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A Passage Through Thorns

On the way to the vernal pond, I notice how we can’t even approach it unless we pass through the thorns.  There’s no way around them. 

These thorns tangle and form a crown above us. 

This Easter, I think of the passage Christ paves through that crown of thorns he wore at the crucifixion.  And today, that beautiful resurrection means I enter in, and I’m free. 

A paradise awaits, but I have to pass through the thorns. 

 
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Journal:  He is risen indeed!  Have I walked through that free passage, marked by the crown of thorns?   

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My Easter Tantrums

I could chronicle my life in tantrums.

Two years ago, I demanded new Easter dresses and complained that we didn’t have reservations at the expensive place where all the neighbors have Easter brunch.  Can you believe it?  We were miserable in those dresses, and we changed into our shorts and t-shirts and ended up having a brunch of juice and popcorn out in the woods together.  Easter rose up in my heart that afternoon.

Last Easter, God reminded me of his grace when I witnessed a flair disaster.  It was a great Easter, and I didn’t even think about dresses or brunches or new hats and shoes.  We didn’t need any of it.   I actually woke up this morning thinking about how far I’ve come

But just now, I find myself complaining to my husband that he didn’t get the Easter Egg Coloring Kit.  I fall apart because we haven’t colored our eggs yet.  I actually raise my voice.  I’m throwing a tantrum about coloring eggs.  I thought I had come so far! 

I apologize to my husband and children, and as I stand in the kitchen, worrying that Easter’s not going to be good enough because the cookies aren’t right and the eggs aren’t colored, I let out a huge sigh and cry out, “I need the real Easter!  I need it so badly.” 

The real Easter is Jesus rising to save us from ourselves.  And just when I think I’m finished with these tantrums, I find the old self oozing out.  I’m glad it did.   I won’t ever not need Him.  I won’t ever be strong enough, mature enough, or wise enough to not need Jesus.  

I need the real Easter!  I need it so badly.

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Journal:  Will I find the real Easter?

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This Question Might Help You Rejoice Today

During breakfast, my husband announces: “The tire man really helped me rejoice today!” 

I know that some flair is coming.

“What do you mean?” 

“Well, when I dropped off the car at the tire shop, I told the man how thankful I was that this flat tire happened in a parking lot and not out on the road in traffic.  I could change it safely in that lot and not on the side of the road.  But then guess what he asked me?”

“What?”

“‘Was it raining?’ And I said, ‘No it wasn’t!  It was the only hour all week that it wasn’t raining!’  I was so thankful when I remembered that.”

My husband remarks that the tire man simply asked the right question to help my husband rejoice in the midst of something inconvenient. 

Living with flair means I ask the right questions to realize all the ways God is indeed protecting and providing even in the midst of trouble. 

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Journal:  Was there a time in my life that God protected and provided for me even during trouble? 

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What Has to Die in Me?

This afternoon, I notice my winterberry bush budding in the backyard. 

Those blooms hold particular significance this Easter season because I’ve beheld their cycle this whole year.  I see death and resurrection, and I suddenly remember the importance of death

For months, this bush seemed more acquainted with death than life.    The brittle and barren branches! 

This bush endured the assault of ice storms.  Those branches seemed hopeless, trapped, and unchanging.

Things were being put to death in her.

Now, these new buds burst forth. 

I remember my winterberry bush when I think about God’s work in my life.  I go through seasons when things have to die in me.  The soul in winter feels like death, but with every burial, there’s a resurrection.  What will Jesus bring forth in us?  We await that bloom even when we cannot perceive the secret work happening deep within our souls.  

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Journal:  What has to die in me this Easter?  What will God bring forth? 

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A Message in the Clouds

It’s raining.

I look up into the clouds.  Rain falls because the water vapor becomes too heavy.  It leaks out. 

Yesterday, a friend remarks that when we are filled with God, He leaks out.  He overflows. 

It’s as natural as rain falling. 

You need upward motion (cooling the water vapor, making it heavier) and moisture (from various sources) to get that cloud so saturated that it leaks out rain.   

I want to be soaked with God today.  Moving upward, adding in moisture, I want to leak out radical love.  There’s nothing I have to do but fill up.  And the result can nourish whatever earth it falls upon. 

Living with flair means I soak up and leak out. 

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Journal:  What’s a favorite way to soak up God? 

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Even in the Rain: The Best Part of the Week

I didn’t think anybody would show up to Neighborhood Fitness Group.  It was raining and dreary; who wants to exercise in the rain?

But we can’t help ourselves.  We love it. 

By the time I get the double-dutch jump ropes out, a group of children is already rolling down a hillside.  Then I look and see that my daughter has tied a kite to the back of her bike, and she rides as fast as she can to keep that kite flying.

You can’t slow down.  That kite needs speed. 

Then, the best part of all, one of my college students shows up to teach the children how to play 4-Square.

I find myself right in the mix.  I play 4-Square.  I jump double-dutch.  I dance to the music from the car speakers.  It’s raining, and I don’t even notice. 

I realize that I need this.  I need to be part of my neighborhood.  I need to know folks by name, roll down a hill with them, and gather even in the rain.

On the walk to school this morning (in the pouring rain), two children announce how far they got in 4-Square.  “I was almost King!” they shout and pull on my sleeve.

Is this what they’ll remember in 20 years?  Is this what they’ll put into place in their own neighborhoods in another generation?

I’m starting to think that showing up at Monday Night Fitness Group is the best thing I do in a week.  Even in the rain, I’ll be there next Monday. 

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Journal:  What else can we do to build our neighborhood?

