Resurrection Sunday

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You’ve put on your Easter clothes. You’ve piled into the car with a smile on your face. You greet your church family with Happy Easter!

This is how it goes, right?

Then we go home, eat a big meal with family, put away our Easter clothes and go back to life. Until next year.

But. What if we lived each day, like it is Resurrection Sunday? What if we didn’t think of Jesus’ sacrifice once a year, but every single day? What if, we felt God’s incredible love with every morning breath we take in, and every exhale before sleep.

What if we truly lived every moment as a resurrection moment?

Because when confronted with the absolute love and sacrifice of God, how can we live any other way?

This Easter, don’t put away the story for another year. Live into the promise of that cross, each and every day, and remember:

I-am-known-I-am-loved-I

 

Happy Easter, friends. Carry that message of hope out into the world, wherever your feet carry you.

 

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Friday Encouragement: A Hard Beautiful Day

Good Friday is a hard beautiful day. Jesus on the cross. Our sins laid bare. Dying for us. For the people who get it wrong so often.

Yet, in that hard space, where the sky darkens and the earth shakes, we are transformed. IMG_3429

 

We know he lives, he rises, he loves.

 

 

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Death doesn’t get the final say.

Garden of the Gods

 

God does.

 

Remember in the hard times there is a God who is unshakeable. When death knocks on our doors God gathers us in his arms and dries our tears. When you don’t feel worthy God loves you, exactly how you are.

Today is hard. But it isn’t the end.

It is the beginning.

 

 

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We all get a happy ending

I am a sucker for a happy ending.

When I curl up with a book, I want to read about someone who triumphs over the hard times. The movies I watch are people fighting to keep joy when the world tells them it isn’t possible. I like the news stories that tell the hard truths so we can see the beauty underneath.

I don’t like happy endings because I want the world to be perfect, I like happy endings because that is where creation is heading.

This week is a busy week in the Church. We started out on Sunday full of joy waving palm branches and singing. Then we stand in confusion with the disciples. The holiness of the last supper. The heartbreak of Christ’s prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. The betrayal by Judas. The denial by Peter.

We lay weeping with the sky at the devastation of the cross.

But.

That isn’t the end of the story. Three days later, Christ rises and appears to the women. Appears to the men on the road. Appears to the disciples.

He rises. He lives. He ascends.

Our happy ending is knowing the world doesn’t win. Our human condition is set right with Christ’s resurrection. God is victorious. We are no longer separated from our Creator.

Christ’s love brings us into God. Right here. Right now. With every breath.

It isn’t something we have to wait for. It isn’t a far off day. He is with us. And He is with God. We are with God.

So no matter what happens, we live in the certainty that we rest, work, and live with God. Not when you are perfect, but right now. Not when the world catches up, but right now. Not at the end of our lives, but right now.

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Even in the hard times. The times we aren’t so good. The times that bring us to our knees. Because of the resurrection, we are, every single minute, with God.

Sometimes Christianity gets it wrong. We say because we’re so bad, Jesus had to die on the cross. I used to think that way, and it led to religiosity and not joy. Now, I see that God loves us so much. He wanted to give us our happy ending now.

And that is the hope I live into each day.

God loves me so much. He loves you, so much. He couldn’t wait until the world caught up to Him.

And that is my happy ending. That is the story I will tell people I meet. The promise is already here.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

This Easter live into our happy ending. Go in peace and tell the world.

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Friday Encouragement: You are Beautiful

The world is loud with voices telling you who you are, who you aren’t and who it thinks you should be.

But, you? You are beautiful.

Exactly the way you are. The eyes you don’t like, or the body you fight, or the heart you doubt. All of it is beautiful. You are good. Your heart is good. Sometimes we lose our way to goodness but at the center of all of us is God. When we stop arguing with the world and accept the holiness of our being and the transformation already inside, love wins.

Every time.

It takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? Knowing you don’t have to do anything. Just be. That is the power of Christ. That is what we should show the world as Christians. God doesn’t separate himself from any of us and if God is in all of us and, if all of us believed in the ultimate holiness of our being,

The world would be bright with God’s love.

Go out today in the peace of Christ and the God who already loves you and say to yourself, to your family, your friends, your spouse,

You-are-treasured-You

 

That is life-giving. That is life-changing. That is Kingdom changing.

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Hard Days

There is troubling news all around us and I see friends on Facebook and friends in conversation struggling with this world. This world is hard. Really hard. People get sick. People leave this world too soon. Racism persists. Hatred continues. Children die because they don’t have enough to eat.

This world doesn’t have the answers.

Today on my run I was listening to Rob Bell talking about the immensities of life. The things that happen that have no explanation, the cancers, the hurt, the pain people experience just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And he told the story of Jacob. A man who wrestled with God and walked away with a limp. Not in in pain, but because he experienced the divine.

That may now be my favorite Rob Bell quote.

We live in a world where love and suffering live alongside each other. Creation hasn’t caught up to God’s divine love and that middle place is difficult, lonely and hard most days.

But the right now isn’t how the world ends. It’s just the growing pains to our ultimate story.

Now-the-dwelling-of-GodGod will wipe our tears. God does. He experiences our pain, knows our suffering. He isn’t a distant God who leaves us to suffer. He wipes our tears.

And I believe we can have peace right now. In the midst of tragedy, in the midst of life that doesn’t make sense. When you turn on the news and your heart grows sick, remember God is unshakeable. And we are unshakeable because we are with him. Don’t get stuck in the pain of this world, because the world doesn’t win in the end.

Love Does.

Go out today in the peace of a God who doesn’t fail. Who gathers and protects the people of this world and showers his glory on us all. Don’t let your heart grow sick with the world, let it rejoice in the certainty that the world will be transformed.

