Girls On The Rise – Part 2: Smash The Ceiling

This is part 2 of a series on what the bible has to say about letting women lead.

Click HERE to start at part uno.

Culture is making progress when it comes to women in leadership and positions of authority. It might not be as fast paced as some people would like, but most change takes time over time. The church in particular has never been fully on board, but throughout the years it has found a couple loopholes when it comes to letting women lead.

When allowed, they can lead Kids. Worship. Women.

These are the ministries women are “empowered” to oversee within the church. Now there are some churches that fully endorse and establish women in leadership. They quickly become labeled as liberal, a term that holds a wide variety of meaning: from sucker punch to bullying to excommunication. (When I witness that treatment, I get discouraged, because I guess we would label Jesus pretty quickly as well.)

Are those three ministries all Jesus had in mind when he said, “come follow me?”

What about senior leadership? President of an outreach or mission organization? Denominational leadership? Pastoral leadership?

I can hear Jesus now, one hand on his belt buckle, the other tipping his hat, “Whoa, whoa, whoa little darlin’. I reserved those saddles for the big boys. Now go run along and play.”

It’s just funny, in most Catholic and Evangelical churches, women can lead little girls and boys, worship, and women. Men are off limits.

That’s their glass ceiling, and that’s our loss.

If that were the case when Jesus died, the disciples may have never known that Jesus was alive.

The crucifixion story contains some powerful imagery. From the time Jesus stressed blood from his brow in the garden before his arrest; to the exchange of the criminal Barrabas for Jesus; to the moment when a man named Simon assisted Jesus in carrying his cross; to the time when the sacred veil of the temple tore. Every piece of the story explains an angle of Jesus’ sacrifice that is essential for understanding the expanse of the Gospel.

One of the most captivating aspects of the condemnation of Jesus is that the women never leave him. Even though the men (except one) desert and deny him, the women stay true. At the foot of the cross. At the burial. At the gravesite.

And at the resurrection.

The women were the first to the empty tomb. The first to find out that he was alive. The first to tell the disciples. You know, the men.

These women were proclaiming good news–the best news, for God’s sake! Jesus was alive. All their fears undone and now death was moving in reverse. And these few loyal women had the holy privilege of bearing witness of it all, to men.

Here’s the kicker, from Luke’s gospel account: “But [the disciples] did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” ‭

Just like a man.

If I were one of the women I’d be foot stompin mad at that encounter. Jesus had been telling them for all of three years that he was going to die and rise again, he does it and IT SOUNDS LIKE NONSENSE from the lips of some devoted ladies. Why I oughta beat you with a rolling pin!

This is our problem.

There are so many fantastic females out there who are communicating the good news of Jesus Christ to a world of young girls, young boys, and women. The men are missing out.

My wife is a fan of Beth Moore, Jen Hatmaker, and Shauna Niequest. I respect my wife more than anybody. She is one of, if not THE wisest woman on the planet. I want to read those who are shaping and renewing her life and soul. If these women are influencing my wife’s life, why wouldn’t I want them to influence my life too?

What saddens me about what I have read of these inspiring authors is that they write to women. Male authors have the privilege of writing to men and women, but women can only write to women? Bogus. From my quiet little corner of the internet, I want to implore you and your tribe to write for men too.

FOR. THE. LOVE! (Wink, wink. I see you Jen!) I’m not 100%, but I’m pretty sure Jen reads this blog a couple times every week.

You see the thing is, when a big dog celebrity pastor puts out a disclaimer against women in “leadership” over men, it’s us men who suffer. As men, we are not a integrated whole ourselves. Women are our counterparts. We’re missing a rib and they compliment our gaps. They do not fill in our weak spots they balance us out. We do not complete each other, we increase each other. And to be clear, men do not balance out women by making decisions for them, and women do not balance out men by cooking for them. 

We balance each other out by sharing the aspects of the image of God with each other that we do not possess within ourselves.

We need each other to experience God more fully.

We need the voices and leadership of men and women.

Which makes me think of Star Wars.

The church is traditionally 20-50 years behind the culture. We catch up on style and customs and technology once it goes out of style. There are some champs out there who are doing some really great work to shorten the gap, to increase the church’s presence and influence within the culture. But they usually get labeled liberal…

If you’ve been paying attention to the latest episodes of Star Wars, you’ve noticed that females have been cast in the lead roles. They’re being cast for more than sex appeal. They’re becoming icons of courage, leadership, skill, strength, and honor. Equal appeal.

