a recurring dream, is that those whom I trust the most and hold the most dear betray me. Thankfully, I have never been betrayed outside of my nightmares, and if the feelings in my dreams are anywhere close to reality, I never want to experience it. I usually wake up suddenly, adrenalin pumping, knot in the pit of my stomach, feeling undone and hopeless. So when I read Jesus address to Judas at the moment of betrayal, it stopped me short.

I suppose some could say in response that Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. That He wasn't surprised. That He because he was fully God, He still loved him. While those all may be true, He also was still fully human, and when a human is betrayed by a friend it hurts.

I did a little digging to see the meaning behind the word "friend" in this context. The definition is "a comrade, mate, partner; in kindly address; friend (my good friend)." Doesn't that one word embody what Jesus says to us? We go our own way, do our own thing, fail to stand up for Him when we should, and after all that and much more, He still calls us Friend. When we humbly come to Him, seeking forgiveness, He does not turn away in anger or hurt or spite. He receives with open arms, welcoming His good friend.

On this Good Friday, as I reflect on the work Jesus did on the cross, I am once again amazed that He calls me friend. That He willingly bore the pain and guilt of all my sin, just to be able to call me "friend" for eternity. I am without words.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tennis Shoes and Velvet

The other day as my kids romped at the playground, I noticed a little girl having a grand time. I couldn't help but smile to myself when I saw her outfit. She proudly wore a beautiful burgundy velvet dress that complimented her straight, dark hair. Admittedly, several years ago I would have wondered why a mother would allow her daughter to play at the park in dress clothes. Two daughters later, I have accepted (notice I did not say understand!) that velvet and monkey bars go together in the mind of many little girls. This little girl completed her ensemble with what looked like some very comfortable (and well-worn) tennis shoes.

"What a picture," I thought. What a perfect visual of what I often feel battles within myself -- the war between feminine princess and strong woman. I'm not sure why or how, in my mind, the two became mutually exclusive, that I have to choose between between them. That embracing femininity means accepting weakness, brushing up on swooning, and abandoning activities I enjoy. Afterall how many princesses do you see swinging a hammer or appreciating classic cars? Can tool belts and china tea cups really live harmoniously side by side?

Studying Esther has revealed that she was a very strong woman but that did not detract from her femininity. If anything, the two complimented each other. Maybe that is why I've always loved her story. She's been one of my heros since I was a kid.

After watching the tyke at the park, I came home and reread Proverbs 31, trying to put words to the visual her outfit provided. Usually reading about the Proverbs superwoman brings out the Martha Stewart in me and I go overboard striving to do it all. But this time, I was able to overlook all of her accomplishments and focus on verse 25a. "She is clothed in strength and dignity..." That's it! It answers the dilemma I've struggled with for ages. It's strength and femininity rolled into one. It excuses any juxtaposition between pounding nails and high tea. It embraces every thread of variety that God wove together to make woman in His image. It's tennis shoes and velvet.