Tag Archives: Resurrection

The Phone Call I Never Wanted

Oh Glenys… this is the phone call you never wanted.

I hear the tremor in my brother’s voice. He’s 4000 long miles away, and I say a prayer in my head.

God, whatever this is, give me strength.

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Dad is dying. 

I can hear those three words like it was yesterday. My heart is beating fast and I kneel by my front window like I always do when I don’t know what else to do.

That was one year ago today.

My little grandsons are running around the house. There’s Christmas music playing. I’m setting the table with a cheery red cloth, preparing for a party. And then the next day, I’m on a plane, England bound, where I get to kiss my dad for the last time as he lies with his eyes closed and his hands folded in that quiet, quiet room, with a stuffed dog at his feet and an acorn tucked in his pocket.

Please, God, let me know you are real.

Let my dad be living in heaven.

Let my faith not be in vain.

Let my words, let my words that I write for children, be true.

Because sometimes, just sometimes, there’s this little nagging doubt that creeps up inside me and I wonder what life is all about, and if I really will get to see my dad again, like I told him with absolute certainty on my knees that day in front of my window.

I love you Dad, and I WILL see you again.

I could hear his breathing.

My voice was strong, and in that moment, I was convinced, just like Paul, that NOTHING, not even death itself, can ever separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

But today, I’m not strong. I’m not convinced. And I’m trying hard to hold on to my faith, my God, like I’m drowning in the ocean and it’s my only life-line, my only hope and it’s slipping fast through my fingers.

But what is faith? What is hope, the writer of Romans said, if it can be seen?

The day after I kissed my dad goodbye, as he lay in that simple wooden box, I stood in the street just a few doors down the road, while my sister and nieces played Christmas carols in the brass band. The icy wind blew my sister’s hair, and the rain in Wigan was cold. I wondered if my dad could hear them play his favorite carol, as he lay there, all alone.

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

I know my dad has been raised. I know my dad has gained that second birth. I just miss him terribly, and there’s this big, empty hole in my heart that no one can fill.

And so as my family gather in England today to celebrate and remember the life of the most Christ-like man I have ever known, the one I was utterly, utterly privileged to call Dad, I will take a walk in these Michigan wintry woods, and I’ll admire the splendid trees, all covered in soft snow, and I’ll listen for the birds he loved so much, and I’ll thank God that my dad, my wonderful dad, is in heaven.

Our Ridiculous God

It was this time last year, when the sun shone hot over the water and the family of geese floated by. That’s when it happened.. something so ridiculous that only God could have done it.

We’re standing in the back yard, my husband and I. We’re not alone. There are others here too, perusing the papers passed to them by the realtor. They’re doing what we’re doing – trying to imagine themselves living in this home, this little home on the lake. But it is little. Cute… but would we have room for our family when they come to visit from England?

I blame the Fletters. It was that family, among others, who made us fall in love with the ridiculous idea of lake-living when we came to live in the United States. Fifteen long years ago it was when they took us to that lovely lake home where we were first introduced to the fun of tubing, and the crazy idea of swimming in a lake.

No-one in England swims in a lake. I can remember saying incredulously. They’re freezing!

But not in Michigan. In Michigan they are warm, and welcoming. And people live on them.

But not us. I remember thinking. We’ll never live on a lake, because we live in parsonages. We go where God sends, and that means a home I’ll never get to choose myself.

But who knows what God has in store? Not me.

So this time last year, the unimaginable is about to happen. And we’re thinking about this little home. We’re standing on the grass that looks and feels like a luxurious sponge, and we’re looking out over the water to where kayakers float effortlessly and two white swans drift by. And my husband turns around to look at the neighbor’s house. It’s much bigger. It has a lovely deck. And a cute little beach. And for some ridiculous reason, there’s an ‘Open House’ sign hanging there too.

Now that’s a lake home Glenys. He says. Look at next door! Look at that lovely deck! That’s a home big enough to share with our family from England. Let’s go and peek inside.

I remember saying it clearly:

Don’t be ridiculous. 

And twelve months later, when those same white swans are drifting by, and the sun is sinking in a pool of red over the lake, that lovely deck is the one from which I write. That lovely home is the one we’re sharing right now with our family from England.