HERoes that young girls and boys can look up to and be inspired by.

I’m not one of those guys who says the devil is puppetmaster of Hollywood. I think God is always up to something good, and if Jesus said that if we keep quiet (or hush up those who shouldn’t be), the rocks will cry out. Then why can’t a movie like Star Wars shorten the church’s gap when it comes to authorizing and celebrating the voice, creativity, perspective, contribution, and image of God in women as leaders of the church?

Every good rebellion is built on hope.

Now back to the story of no one believing the nonsense the women were saying about the resurrection. 

It wasn’t everybody. Maybe it was because he had already denied Jesus three times, that he wasn’t going to risk dissing these women as well.

“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”

He also went on to tell a few others the good news. Good news he received from a woman, because they’re worth believing.

Women can push on the glass ceiling as hard as they want, but it’s going to take a man, like Peter, to chip at it or down right smash it for them.

Next week we’ll talk about a servant-hearted virgin.

4 Ways To Prove Resurrection Is Real

The idea of resurrection may be the most unbelievable aspect of Christianity.

In both ways. It’s hard to comprehend and it can be hard to believe.

Resurrection is kind of like the Sasquatch or Loch Ness Monster of Christianity. We’ve read about it. We’ve heard about it. Some have even claimed to see it. Most of us are left scratching our heads wondering if it’s even true.

Resurrection is the idea that dying isn’t actually the end, because we can rise again. There are a handful of ancient legends of mythology and lore about resurrection that exist outside of Christianity. The main difference is that Christianity is the only religion that credits its very existence to a literal, historical resurrection–the resurrection of Jesus Christ. More than fiction, actual flesh and bone, death to life. We could debate about it all day, but there are plenty of pros out there that have plenty of ideas to convince you that it’s true.

For me, I’m less concerned if it’s true, I want to know if resurrection is real.

If it can be experienced personally.

If it can affect our lives presently.

 

The Unfortunate Affects of Underemphasizing

Resurrection is commonly and unfortunately underemphasized compared to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The death of Christ was necessary, but it would mean nothing if Jesus hadn’t risen again. The apostle Paul punctuated the pointed by saying, “If Christ has not been raised, faith is useless and we’re still guilty of sin” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).

It would have been sin and death win, we lose.

Game over. No plot twist. No overtime. No second chance. No continuation. No extra life. You get the point. Bye-bye.

Without the resurrection the mission of Jesus would have been a failure. He would have been lost in history as just another idealistic revolutionary silenced by the Man. Ultimately insignificant to our lives.

With this in mind, I don’t think the resurrection gets enough screen time. The death of Christ is vital and important but His resurrection is irreplaceable. We often overlook or downplay resurrection because we think it only applies to life after death. This is only a part of resurrection. Like having the power and capability of a computer or iPad and only using it for Notes or scrolling Pinterest boards. There is so much more to resurrection than meets the eye. It may be the most neglected aspect of living an abundant life.

 

Proving Resurrection Real

We need the resurrection for more than just eternal life, we need it every day.

Resurrection is about today and tomorrow, as much, if not more, than it is about eternity.

Paul described it this way in Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”

The Spirit of Jesus Christ makes the attributes and substance of resurrection a reality before we die. We don’t have to wait until death to partake in resurrection, we can experience it in our mortal bodies now. We can prove that resurrection is more than just true, we can prove it real.

Here are four ways to prove the resurrection real in your everyday life:

1. Daily

Getting out of bed can be one of the hardest things to do each day. With people and projects and work and school and relationships and drama and the unknown, sometimes it’s just easier to pull the covers over our head as a warm Netflix tent to avoid the day. But resurrection gives us the strength to stretch out of the grave and face the day head on.

To get our parent on.
To get our work on.
To get our dream on.
To get on with our life.

So get your butt out of bed, it might be the most spiritually rewarding practice of your day.

2. Tragically

I’m not totally sure why tragedy happens the way it does. Why war exists and kids get cancer. Pain and suffering can parallel joy and happiness simultaneously as a normal part of life. When life is going well it’s easy to think that there’s no need for resurrection, but when tragedy hits, resurrection is our lifeline.

