Why Good Friday is So Good

It seems ironic to call it “Good Friday.” Jesus Christ died a horrific, demoralizing, painful death on this day. But I have came to understand that if I look at what He actually accomplished, I can see how “good” this day actually is.

When I saw the movie “The Passion,” directed by Mel Gibson, I could hardly breathe watching Jesus being flogged. It felt like I was there and the cinematography was so graphic I felt ill. I remember Him being made to carry his own wooden cross to Golgotha. It was the ultimate humiliation. He could barely stand after his beating and so someone else was made to carry the cross while he walked the streets of Jerusalem towards his destination. How he made it to Calvary is a mystery to me. He had to have super strength physically and determination beyond comprehension to willingly comply. Last year I walked this route, the Via Dolorosa, in Jerusalem. I saw all of the Stations of the Cross and even put my hand on the wall where Jesus was known to have stopped to rest. It was surreal touching where that event took place some 2000 years ago. Every nationality you could think of speaking dozens of different languages were all there doing the same thing as well.

Station of the Cross where Jesus was to have rested

What touched me most deeply was standing in the cave cell where Jesus was thrust after conviction. I had the realization of how he was unjustly accused, convicted and abandoned by everyone in that moment. He KNEW suffering in a physical AND psychological sense. The despair one would have under those circumstances! And then he had to go through with the inhumane flogging by the leather strips having metal barbs. The psychological pain prior of knowing what was to come had to be unbearable. It makes complete sense He would pray in the Garden of Gethsemane for “this cup to be taken from me, but not my will, yours be done.”

Garden of Gethsemane

Peering at the cross were the eyes of Golgotha or the “eyes of the skull.” Jesus was hung on the cross there and we were able to touch the stone on which He was known to be crucified. We now know that the end was not the end. It was actually the beginning! Because as scriptures foretold, He rose again on the “third day.” He conquered death, physical suffering, psychological torture, and emotional loss of relationships. He experienced firsthand everything painful any of us could ever experience. He overcame everything and redeemed us in the process! Even the Roman executioner saw afterwards that He was the Son of God. The reason it is such a GOOD FRIDAY is because we are redeemed for eternity by His grace and His suffering. He conquered death and sin for us all. It is a very, very good day!

As an old textbook from many years ago attested, “Good Friday is good because with it, Jesus purchased for us salvation and with it, every blessing.”

Site of Calvary Stone

Love You, Like You

The saying “Love you, like you” has made its way into my stash of favorites. I have no idea where it originated, but am so glad it did. I think one of our children spontaneously said it as a small child and it stuck. In our home, we tend to not always like each other but we always love each other. That brings me a lot of peace because sometimes family life is anything but peace-filled!

I have a dear friend with an autistic son who attends a special school. At the school the students and parents were asked to vote on t-shirt slogans to promote positivity and be a fundraiser. My friend voted the one with the slogan “I Love You & I Like You” and even ordered me one! I love it immeasurably. She doesn’t know the example she serves in my life. I wear that shirt with pride.

My mother in law once said that being liked is even more complimentary than being loved (paraphrased). I get what she means. We love our families and we like our friends. In this, we are basically saying “love” is commitment- not emotion led- but “like” is fun and endearing. Like anyone else I’d like to be liked too. Feelings aside, if you love someone, you might only like them sometimes. If considering just liking someone, then you either do or you don’t.

It’s the oddest thing to be disliked (and know it) but not know why. It used to bug me wondering why someone was frequently cold to me, but now, not so much. I realize I also like some people more and others not as much. Why? Who knows? It is just chemistry, or lack there of, or any thousand other reasons, I suppose.

God calls me to be like Jesus to love others as myself. I am relieved it’s okay to dislike. It is also relief to know I can still love others through my actions while disregarding my gut feelings. I guess what I’m trying to say is that liking or being liked is just pleasant- like icing on a cake. But when you’re loved AND liked, it’s the whole dessert.

My Helper

It is impossible for that man to despair who remembers that his Helper is omnipotent.
Jeremy Taylor

Flower near Sea of Galilee

I cannot fathom existence without divine life support. It is overwhelming to manage the mundane, much less the fear of the what ifs and what might actually occur to go without.

