Monday, April 09, 2012

Odds and Ends of Life


First, my apologies for not getting all the prayers up that I pIanned leading up to Easter.  I badly need a new computer at home.  Hopefully soon.
Second, I think it is time to share a picture of my grandson, Noah, and his daddy, my son, Joshua.  I can hardly believe that Noah will be a year old in June!  My daughter, Kris, and granddaughter, Trinity (who turned five in January), and I will be visiting them next week.  So excited...I don't get to see them often.  I want Noah to know who Grandma is!
Third, a few people  who read my blog once in a while and are also friends on Facebook but don't know me in "real life" have asked what I'm doing these days.  When I resigned the pastorate of Jubilee AG (three years ago, not long before Easter) I expected that my "path" would become clear in a reasonable time.  Why did I think that?  I do not know.  Wishful thinking, most likely! 
I am still working at Veritas Financial Services, a small (but excellent) firm in Plymouth, Wisconsin.  I started doing data entry and a little office support and figured it would last for a few months.  I needed the paycheck, so that was fine.  Three years later, I am still here.  After I was working about 3 or 4 months I started doing more marketing, writing articles, setting up a blog and Facebook page, and other things too.  Last year I decided to get my insurance license so that I could market Medicare-related insurance (a natural fit for me, but I won't bore you with why that's the case). 
Recently, I decided, after much soul searching, that I would stop the marketing/office part of my job, so while I still have an office at Veritas I am not working "for" the company and not getting a salary.  I get commissions on policies.  It has been slow going and a "step of faith."  However, I want to be able to focus energy on other things.  I don't think that being an insurance agent is all God has for me...not that there's anything wrong with that. ;-)  
I am almost finished with my novel, "Finding Little Big Foot" and hope to get that finished up and start looking for an agent--or otherwise getting the book published.  Have ideas for two other books, and I would love to speak and travel. I have so much to share (at least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it).  Not sure quite what to do about that or how to begin.  
I think life is likely to change soon in another big way that I am not yet free to share, but I'm watching and waiting and praying.  Isaiah 64:8 says, "And yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand."  He is the potter and I am the clay.  Feeling a little smashed and not very useful lately, but refusing to take myself off the wheel.

I had a wonderful weekend, which I hope to share a little about soon.   

Saturday, April 07, 2012

An Easter Story: Part 2 "He is Risen!"

Part One is HERE.

From Luke 24
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them,came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee,saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’”

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.

Lucifer was anxious. His initial glee at watching the suffering and death of Christ had dimmed as time had passed. He had begun to remember things that Jesus had said about being dead but later being raised to life. He remembered the dead girl that had lived again, the widow's son raised during his own funeral procession--and worst of all was that weakling Lazarus who had been dead four days and now was walking around in Bethany, a picture of health and stronger than he had ever been!

The Prince of the Power of the Air had dispatched two of his strongest demons to inspect the stone in front of the tomb and to look inside if they could. Now he awaited their return, pacing, snarling curses and hideous words of filth and hatred.


Near the garden tomb, the temple guards were growing restless. The highest ranking one among them understood their growing murmuring, even though he did not show it. This is  the most foolish assignment any of us could imagine, he thought. Are we guarding the tomb from grave robbers? It was high time they returned to their posts in Jerusalem at the great temple. The one called Jesus of Nazareth had owned little as far as the guard could tell, and even his robe had been won by a Roman soldier. What was so special about yet another man claiming to be God's anointed? Yet...something seemed strange. It was almost as if they were guarding the tomb to insure the corpse inside stayed put. I am  a fool!  He snorted in derision at his own thoughts. The dead man had been someone special, that was certain.  But the man was dead. 
Then something...shifted.  He felt it in the ground beneath his sandals, in the sudden stillness as the birds stopped their early-morning chirping, in a subtle change in the growing light of the approaching sun.  And then, with bone-chilling awareness, he heard it --the slow, grinding scrape of the huge stone moving along the ground! He whirled and saw two men in white. That was the last he knew for a while, as he and his fellow guards fell to the ground, unconscious.