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And all the thanks and praise goes to God, who whispers crazy things like:

Just hold your staff over the water Moses, and see what happens. 

(Can’t you just hear Moses saying, Don’t be ridiculous!)

Or: Just march around those massive walls Joshua, and see what happens. 

(Can’t you just hear Joshua saying, Don’t be ridiculous!)

Or: Just wait three days Mary …you will see me again.

(Can’t you just hear Mary saying, Don’t be ridiculous!)

But that’s our ridiculous God… who does the impossible, who whispers the incredible, who resurrects fifteen year old dreams and breathes them back to life.

Yes God is good: in earth and sky,

From ocean’s depth and spreading wood,

Ten thousand voices seem to cry,

God made us all, and God is good.

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Where Hope is Hiding

It was a grey, misty morning when the plane took off from Portland’s International airport.

The drive to the airport had been bleak too. Who likes goodbyes? The weather matched my mood.

We gave our last hugs and boarded the plane, Michigan bound. Rain poured down the little windowpane.

But less than five minutes later, this was our view….

Mount Hood

Mount Hood’s spectacular snow-capped peak was waiting to surprise us, in skies bluer than the ocean, and brighter than I could believe. We had climbed above the clouds, and left the rain behind.

No matter what, there’s always hope.

And when hope seems to hide… beyond the clouds, or deep in the darkness of the earth, or curled in the shriveled chrysalis… we just have to remember that it’s waiting, unseen, to surprise us.

Because every daffodil that was once squashed deep in the dirt, and every butterfly that was once caught in the chrysalis, and every mountain peak that was once shrouded in mist, they all sing the same glorious song….

it’s the song of hope.

Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark. George Iles.

That Quiet Cave…

Jesus was dead.

Joseph and Nicodemus were sad. They carefully took his body down from the cross. They cleaned him. They made him smell nice. They wrapped his body in strips of white linen and carried him to a quiet cave on the hillside. They laid Jesus down inside the cave. Then they said goodbye. And before they left, they rolled a big stone over the entrance.

Jesus was dead.

Outside the cave, two guards kept watch. The big heavy stone was sealed in place. Around the cave, leaves fluttered silently in the wind. Above the cave, the skies were gray. Rain fell softly from heaven and pitter-pattered on the hillside. And for three whole days, all was still.

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But inside that quiet cave something was happening.

God was working.

God was doing a new thing.

If you tried to peep inside, you couldn’t see anything. No eye could see it.

If you stood outside and put your ear to the big stone, you couldn’t hear anything. No ear could hear it.

If you tried to imagine what was happening, you couldn’t. No mind could imagine it.

But inside, God was doing something new—something utterly amazing. Something only God could do.

Jesus waited.

And the world held its breath and waited with him.

No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, Never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him. 1 Corinthians 2:9

The Trouble with Holy Week

I will not buy a glass of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice. I will not. Even though I know how delicious it is, and I really do want one. I turn away from this tempting stall even though I can smell its juicy, ripe fruit from here, and try to focus.

I’m standing in one of Jerusalem’s tiny, fascinating, cobbled streets. This route is called the Via Dolorosa. I’m one of a group, trying to listen to our tour guide as we follow in the last footsteps of Jesus. The triumphal procession and celebration of Palm Sunday is long gone for Jesus. What lies ahead is horrific, and unbelievable, and unimaginably cruel.

These are the very streets through which Jesus dragged his heavy cross, stumbling under its weight, bleeding onto the cobbles, while people watched and laughed and cheered.

We’ve just emerged from the darkness of an underground room, the place where Pilate condemned Jesus to death. We’re ready to go where Jesus went. I’m behind my sister-in-law and I hear her whisper to my brother, as she slips her hand in his:

Let’s follow the footsteps of Jesus.

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I’m already feeling emotional as I really think about where his footsteps would take him.

But as soon as we emerge on to those busy Jerusalem streets, that’s when I see the pomegranates, and the scarves, and smell the coffee. And that’s when I lose my focus.

The narrow, winding alleys are simply filled with life, and color, and busyness, and sound. Everywhere I look there are stalls filled with things I want….

