Friday, March 29, 2013

good friday

Things have been crazy here.  More on that later.  I'm just barely coming up for air after a week, I tell ya, a week!

But, thank God, I'm able to exhale today.  It's a day I want to slow down, exhale and take in what happened so many years ago today.

Thank You, Jesus.

I don't deserve it.

I don't deserve You.

The blog post below is from one of my favorite blogs.  It helped me to pause and take in, even just for a few minutes on Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the cross, all that He endured for me.  For me!  And you.

FRIDAY, MARCH 29, 2013

That terrible, horrible good Friday

Many years ago my girlfriends and I started a tradition of getting together for a potluck brunch on Good Friday. We changed things up over the years: one year we did a book exchange, another year we invited all of our moms. But the constant was that after chatting over breakfast casseroles and coffee we sat in a circle, passed around our bibles, and read the story of the Passion.

I remember the first year that we did this. It was Tracy Jo's turn to read and when she got to John 18:22,"When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. 'Is this the way you answer the high priest?' he demanded" she had to stop several times because she started sobbing.
And that's exactly why we did it. Because sitting around in our comfortable living room in our cute shoes with good friends made it easy to forget that they slapped him in the face.

Among other things they did to him.

Using our voices, stating out loud, in detail what they did to Jesus - what I did to Jesus - makes it more real.

Eventually most of my Good Friday girlfriends got married and had babies who greatly interfered with our social lives and the tradition died away. We hadn't met in a good five years when I moved from Houston.

I've missed it terribly.

This past Sunday in church our services was scripture reading, song, scripture reading song. Jen had the hard part about what they did to Jesus. And when she too burst into tears, I instantly remembered Tracy Jo and thought, I've got to revive the Good Friday brunch. 

Except Good Friday is a school holiday so Maundy Thursday worked better. A few emails and some beautifully likewise spontaneous friends later, I had bacon cheese grits, banana chocolate chip flaxseed muffins, Ethiopian coffee, three toddlers and six new Austin friends in my living room.

When we read there were definitely tears, especially from the pregnant guest. And I admit that I deliberately read first because I knew I would not be able to get through the last part intact. I still choked over "Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

But that's okay. It's a story worth crying over.

In our brunch tradition one of us would be chosen give a little lesson. I've been a bit distracted lately and didn't prepare anything, but after we read, I chose to share what I do know about the day we ironically call Good Friday.

So if you'd like, please read John 18-19 - aloud, if you're able, because using our voices makes it more real - then grab a cup of coffee, and pretend you're in my living room.

I'm warning you, one of my favorite hobbies is shattering false biblical perceptions. (I can completely and gleefully annihilate your porcelain Nativity scene.)

Drink up. You may need it.

Most of our images of Good Friday do not come from the bible but from Western European art, not from Scripture.

The Jesus at the top of this post painted by Diego Valazquez in 1623. It currently hangs in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. I have seen it. It is absolutely beautiful. It is also rather laughable in its historical inaccuracy.

Not only do we envision a medieval Spanish or French Jesus, but we also envision a very sanitized, G rated Christ: Jesus in a white diaper, one little trickle of blood trickling down his beautiful face as he endures the sins of the world with a peaceful, resigned sigh.

This sanitized image of the crucifixion is not only false, it is dangerous. As a child, I silently wondered what the big deal was about Jesus dying for me. He knew he was going to rise again, right? The images I saw in my children's bible reinforced my understanding that it just wasn't that big a deal. Therefore, my sin wasn'tthat big a deal. Therefore, his grace wasn't that big a deal. Right?


The crucifixion was bad. Really bad. Ex-cruciatingly bad. The physical suffering that the Lord underwent for my sin is beyond my imagination, not to mention the psychological and spiritual suffering of being separated from his Father and scorned by his friends.

These are some things I've learned over the years about the crucifixion that changed the way I used to view that terrible, horrible, Good Friday.

  1. Jesus was probably pushing 40 when He died.

    Both Matthew and Luke, who was a stickler for details, tells us that Jesus was born during the reign ofHerod the Great, and Mary and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem for the census. 
    There was a major census in 6 BC which may have been the one they went down for. Scholars are typically in agreement that Herod died in 4 BC, so Jesus had to be born before then. Also, Matthew tells us that Herod commanded the slaughter of all baby boys ages 2 and under, and assuming he did this shortly before his death, it would make sense that he thought Jesus had been born during that 6 BC census. At the earliest, Jesus was born in 4 BC.

    It is widely accepted that Jesus died in 33 AD. Luke 3 says that Jesus began his ministry when he was about 30, during the 15th year of Tiberius Ceasar's reign, which is documented as AD 26-27.  So by 33 AD, Jesus would be 37 at the youngest. If we believe the 6 BC date, he was 39 when he died.

    So why do we think he was 33? Because he died in 33 and we think he was born in the year zero. Problem is, there was no year zero. Let it go.

  2. Jesus had short hair and wasn't that cute.
    There is nothing in the bible to suggest that Jesus had long hair, and there is plenty to suggest that he - and all Jews except Nazerites - had short hair. (For a detailed rationale on this, go here.

