When the light goes out

On Friday, I attended my church's Good Friday service.  It was a very simple service and I didn't anticipate that there would be anything special about it.  In all honesty, I showed up to go through the motions.

The service was basically just reading through the events of Friday, straight from Scripture and then finishing up with our lectionary prayers, which were to be led by me.

I decided to close my eyes as the Scriptures were being read, in play form.  Different individuals from the congregation took on roles and read from their seats when their character was speaking.  As they read, pictures were forming vividly in my mind: Jesus bloody, mocked, bruised.  Simultaneously, as I heard the words about Jesus hanging between the two prisoners being mocked and accused of things that weren't true, I thought about my friend's daughter who that very week had been mocked, harassed and demeaned by a bully at school.  I was caught up in the realization that Jesus not only loved the mockers in that moment, but He also hung there to experience the rejection that His children would continue to experience even today. 

Hebrews 4:15: 
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

As the service went on, I happened to open my eyes and saw my pastor walking across the front of the sanctuary.  He went and stood before the candle that represents the presence of Jesus and when, "'It is finished.'  Then he bowed his head and gave up His spirit," our pastor blew the candle out.  The presence of Jesus was metaphorically extinguished.

I was profoundly struck at that moment and the weight of what it meant laid heavy on me.  In that moment, everyone's hopes and dreams that Jesus truly was the Messiah went out.  The people then didn't have the answer, they didn't have the next page in the book.  All they had was darkness, hopelessness and despair.  They did not have the hope of the resurrection and the God they thought they knew was no longer.

As the darkness of that moment crept over me, it made me realize that there are some today who still feel that darkness and despair.  They've had the candle blown out.  Situations and circumstances of life have brought that darkness, heaviness and confusion of the unknown.  The God they thought they knew did not show up in the way they expected him to show up.  Personally, I've stood in front of a grave and have felt the tears of that darkness, hopelessness and despair.

The Scriptures continued until Jesus was laid in the tomb and after that point, I was to lead prayer.  In faltering words, I prayed forth the words I've said many times before but they were being shaped and carried in a new way.

One: A recognition that without the resurrection the words that I was praying were meaningless.  I have no hope of any of my prayers being answered or heard apart from the reality that Jesus is alive.  All my faith truly does rest on that reality.

Two: Those that I was praying for: the hungry and the homeless, the destitute and the oppressed, the sick the wounded, the lonely were most likely experiencing that darkness.  Many of those words were attached to real people, real faces, real situations.  I knew and know that they've and are experiencing the darkness of that moment and they need the reality of the resurrected Jesus in their lives.  But sometimes, yes, there is a waiting, like we were being asked to wait between Good Friday and Easter morning Sunday.

Three: For the sorrowful and bereaved.  Again, my mind went to the scene when my niece was no longer there. My heart and prayers went up for the loved ones I know that experienced similar loses and whose hearts are as heavy as the darkness felt on that day.

As we left the sanctuary, one of our members who was going to miss church on Sunday, was quietly walking up to people and whispering, "Happy Easter." I thought it was a perfect ending to the service.  In the midst of the darkness, the despair, the turmoil the secret was being eked out, "Happy Easter."  While our Easter moments may not always be two days away, our Redeemer does indeed live.  For me, I recognized in a new and profound way that all of our hopes and fears are truly dependent upon that single moment, Easter.

Perhaps due to the circumstances in your life, Easter morning was not able to be a joyous moment.  If so, may I quietly whisper to your heart, "Happy Easter?" If yes, may you know He is able to hold you in the darkness because He has entered there, too yet overcame.  In that fact, you can rest your heart.

In Christ,

St. Patrick's Day Prayer

Prayer is a profound mystery that envelops deep truth alongside the simplicity of child-like faith.  Last St.Patrick's Day I came across a prayer by Saint Patrick.  It quickly became one of my favorite prayers, because it is filled with so much Scriptural truth.  It is a prayer that provides a framework for how I live my life.  But before we get to it, I just wanted to share two quotes by Eugene Peterson from Tell it Slant on the topic of prayer:

Prayer accomplishes with us, within our spirits, deep within our souls, what is later lived out in the circumstances and conditions of our obedience.  A stiff upper lip won't do it.  A fierce resolve won't do it.  An exemplary life won't do it.

