You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. 2Corinthians 3:2-3
Not long ago I attended an event that shared the Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection story as told through the eyes of Mary. While I enjoyed the different perspective, it felt so distant and I failed to connect with the well known and quite familiar account.
Later, when I heard freedom testimonies of women told with imagery and a handful of simple words, I couldn’t help but struggle with the fact that their stories brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart greater than the actual narrative from Scripture. My heart ached with this realization.
I asked Jesus, “Jesus, I feel terrible. What does this mean? Why do the stories of the women resonate with me so powerfully, and yours doesn’t? Why do I find the places the women were and—after their encounter with you—where they are now, more heart rending and stirring than your death and resurrection ? Has the power of the cross somehow become stale to me? If so, what does that say about the condition of my heart?”
Jesus, in the gentle way he does, quietly replied, “Peace, Daughter.
You are moved because the Power of my Resurrection is retold in every one of their stories.
Every redemption story is my Resurrection story.”
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)
As I read through the Lenten liturgy, I longed to do something a bit different but something also filled with tradition and imagery. I love prayer paths and prayer gardens and having heard about the Cross at Kerrville, I decide to visit.
Spring is just beginning to show herself in the gardens. The lingering scent of grapes from fading mountain laurel flowers fill the air, along with the powdery scent of yellow agarita. The pink blossoms of the eastern red buds bring the next splash of color as the first bright green leaves of young maples emerge from the branches.
The main garden path lies in the shape of the cross paved with Scripture in Spanish, English, and German—a testimony of the cultural heritage of the area—and provides the opportunity for a meditative walk to the large cross at the center.
At the start of path to the cross, Jesus greets me, fishing net in hand, the Star of David beneath his feet—a reminder of his Jewish rabbinical heritage—and the looming cross over his shoulder.
I make my way slowly, reading the Scriptures as I walk, listening, pausing, and listening again, until I reach the cross. It’s open underneath and I walk in. The cross towers above me. Inside someone has place placards for the sojourner, explaining salvation, baptism, prayer, miracles. I pray for a miracle over a couple people I know that need one.
I walk on. Gravel paths extend outward in several places, one of which provides white rocks and rock walls for visitors to write and place prayers in the garden.
We would write a prayer on a rock and place it in the garden, but pens are no longer available on site (except to purchase at the gift shop—which I discover on the way out). If you visit, be sure to bring along a couple of sharpies for prayer on the spot or prepare a prayer rock and bring it when you come.
We visit the gift shop on the way out and learned that a planning meeting for Easter sunrise services would soon begin. Many worshipers are expected. We talk with the friendly store worker who shares a bit about the history of the cross, the gardens and the artists, Max Greiner Jr, Beverly Paddleford, and David Broussard. You can learn more at The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden.
On the way out we stop at one last sculpture. Mary sits, waiting on a bronze wall with an empty spot next to her. Her life-sized hand stretches out to invite and I am compelled to slip mine into hers. Sorrow lines her face and she clutches a crown of thorns tinged with red—a reminder of the season we observe. Grief. Lament. Mortification. Confession.
Not far from us stands three enormous criss-crossed nails—the reason for Mary’s sorrow. Yet rising above the gardens soars the Empty Cross—testimony of why we rejoice, why we celebrate, why we sing. Soon Mary will trade her despair for a garment of praise, joy for mourning, and a crown of beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
Because. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV
Ash Wednesday. Today marks the 40-day Christian season of Lent. A time of introspection, confession, repentance, prayer, and fasting that prepares us for Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday.
I was raised with off and on attendance in a small, country United Methodist church that followed the liturgical calendar, although—at the time—I didn’t know what that meant. My faith and my military career then took me to many places and many churches—mostly evangelical. However, the past half dozen or so years have opened my heart and curiosity to new ways to understand our God, faith traditions, scriptures, and Jesus.
In all these things, my desire is to love God more, with all my heart, soul, and strength. The Lenten season provides us the opportunity to do so. Whether you’ve had a life time of observing Lent, if you’ve left it behind and want to pick it up again, if this is your first time considering it, or if you know nothing about it, there are many resources to help us along this journey of exploration and understanding.
This year I’m reading Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal by Esau McCaulley, part of IVP’s Fullness of Time series. McCaulley describes Ash Wednesday (and Lent) to be a call “to remember our first love, the pursuit of holiness that may have marked the first years of our journey with God.” At only 98 pages, it’s proving to be insightful, personable, and accessible.
Wherever your faith is at, and however you walk it out, may the rhythms, seasons, and celebrations of faith enrich and expand your life and draw you closer to the Creator, Shepherd, Messiah, Savior—Jesus.
Grace & Peace
If you’d like some insider information on the seventh book this year in the Be Still series, what might be next after Be Still, as well as exclusives on my fictional works projects, then hop on over to my author website and sign up for my email newsletter: The Road Less Traveled. You won’t want to miss it.
Note: Wikipedia defines the liturgical calendar, also called the liturgical year, church year or Christian year, as “the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.”