When the storms come, or the finances crumble, or your heart breaks, or disaster strikes, and you’re standing dazed and confused in the aftermath, resurrection gives us the stuff we need to move forward. Not with answers, but with a holy and sacred substance to keep going. Something the answers could never give.

Some call it resilience. I call it resurrection.

3. Sinfully

We will sin. We will fall. We will move backwards from time to time in our faith journey. Resurrection makes a commitment not leave us as we are, but to renew us—to rise within us—with the life and character of the resurrected Christ.

To be tempted is human. To resist is divine. To find freedom is resurrection. Freedom from unhealthy habits, harmful behaviors, and damaging addictions. According to Galatians 5:13 we were called to this type of freedom, not to indulge our sinful desires but to live in tune with the Spirit. Finding this freedom might entail a lot of dying and rising, but every choice of dependent repentance and prayer for a new perspective is, as Jon Foreman would say, “a little resurrection every time we fall.”

Resurrection refuses to let us stay remain chained to our sin and stuck in our addictions, it wants us free.

4. Joyfully

There is so much good news in resurrection, but all we concentrate on is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. If that’s all there was, it doesn’t give us much reason for getting out of bed, facing tragedy, or dealing with sin. There is so much joy to be had in living a day with meaning. There is a deep and abiding joy to be found on the other side of sorrow. A courageous joy that is willing to wade through the mess without shallow inauthenticity. A joy to keep on living and moving and persevering when life gives you a beating, because we’re alive and still breathing.

Genuine joy, the pure, life-giving joy, is always a better option than the sin that deflates our souls and hardens our hearts. Psalm 40 expresses the joy of resurrection this way, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God”—something to live for and shout about.

You can make it. You will survive. You will endure, because resurrection says so. Don’t give up and don’t give in, joy comes with the rising.

Dad of the Wild: #ParentFail

I left my one year old son unattended on the changing table.

The changing table is actually a foam cradle that sits on top of his dresser, about three feet off the ground. The dresser contains his diapers, pants, onesies, pjs, and socks. But it doesn’t hold his shirts.

Those are in the closet. Which is about 8 feet across the room.

It is very easy for a one year old to fall three feet in the span of traveling a distance of eight feet. I have found that gravity pulls on children with greater force than it does on most adults.

To my credit, as a responsible and attentive father, I did tell him not to move.

He was just mimicking his older brother who happened to fall off our bed before he turned one.

I was watching Seinfeld and he was lying next to me on his back hypnotized by the ceiling fan, when in an instant I heard a thud, followed by a sound defying the volume of my show.

Babies are most immobile until their mobile. It’s just how it works, as every parent will discover while their child is scooching on a blanket or free-falling off a bed.

Unfortunately, my third son hasn’t missed the party. He fell off a picnic table at the pumpkin patch. He didn’t just fall off the bench, he fell backwards off the table top. If only there had been a pumpkin to absorb the impact. He wasn’t so fortunate, and his screeching clearly conveyed the pain and embarrassment of his misfortune. (I want it to be ok to scream and writhe in pain over my dad fails, too. But that would probably make it look like my son was faking it. Uncool.)

Sometimes information just isn’t able to travel from your eyes to your brain, and then from your brain to your body with the speed at which a child is falling. When the reflexes finally activate you just look like you tweaked your back or got stung by a bee. It’s never pretty.

I wish I could say that these were the extent of my dad fails. If it were a three strikes, you’re out kind of scenario, I’d be walking back to the dugout draggin’ my feet and my bat with my head down. Good thing is, it’s a three strike per child policy.

If parenting was really like baseball it might actually help us better evaluate how we’re doing as parents. Just as there are no perfect batters, there aren’t any perfect parents out there either. But it can be pretty discouraging to feel like you’re always striking out or unable to raise your batting average as a parent.

Earlier in the Dad of the Wild series I mentioned that parenting is evolution. It takes adaptation, and it can feel like survival of the fittest. No one is ready to be a parent. A woman may have the urge to nest, and her body will prepare itself while she’s pregnant to sustain the life of the child once she or he is born. But getting pregnant or having a baby comes with no manuals. (Wouldn’t it be great that in,between the delivery of the child and the placenta, a parenting handbook popped out as well? I know I would have appreciated it as a dad. Just saying.) It comes down to instinct, observations, and experimentation.

When you don’t know what good parenting looks like, it can be really hard to know if you’re really know if you’re doing a good job parenting.