Prayer goes beneath the surface and penetrates the heart of the matter... When we pray we willingly participate in what God is doing, without knowing precisely what God is doing, how God is doing it, or when we will know what is going on - if ever (pg.237)

May this prayer by Saint Patrick lead you and guide you as you journey on in Christ:
 As I arise today,
may the strength of God pilot me,
the power of God uphold me,
the wisdom of God guide me.
May the eye of God look before me,
the ear of God hear me,
the word of God speak for me.
May the hand of God protect me,
the way of God lie before me,
the shield of God defend me,
the host of God save me.
May Christ shield me today.
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit,
Christ when I stand,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

In Christ,


Confessions from a Mother of a Strong-Willed Child

I am a mother of a strong-willed child. This I have always known but I haven't always known how to handle it. 

Oh, we've tried through the years with wavering success.  But as the years go by, the strength only seems to grow and increase, not diminish.

As a mother of a strong-willed child I often feel FEAR.

Fear that the strength of her will, may eventually lead her down paths of destruction - that will break her and prevent her from fulfilling her dreams.

Fear that somehow my inability to communicate with her will one day make her despise me.

Fear that if I ever did successfully "break her will" and make it easily bend to mine, I would break one of the most beautiful things that make her who she is as a person.

I knew that her tenacity was a gift, is a gift.  But when I saw her tenacity robbing her, for seemingly insignificant causes, I was desperate to find answers.  I also often found myself becoming someone I didn't want to be - so easily and too quickly.  It didn't matter how long I prayed in the morning, nor how determined I was to be calm, patient and peaceful.  In a blink of an eye, we would spiral together head-first into the battle of wills over what seemed like "nothing" to me.  At the end, I would be left exhausted and feeling even more defeated, even if I did "win."

Yesterday, I read the "Tower of Babel" where the Lord had caused confusion to languages to cause separation among the people.  This is how I felt, day in and day out.  That my daughter and I were speaking different languages and it was causing separation.

I needed an interpreter.

God always amazes me, how he drops in answers to years of prayer, in small, insignificant ways.  So small you almost miss it, yet a gift so powerful, that after you open it, you might never be the same.

An email came across from a co-worker, "Oh, if you have a strong-willed child try Cynthia Tobias."

Okay, I'll write myself a note to look into it.

An incident. Exhaustion.

Okay, I'll order the book from the library.

Another incident. Despair.

Okay, I'll pick the book up from the library and read it.

Then, hope came flooding in through the doors.  In a beautiful, life-giving way, my hope is being renewed through the book, YOU CAN'T MAKE ME" (but I can be persuaded).

In my initial reading of the book, I feel like I am being taught another language.  I also feel that I am being understood.  I am seeing that I am not alone in this challenge.  And I am having the truths, that I've known and believed being fulfilled, while at the same time having my fears calmed.

She says that if you have a strong-willed child, you've probably known it since before they were 18 months old.  Um, yes!  No one would believe me back then.  As we arrived places with her dressed in outrageous, mismatched outfits people would ask why I would let a child that young dress herself.  Why? Because it wasn't worth the fight.

In grace, Cynthia tells stories of the very fears that I daily carry in my mind: that my daughter did have the potential of giving up dreams, for the sake of digging in her heels for an unworthy cause.  She also asked, "What cost are you willing to pay to have 'pure obedience?'"(Her heart?) Finally, she pointed out that I could very well lose my daughter's heart. 

But the weight of those words were couched in the buoyancy of the opposite truth: that it didn't have to be that way.  Yes, as I knew, God had created my daughter with a huge heart, that can change the world.  And that we need people with strong wills that are not willing to back down, no matter, what the cost.  She also showed me, as I knew, that all my daughter wants in the end, is my love.  So taking time to learn to speak to her in her language will pay off in the end.

Most of the time I am not trying to annoy you.  I just want you
to appreciate my uniqueness.  I want you to see me
and love me no matter what. 
(I forgot to write down the page #) 
So yes, yes I am taking it to heart.  I am filling my phone with "reminder notes" on how to speak her language.  Because I know how we spiral.  But I also can see how, simply using different approaches, can stop the spiraling.

So that is my confession: I have failed multiple times with my daughter and I know I will continue to fail.  But I also see that there is a better way.  However, I hope to change our spiraling into dancing; to watch my daughter glow in the joy of her gifts and strengths, as she takes on the world with her unbreakable spirit.

Maybe I am not alone, so that is why I share.  If you too are a parent of a strong-willed child, take the time to read, to learn and to understand their language.  Perhaps, Cynthia Tobias can renew hope for you, as well.

In Christ,

P.S. This is a recommendation, purely from my heart.  I was not paid nor given this book for this review.

Daily Prayer

Disqus for For His Glory Alone


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