    Isaiah 52 makes it clear that "
    He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."

     other words, he looked nothing like this:

  3. Diogo Morgado as rock star Jesus in The History Channel's "The Bible"  
3. His beard was ripped from his face. 

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Isaiah 50:6

Jewish men wore beards, as prescribed in Leviticus. It was, and still is in many Middle Eastern cultures (and in my own husband's mind) a symbol of masculinity, wisdom and glory. To shave or pluck the beard in Scripture was always a sign of mourning and great disgrace. The guards would have ripped his beard out of his already beaten face purely to shame him.  

4. He was beaten beyond recognition - literally.
As he appeared before the Sanhedrin, they slapped him, beat him with their fists, and spat on him. He was blindfolded him so that he couldn't see when the next blow was coming. Then the Roman guards had their turn beating him.

Next he was stripped of his clothing and scourged using a whip called a flagrum. A flagrum consisted of leather strips to which pieces of metal, bone, and hooks were attached, with the intent to dig in and rip away his skin and muscle. Jesus's back was mutilated. The Roman guard would have called off the beating only when it appeared that Jesus was near death.

They were not done. The crown of thorns was dug into his head and he was beaten about the head some more by a wooden staff. By the time Jesus was sent to be crucified, he had been rendered to such a bloody pulp that "He didn’t even look human—a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.Isaiah 52:4
5. Jesus carried a cross-beam, not a cross. 

Wood was far too scarce in Jerusalem for every person crucified to get their own personal cross. A wooden stake (Greek "stauros") would be left in the ground and recycled for subsequent crucifixions.  The condemned person was made to carry the crossbeam, or patibulum. This alone could have weighed 100 pounds and as I see it would be much more unwieldy to grab on to than a cross.

(That was a toughie, I know. Still with me?)

6. Jesus's feet were possibly nailed on each side of the staurus
In 1968 workers in Jerusalem uncovered the remains of a first century man who had been crucified, the first and only discovery of its kind. The man, Jehohanan, still had one nail in his ankle bone. The length of the nail and location in his foot implied that he was probably nailed to the cross with the a foot on each side and the beam in the middle, not with his feet crossed as is almost always depicted in crucifix art.

7. Jesus was nude on the cross.

This is the part of the crucifixion story that completely ruined me when I first discovered it. Our Lord was naked on the cross.

Every Jew wore five articles of clothing: shoes, turban, garter, outer robe, and tunic. John tells us in 19:23-24 that four soldiers divied up for the first four items, but they cast lots for the tunic, because it was seamless (which is a sign that Jesus is our great high priest.)

That's all he would have been wearing. Five items. Every gospel mentions them gambling for his clothes, but for years I read that and it didn't sink in that if they had taken all of his clothes, he didn't have on any clothes. 

It wasn't enough that he was unjustly accused, convicted in the middle of the night in a kangaroo court, betrayed by his friends, beaten, whipped raw, and had nails driven through his hands and feet. But he was nude as well, in front of his enemies, his friends, and his mother. 

I cannot fully imagine myself being beaten like he was. But my mind can go to the idea of being on display, naked, my legs separated by a cross, for everyone I knew, including my father, to see. This I can imagine. This horrifying image my brain can conceive of. Honestly, the humiliation and shame of this image upsets me even more than death.

This, he did for my sin. This, he did for his grace. This, he did for his glory.

This, I take for granted every day.

Monday, March 18, 2013

compassion: disability's harsh reality

These words and Erick's story made me think of our Jimmy Jam when I read them.  What would his life be like without God intervening?

This is an article from the Compassion magazine we get each month.

I had to share it here.  It's so well written.

And this story from the Bible just drives home a stigma, a judgment, a misconception that pervades our culture around people with disabilities.


By Compassion President, Wess Stafford

In many developing cultures, being a special-needs child is a social death sentence.  Societies may shun these children.  Governments can do little to support them.  Families abandon them.  Some even see a disability as a curse.  I believe the disciples took the same "stand back and judge" attitude until Jesus set them straight.

I don't know exactly what the disciples saw when they encountered the blind man John writes about in chapter 9 of his account.  Was this man a beggar in filthy clothes eking out survival?  Was he segregated and alone, conspicuous by his isolation?  Whatever they saw, they made the wrong assumption.

They asked, "Who sinned, this man or his parents?"

Do you see the flaw?  No compassion.  No involvement.  Just a detached and philosophical question that sought to assign a cause.  Somebody had to be to blame.

I love the way Jesus level-set their thinking.  "This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life," Jesus said.  Here's my paraphrase: "Get your mind off of blame and get it on how God will work in the life of someone He loves."

As noble and revolutionary as that sounds, I am fascinated by how Jesus actually displayed God's might.  His response teaches Compassion and me much about what it take to accommodate people with special needs.

Jesus spits on the ground.  He makes mud with the saliva and rubs it on the man's eyes.  And then, while the man is still blind, Jesus tells him to go and wash it off.  What a surprising but insightful approach!  Here's what it tells me:

Intervening for those with special needs is gritty work.  Like mud, it can be messy and unconventional.