And it’s not just parent fails that can knock you off track.

I feel like a failure when I rush my kids through their bedtime routine: dip, dry, get dressed, go to bed. I tend to hurry them so I can get more me time.

I feel like a failure when I let the little annoying things become massive issues.

I feel like a failure when my kids ask why I’m going to work, again.

I feel like a failure when they remind me that I told them I would play with them when all I want to do is lay face down on my bed.

I feel like a failure when I know when I’m trying to control them to feel powerful and in charge.

I feel like a failure when I get impatient, and frustrated, and loud, acting less like a adult and more like a child.

I feel like a failure when I think my kids are wimps, only to find out that they had a 105 temperature.

I feel like a failure when I argue with my kids.

I feel like a failure when I’d rather ignore their questions instead of engage in a conversation with them.

I feel like a failure when my kids fall of picnic tables, changing tables, and our bed.

(My batting average has gotta be riding the interstate.)

And then I usually lay in bed discouraged by the day, wishing I could do things differently.

But today happened, and there’s no changing that. No matter how low and depressed I feel. The question is, what will I do about tomorrow? It’s the question tomorrow is asking all of us.

This is where the biblical idea of resurrection and the beta version of parenting intersect. Resurrection is all about rising.

According to the scriptures resurrection makes it possible to rise out of sin, death, and darkness to live an abundant life of freedom.

So rise out of sinful parenting. Parenting that neglects or abuses or shames children.

Rise out of dead end parenting. Parenting dictated by unhealthy habits, routines, and rhythms.

And rise out of parenting in the dark. Parenting that ignores that importance of affection, encouragement, and love.

Resurrection is a way of life. The perfect convergence of courage and grace. The energy to try again.

To borrow from Jon Foreman, resurrection dares us to get up off the floor of failure and move forward like today never happened.

The scriptures emphasize that God offers mercy on a daily basis, and redefines humanity as new creations through the Spirit of Christ–the mysterious cosmic energy of God that indwells and activates the character of God in us. Resurrection makes this possible.

Today happened, but what are we going to do about tomorrow?

Resurrection says, “rise.”

Rise out of sin.

Rise out of death.

Rise out of darkness.

Rise out of failure, as new creations–new parents–with the grace, mercy, and courage of the resurrected Christ. New creations and new parents, not perfect creations or perfect parents, liberated from the weight of the grave who choose a better way. Resurrection is always an option. 

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Romans 8:11

I will fail in the future, I’ll probably start early tomorrow. I can be defined by my failures or by the ability to rise again. Resurrection is a choice, a lifestyle.

It will look different for everyone. It might start with a prayer for wisdom or patience or joy in parenting. It might start with taking a deep breath before you respond. It might start with walking away before you discipline so you can discipline without anger. It might start with turning off the phone. It might start with getting off the sofa. It might start with confession or repentance. It might start with taking your family to church. It might start with spending your money differently. It might start with changing what you watch on TV. It might start with listening more closely so you can hear their hearts. It might start with forgiving yourself.

We can lie in the graves of the ways we’ve always responded to failure, or we can allow resurrection to raise us up as people who respond differently–abundant and free.

Whatever you decide, parent like the resurrection says you can.

#resurrection > #parentfail

Skaters, Funerals, Sissay and Katrina — Resurrection Here, Resurrection Now

black-and-white-sunset-clouds-field

Life after this life is hard to comprehend.

Life after death. A state of existence after existence.

Reincarnation suggests a perpetual cycle of death and rebirth, death and rebirth, death and rebirth, with rebirth taking an unpredictable form each time.

Annihilation is the end of existence. Once you die, that’s it. Kaput.

Resurrection is said to be the continuation of life after life.

The … of being.

To be continued on the other side.

Which makes any posthumous theory hard to believe. It’s a mystery. A topic of uncertainty that a lot of people, through the ages, have talked about with tremendous zeal, authority, and, yes, certainty.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been told that resurrection is about dying and what happens after you die. I was raised to believe in resurrection.

That’s beginning to change. Expand, might be a better word for it.

When it comes to resurrection, the basic Christian tradition and creeds go something like this,

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen. {Apostles’ Creed}

And another,

We look forward to the resurrection of the dead,
      and to life in the world to come. Amen. {Nicene Creed}

It’s always slightly intimidating to ponder outside the bounds of religious creeds. To wonder, Is our faith limited to that? Is that the extent of its meaning?

