Day 103- The Resurrection Mile

“On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb”

John 20:1

While we still lie in darkness, while the earth lies in gloom, we slowly slip away to visit the place where our Lord is buried, to marvel with Mary of Magdala, at the stone that had been rolled away with wonderment and awe. The earth is heavy, but the heavenly grave is not, filled with hope and the anticipation of a new day. In the darkness, we are with her, tears and smiling, knowing that we do not have to see His body to believe in His resurrection. The emptiness testifies to it, that is where He is.

In the thickest of fog and dark night of the soul is the voice of our Lord. He is with us in our deepest pain, creating joy in madness. And when we see the emptiness, we do not run away from it, but towards it, to marvel at the work of the cross. What a great mystery!

To find God, one must come running to nothingness

When we’ve abandoned ourselves, our ideas of who God is and what He looks like, we too can visit the tomb with Mary. But unlike Mary, we can run with confidence back to our homes, our friends, and shout, He is not there! He has been raised!

It is the great hope of Easter that makes me a Christian. The knowing that out of the darkness will come a great light.

The embrace of the dawn, just before the rising of the sun, is the embrace of Christ

We are an Easter people. We believe in the darkness. We rejoice at the grave. We see the miracle in the dark sky before the sun has arrived. This is God’s grace.

What other faith do we need? Is there another promise that can bring us gladness? Everyday on the calendar is spent in the joyful hope of Easter, knowing that God has bigger and greater plans for us, on earth as it is in heaven.

Why do we seek the living among the dead? We know darkness because we know light. Today, let the emptiness of the tomb fill us as we await our Risen King.

Let us be an Easter people for our Lord

 

Day 101- The Mile I found Jesus

“But Peter stood at the gate outside.” John 18:16

Omission is just as bad as commission. Looking on or acting on. Looking away or looking towards. Our gaze determines our infidelity- where are we looking now?

One of my most beautiful and precious friends asked me this profound question yesterday, “why did He have to come?”

Of course she knew the answer to that question, but asked me from a Judaic perspective. I had to sit with that question for awhile as I made a pathetic attempt at an answer. But all I could muster up was my story.

I told her that in my own journey, my initial seeking after God became more religious in nature- wanting to keep kosher, keep the shabbos and invest myself in all of the Jewish regulations. The more I tried, the more I failed.  And in any event, as a woman, I would never be able to celebrate God in the way I knew Him, in the way I was trying to find Him. And these rules which I held so dear in my heart became chains, became snares. And I broke these chains in a sign of rebellion against those rules to find freedom. But freedom brought me great misery, brought me to loss, brought me to my knees.

And on my knees lost is where Christ found me 

I didn’t understand at the time how my answer had anything to do with the question she posed. Like Mary, I took it with me in the silence of my heart and let it sit, so as to be enlightened by God’s wisdom through the womb of His Blessed Mother. It was old to new. Death to life. Flesh to Spirit. But what was the answer to her question?

Why did God make me a Christian?

Peter was Jewish. All of the first disciples and communities were Jewish. Mary and Joseph were Jewish. And so was Jesus. 

Jesus grew up in an observant Jewish household. Went to temple. Worked. Studied. Was bar mitzvahed. Celebrated all of the Jewish holidays. Was part of the Jewish community. Until He taught them something new. Until He stood up for what was right. Until He taught them to observe the law in a way that they had never considered before. And for that they wanted to kill Him.

And so they handed him over, away from the only love and community that He had ever known. He was betrayed, beaten and ultimately crucified. And while the rest wrote him off as a blasphemer and traitor, his mother and dearest friend stood by him, so he was not alone.

And where were the rest of his disciples? They went into hiding. One unto another in their own separate hiding places, leaving their friend and Master to die. No matter that they had left Him, they were safe now. And the ties of friendship and community that had been built over a period of years was washed away. 

Our greatest tests come in times of great tragedy. Will we too abandon God?

I considered the story again from a Jewish perspective. I had been one of those in community. I had studied the Torah as much as I was permitted to and understood its precepts. I had gone as far as I was permitted. When I tried to follow farther, I was unable to- not because I didn’t want to, but because it wasn’t allowed. And in order to find God, I had to leave Him behind. But I didn’t. I carried Him with me unknowingly.

My whole search was filled with God. My travels, the people I met and the losses I suffered. Before I became a Christian, God had me walk through some high peaks and dark valleys.  I got married. The closest person in my life died, my beloved grandmother. I suffered through infertility and miscarriage. Then the birth of twins. Then another baby. A new job. My best friend left me. New friends came into my life. Then darkness and chaos. Then Christ.

Why did Christ have to come? He had to come so I could live. I can not answer this question for anyone else. The answer is personal and intimate and makes up the DNA of who we are in Him.

When we reduce that question down to a certain sect, religion, history or time it doesn’t work- it becomes cold and endless. Theologians debate it. Old and new covenants. Prophecies and fulfillment. They are all wonderful and intellectually stimulating. But they do not answer the question. They do not fill the soul.

On this Good Friday, the third night of Passover, ask yourself the same question.

Why did He have to come?

Your answer may surprise you…

 

Be the One to the One

“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?
Luke 15:4 NABRE

Sometimes we feel as if we can’t make a difference. That the small things we do or say have no impact. Well let me tell you a story.

One of my officers responded to a suicide call whereby the grace of God, he arrived before the young man went through with it. He was able to get him out of the house safely and into a mental health facility. The young man had suffered for years with depression and other mental health problems. But the officer did not stop there. He befriended the man, called him, cared for him, encouraged him to give his life to God and to go back to church. That week, the man made amends with his family, began attending church and the universe fell into place for him. But the very next week while all was the best it had ever been, the young man died in a horrific car accident with his best friend,  both leaving behind wives and young children.

