This Is What Happens

This is what happens when Eli comes to visit.

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Every car in the house is lined up just so.

This is what happens when Ella comes to visit.

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Every person is set up right where they are supposed to be.

Especially the twin babies.

This is what happens when two dear friends come over and take care of six kiddos for a couple hours so the rest of us can go out for dinner. Bless them. They brought ice-cream.

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This is what happens when you have four kids and they grow up to be pretty great adults.

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Easter’s One Word

PB said that Easter can be summed up in one word:

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Surprise, Death!

“For the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 1 Cor. 15:26

Surprise, Powers of Evil!

“He triumphed over them by the cross.” Col. 2:15

Surprise, Soldiers guarding the tomb!

“The guards were so afraid they became like dead men.” Matt. 28:4

Surprise, Women in the garden!

“The women hurried away, afraid yet filled with joy.” Matt. 28:8

Surprise, Disciples!

“Jesus stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.'” Luke 24:36

God is in the surprising business.

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Production

A magazine came in the mail last week at church. Every day we get all kinds of fliers and special “one time” offers and free publications in the mailbox.

This one caught my eye. And made me cringe.

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When did church become a production?

Why does the church need “Chroma-Q Color One 100x colored spotlights to reach NEW heights of performance”? Do smoke machines really “enhance the worship experience”? Is it necessary to have Xpression Live CG graphics in order to “elevate a sermon”?

Why does my heart ache as I thumb through the pages of this magazine?

I admit, planning an Easter worship service tends to make pastors and worship leaders think they have to pull out all the stops. Resurrection Sunday is supposed to be the biggest, best, loudest celebration of the year, right? We want to create an amazing worship experience so all those people come back again sometime before Christmas. The pressure is on to give parishioners goose-bumpy moments and to, well, produce.

Then I got my own goose-bumpy moment.

The first Easter morning wasn’t a production. In fact, it was pretty quiet. A few women in a graveyard, an empty tomb and — Surprise! — Jesus showed up alive! There was no angel choir, no smoke or spotlights, no graphics in the sky.

Easter is not about putting on a good show for a sanctuary full of people. The church full of people IS the production. We have an audience of One. Each person in the pew is part of the praise team, part of the message, part of the celebration.

In Jesus’ final words to His disciples He said the way to produce is to abide.

Apart from Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)

No matter how spectacular the music, the message, and the meal,

on Easter the spotlight belongs on Jesus alone.

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Meet Abel Jacob

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Big sister got a peak at her brand-spanking new brother on Saturday.

Abel Jacob made a record breaking entrance into the world.

He was born 8 minutes after mom got to the hospital.

He’s either going to be a sprinter or have a heck of a fastball.

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There’s something about seeing my boy holding his boy.

Oh boy. Give me a tissue.

The grand total is now 8.

In 2030, they will all be teenagers —

one 18 year old, two 17 year olds, two 16 year olds, one 15 year old and two 13 year olds.

More tissues, please.

“Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.”

Psalm 34:11

The Closing Hymn

“When they had sung a hymn,

they went out to the Mount of Olives.” Matt. 26:30

Thirteen men in a room singing a hymn — just try to picture it.

Jesus had washed their feet, had presided over the Passover meal and had revealed that one would betray Him. Jesus had talked about His blood being poured out and His body being broken. And then they all sang a hymn together. The fisherman and the Sons of Thunder and the tax collector and the radical patriot. And Judas. They sang a closing hymn.

Oh, to hear the voice of God singing.

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According to Jewish Passover tradition, Psalms 113-118 were the “Hallel” psalms, used during this special feast. Psalms 113 and 114 were sung before the Passover meal and Psalms 115-118 were recited or sung at the conclusion.

It’s chilling to read Psalm 118, imagining Jesus and The Twelve sitting together in that emotionally charged room, lifting their voices in song.

  • The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
  • The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I will look in triumph on my enemies.
  • I will not die but live, and proclaim what the Lord has done.
  • The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.
  • This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
  • Oh Lord, save us! (Hosanna!)
  • Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Nine hundred years before these words were sung by Jesus,

the psalmist wrote them on a scroll.

Just hours after singing them,

the Savior fulfilled them.