As you can see, resurrection has always been held as a postmortem experience. What if our creeds only tell half the story? Or even less???

What if resurrection is 99% present and 1% future?

What I mean by that is, what if resurrection has more to do with today than it has to do with eternity? A lot more to do with today than we’ve been led to believe?

A both/and reality. Not just for some eternal tomorrow, but for the unexpected and unpredictable today.

Which makes me think of skateboarding.

I work at a church in South Carolina. Our church building doesn’t look like a church building, it looks like a renovated warehouse (which it is). When the renovations were completed, one little detail was overlooked.

Rail guards.

They keep the skateboarders away.

You may have seen them in public places that don’t trust the effectiveness of one of these

skate boarding

You could say the skater-type aren’t necessarily the sign-type.

They look nice though!

Hence, rail guards. They keep skaters from grinding all over the newly renovated, painted, cleaned, designed, arranged, landscaped, polished, and PAID FOR property.

There were a few days at church when there were no rail guards to keep those dern skater kids from McTwisting and nosesliding on the property. I got word that they were outside, so I grabbed my youth pastor badge and sped to the scene to patrol (and spectate) the area.

Skateboarding is fascinating. Four wheels suspend an individual on a thin piece of wood while moving at rapid speed and ricocheting off concrete, wood, and metal.

Which is what the railings are made of at church. And they’re coated with paint. Perfect for skaters to tarnish by honing their craft and working on tricks.

One kid in particular was determined to grind the entire rail. He was having a friend film him which made him extra-determined to grind the entire rail.

I watched him try over and over and over to do this

Skater

Over and over and over.

Each time something different would happen. The board would fly out halfway down the rail. Or he would lose his balance. Or he wouldn’t even make it onto the rail. Or he’d straight fall on his side or his back or his butt or his

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over and over and over.

The board would slam into the stairs or shoot out across the parking lot but each time he’d retrieve it and try again.

I see resurrection in that.

There’s something going on inside of someone who is stubborn or resolute enought (or just crazy enough) to get back on the board and go at it again. A sacred bravery deep in the soul of every athlete who has fallen off a skateboard, broken a bone, been bitten by a shark,or lost a game or race or career.

Over and over and over.

Which makes me think of a funeral.

I work with a couple who have endured one of the most heartbreaking tragedies a family can experience. Their sons were killed in a traffic accident. One son was two and the other was a few weeks from being born. The two year old died in the accident. The other son was delivered, alive, by c-section, only to die as well a few days later.

There are no words to accurately describe the nature of such a devastating event.

The church we work at held the funeral service to a packed out sanctuary. The room was filled with broken hearts and crushed spirits of family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

The service included pictures of the boys and musicians who played their favorite songs. It was bittersweet to reminisce the memories while grieving the loss.

The most stunning part of the ceremony was when the boy’s dad walked to the microphone and eulogized his boys with composure and love. In an act of sheer resurrection, he extended forgiveness to the driver who had caused the deaths. Our souls wept collectively at that moment as we witnessed a human act divine. The ceremony concluded with husband and wife, mommy and daddy, taking the stage to worship and pray along with the crowd. The site is imprinted on the back of my mind.

I sat in the back of the sanctuary mumbling curses and questions to God for his apparent absence and sovereignlessness. But when I watched them stand and sing, it was as if I saw resurrection accessible right in front of my eyes.

Not just the ability to get up over and over and over. The capacity to rise up in the presence of suffering and stand in it.

Theirs was not just a mild belief in resurrection, some sort of hope exclusively for the future. It was an unbelievable demonstration of resurrection in the moment. It was this hope (a humble anticipation) in the future that gave them that something deep within, even for a moment, to stand.

The ability to stand, to stand and witness, to stand and worship.

Now, if they possessed such sacred substance to rise in the midst of such a great sadness, I thought, then I (we) have no reason to sit around unmoving for too long.

Which reminds me of a TED Talk interview…

about the poet, Lemn Sissay.

Lemn Sissay - Southbank 05-2009

Here’s an excerpt:

Lemn is a nationally renowned poet in the U.K. He’s now in his mid-40s, but his first 18 years were spent in and out of foster care and state-run children’s homes. And for most of his adult life, he’s tried to make sense of his childhood through a series of films and poetry.