One of my sons once quizzed me on my faith. He is in college and had recently taken a Comparative Religion course. Wanting to answer him honestly but not sound preachy, I took time formulating my answer. Finally, it came to me and I said, “Because I like it and it works for me.” I could tell he wanted to debate the subject but my simple explanation warranted none.

I understand everyone’s need to question and find their personal faith. I also understand it is everyone’s right to choose. As I once read, “God is a gentleman. He won’t impose Himself on anyone.” This is true. I just hate for people- especially my loved ones- to miss out on this marvelous, mystifying, meaningful power source.

Watching my children suffer, hurt, or struggle is particularly painful. While I can intercede with prayers and support, I cannot force or impose my faith onto them. It’s their free choice. Their quality of life and ability to dig deep down within is completely out of my control. I won’t stop praying for the Holy Spirit to disturb them some, however.

Meggido, Israel

Traveling to Israel recently, it stuck me how very simple Jesus’ message was. It has been man and our interpretation of His message that has created the complications of religion. So, I don’t talk about being “religious” but rather “spiritual.” People are created so complex and unique it’s no wonder there are so many ways to worship. I don’t judge anyone’s choice as God is a big boy and can handle meeting us all where we need Him.

To boil it all down, I was driving this week and was behind a car with a bumper sticker reading “If you have breath, speak LOVE.” I would like to practice more of that.

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem

LIVING STONES IN ISRAEL

Abraham’s Gate

Staring at 4,000 year old ruins bent my mind into a new shape. I was literally walking through the Old Testament. Item one on my bucket list was checked off. I was finally in Israel and on a pilgrimage through the Holy Land.

Ancient Road

It seemed the timing was perfect and I felt drawn there. Having declined an opportunity to go years prior, I decided I wasn’t letting this chance go. One of my sons wanted to go too so we signed up together. Classes were attended in preparation and 9 months of anticipation followed.

Roman Vomitorium

The first day we overlooked azure waters of the Mediterranean while sitting in a Roman amphitheater- otherwise known as the “Vomitorium.” Next door were palace ruins of the Roman Centurions. Pontious Pilate was one. Progressing inland from Israel’s coast, we traveled through time going back four millennia. The toppled remnants of ancient cities whispered their stories both sad and shocking. One site, Megiddo, was a layer cake of ancient city upon city that literally stacked on top of the other. The valley below was Armageddon and we wondered if all would one day end there?

Megiddo

Our guide was unusual in that she comprised the last remnant of Christians living in the Holy Land. Less than two percent are left in all of Israel, including Palestine. She shared that when she asked her mom why they stayed when others moved away, her mother said, “We have to stay. Otherwise there will be no more living stones in the Holy Land.” That saying inked itself on my heart. I realized as a Christian, I also am called to be a living stone- wherever that may be.

Mount Arbel

The landscape of Israel was glorious as wildflowers in brilliant yellow, red and lavender peeked between ancient stones. The lush, green valley of “milk and honey” was blooming with fruit and olive trees. I could easily understand why it was the “Promised Land.” Israel was achingly beautiful.

Mount of Beatitudes

Our sacred site visits included history and geopolitical lessons that increased our understanding of the past and present. Scripture readings added to the spiritual significance of each location. The Bible suddenly became three dimensional. Stories were no longer fable-like but tangibly real. All of a sudden I wanted everyone I knew with me. Instead, I did the next best thing and posted pictures each day on Facebook.

Station of the Cross on the Via Delarosa

Our schedule was extremely tight allowing for little rest. It did not matter, however, because as our guide said, we were pilgrims, not vacationers. Rain was a mere inconvenience and didn’t stop the day’s schedule. Danger was never a concern — the most dangerous thing about Israel was walking while looking down at your phone. You were sure to trip or fall over something if not paying attention. No, I was not once scared and yes, I will go back, God willing.

The Dead Sea

My “aha” moment occurred while in Jerusalem. I was down in the Sacred Pit where Jesus was thrown after being wrongly convicted. He was beaten, deserted by all His friends, and thrust into a pitch-black, cavelike prison. He must have fallen 20 or more feet against the cold, hard stone. All of a sudden His pain, suffering and loneliness hit me. HE KNOWS, I realized. HE FELT EXACTLY HOW WE DO BUT WORSE…I began to cry and couldn’t stop. (I am not a cryer, for the record.) Recognizing He felt every imaginable human suffering and knowingly went through it all gave me gratitude beyond measure. It was comforting to know that even though He experienced extreme, human suffering, He loved us enough to die on the cross. He became the ultimate sacrifice and sin was defeated. There was nothing left to fear, I realized! My heart nearly exploded with gratitude.