Above on the paapets, the excitement was building. The saints and angels had gathered together once again, watching, waiting, looking to each other with sparkling eyes and barely suppressed laughter. "Soon...soon now..."they whispered. The seraphims flew above the throne of God, singing ceaseless praise, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was and is and is to come!"

"Be ready! It is almost time!" Gabriel said to Michael as they stood once again on a great porch of the heavenly city. "The Almighty One is about to call to us."

Then each of them looked at the other, and both shouted aloud in joyful excitment. "There! There is the command from the Highest.  The Spirit of Life has done the work, and Christ is risen and ready for us!"

Laughing and singing, they were gone from the wall.  Behind them, a great shout of triumph arose from the gathered throng.


Mary had slept little for two nights. Her head ached and her usually sparkling eyes were swollen from weeping. She moved with her friends through the mist of early morning. The light of approaching dawn was faint, and the women stepped carefully and quietly, hoping to remain unseen. None spoke. As one and then another had joined the group, they had embraced each one in shared sorrow. Each woman added something to their store of precious spices and ointments, placing them carefully in a basket that Johanna carried.

As they neared the place of the tomb, Mary softly spoke at last, a frown creasing her forehead. "How are we going to move that enormous stone at the entrance?" No one answered, but no one stopped walking either, a group of sad and silent women in the grey before first light, sandles pattering against the earth.


Not far away, Jesus moved through the trees, gazing at the new day with a sense of wonder. How different it all seemed today! He stopped in a sun-dappled clearing and lifted his hands heavenward in praise and joy. Large holes pierced his handss, but the edges were healed and his skin was smooth and glowing with life. "Thank you, Father, for this day of wonder and joy! I will soon be home."


Mary had moved ahead of the others, trying not to cry in front of them, afraid that she would be unable to remain silent.  Now she stopped, confused and frightened. Temple guards lay sprawled on the ground, apparently senseless. At first she had thought they were dead, but then she saw the chest of one rising and falling.

She glanced back at the other women, who had also stopped.  They were  looking at her as if for direction. She shrugged, and then slowly, step by step, Mary moved around the prostrate soldiers and on to the tomb, past the entrance and then inside. There was the slab where Jesus' body should have been, and the graveclothes, neatly folded..

No body.

It was gone! Grief assaulted her anew, and she gasped in shock and anger.  "The body is gone! Someone has taken our Lord away!" Half-dazed, the others moved foreword and peered, one by one, inside the dimness of the hewn rock.

Then light that came from everywhere and nowhere filled the tomb and the area around it, illuminating the faces of the fallen guards. A strange and stirring kind of music filled the air.  The women, badly frightened and already confused from grief and lack of sleep, gasped in surprise and dropped to their knees. Some hid their faces.

Michael and Gabriel shone with a radiant spectrum of light, robes glowing as if from within the cloth itself. They reached out their hands in blessing, large smiles spreading across their faces. Michael thought to himself, as strength flowed through him and out to the women, "This is the most wonderful assignment I have even been given!"

"Get up, daughters of the Most High," encouraged Gabriel. "Why are you looking for Jesus in this tomb? Why are you looking for a live savior in a place of the dead?" The women gazed at him in awe, unable to speak at first. Finally, Mary the mother of James found her voice. "Who...who are you?"

Gabriel laughed softly, "Go on now, go tell the others. They won't believe you at first, but tell them the news. He who was dead is alive again, and death is swallowed up in victory!"

Lucifer screeched in frustration and hatred, hiding his eyes from the light and crouching down in fear.

The throne room of God rang with shouts and songs of joy. Michael looked at Mary Magdalene, she who had once been almost destoyed by the powers of evil.  "You are the first to hear the glorious news."

The ancient messangers, shining in reflected glory, spoke in unison, voices ringing with power and the authority of the One Who Sits on the Throne and of the Lamb. "He is not here! He is risen!"

As the rays of the rising sun illuminated the morning, the women ran for town.