In the 1960s, if you were pregnant and you were single, you were seen as a threat to the community. You were separated from your family by the state and placed into mother and baby homes. You were appointed a social worker. It was the primary purpose of the social worker, the aim, to get the woman at her most vulnerable time in her entire life to sign the adoption papers. So anyway, she comes here, 1967, it’s her plan to have me fostered for a short period of time while she studies. But the social worker, he had a different agenda. He found the foster parents. And he said to them, treat this as an adoption; he’s yours forever. His name is Norman.

I was on the cusp of sort of adolescence. So I started to take biscuits from the tin, you know, without asking. I was starting to stay out a little bit later, etc., etc. Now, in their religiosity, in their naivety, my mom and dad – which I believe them to be forever as they said they were – my mom and dad conceived that I had the devil inside of me. I should say this here because this is how they engineered my leaving – they sat me at a table, my foster mom, and she said to me – you don’t love us, do you? – at 11 years old. They’ve had three other children. And I said, yeah, of course I do because you do.

My foster mother asked me to go away to think about love and what it is and to read the scriptures and to come back tomorrow and give my most honest and truthful answer. So this was an opportunity. If they were asking me whether I love them or not, then I mustn’t love them, which led me to the miracle of thought that I thought they wanted me to get to. I will ask God for forgiveness, and his light will shine through me to them – how fantastic. This was an opportunity. The theology was perfect, the timing unquestionable and the answer was honest as a sinner could get.

I mustn’t love you, I said to them. But I will ask God for forgiveness. Because you don’t love us, Norman, clearly you’ve chosen your path. Twenty-four hours later, my social worker’s waiting for me in the car as I say goodbye to my parents. On the way to the children’s home, I started to ask myself, what’s happened to me? It’s not that I’d had the rug pulled from under me, as much as the entire floor had been taken away.

You know, we carry our stories and they become so airtight that we can suffocate ourselves with them. And I slowly realized that I was starting to suffocate myself with this wondrous story of this suffering boy who’d solved all of the problems, found his family, who traveled the world, who’d blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I realized that I was carrying a story which was so watertight that I was suffocating myself. And I realized that I was doing that because I was blaming people. If I can’t forgive the person who has done what seemed to be the worst thing that anyone could do to anybody, if I can’t forgive them, then what does that say about me, about my growth and my development?

In many ways, I think I’m possibly lucky to have been allowed to experience and learn from my experiences. But I do to this day think that success is being able to look in the mirror and know that I am all right on that day. I don’t believe I’ve made it. I believe that I’m making it. I believe that I found my past so I can live in the present. It’s the most important thing to me. In the books and the plays and the touring and the gigs and the speeches and the – and the cash – it all pales into insignificance when compared with knowing that I didn’t do anything wrong. And I’m OK now.

{click here to listen to the entire interview}

For most of us, Lemn’s story is unfathomable. Abandonment. Isolation. Rejection. Hurt.

His use of suffocation is such a powerful image. It invokes intense pain and extreme anxiety and death. Forgiveness and embrace and art and steps forward were his resurrection. The slow process to breathe free again. To raise a sacred story from the depths of his being.

I read resurrection in his words,

But I do to this day think that success is being able to look in the mirror and know that I am all right on that day. I don’t believe I’ve made it. I believe that I’m making it. I believe that I found my past so I can live in the present. It’s the most important thing to me.

To see resurrection in the resolve and determination and faith and bravery to get up over and over and over, to stand in suffering, and to tell a better story moving forward is breath-taking and life giving.

The writer of Romans puts it this way,

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

I’m not sure what to tell you about resurrection tomorrow, but the Christ was a model for us today. About enduring overwhelming suffering, dying, and rising again to tell a different story. That’s good news. That’s Gospel. That’s what I see in anyone, whatever they believe or wherever they are in faith or religion, who is not flattened by devastation but who rises again and again, stands with shaky legs, and takes a step out of the grave, the shadow, the past, the shame, the guilt, the lies, the sin, the loss, the fear, the blame, the darkness and into the hope and light and depth of resurrection life.

When you think about it, we will only face death once in life. We will face hardship and pain and loss and tragedy constantly. Resurrection is 99% about the versions of “death” we will encounter throughout life, and 1% for when we finally die.