I see that fruit and suddenly, instead of thinking about the sour vinegar- the last drink that Jesus would have-  I’m thinking about that freshly squeezed pomegranate juice I could have.

I see a myriad of colorful scarves, blowing in the wind, and suddenly, I’m not thinking about the crown of thorns that Jesus wore- I’m thinking about the pretty blue scarf  I could wear.

I see the little Israeli coffee stall and suddenly, I’m not thinking about the smell of blood and sweat as Jesus fell to the cobbles under the weight of his cross- I’m thinking about the delicious aroma of freshly ground coffee mixed with cardamom seeds.

Let’s follow in the footsteps of Jesus, she said.

But I’m terrible at it.

It’s so very hard… to walk with Jesus through this Holy Week, to truly contemplate the meaning of Maundy Thursday, and to experience the grief of Good Friday. But for Jesus, it was the only way, the only way, to that empty tomb, to Resurrection Sunday.

And if I wanted to, I could skip right through Holy Week. I could jump straight from Palm Sunday to Easter morning. I don’t have to go through any of it… because Jesus did it for me.

Help me, God, amidst the busyness and distractions of Holy Week, to try to remember that.

The Last Time I Saw my Dad…

The last time I saw my dad he was sitting under a magnolia tree.

It was the last time we would smile for the camera together; the last time we would laugh together; the last time we would sing hymns together under its leafy shade. But I didn’t know it then.

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It’s a splendid tree, this love, he said, with that wonderful twinkle in his eye that characterized my dad so perfectly. Just look at it! It’s really at its best. 

It wasn’t quite the truth. I knew it, and he knew it. The tree’s best days were certainly behind it. The tell-tale carpet of pink blossoms on the ground beneath our feet gave it away. But my dad was always one to look up, never to look down. It was the reason he saw the best in everything and everyone.

And so we smiled, and nodded together, and admired the splendid tree.

Now then, said my dad, as he looked up into its leafy boughs. Is that Mr Blackbird? He’s always here love, and he’s always singing. Well then, give us a tune.

And Mr Blackbird did. Perched high up on the branch as it swayed in the wind, the blackbird opened his beak and sang at the top of his voice. It was a beautiful tune, shrill and clear, a morning song that carried on the breeze and brought sunshine to the grey skies overhead.

My dad chuckled.

What about this one then? he asked, as he pursed his lips together and began to whistle a tune. The blackbird cocked his head to one side and listened. We waited. And sure enough, there came the obligatory reply. And so it went on: my dad whistling a tune and the blackbird copying.

That was in May, before summer gave way to fall, and autumn gave way to winter.

And on a December afternoon, I found myself kneeling at my front window, saying good-bye to my dad, as he lay 4000 long miles away, taking his final breaths.

Dad, it’s Glenys, I say, very deliberately and very slowly. It’s really important to me that my dad hear these words.

I have something very important to tell you. I can hear his breathing.

I love you Dad. And I WILL see you again. 

I can’t bring myself to say the word goodbye, and so I don’t. I save it for the moment I see him again, lying very still, and peaceful, and quiet.

I slip an acorn into his pocket as he’s lying there and kiss his head.

And on the morning of his funeral, I’m in front of the mirror, getting ready, when I hear something right outside my window. It’s a blackbird, perched high in the treetops, swaying back and forth in the wind, and singing for all it’s worth.

It’s so very loud. And it’s so very lovely. You’d never guess it was singing in the rain that morning, or that the sky above was so grey.

It’s just singing for all it’s worth, that little blackbird…

singing its song for a man who truly taught me how to live, whose legacy of love will last forever, who saw the best in everything, who sat with me under a splendid magnolia tree in May as blossoms of pink covered the ground.

Living in a Four Year Old’s World

My husband can draw. My sons can draw. I can’t.

I don’t know how old I was when I discovered this sad fact. But one day, I realized that my pictures didn’t look like they were supposed to. So I gave up.

When my husband was a young boy at school, the only thing he remembers about his art teacher was the day he looked up to see him taking out a large, black, permanent marker from his jacket pocket as he bent over to ask my husband a question about what he was drawing.

What’s that Nellist? He said, pointing to his picture.