Friday, April 06, 2012

An Easter Story Part 1 "Now We Wait"

Don't examine my grammer or my theology too closely, blog readers. I wrote this in a hurry.

May the peace of Christ be with you.

Luke 22:41-42 He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

The archangel Michael covered his face with his powerful wings and wondered if an angel was supposed to cry. His companion, Gabriel,  leaned far over the parapet and stretched out his great hand as if to reach Gethsemane. “Oh, may I leave now, God of All, and give him a message of your love?’

Assent was given--and the ancient messenger was gone.

Not far away stood Abraham and Moses, silently gazing at the scene below. And Michael saw that Deborah and Miriam had moved to the balcony as well. Others were gathering, a great cloud of witnesses. Behind him, Michael heard rustling and soft murmurs of conversation between many of his fellow heavenly beings. They shared his confusion and concern. Everyone understood that the Anointed One had gone to complete all that was given him to do. And they knew only too well how cruel and capricious life on the world of Earth could be—clouded as it was since Lucifer’s victory over humankind so long ago.

But this? Could this really be necessary? One seraphim was singing softly of the days when the Son was with them in their Heavenly Kingdom. How long it had seemed, even for beings who knew no limitations of time or space. Michael sighed, half longing to be with his fellow servant, Gabriel, and half relieved that he did not have to witness the agony of the Eternal Word who had been sent to live in the world of people. “How long, O Lord?” he wondered. There was no answer from the One on the throne. Just an unusual deep silence.
“Oh, Gabriel, my friend, do your work well! Help him!”

The anguished cry of a human man, Yeshua of Nazareth, reached his ears, “Oh, Father, is there no other way? If it is possible, do not give me this bitter cup! Let it pass from me!” Behind him, the angels grew even more still. Michael wept, something he had never experienced. Could nothing be done to change this?


Even at night the garden was full of the warm scents of spring: blossoming trees, grass, renewed life.  In the cool darkness, Gabriel stood gazing at the three disciples who were near the Lord. Peter was half sitting up, his back against an ancient olive tree. He was snoring, one hand open on the ground beside him, the other clenched in his lap. James was stretched out on his back, and John lay curled like a child.

Gabriel felt a moment of impatience.  Then as the ancient angel looked closer, he saw the lines of strain and the tracks of dried tears on their faces. It had been a strange few weeks for them, full of contrasts and emotional turmoil. They had seen Jesus transfigured and witnessed a glimpse of God's glory on the mountain, had observed as the Master had seemed to deliberately taunt some of the Pharisees, watched Lazarus step from the grave, listened to Jesus assertions that he was going to die, wrestled with Jesus' seemingly inexplicable actions. He sensed the confusion and fear that wrestled with anticipation and hope in their spirits as they dreamed. “Ah, they are sleeping the sleep of exhausted sorrow. They cannot understand.” He felt both pity and compassion for these frail but beloved children of God.

Then he sensed the gathering darkness and tensed. A battle would be waged this night, he knew.

He moved near to the weeping man by the rock, compassion filling his being like a wave of seawater. It was, he knew, partly his own sympathy and partly that of the One above. He knelt and reached a hand to Jesus’ back.

“Beloved of the Father, we all know you are able to endure, to finish  all that is to come.  All that must be done” There was no answer, only a deep groan that seemed to come from the very ground itself. He moved closer, and then he stroked Jesus’ hair as if the human man before him was a child. How strange to feel the coarseness of the hair, the dust, the blood and sweat.

He was awed, for a moment, at the wonder of such a thing. How could the Holy Son be in this flesh? How could he have done this, emptied himself so completely?

Jesus was drenched with sweat and he shivered with cold and--something else. “What if,” the Son of Man whispered, “What if I am wrong about this? Why could they not receive me?”

Gabriel felt a strange sort of shock and surprise as Jesus looked up at him, face contorted with grief and horror. “Oh, Gabriel, how I longed to gather them as a mother hen does her chicks!” The Savior shuddered. “Oh,” he cried out, “oh, they would not! My own, those made in my own image, my dear men and women--and my chosen ones--they would not receive me! Why would they not hear?” Then, after a pause, “What if I am not who I believe I am? What if I am--merely deluded?” His face twisted.