It is told that Jesus rose from the grave with a resurrection body, the same yet different. It’s hard to deny that everyone who rises and moves forward through pain, suffering, and grief is the same yet different. The same yet never the same. It’s not always clear how they’re different. We might see it as the skater adjusts his technique, same skater with a little tweak. We might see it in the daily decisions of those who have endured staggering loss, same people new filter. We might see it in the lives we lead, the stories we tell, and the art we create. Same woman, same man, yet with an unique outlook.

Which brings up Hurricane Katrina.

We know it’s real, we may never have thought to use the word resurrection to explain it before. We’ve seen a city buried under water, rally and rescue and work and rebuild to make it possible for New Orleans to rise again. Over the last 10 years it hasn’t been easy and the resurrection hasn’t been quick (or perfect or complete). But we saw a sacred response ascend out of the floodwaters as the collective soul of people and families and residents, many with broken hearts from lives and livelihood lost, determined to see the city come out of the grave. Same city, yet never the same.

Resurrection is not just a religious belief, it’s a human response.

Resurrection is about hope for the future. It is vital for moving forward with hope today–the belief, irrational at times, that we can heal, that we can make it to tomorrow, that it will be used to comfort others, that somehow some way good will come of it.

Amidst the greatest pain or setback or sadness or adversity imaginable, the Spirit of resurrection is the energy that lifts us up to move forward with a broader vision of God and an inspiring story to tell.

In the face of sadness, resurrection says, take heart.

In the face of suffering, resurrection says, stand firm.

In the face of death, resurrection says, rise.

Aside

Buried Under Easter

It’s Easter time.

Cadbury crème eggs.

Peeps.

Chocolate flowering crosses.

Jellybeans.

Pastel.

Oh yeah, and bunnies.

Somewhere underneath the holiday tchotchkes and matching smocks for the kids lays the reason for the season. Each year the resurrection seems to be buried wrapped in linen, entombed until Easter Sunday shows up, just waiting to be resurrected. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I forget about the resurrection as soon as Easter lunch is served. The resurrection needs resurrection year round.

The idea that a man or woman would rise from the dead is unthinkable. It’s unnatural. It just doesn’t happen. Yes, people come out of long stinted comas. People are resuscitated—hearts beating after a seemingly short death.

But when it comes to the dead, they stay dead.

Especially the dead who are tortured, flogged, beaten, and hung upon a Roman cross.

They stay dead.

The resurrection account is a miraculous occurrence, making it hard to embrace, and therefore, easy to overlook and even forget, as if that stuff just doesn’t happen.

Which is probably why bunnies and baskets and candy and new outfits make sense around this time of year.

Even a rabbit 300 times the normal size, walking upright, laying pastel colored eggs and raising hollow chocolate bunnies is easier to believe than a man rising from the dead.

Come to think of it, even a jolly ‘ole man who can fly a reindeer drawn sleigh, delivering presents around the globe in under 24 hours is easier to accept that God becoming man, for that matter.

Though a man, dead and buried, rising a couple thousand years ago is difficult to fathom, there are echoes of resurrection that are closer and more common than we realize.

Have you been to a wedding in the last couple months? The atmosphere, full of mirth and merriment. Everything in it’s place, all arranged and fixated on one moment. The guests. The gifts. The music and fanfare. The procession begins. Parents and grandparents with mixed emotions in their eyes. The groomsmen, the bridesmaids. The light laughter as the flower girl and ring bearer sheepishly meander down the aisle. And then the bride—regal and transcendent–appears, and for a split second you lose your breath. Radiant, beaming brighter than the sun. The person the groom and everyone else in the room has been anticipating. A moment of resurrection. The angst of waiting abruptly overwhelmed by beauty.

Have you observed a sunrise recently? The crack of light on the horizon. The glow. The hue. The change. The dark slowly turning gray, and then almost forgotten by the wash of color across the landscape. Shafts of sunlight through the trees, refracting off dust and invisible molecules to illuminate the day. Cresting triumphantly as it makes it way to high noon. Even the reflection of the moon gives us hope for the next day’s light. From east to west, the sun always rises. A constant confidence. A daily resurrection. The still of night eclipsed by the life of light.