The officer was devastated. Through tears he said to me, “but we had plans to go to church together.” Then silence. Several weeks later, I received a call from the young man’s father to go over the return of his son’s property. It was then that he said this to me. “Melissa, I have to share with you what this officer did for my son. All his life he struggled. He was going downhill. This officer befriended my son, brought him back to God and saved my son’s life. That week in therapy,  my son asked me for my forgiveness, we hugged and I had the peace in my heart that I had prayed for for so long. He became a better person, asked forgiveness from everyone in the family and came back to church. So at the funeral in my despair, I thanked God. I did not lose my son to suicide because of this officer. My son was lost and was found and returned to God in peace as I had always prayed.  Yes it hurts to lose my son, but I have peace in my heart because of what your officer did.  I will never have to live with the image of my son taking his own life.”

The story moved me more than any other I had ever heard. It took me days, maybe even weeks to reflect on it. How the power of one effected so many and how we have that same power daily to effect that same change. Today, reflect and ask God to send you one. Or if you know the one, go after them. We are made to bring souls to God, and this is our purpose. Reflect on this officer’s story to remember the Holy Spirit, the power that the Lord has given you. Reach out to that one today and set the earth on fire for the love of God.

Pass it on…

Just Do It! An Adventure to be found in the Book of James

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing itthey will be blessed in what they do.

James 1:22-25

As I sit here miserably sick in bed, I questioned God’s timing for round two of feeling like I was just hit by a mack truck. I just finished up a cold last weekend and spent last weekend in bed. Turns out that this weekend will hold the same fate for me…

During the times when I am sick, rather than embrace it, I tend to resist it. I exercise when I should be resting, go out when I should be staying in and exert energy when I should be mired in silence (sounds like the modern version of a St. Paul sermon). Yes friends, even in sickness we can choose to tune out what God is trying to do in our lives.

For me, sickness is a time when God is trying to get my attention about something. Sometimes that something is not readily apparent. Actually most of the time it is not…to me anyway. I live a hectic, busy life as an attorney working at a police department, a wife and as the mother of three children all practically the same age. I wake up an hour early each morning to spend time with God, and that is my hour of peace. But that peace slowly turns into controlled chaos, noise and the like.

So the hour is nice but is proving  not to be so sufficient for the things that I want to accomplish and the dreams that I have in my heart. Has anyone sat and thought, when God will be the time that I can do this thing? But…

Has waiting for God really been God waiting for you?

Before I became an attorney, my dream was to become a writer. I traveled to New York in high school to my dream school, Columbia and attended workshops there. I wanted to be a journalism major. And although this dream never came to fruition for a variety of reasons, I still look at those light blue letters that spell Columbia and writhe in grief, because deep down inside I wonder when God’s Plan “B” will deploy.

So back to sitting in bed sick…

This morning after a long and restless night, I woke up realizing that this wasn’t the sort of sickness that would simply go away. It was going to require a trip to the clinic, medication and yes REST. Since listening the first time is not my thing, I guess the second will be. My second act in life has always been the better anyway…

So I woke up and did my meditation and study as I do every morning. And since this time getting out of bed was not an option, I decided to listen. The Book of James seemed to be making its way into my head space, and God eased me into his message.

Just Do it

What? All that reading for a Nike slogan?

But you see, this is how God works. He takes a complicated, convoluted soul like myself and makes the message simple. It takes me an hour to get it, sometimes two, or maybe even months or years. But eventually, I get it.

So the Book of James was no different and made perfect sense. For the last several years I have been “thinking” about writing devotionals again but couldn’t seem to find a platform. I “thought” about starting a podcast about life as a Catholic (and Jewish) mom. I “thought” about finishing the book that I started about my conversion. I even thought about doing a comical talk show on Youtube about being a Catholic convert. All these things I have “thought” about and that’s where they have ended. Why? Because I wasn’t sure they would go anywhere and I didn’t want to take the time to see something fail.

Isn’t this our greatest downfall on dreaming, fear. 

And this morning in God’s perfect timing, I watched a video on A Greater Story with John Crist talking to Sam Collier about just this subject. About ideas that are contained and just doing them. About how it doesn’t matter whether the crowd will laugh or the reception you get, but rather to get that “thing” out of you. To stop talking about it and to just do it. 

To say, I am making this thing for me, not you! 

For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:26

And for us creatives, those of who live and move and have our being in words we write, things we say or pictures we paint, we become bodies without spirits when we suppress the things that have been divinely ordered. They are almost other worldly compulsions, feeling that we may die if we do not write or feel pain when we cannot sing.

I believe now that when we stifle God’s gifts our lives become stifled.

The thing must come out…

So don’t flush your old work like I did, feeling as if it wasn’t good enough. It, in fact, is the platform, the springboard if you will for God’s creative juices to flow through you and be let out for all the world to see. Who cares that you have one view or the thing doesn’t go viral. Like John Crist says, that thing is for you! It is inside of you to get out!

So if you find yourself in the mundane, stuck, uninspired…let that thing out. Don’t worry about the reception, worry about your soul. That pain you feel may be physical, but it may be coming from somewhere else. So lean into the season, the time, the rest or wherever you are and do those things you’ve been holding back on. Are you a failure if nobody cares for it or are you really failing God?

“So also faith of itself, if it does not have works is dead.”

James 2:17