Gabriel was stunned, dismay clouding his perception. After a moment, he understood. Jesus was filling up the cup, experiencing every temptation, every grief, every sorrow. Even doubt, even rejection, even questioning the eternal plan. It had to be. It was part of what would make him the heavenly high priest, able to intercede for humankind with total comprehension.

“We are all watching with you, dear Son of the Father. The angels, the righteous ones from through the ages, and…”he paused, “And the Holy One on the throne.” We will be watching all of it, and waiting for you.“ He glanced back at the sleeping disciples. “We are not asleep , and we are waiting for the completion of your journey and your return to us.”


The kingdom of their great enemy was in a state of excitement. The former archangel, Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness leaned forward towards the garden in a strange sort of mockery of Michael’s posture on the portico above. His hand, like Gabriel’s had done, reached out. Surprisingly, it was smooth and well formed, but deep purplish bruises covered it.
"Ah,” he breathed, “ah, now we shall see who is going to win this ridiculous contest!” He laughed, and behind him the chilling sound was echoed by numberless beings, crouching in the darkness like dogs at a cruel master’s feet. Darkness slowly licked his lips, as if obscenely savoring some forbidden pleasure. His once-beautiful face was twisted in a mockery of what he used to be. He could, when he chose, look beautiful still, sinuous, hypnotic, soothing. But the beauty was a mask, no longer his true visage. On such a night as this one, he stood among his minions with no need to wear any disguises. His eyes grew wide with delight and anticipation.

Suddenly he was gone from his sevants.

He stood behind Jesus in the darkness of Gethsemane, hissing in gleeful spite. “Hail, Anointed One of Israel.  Why are you not celebrating Passover?  Why are you out here,” he glanced at the sleeping disciples with a sneer, "out here all alone?" 

Gabriel wore an expression of wrath that was second only to what the One above, even at this moment, was experiencing. His subdued glow grew intensely bright. His wings extended and his eyes flashed fire. “Begone, Dark Prince. You are not welcome here!”

Near him, Jesus rose to his feet as the angel moved between him and the hissing snake-angel. Lucifer winced at the brightness and his eyes became slits. “Oh no, my old ally and colleague. No, no. Don’t you understand? I'm not going anywhere.”

Gabriel’s hand went to his sword, and then he slowly returned it to its sheath at the instant command from the great throne. “

"Ah yes!” The serpent man hissed again, growing larger as his forked tongue licked towards them. “Ah, I see you do understand, after all.” He smiled, with a horrifying sweetness. “It is my time, foolish archangel" He spat the words. "My time! You will soon wish you had joined us in the rebellion. You will soon be sorry that you chose to stay,” he gestured toward Jesus, “with that one.”

Gabriel stepped toward him. “Be silent!”

And Darkness was gone.

Jesus rose to his feet, took a long breath, squared his shoulders and moved to Gabriel with an expression of gratitude. “I must do the will of my Father. I understand, and I embrace what is coming.” As Gabriel reached for Jesus’ hands, the Master of Storms smiled gently,  receiving the strength that flowed from the throne of El Shaddai to him. “I embrace this, Gabriel. I embrace it even though I despise it, you understand.” He looked to where he knew his friends were sleeping. “All of the humanity in me shudders at the horror of it, not just the pain, but all of it. The mocking, the nakedness, the vulnerability and shame that I must willingly endure.”
It was his  turn to comfort the messenger from his Father. ” I thank you for your assurance that the hosts of Heaven will be watching. I will look past the horror, my friend and servant. I will look past it to the glory. Not only the glory of the heavenly Kingdom—no, even more is the glory of defeating Death. Defeating Darkness and making a way for humankind to return to us. I will look forward, Gabriel, to the joy ahead.”