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Attention!

Cherry Blossom Buds

A weeping cherry tree sits outside my bedroom window.  This morning, my youngest daughter points out the bright pink buds.  Soon, we’ll have a whole explosion of pink fireworks upon this little tree. 

The blooms won’t last long.  The fleeting nature of cherry blossoms makes us that much more attentive to them.  We delight differently in a bloom like this.

We pay close attention.

It’s a reminder today that things change quickly, and I miss the beauty of so much by simply not paying attention.  

Why is it so hard to pay attention?  Why can I walk by a house for two years and just this morning notice the beautiful pattern in the roofing?   Lately, I’ve become aware of how much I’m missing.

I carry my camera everywhere now.  Just in case.  I’m training my eye to see, and I’m training my heart to pay attention to every gesture of God–every message and allegory–in this day.  Today, it’s a cherry blossom bud.  Pay attention, it cries out.  There’s something to notice today, and it might be gone tomorrow.

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Journal:  How can I train myself to pay attention? 
 

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Do You Get Territorial?

My One-Eyed cat, Jack, taught me something else last night.  You can read his whole journey of healing here: Jack’s Story

Are you ready to see something strange and wonderful about these little cats?  Well, they each choose a child to “protect” in the night.  Louie curls up by the oldest daughter, and Jack guards the youngest.  Every night at bedtime, they assume their posts in each respective bedroom.  It’s been this way all year. 

Last night, the girls want to have a sleepover in the oldest daughter’s bed.  Jack innocently follows the youngest wherever she happens to be sleeping.  But Louie is the alpha male cat, and this is his territory.  Normally, he’ll hiss and claw at Jack if he even dares to approach the bed.

Jack has an assignment, though.  He’s on a mission to guard the youngest, so he dutifully curls up at her feet right next to where Louie guards the oldest.

A staring contest ensues.  Jack’s one eye doesn’t even blink. 

Finally, Louie recognizes Jack’s purpose here.  No fighting, no clawing.

As I tuck the girls in for the night, I realize that Jack has a specific role now that everyone acknowledges and supports.  And in the midst of this service, enemies are brought together.

There’s something more important than our need to control or our need to be territorial. Jack knows this.  He risked the danger to do what he was supposed to do.  And Louie let him, risking his own position and power. 

And in case you’re wondering where Snowflake serves in the midst of all this, well, she’s recovering from a Bridal Shower where she sat peacefully on the couch in a bridal veil.

And then she came to sleep at my feet. 

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Journal:  Am I afraid to do certain things because it’s someone’s “territory?”  Do I need to let others serve even if I think they are in my “territory?”

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Loving the Thing You Hate

I walk outside, and hundreds of bees swarm around my ankles.  And I’m allergic!  I carry an epi-pen every day, and for me, these bees represent death.

I look closely, and I see dozens of nesting sites for bees.  They cover the side yard. I quickly call out for the girls to run inside to safety.

I phone my entomologist friend (everyone needs one of these) who comes over to help me.  Where did these bees come from?  Are they killer bees?

My friend examines the bees and proclaims how fortunate I am that they have chosen my yard.  Not only are these bees harmless and not aggressive, but in Pennsylvania, they are also considered the best early pollinators.

She picks one up, and she shows me how each female bee constructs an individual nest to lay eggs in.  I’m actually watching it happen right before my eyes.  Not one tries to sting, not one even flinches.  

I was ready to call the exterminator, and now I’m enamored with these harmless bees.   I lean down and see a mother in her little home, getting ready to lay her eggs. 

Far away, you can hardly see her, but close up, you can. 

I think about how much fear I had.  I think about how I was ready to exterminate.  But these little bees are gifts to my garden.  They are indispensable on the journey to produce fruit.

Living with flair means I stop and look more closely at the things in my life I want to exterminate.   This thing I hate, this thing that I’m running from, might be God’s gift to produce great fruit in me later.

And when you look deeper, you find yourself delighted by this terrible thing that actually looks really cute.   Look at that little bee!  I’m glad they came to my garden.

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Journal:  Might I rejoice in these pesky things that God sends to produce fruit?

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What to Do with Your Fear

Last night, my daughter can’t sleep because of nightmares.  She’s terrified.  I ask her to come beside me so we can pray for Jesus to take away all her fears.

“Don’t ask Him to take away all my fears,” she responds.  “I need some of them.” 

“Which ones do you need?” 

“The ones that keep me safe, you know, from bad places and dangerous things,” she explains. 

Some fear is good, I realize.

Just that afternoon at the pond, I find myself overcome by fear.  A snake slithers across my garden shoes, and I nearly run back home, leaving my children behind.  It moves into the water, and suddenly, the whole landscape changes.

Snake in the Pond

The beautiful pond turns ominous, deadly, haunted.  My beautiful secret pond has trees with claws and thorns set as traps for my arms and legs. 

I actually can’t breathe for a minute. 

The Trees Have Claws

Snakes!  They really are out here.  But then I find my camera, and I notice the way the late afternoon sun covers the whole place.  When I see what the sun reflects, I perceive beauty again.  It’s the kind of beauty that always lives alongside danger and fear. 

Put back in context, I realize that a little garden snake and an old tree don’t have any power here.  There’s something greater in these woods.  The fear is real, but there’s always something greater than our fear.  It’s the power of God.  It illuminates this path, covers everything, and lets us run with freedom. 

Running with Freedom

Some fear is good.  But when fear consumes and paralyzes us, we have to remember who is greater than our fear. 

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Journal:  What fears do I need to put in the right context today? 

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