Just as you have been

 

 

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Your bright light

You my child have light. The world will tell you that your light isn’t bright enough or important enough. The container it is in is the wrong size or shape, or it’s too broken to make a difference. The world will have you believe your light won’t be missed.

But your light matters.

It matters to the people who know you and the ones who don’t. It matters to the person you just smiled at, the person you called by name. It matters to the church that is dark, the city cloaked in sadness, and the workplace stumbling.

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It is your unique vessel mixed with God’s love and that produces a light that will never shine like anyone else’s.

Don’t hide that light.

Don’t seal the cracks.

Don’t plaster over what makes your light yours.

Let your light shine, because your light matters.

It will be missed. Shine it loudly, the world needs to see it.

Don’t hide it beneath layers of insecurity and doubt. It is brighter than you think. The cracks and the crumbling spots just shine that light even brighter.

And always remember, it is your body and God’s love that make the light shine in this world.

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So shine bright, and don’t doubt for a second that your light matters.

 

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One neighborhood at a time

Yesterday we were driving down a stretch of Cleveland the kids had never been on. My son spoke up from the backseat, “Mommy, I don’t want to go into this spookytown.”

I looked around me and tried to see what he saw. The town wasn’t spooky, it was tired. It was worn out. It wasn’t sparkling and new. There weren’t mansions lining the streets and artisan bread shops. There was little green space and garbage lined the sidewalks from the recent snow melt.

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It was the inner city. Not a ghost town.

My oldest daughter asked why everyone was smoking. And Margo screamed out, “That man just littered!”

I realized right then how much I have sheltered my kids from the city of Cleveland.  As we drove further towards my volunteering gig in Slavic village, the kids saw houses boarded up. Factories shuttered. Stores unopened. People walking everywhere. Heads down. Slow and steady.

There were no grocery stores. No restaurants. The streets are lined by houses that I often pray no one lives in.

But I also know, inside these neighborhoods are families who love each other. Kids who can make a difference where they live. Helpers who are investing heavily in organizations because they believe that a city needs to work together to change lives. There are houses well loved. Not everyone is hungry.

But also in these neighborhoods are people hurting. People who need jobs. Kids who need fathers. Families who need food and safe and reliable housing. People who need choices and opportunities.

People who need hope.

When I worked at the library I once had a boy tell me he stayed in bed until the very last minute during the winter. Underneath his nest of blankets he was warm. When he had to get up, he jumped out of bed and ran to school or the library depending on the day just so he could be warm.

It broke my heart because I knew he wasn’t the only one.

We turned from that road onto another. It wasn’t so scary to the kids. The kids recognized fast food restaurants and the streets boasted commerce, no matter how small. This wasn’t spookytown anymore.

What I realized, is my kids saw poverty and couldn’t imagine anyone living there. They thought it was a ghost town. Abandoned. Forgotten.

And the inner city is abandoned and forgotten most of the time, just not in the way they realized.

We arrived at the health center and we got to work. I interacted with a boy a year older than Margo. Margo helped him on the iPad with his numbers and colors. The older two flew through games that usually frustrate the kids I work with. My oldest daughter watched a boy her age care for his newborn brother. And she was flabbergasted at the responsibility he had.

And all I could think about while I was there is the disparity between opportunities. My kids will always have choices. What schools they go to, what activities they play, how they spend their free time, what food they want to eat. They dress in shorts in the winter because our house is always warm. We go to the pool in the summer when it is too hot to think. We take vacations, go to the lake. Walking is for fun and not for going somewhere. We eat out a restaurants and have so much food we end up throwing some of it away each week.

We play, we read, we talk to each other because we have the space and energy to do that.

I have four grocery stores within 5 minutes of me. four stores I can drive to, stores that I don’t have to figure out a bus schedule, or how I will get the food home. There are so many schools nearby they hold open houses. You can tour and pick the best one for your children. There are rec leagues, private lessons, sports centers all over advertising for your kid’s time.

The streets are maintained. Our electricity lines worked on. Streets cleaned. Garbage picked up by neighbors as they stroll through the neighborhoods.

We have so many opportunities and possibilities on this side of town and there lies the difference between us and the inner city.

On the way back home we passed through the same streets. We saw a house being torn down. The kids wondered why that house was and the one next to it wasn’t. It was in the same disrepair.

The difference, someone lived in the house next door.

I don’t know if the trip affected the kids. Will it change how they interact with poverty and race relations in our city as they grow up? I know one trip can’t do that, but repeated exposure to those who suffer so close to us has to.

Except most of the time we hide from it.

When I drove everyday to work in central Cleveland, I couldn’t ignore what happened in front of me. I saw it, I felt it, and it hurt. I loved the people I met and talked to each day. It reminded me we aren’t different. We all want the same things in life.

We want to be known, chosen and loved. We want to take care of our families and loved ones. We want meaningful work. We want a safe place to live and a warm house to surround us. We want friends to surround us and a long life to look forward to.

When I stopped working at the library, I started to forget that I was a part of the solution. I forgot that I had the power to change the city.

One neighborhood at a time.

When I pulled into the garage and turned off the car, I felt certain I couldn’t let the kids ignore the rest of the city. They could live most of their childhood without being exposed to those “spookytowns” but I know I don’t want that for them.

I want their hearts to be soft, open and willing to fight for places in our cities that have been forgotten. But in order for that to happen, I have to take them outside the comfort of here and allow them to see the world as it sometimes can be.

I don’t want them to say the poor will always be with us. I want them to understand that and try to change it anyway.

The only way the inner city will improve is if we step outside our neighborhoods and serve.

Very-truly-I-tell-you

What is one thing you can do to change the lives of those living in poverty? We all can do something. What is your thing? And what will it take for you to have the confidence to go and do it?

 

 

 

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