He dropped the angel's strong hands. As he moved toward his friends, slumbering  in the darkness, he glanced back. “Don’t listen to that evil father of all lies. You will not regret your faithful service to the One who made you.”

Gabriel bowed deeply and was gone.

Jesus spoke to his friends, “Ah, go on, sleep and rest now.” They stirred, looking sheepish as they sat up. “My hour has come.”

The disciples jumped to their feet, hearts pounding and all thought of sleep gone as they heard the approach of many feet and saw the glow of torches through the trees. “My betrayer is arriving with a few soldiers. He does not understand that they will not take my life. I will give it.”

“No, Lord,” Peter cried, “not if I can help it!”


Hours had passed. Hours of deception, lies, sleeplessness, injustice, denial from one who loved him deeply.


Hours of ridicule, fists, slaps, and mocking. Of spittle dripping down his beard. Of unutterable thirst and pain and shocking misery. Of a scourging that would have killed him if he had not been the Master. Of thorns in his head, making it throb to the rhythm of his heart.

And now the worst had come. He had hung, suspended in agony, for hours that seemed like years. The pain he felt had moved beyond what he would have believed possible. He had grieved for his mother, had forgiven the poor people below, blind and deaf and lost in darkness. He had experienced something he had never imagined in all his days and nights as a man of earth--growing, being taught, learning who he was. Nothing had prepared him for the final anguish. He felt alone. Completely alone. Where was the Father?

Had he failed in his mission to the world?

And then it was time. He knew, somehow, it was done. Ignoring the hot agony in his feet, the pain of his lacerated back on the rough wood, the tortured, twisted muscles of his arms, his chest, he heaved himself up one last time and gasped for air.

Michael, Gabriel, the angelic hosts of Heaven, and all the departed ones gasped with him as they leaned forward to listen.

Darkness too, and his evil horde, were filled with a sort of nervous excitement and glee. “Look at him!” he chortled, “Almost done now, my friends. Almost. Can you just taste it? So close now….”

His mocking laugh rose to a perveted, joyful screech that echoed off the rocks and hills, rolled down the valley, swept across the waters. “Almost all mine now! Those fools, thinking they could defeat us. As if Light could ever really be stronger than Darkness.”

And from the man on the cross came the cry, “It is finished.” Jesus, in his last act as the man from Nazareth, Mary's boy, former carpenter, healer, teacher... Jesus turned his tortured face heavenward.

“Father, into your hands I trust my spirit.”

The Prince of Darkness howled in unholy excitement and raised his fists. “Oh yes, Son of God, you are finished all right.”

A Roman soldier fell to his knees in the bloody mud. Mary covered her face and her shoulders shook as she silently endured.  John held her gently. A Pharisee gasped in fear. Zaccheus, former tax collector and puppet of the Romans, burst into tears of anguish. Mary of Magdala sobbed without restraint, holding tightly to her friend Johanna’s hand. Far away, a disciple shuddered, deep sobs shaking his great frame. The Pharisee Nicodemus questioned God. What had his conversation with Jesus all meant?  Joseph of Arimathea made a decision to risk his standing in the religous community—maybe even his life. He was a son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and he would act like one.  He would ask for the body of his rabbi and friend.
In the temple, the great curtain before the holiest place tore from top to bottom, and the walls shuddered and creaked. Outside, Caiphas, standing at the altar with the sacrifice lamb in his hands, fell to the ground as the earth moved beneath him.  One of the nearby Levites shouted, "Blessed are you, O Lord our God, maker of Heaven and Earth....have mercy on us" Lightning flashed, rain poured, and the earth, grieving for her creator, heaved and buckled.

Above, the hosts of glory remained silent. Wings were folded. A profound stillness swept over the cherubim, the seraphim, the elders, the prophets, Daniel and his three friends, David, the patriarchs of Israel, the women, and on and on through the numberless crowd who observed this scandalous beauty.

Not a sound echoed in the halls of God’s Kingdom. Never before had the throne room been completely silent. A long moment passed.

Gabriel turned to Michael, “Now, my friend, we wait.”

Part Two is here.