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1, 29

 

March Lit List

Lots of cold and rainy days in March made for good chunks of reading time. Here’s what was on the shelf in March:

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  • A Place on Earth, by Wendell Berry — My love affair with Port Williams and all its endearing characters continues. Heart-wrenching stories are perfectly woven in the lives of people who seem so real, I find myself thinking about them, wondering how they are doing. Berry’s characters remind me of the good farm folks I grew up around — people who worked and lived “with the good earth all around.”
  • From Tablet to Table: Where Community is Found and Identity is Formed, by Leonard Sweet — This book is a call to bring back the table. Sweet issues a challenge to move away from tablets and iphones and “social” media and bring some actual people into our homes for an actual meal around an actual table. His insight into the many conversations Jesus had at mealtimes was an eye opener. I’ll be using some of Sweet’s material for our Spring Women’s Bible Study.  (Kindle version)
  • Farm Recipes and Food Secrets From the Norske Nook, by Helen Myhre — Yes, this is a cookbook and it’s full of recipes that I didn’t read word for word. But if there was ever a fun-to-read cookbook, this is it. I felt like I was 10 years old, sitting at my neighbor’s house one farm over, listening to my 4-H leader give a cooking lesson. Myhre has a down-home way of making everything sound simple and deliciously funny.
  • The Road Back to You, by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile — This is the latest take on the ancient personality type system called the Enneagram. Unlike some other, more academic publications, this one is approachable and easy to understand. I like this book because they emphasize how a level of self- awareness opens up intimacy with God.
  • Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, by Dani Shapiro — I keep telling myself to stop reading books about writing so I have more time to write, but then I hear somebody recommend a book like this on some podcast and before I know it, I’m putting the title on hold. Shapiro had some good points, but they are the same good points that I’ve read in twenty other books on writing. I should write a book called Still Reading: The Perils and Pleasures of Reading About Other Peoples’ Creative Lives.

Whatcha been reading? Any good recommendations are welcome!

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” – Mortimer J. Adler

10 Things I Learned in March

1. Big birthdays can get overshadowed by little birth days. This year was PB’s big 6-0, but nobody paid much attention because little Emma Kate made her entrance into the world and stole the show. I wasn’t even home to give him a birthday kiss on the morning of the 9th, but he showed up with cupcakes and presents for everybody else that evening. Getting a new birthday buddy is pretty sweet gift.

2. I’m not a fan of springing forward. Falling back is fine in November, but losing an hour in March throws off my circadian rhythms. It takes me a good 2-3 weeks to stop feeling wonky.

3. There’s nothing like live musical theater. PB and I got to see two productions this month — one by our local high school (Little Shop of Horrors) and another by the Rochester Civic Theater (The Drowsy Chaperone). Both were thoroughly enjoyable. We are a bit biased, though, as the Rochester show featured our daughter as leading lady. Neither show had a “cringe “factor, meaning, everybody was on pitch. (Bravo, Janet Van de Graaff!)

4. Quote of the month: “Jesus ate a lot of good food with a lot of bad people.” Leonard Sweet

5. It’s a joy to learn something new from someone who’s passionate about the topic. A friend from our church taught two classes on canning and preserving food, demonstrating water-bath canning and pressure canning. Her enthusiasm and knowledge was so inspiring. Plus, she brought jars of delicious samples to try.

6. PB bought a pie for $150. The church youth group sponsored a pie auction with the proceeds going toward a mission trip to Guatemala this summer. It was for a good cause, so I didn’t give PB the raised eyebrow. Boy, that pie was good.

7. I’m a 1 with a 9 wing. Yes, it’s another personality profile. I just can’t resist them. The Enneagram goes deeper than Myers-Briggs (I’m an ISTJ), sometimes uncomfortably so. It points out strengths, but also nails the dark side of each type, which can feel like a slap in the face. In a good way.

8. I wrote 5% of a book. Well, actually .04931507’s of a book. But it’s a start. My name is printed among other “contributing authors”. I signed a contract and received 10 hardcover copies of the small devotional book. I think it’s legit, but the title is not out on Amazon yet, so I’m still holding my breath.

9. When a person forgets to exercise for a few years, that person’s muscles get mad when that person tries to use them. It’s time to get my 2 lb. weights out of the closet.

10. I will never look at the crucifixion of Christ the same way again after sitting under the teaching of Ray Vander Laan during our Lent series. I will forevermore hear the cry, “It is finished” as a victory shout of a conquering King, not as a last dejected gasp. As the prophet Amos wrote, “The Lord roars from Zion.” The Lion of Judah roared, “Paid in full”. Praise be to God.

goodbye March