The Sacred Pit

Once we reached Golgotha, tears dried as I knew the triumphant outcome. Jesus wasn’t in the tomb, nor would He ever be. He arose and ascended to be with His (and our) Father. The stone, skull facade of Golgotha peered at me but I didn’t feel dread. I had received the hope-filled message. I needed to bring Israel with me and become a Living Stone.

Eyes of Golgotha

The Highway

Picture this- You are driving down an unknown road and there aren’t any signs posted along the way. Potholes aren’t blocked, there’s barely highway lines and you can’t tell where you are. You have no idea if you’re driving to your destination because there aren’t any town markers. It’s pitch black because there is no light other than your dim headlights. You are creeping slowly along, wary of an animal potentially darting in front of you. There’s no indicated speed limit so you are constantly afraid of getting pulled over. There are no directions, no safety measures and you don’t know your way.

Finally, you spy a gas station ahead that has bright lights, and a stocked store. You feel relieved and a sense of normalcy. You are sure that you can get help finding your way. But when you ask the clerk about directions, they end up giving you directions to the wrong place and you end up even more lost than before.

Continuing on, you travel to another exit that has a run down old store, poor lighting and a dozen animals loitering around. You feel like there’s no way this place can help you but you stop anyway. The old gentleman is kind and scrawls down directions for you. You decide he can’t possibly be right because he seemed like he might not really have known what he was talking about (based on his surroundings and appearance). You toss the directions in the back seat and drive down a different winding road instead. This time you notice your gas gauge is low and realize you have the more immediate problem of fuel. Not finding a station, and getting very concerned, you let out a tiny desperation prayer to find a gas station because you are officially scared.

Finally! There’s a huge, well lit truck stop with everything a traveler could possibly need. You go in, take a break, get something to eat and ask someone where you are. They happily tell you your location and you are shocked because you never anticipated being there. You thought all along you were going somewhere else. But, you feel relieved to finally have fuel, rest and food. You have everything you truly need for your journey. You ask directions and the person gladly hands you a map and draws clear directions for you to follow.

This is what life can be like. The unmarked road is life. The first gas station is the attractive, seemingly good resource you look to in difficulty but get misdirected because they also don’t know the way. The second is the godly person you are too wary of to trust because you don’t identify with him. The gas gauge is your soul in a troubled situation. Your small prayer is your last resort. The mega gas station is the church where you found good people and refuge to help you and the map is the Bible. Jesus is the attendant at the mega gas station that welcomed you immediately and gave you clear directions.

Ticket to Joy

selective focus photography of person holding passport with ticket
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Popular culture has us thinking fulfillment lies in a far off, exotic destination. If we could just get there, life would be great, right? The 1,000 thread count sheets, private concierge and 5 star chef would make us truly happy.  I don’t knock it as it sounds amazing!  I just am sharing a different kind of fulfillment.

Today I heard a sermon about the importance of friends and being a friend like Jesus demonstrated. That prompted me to check on someone that I thought I was just dropping off a token of friendship to. I had no idea there was a lot more at stake.

It is ironic that we make our plans but God intervenes with His. Without knowing this friend had surgery and needed help, I called and went for a quick visit. Unbeknownst to me, they had a great need.  I am so grateful I heeded the prompt from the Holy Spirit. I cannot begin to share the peace and fulfillment of serving someone who truly needs help. I have never found more satisfaction on this earth than when I serve another’s need they can’t meet on their own.

It’s contradictory to human nature and our culture, but it’s awe inspiring. I am referring to the simple act of caring for others and being present. You don’t need  extraordinary abilities, special talents, or abundant knowledge. All you have to do is:  CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE AND THEIR NEEDS and SHOW UP. Simple as that. That is my secret for gaining true fulfillment. Who knows? Someone may get theirs by serving us one day. I’d hate to rob anyone of that.