Friday, April 14, 2017

Four Days



The stories of Jesus’ Passion echo brilliantly as we move to commemorate that eternity changing three days in Jerusalem so long ago.

Easter is upon us and so is the whole of Jesus most resonating story.

All the parts of those final days of Jesus life move me deeply-- from the meal, to the discourse, to the trial, to the blood soaked wood of the cross.

And, of course, Sunday. 
Always, Sunday.

This Holy Week, though, has me especially cringing again through every detail of the garden.

Jesus' arrest.

The shock. The betrayal. The confusion.

All the blinding, silencing fear.

It breathes in me anew this year.

Stifling and rasping and true.

My hope for Sunday’s dawn has never been so acutely pronounced in this one particular way.

And yet, consistently as my soul wrestles just to read it all through, my gaze is pulled from Jerusalem, East, to Bethany.

And there it is.
The story that is saving me right now.
That one, big, deep, restoring breath, just before.

John, Chapter 11.

A very specific moment with one very specific point.

For the glory of God.

~~~~~

We are told that he loved them.

Mary. Lazarus. Martha.

Siblings who each one drew Jesus near to their heart and home, in belief and friendship.

In adoration.

The story goes, that this one time, Lazarus was sick.

But not just regular-sick.

He was ‘send-for-Jesus’ sick.

Everyone understood what this meant.

It wasn’t a quick text message.

It wasn’t a Facebook post typed quickly and sent with the push of one button.

It was a 'send-a-runner-to-arrive-with-out-of-breath- words-because-we-have-no-recourse-and-he-may-die' dispatch-ery.

In John 11, the urgent report is met with Jesus’ diagnosis:

“It won’t end in death.” vs4a

Jesus’ discourse:

“It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” vs4b

Jesus’ devotion:

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” vs5

And Jesus’ delay:

“So when he heard…he stayed where he was two more days…” vs6

Delay?!

After staying exactly where he was for two more 24 hour stretches of time, Jesus then makes his way back to Judea to answer his friends’ desperate call.

“On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.” vs17

Arriving to the Bethany scene, Jerusalem shadowed only two miles in the distance, Jesus finds his friends’ community already days into their mourning and grief. The tears have not stopped, the loss is still raw, and the tomb with the decaying body is already well-sealed.

For four days.

It seemed that the Healer had not arrived in time.

They sent word.

But He did not immediately come.

His belated arrival brought Martha purposefully to meet him on the road still outside the village.

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died...” vs21

Repeated again by Mary a few moments later:

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” vs32

Oh, the lingering echo of that soul crushing lament:

“Lord, if you had been here…”

Why did He delay?

When word had first reached him, he reasoned:
“…and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” Vs 15

When Martha first reached him, he proclaimed:
I am the resurrection and the life.
The one who believes in me will live, even though they die,
and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
Do you believe this?” vs 25-26

When Mary first reached him, he actively witnessed:
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled...
Jesus wept.” vs 33&35

In Jesus, even delay accomplished.

Accomplished?

Perhaps this:
When word first reached him, his disciples came along with him.
“Let us also go that we may die with [Jesus].” vs16

Or this:
When Martha first reached him, she confessed:
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” vs27

Even this:
When Mary first reached him, Jesus stood weeping with her grieving at his feet:
“See how he loved [Lazarus]!” vs36

Community, confession, love.
All spun expansively within the space of a delay.

Also doubt.
“But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” vs 37

Delay can reveal a whole entire heart.

Still, he comes.

In front of Lazarus' tomb, at Jesus bidding, the stone is moved, death decay expectant.

 Jesus prays, looking up:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me.” vs41

What did he just say?
God heard him?

“I knew that you always hear me,
 but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,
 that they may believe that you sent me.” vs42

He connects publicly to His Father in front of an opened and reeking tomb,while a bewildered gathering turns their eyes to witness what in the world the Healer meant to do. 

Raising his voice, his loud cry echoes:

“Lazarus, come out!” vs43

After the delaying.
After the confessing.
After the weeping.
In the midst of all the love.
Every breath halted.
Every eye opened and raised up to see.
Hearts pounding, minds racing...

“Come out?!”

And they beheld,

“The dead man came out…” vs44

“Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” vs44

Can you imagine the sounds?
The gasps?

The cries of Martha and Mary as they heard their brother’s voice speak again.
Felt his heart beat.
