Rest

3 04 2010
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Ages and ages hence

They were forced to be still.  No work to keep their hands busy was allowed.  An afternoon nap was acceptable, but who could sleep after yesterday’s events?  Everything they had believed in and lived for died with Him.  And now, by Law, they could do nothing.

The Day of Preparation (Friday, the day before the Sabbath) had been bursting with events like no other.  Jesus was marched through Jerusalem carrying His cross, crucified between two thieves, and left there to find His way to death during which He forgave His executioners.  He died, confirmed by the water and blood that flowed from the sword wound in His side, and was wrapped in cloths and laid in a tomb by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

The Passover Sabbath was especially holy as stories about the night before the escape from Egypt hundreds of years ago were fresh in everyone’s minds told at Seder meals a few days earlier.  Every Jewish household slaughtered a lamb and smeared its blood above the front door and on the side-posts from a bowl on the threshold.  Jesus’ followers had plenty of time to think on the Sabbath after His death.  Did they remember the Passover sacrifice and notice the foreshadowing of Messiah in the ritual?

Several main players, Pilate, the Roman Prefect, and the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees, were busy on the Sabbath making sure that the tomb was guarded and sealed.  Was the walk to and from Pilate’s court short enough to be allowed on the Sabbath or considered a holy exception due to the circumstances surrounding the “Deceiver”?  What about meeting with a government official?  Seems like their regular workday to me.  In any case, they are the only ones mentioned in the four Gospels doing anything on Saturday.  The women who followed Jesus saw where He was buried on the day of preparation, observe the Sabbath, then make their way to the tomb at sunrise on the first day of the week.  The disciples aren’t mentioned at all until Mary finds the tomb empty and runs to tell them.

So what was everyone who had followed Jesus for the last few years doing the day after He died?  We don’t know.  We know that observing the Sabbath required two things: resting from all work and acknowledging God.  But what each follower of Jesus did on the Sabbath between His death and the first day of the week isn’t recorded in Scripture.  Did they go to the temple without their Rabbi to worship with the overflowing crowd who had come to Jerusalem for Passover?  Did they sleep, trying to forget the ache in their hearts?  Did they hide from the vicious occupying army that had just killed the One they thought was Messiah, the One who would free them from the Romans?  Did they wonder if they had imagined it all?  Did they decide it had been a too-good-to-be-true dream and return to their homes?  Were they able to rest?  Could they acknowledge God?

Maybe my imagination and curiosity are too active.  I always want to know the back-story.  It helps me understand and put myself into what was happening.  And when information is missing, I wonder why.  Why, when there is so much detail about all the other days surrounding this most important week of all weeks, is this Sabbath barely mentioned?  Was God too busy with what was going on in the spiritual realm to pay attention to a handful of earthlings?  Why are the details from this day not in the Bible?

I don’t have a clue.  I wish I did.  Every year on the day before Resurrection Sunday, I ask myself the same question.

And every year, looking at the context of Saturday – smack-dab in between Crucifixion and Resurrection-I come around to the same, somewhat cliché, observations which I humbly offer in the absence of any real answers.

+  The horror of Jesus’ death needed to truly sink in before His resurrection.  (Of course, the three days in the grave also fulfilled prophecy and was medical proof that He was really, completely dead.)  Without the agonizing time to take in what had just happened, the joy of the Resurrection would have been more like a head-jerking surprise.  “Wait… didn’t you just… die??”

+  God often does His greatest work when everything we see and know is absolutely dark, and waiting is part of the process.  We don’t know what His followers actually did, but we DO know they were distraught, probably in the darkest days of their lives, and unable to do anything except rest and acknowledge God.  I find it interesting that the chief priests remembered that Jesus said He would rise on the third day, so they asked that guards be posted and the tomb be sealed.  None of the disciples goes to the tomb on the third day in expectation or just plain curiosity to check out whether Jesus’ prophecy comes true or not.  On the contrary, the women only discover that that the tomb is empty because they are bringing spices to complete His burial anointing.  They didn’t expect Him to rise.  They thought it was over, and God lets them wait.