It’s a cloud, sir. David replied.

Oh, I see, the teacher sniggered.

Then he promptly took his big, black, permanent marker and drew a large, ugly arrow across the sky, accompanied by a label that read:  A CLOUD.

Fortunately, my husband survived that scar. He is, in fact, a wonderful artist.

My grandson, at four years old, is a wonderful artist too. Totally uninhibited, he picks up the pen and creates life on the page. No-one has told him that rain is not purple, or that buds on one tree cannot possibly be multi-colored. He is not yet scarred by perfectionism, or skepticism, or the idea that he cannot draw. He simply draws.

In his picture, we are enjoying large blue lollipops together.

Tree in Spring, by Xander

There’s the merest sprinkling of rain, but the sun is peeking out from behind the clouds, drawn by Grandma, as per his instructions.

And center stage is his masterpiece…. a tall tree in spring, like the one we looked at outside my window, bursting with buds, and perfect in promise. It fills the entire page from the green of the grass to the blue of the sky. And If you look closely, you can see the multi-colored buds curled, like they are holding a secret; waiting to be opened.

There’s a song in his picture. And color. And hope. And two cars, because his little four-year old world always has wheels in it.

And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all live in that four-year old world, where buds on trees are multi-colored, and lollipops are huge, and there is no scarring, or labeling, or teachers with permanent markers in their pockets, just waiting to scribble on our dreams?

And I think everyone needs a picture like my grandson’s….pinned on their fridges, helping to remind them of sunshine

and new life

and the promise of spring,

even when there’s rain.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them. Henri Matisse

The Happy Place

front of tombNo-one knows for sure if the cave I stand in front of is the real tomb where Jesus lay. But I like to think so.

Of course it helped that the sun was shining that day; that birds were singing high in the treetops; that blossom was blowing in the wind; that voices were raised in song, echoing around The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem and filling it with peace.

We wait patiently in line for our turn to step inside.  I see the small doorway cut out of the rock; I see a huge circular stone standing nearby, like the one that would have been used to seal the entrance;

stone

I see people stepping out of the tomb. They are smiling.

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And then it’s our turn.

We step inside. It is quiet. And empty. And for a moment, we don’t say a word.

But when we do, it’s my sister that says,

This is a happy place.

And I laugh at her perfect pronouncement. She is so right! And I don’t feel like I have to whisper in here, as I have done at most of the holy sites. And I don’t feel like I have to tiptoe in here, like I did as a child in the graveyard, afraid to step on the tombs of the dead.

This is a happy place! This is not where we find the dead, but the living!

 

And we step out through the open door, just as Jesus did, two thousand years ago, where sunshine waits to greet us, and promise whispers in the air.

pauline stepping out of tomb

me stepping out of tomb

We step from darkness into light, and celebrate with every spring flower who has pushed her way out from darkest earth to find the place where she can bloom.

JESUS IS ALIVE!

He is not here he is risen

happy ending

mary & jesus

Where Hope is Hiding…

I sit in front of the window on yet another freezing cold Michigan morning. Snow lies thick and deep outside, as it has done for weeks, stretching as far as the eye can see, and covering the ground in a blanket of white. Winter is not yet ready to release her grip, and the shovel and snow blower stand at the ready.

But underneath that icy blanket, hidden deep in cold and dark, hope is living. She is simply asleep, waiting for her cue. And when the time is right, when she feels that little bit of warmth that whispers Spring, she will push her way through the dark and out into the light.

And she will not be alone.

When the snow is still melting, and the grass is beginning to reclaim her green, thousands of little shoots will rise. Like the advance of an invincible army, they will bravely break the soil, and daffodils and tulips will stand together and dance in the wind. And although it’s hard to imagine that now, it will surely happen. They are just waiting for their time.

And where would be the surprise of Spring without the weariness of Winter?

Where would be the beauty of the butterfly without the cold of the chrysalis?

Where would be the reality of resurrection without the grip of the grave?

And so we wait.

Through Lent.

Through Winter.

Through snow.

But we wait in hope. New life is on the way.

Garden Tomb

Taken in The Garden Tomb (Resurrection Site) Israel 2013