Smelled his breath as they stepped into his hug.

So very, so pungently, Alive.

Another wake quickly follows, but this was one is different from the last.
The weeping ceases as believers multiply and a community rejoices Lazarus' raising.

Unfortunately, the jealousy of Jesus' enemies looms too.

Thus, the Easter story marched just before them.

Jesus would also die and rise again. 

It’s always coming.
The Glory of that Easter Son.



But this year...this one.

With Jesus' powerful Passion story repeating around me, I remain sequestered in that definitive delay of chapter 11.

I am sure I am not alone.

A time of waiting often feels so deceptively abandoned.

It rarely is.

Others wait too.

We are a scattered gathering each suspended in our specific 'send-for-Jesus' crisis; maybe, also, simultaneously enduring the crushing loss of a delay.

 “If you had been here, this thing would not have happened!”

A celebration may reverberate in the world around us while we feel what we have lost. 
Grief enshrouds.
Questions loom.

Nevertheless, John 11 reminds us…
He is always arriving.
In His own exactly specific, Right Now.
Never, not for one second, veering off a carefully chosen course.

Purposed.
For God’s glory.
So that many may believe.

“I Am the resurrection…”
Right now,
Yesterday,
 Tomorrow.
I Am.

We serve the present tense, always coming, right-on-time God.

No matter what mourning engulfs his delay in appearing,
we can be confident that he will come.

In the waiting of John 11:
*Lazarus slept.
*Martha directed:
“But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” vs22
*Mary cratered to Jesus’ feet in tears.

We are told that Jesus loved them.
Every single one, received.

And in the process of his own redemptive timing, God’s Son is:
Revealed  (I Am).
Released  (Jesus Wept).
Restored (Lazarus, come forth!)

May I be found in the wake of crisis, eyes uplifted, testimony praising from my lips:

“Father, I thank you that you have heard me!”

“…for the benefit of the people standing here,”

“that they may believe that you sent me…”

“For the glory of the Lord.”

Let it be so, Holy Father, let it be so.





Monday, March 20, 2017

Just Yesterday



You were born on a Friday in Nairobi, Kenya. The delivery room was full of people. I didn’t know most of them, but I didn’t really care. You were my focus. I kept my eyes on our friend and nurse who timed contractions and coached my breathing, and I kept my focus on your Daddy’s hand offered for me to squeeze until it nearly broke. We made it. You arrived. Your gasping breaths and wailing screams filled our hearts with overwhelming relief. We had already survived so much together then, you and I. 
It seems like just yesterday. But it wasn’t. 





We celebrated your first birthday in Nairobi, Kenya. We had your party at Uncle Larry’s and Aunt Diane’s along with Matthew, Uncle Mike, Daddy, you, me and the Stephen’s cat. You were most happy about the cat I think :). 




You and I were to wait in Nairobi while Daddy and Uncle Mike climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, so we celebrated just before they left. 


I hauled birthday presents with us, wrapped carefully and lovingly presented. I opened each one for you as we couldn’t convince you to tear the paper. You stared at all of us gasping over your presents, curious about the fuss. 
It seems like just yesterday. But it wasn’t.




Because just yesterday, the actual one, I sent you text messages asking about the birthday plans you’ve made without us. The packages delivered to you a month ago will be unwrapped at your leisure, the paper torn by you alone. Your day will be touched by your new friends, in new places making new, amazing memories. You are in Nairobi, Kenya again, serving on the streets that shaped your Daddy and me into a team so many years ago. 
And this birthday in Nairobi will mark your 19th year. 19?



Just yesterday, in our texts, you told me you had spent the day in downtown Nairobi, shopping in the Masaii Market. You were ecstatic over your purchases. I asked you, via text, if downtown Nairobi made you cry. It was a question that made us both smile because you know that downtown Nairobi made me cry often in my first days as a resident there. But not you. The streets that trained me away from fear, are the streets you walk with confidence because somehow pressing ahead through fear births multiplying courage despite us. I am astounded at this.


Astounded by you.


 Just yesterday, you were one whole year old. Just yesterday, we were beginning all together. Just yesterday, the Nairobi streets were made of my own memories and challenges. Just yesterday, your Dad and I were all you needed.



 Just yesterday, you were on the eve of your 19th birthday. Just yesterday, in your own beginnings away, you journeyed Nairobi’s streets marked now with your own memories and service. Just yesterday, we are no longer all you need.




 Just yesterday.


Still today.


Perfect timing.

Perfect place.


Chosen.

Purposed.

Graced.


Happy happy birthday, beautiful daughter.

Grateful beyond words for every day to witness the most remarkable, 
the most astounding, you.