+  Timing is one of God’s most creative tools.  He often does exactly what I think He should, but not according to my timeline.  He gets it right every time and at the right time.  Our part is waiting.  Waiting is part of what it means to be human.  We are bound by time-He is not, yet He works within time for our benefit, orchestrating each event masterfully.  Providing a day before displaying His power over death brought glory to His Son and proved that He is God.  Ultimate good came from temporary agony.

I still want to know what was going on during that Sabbath when it seemed to the scattered followers of a not-yet-risen Messiah to be the longest Sabbath rest of their lives.  Maybe the not knowing, at least for me, intensifies the search for Truth.

That is a good enough answer for me.

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Flying

29 12 2009

His silhouette flew into my peripheral vision, climbing a long, wide spiral until I could barely see him—just a black dot against a hint of cloud.  Two other hawks caught my attention the same way earlier in the day as I drove into the gentle hills of southern Michigan from the flat Indiana fields.

“So what’s up with that God?  Why all the hawks??”

He often gets my attention with His creation, especially with there’s repetition.  But weeks went by, each with another hawk or two soaring above me, catching the wind this way, then that, without explanation.

“I’m listening God.  What are you saying?”

Nothing.  So instead of looking for more hawks, I forgot about them.  For over a year.

—-

The sun covered me with delicious waves of warmth on an early winter afternoon while I waited in the passenger side of our van in the mall parking lot.  My head rested on the back of the seat giving me a total view of a perfect sky—deep blue with clouds so white they sparkled on the edges.

And there were hawks!  A pair, followed by three more, and another wound in slow circles across the clouds and into blue like a flock of tiny pendulums arcing in time to some distant music.  Time stood still.  Or at least it slowed down a bit as I inhaled slower and more deeply imagining myself soaring with them over the parking lot, a white graph partially filled with neatly parked autos.  The adjacent field, newly sheared of its corn crop—a rectangle of lush corduroy draped over the rises fell into the valleys, fringed with leafless branches.

I fly in my dreams, so I have an easy time imagining the hawks’ view.  Seeing everything at once—a road’s gradual curve almost undetectable on the ground becomes obvious at the height.  Lowlands, though difficult to discern dimensionally, defined by the darker earth spreading alongside a creek’s journey beyond the horizon, exposed in contour.

“I understand, Father.  That’s it, isn’t it?”

One of the hawks dove deeply in a divine Nod.

Perspective from a distance reveals things unnoticeable from the ground where reality bends to distortions like looking through a short camera lens.  Distance, the ability to step back is a key to perspective.

—-

To my far distant ancestors, the Celts, the hawk was the symbol for perspective.  The prudent and wise when hearing the cry of a hawk during a journey would become alert to what might lie ahead in order to face the unknown with boldness and decisiveness instead of being thrown off balance.  Flying with the sun shining through its feathers, the hawk was considered noble and able to inspire progress.

—-

Four years have gone by since God’s messages using the hawks began, and I’m just beginning to understand what He has been saying to me through them.  Appropriate since perspective is built through time!  I am more resilient than I was four years ago as I can look back and have His perspective on where I’ve been.  The road has curved, imperceptibly from the ground view, but obviously closer to His heart when seen from a distance.  The hawks continue to soar above me reminding me to step back and look at the road, then continue in His boldness and in the confidence I have learned.  And ultimately they inspire me to fly.

(For more info on choosing a one-word New Year’s Resolution go to http://www.myoneword.org/)





First (and Last) Fruits

29 09 2009

LAST FRUIT (Sep 29, 2009)

The last crop of 2009

The last crop of 2009

My ears ache and my nose is running.  Last week I was wearing shorts, and all the windows in the house were wide open.  Today I wore two sweaters and jeans on my morning walk and matched the brisk weather with a crisp pace.  Fall is officially here.