The first page of this year’s calendar has already fallen away. January behind us, February rushing in. March fast approaching. As I flip through my bullet journal planner (I LOVE my bullet journal), I wonder how quickly will the events to come become events in the past?
That said, after the crazy, joy-filled holidays and hitting the ground running in January, I’ve finally had a few moments—thanks to the ice storm that cancelled everything in Central Texas—to outline what I hope to accomplish over the next few of months.
Hope being the operative word, because what I plan for and what happens are often quite different. Also Hope, because that’s the title of the sixth Be Still book we released on Amazon in November.
As I prepared for the book release (the usual: updating my author website here, ordering books to sell, replenishing my stock of the other five Be Still books, and creating an author poster for the Artisan Faire at Journey Fellowship) I had a startling realization.
I have six books published.
To be honest, I never quite took my books as seriously as I should. But, to be fair, the first was a proof of concept. Inspiration showed up, Amazon provided the means, I wondered if I could, so I decided to try. And I did it. Then I did it again. And again. And, well you get the idea. Six books. And this year will mark the seventh and final book of the Be Still series. (Although, I have to admit, the six look nice as an image, don’t you think? Symmetrical. But seven is completion. So seven it will be.) To order, visit me on my Amazon author page here.
Then what? I’m not sure. I have a few ideas. And that reminds me. If you’d like some insider information on the seventh book, what might be next after Be Still, as well as exclusives on my fictional works in project, then hop on over to my author website and sign up for my email newsletter: The Road Less Traveled. You won’t want to miss it.
When I have seven subscribers, I’ll send out the first newsletter. Then I hope (there’s that word again) to release quarterly newsletters. And while I have your attention, if you’ve read any of my other books, I would LOVE some positive book reviews on Amazon here. Your reviews help my books rise to the top of the search output and not be lost in Amazon’s gargantuan virtual warehouse.
If you’re interested in more, like in what I read, you can visit me at Goodreads here (maybe give me a follow and provide another review), and also drop me a comment on Facebook here. Would love to hear from you.
The pages keep turning. Plan wisely. Plan well. Then go. Live wisely. Live well.
Our trip had come to an end. It was time to head home. Our flight left at noon so we didn’t have to rush. The challenge that face us was fitting all of our Alaskan treasures into our suitcases. But we did it. Then tetrised our luggage into the rental car one last time and headed to the Fairbanks airport.
As we flew over Alaska, a layer of clouds stretched across the state and down into Canada, hiding the landscape below. Good bye Alaska. We’ve had an amazing time and hope to come back. Somewhere over Ts’ilʔos Provincial Park in southwestern Canada, the clouds began to break and we were treated to views below of rugged mountains, glaciers, blue lakes and rivers.
I watched as we flew over the many lovely islands between Vancouver Island and Seattle. I longed to visit and explore. We had an extremely tight layover for our next flight. The pilot asked all the passengers who did not have a flight leaving shortly to please stay seated and allow those that did to exit first. I was skeptical as to how well that would work. To our amazement, the majority of the passengers did as asked. We were able to quickly deplane (I thanked everyone over and over as I made my way to the exit) and get to our next gate minutes before it started to board. A shout out to the passengers on that Alaskan Air flight into Seattle that day.
But would our luggage make it?
Lifting off out of Seattle we were treated to another spectacular sight: Mount Rainier lit by the afternoon sun.
We arrived at the almost empty Austin airport around midnight. Yet one last place that was turning out the lights and locking the doors behind us—or so it seemed. We quickly gathered our luggage (which made it!), shuttled to our vehicle, loaded up, and headed home
We were starving. Our layover hadn’t allowed for a chance to grab dinner. We were back in Texas, so of course—Whataburger. We stopped at the one in San Marcos for to-go orders and made it home about 3 am. We rested on Friday and our traveling companions headed back to Mississippi on Saturday.
Thank you, Cheryl and Sparky, for an amazing adventure into Alaska. Without y’all, we might night have gone. Let’s keep checking those airline fares for another trip. We’ve got to see the Northern Lights and Denali still.
"The Lord God gives me the right words to encourage the weary.
Each morning he awakens me eager to learn his teaching;
he made me willing to listen and not rebel or run away."
"We are your symphony, Mr. Holland. We are the melodies and the notes of your opus. We are the music of your life."
— Governor Gertrude Lang (Joanna Gleason) in Mr. Holland's Opus
"It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
"...to be little with God is to be little for God."
"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."
"He became what we are that He might make us what He is"
Saint Athanasius, 295-373
"It is the Christ in you, who recognizes the Christ in me...From now on, wherever you go, or wherever I go, all the ground between us will be holy ground."
Henri J.M. Nouwen
"…I have no better answer than the example of Jesus, who knew above any of us the wisdom of the Father and yet who felt a strong need to flood the heavens with requests."
"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried."
"The well of your incompleteness runs deep, but make the effort to look away from yourself and to look toward Him."