Have you considered spring lately? The hum of activity all around. Birds with new songs to sing. Flowers burst from the ground and trees blossom like surprise parties and the Fourth of July. As if Mother Nature finally found her 64 pack of Crayolas (with built in sharpener) and went to town. Windows down. Pollen up. The warmth of the sun. The fragrance in the breeze. Parks, playgrounds, back porches, and beehives no longer lay dormant. The thrill of pulling out summer clothes, and the joy of shunning sweaters, mittens, and thermals back into the attic. A season of resurrection. The dead of winter thawed out by the growth of new life.

Easter is a good reminder of the resurrection. But so is a wedding

The sunrise

Springtime

New Years Day

Birth

Forgiveness

Baptism

A second chance.

Each one giving us a glimpse of what resurrection is and what it can do in the heart and lives of those who let it in. These images aren’t perfect, but they help me understand a little bit more. Pictures that serve as regular reminders of resurrection, giving another opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate it again.

Enjoy your Eastertime revelry while it lasts, because resurrection happens year round.

Murderers

We’ve been forgiven for killing Jesus.

There’s a story in the Bible about a woman who weeps at and anoints Jesus’ feet. A Pharisee watching pegs her and Jesus with some major judgment, “If this man were a prophet, He would know who is touching Him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” To which Jesus remarks, “I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

I like to place myself in the midst of stories. I have found this practice helpful in understanding the Bible.

As I sit at the Pharisee’s table, with Jesus a few seats away, I’m caught off guard when the woman arrives. My first reaction is a glance over to the now tight-lipped Pharisee. I’m not an off the cuff person so I sit still, observe, and ponder. What is the Pharisee thinking? How does Jesus feel about a woman weeping over His feet? I know I feel pretty awkward while trying not to make it obvious.

Jesus puts the host on the spot, and I feel hot and overwhelmed for the Pharisee. But then for some reason I feel confronted by Jesus’ words as I hear them reverberate in my ears, “but whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” I’m not the one at Jesus’ feet, I’m slouching comfortably full with belt unbuckled at the table. Do I live like I’ve been forgiven? Is my life marked by excessive gratitude motivated by pardon? Do I lavish worship and love on Jesus?

Or do I live like I deserve it and have the right to expect others to earn the forgiveness I’ve obtained? Do I spend more of my time weeping at Jesus’ feet or waiting for Him to fall at mine?

This story has really perplexed me. What has Jesus done that motivates me to worship Him with everything? Even if I rack my brain I find it difficult to figure out what I need forgiven. So I sit arms crossed with the Pharisee.

Hebrews 12:3 has done some major work on me recently. “Consider Him who endure such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” This verse is primarily about perseverance, but the first half of it has been chipping away at my Pharisaical heart. For I am realizing that I am one of the “sinners” that Jesus endured so my opposition could be forgiven.

I’ve been forgiven for killing Jesus.

The woman at Jesus’ feet worshiped in response to the great love and forgiveness Jesus offered her instead of as an attempt to earn or gain approval worthy of His love and forgiveness. I don’t know if she understood it or not, but it was their sin that nailed Jesus to the cross on Good Friday. And it was their sin—her uncontrolled promiscuity and his out of control judgmentalism—that was forgiven upon the cross.

Fredrick Nietzsche famously claimed, “God is dead. And we have killed Him.”

And we have been forgiven for doing so.

The story concludes with Jesus’ words to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” The woman’s faith in Jesus’ forgiveness brought her to Jesus’ feet in extravagant worship.

The resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday validated the forgiveness He’s extended to Pharisee and prostitute, you and me. It validated that Jesus was truly God for if Jesus failed to rise from the grave death would be the ultimate power and the supreme force to be worshiped. And it validated Jesus’ power to free us from the sin we’ve been forgiven of.

We must die with Jesus to live like Him. Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ an I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

The woman was dismissed in peace. She had been forgiven of the sin that would crucify Christ, and now she must die to that life. She had been freed to stop sinning, leave that life behind her, and live the life of Her savior. We don’t know how the Pharisee felt after Jesus left. He had been offered the same forgiveness and freedom. It’s hard to live in freedom when we failed to recognize our need of forgiveness.

Once we accept the fact that our sin sent Christ to the cross we open ourselves to His forgiveness and freedom. The cross of Christ forgives us, and the resurrection frees us to stop doing what we’ve been forgiven of so we can start living like Jesus did.

Forgiveness and freedom will bring us to our knees and prove itself powerful through the lives we live.