Yesterday I picked what I think will be the last of the tomato crop.  Once the days are cooler and less sunny, the green ones stop ripening.  My mother-in-law picks all the green tomatoes before the last frost and somehow manages to get them to turn red in the house.  I’ve tried her method.  “Wrap them in newspaper and leave them in the cellar, then when they begin to turn yellow, put them on the kitchen window sill, and be sure to turn them daily.”  All I ever got was newspapers soaked with the juice of a couple dozen rotting green tomatoes in the basement.  I left all the green ones on the vines.

The last tomato harvest turns summer to fall for me and sets the “before winter” to-do list into motion.  Gardens must be cleaned out, overgrown perennials split up and moved, and Christmas planning begun.  The cooler temperatures are energizing, but the last tomato crop is always a wistfully sad day for me.

There will be eight months before seedlings begin to appear in the garden from last year’s drops.  Then another two filled with cultivating, thinning, tying vines to the fence, and daily watching for the first ripe fruit.

FIRST FRUIT  (Jul 26, 2009)

Ripening Tomatoes

Note quite ripe

I’ve been watching everyday for a couple of weeks now, ever since I got a photo from a friend from a warmer growing zone of her first garden harvest.  Just yesterday I looked—no ripe tomatoes yet.  Sigh.  Summer isn’t fully here until the tomatoes are ripe.

And today, I knew there be any ripe overnight, but I looked anyway from across the yard while “taking in the warshing”, as my gramma used to say.  And I saw red!  Leaving the towels draped over the edge of the basket, I had to get closer.  YES!  I had an entire cluster of cherry tomatoes turned bright red and untouched by bugs or birds (quite rare in my garden!)  I picked the two reddest, pulled off the stems, and rubbed the droplets of whatever that stuff is that makes a tomato plant smell weird and gets your hands sticky green. I paused, just briefly in full salivation mode, to wonder why the first tomato of the season taste so good, and then I more than tasted it—I put the entire fruit in my mouth and bit down.

Slightly sweet, and wonderfully tart juice burst into and out of my mouth trickling down my chin, since I couldn’t but help grin, thus breaking the first rule of cherry tomato eating: never, under any circumstances, open your mouth when biting down.  Again, I thought about why these two particular tomatoes are so special.  They really didn’t taste as good as the ones I will let stay on the vine just a little longer, testing my luck with the bugs and birds, until the sun transforms them into the sweet acidic gems in my salads.

But they are the First.  I have waited since last fall for this taste, through the barrenness of winter (surviving on grocery store imitations), the toil of spring, and the anticipation of summer.  The deliciousness, I think, is intensified by the long wait.

Some years I have given a Biblical First Fruits Offering, by taking the first luminous tomatoes to a neighbor.  The sacrifice of waiting just a couple more days for more green tomatoes to soak up the sun’s ripening power is intensely real and acute.  The recipient doesn’t even know the gift they are eating, but that’s part of the sacrifice.

——————–

Waiting is hard in America because we have the economic infrastructure to gratify our desires.  We truck in produce from warmer climes; we have express checkout lanes in grocery stores; Fed-Ex profits from our need-to-have-it-now culture; and if circumstances don’t happen quickly enough, we feel we have a right to complain.  If we don’t have the money for what we want, we buy on credit instead of building a fund from week to week until we put the last dollar in the jar.

Watching my tomatoes this summer has taught me a valuable lesson– I guess I knew it, but never thought about it consciously.  By giving in to my desires and pushing aside the waiting, I rob myself of the sweetness that can only come after the waiting.

There is a bowl of tomatoes on my kitchen counter, but I’m already longing for the taste of the sun-warmed first-fruits next July.

What do you think?  Do you enjoy waiting?  Have you experienced the greater joy of delayed gratification?  I’d really like to know.

FINAL NOTE

You’ve been waiting for over a month (eagerly, I hope!) for this Ordinary Girl to post.  I promise to strive to post weekly, like I said I was going to (barring any computer crashes).  But… if you have to wait a little longer, maybe your enjoyment will be increased with the anticipation.








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