Intervening is also personal.  Jesus could have simply said the word and everybody would have witnessed a healing.  But he applied His own saliva, His own effort and His own touch.  He personally committed Himself to a special need.

Intervening takes faith, too.  Even with Jesus' unconventional actions, the man had to take a literal walk of 'blind faith' to wash off the mud.  Healing came at the end of the path, not the beginning.

And, finally, intervening means seeking out and providing a place.  The rest of the story tells us that the healed man is cast out of the community by the religious authorities.  But Jesus seeks him out -- tracks him down, really -- to confirm the work of God in his life.  What an amazing affirmation when the once-blind man heard "the Son of the one speaking with you."  The man found a home in Jesus.

We met Erick when he was 5.  Today Erick is 16.  He has outlived early prognoses.  He is fully a part of Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program at the San Pablo Apostal Student Center in Quitto.  He is mainstreamed into the classrooms and the lives of the students and workers who surround him.  As San Pablo he receives the special help he needs with language skills and reading, while Compassion provides critical access to ongoing physical therapy.

But there's only so much I can tell you.  I want so much for you to see Erick for yourself, all the way from his beginnings with Compassion at age 5 right through today.  Won't you please take just a few minutes to view Erick's story on-line?  His smile will lift you.  So will his mama's love.  But most of all, I want you to see what it means to be a highly vulnerable child in a Compassion child development center.

Like the man Jesus healed, Erick is a picture of God's love and care for the most vulnerable.


If you would like to sponsor a child through Compassion, it's only $38 per month.  We have sponsored a young girl in the Philippines for years and it has been such a blessing to watch her grow from a little girl to a beautiful teenager.  I say that so you'll know that we personally support Compassion and trust and believe in their mission.  

Simply, go to and choose one of the many children waiting for sponsors.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

a gotcha day to remember!

It was a Gotcha Day to remember.

For days leading up to March 4th, we talked about 'Gotcha Day.'

So when we were putting James to bed the night before, he protested with, 'Awww...I wanna Gotcha!' and 'I go Gotcha, Mommy?'

He hadn't a clue.

All he knew was that Gotcha sounded like a good thing.

So he wanted to be a part of it.

Oh boy, was he a part of it.

It involved family and friends.

A dinner out for some dim sum.

We haven't had dim sum since we were in China and we noticed there that he really likes it.  And it's been very clear for the last 377 days we've had James in our lives that he loves some rice.

In fact, when you ask him what his favorite foods are it's top of the list with hot dogs, pizza, chicken soup (specifically, Beva's chicken soup) and chick-a-lay (i.e. Chick-fil-A).

He loooved the rice and dim sum.

My grandmother was in from Michigan!  What a treat to have her because she was here last year when we stepped of the plane with James, too.  So special for our kids to have memories of their great-grandmother.

Brooks, Avery and Jackson aren't big fans of Chinese food, but we introduced them to sweet-n-sour chicken and dim sum and they loved it!

Our dear, sweet friends/neighbors Beverly and Bootsie came and my mom and my grandmother.  

This was a Gotcha Day to remember for a couple of reasons...

* 365 days with our sweet Jimmy Jam who has blossomed into a ray of sunshine in our lives!

* A reminiscent dinner of dim sum one year later.

* Being with family and friends who were with us when we arrived home with James (one year ago yesterday).

* And because James enjoyed his meal so much that he shoveled and shoveled that rice and dim sum into that little tummy of his...until...yep, he puked right at the dinner table onto his plate.

Check please!

Friday, March 15, 2013

birthday girl, part 2

Payton's birthday came first.

Then mine.

Then my mom's.

It's a fun four weeks every year -- especially because Valentine's Day is thrown right in the middle.

But this year was my 40th birthday so it was a bit of a doozie.

And it was wonderful.

Thanks to my scheming husband (who I didn't know could scheme so well!) and the enlistment of family and dear friends.

It was a night to remember.

On a rainy Tuesday night.

At one of my favorite spots.

Strawberry Street Cafe.

My shocked arrival.

(Break out the glasses -- these came to me teeny-tiny and get blurry if I enlarge them).

My crazy mama had a pillow up her dress and proclaimed to everyone, 
'40 years ago today my day started off like this before I gave birth to Heather!'

Love that woman.

Enjoying our dinner.

Sharing a toast.

They love each other so much!  How sweet...

The end of a wonderful evening with dear family and friends.

My stepdad, Allen, and my mom.  Aren't they cute!?

Thanks for a celebration to remember!  With a start like that, 40's not so bad...  :)

Monday, March 11, 2013

summit 9

Oh, how I wish we could go!

If a little gymnast we know hadn't worked her little buns off this year and that weren't the weekend of her state meet, we'd be so, so considering going.

If you or someone you know has adopted, is adopting, has a heart for orphans, is a foster parent, wants to foster -- whatever the case may be -- check out this conference.

I've heard nothing but wonderful things about the power of this time with others who are passionate about responding to what's happening in the world regarding vulnerable children.

And look at the bottom of the homepage at who's performing -- GEORGE!  Love it!

Friday, March 1, 2013

birthday girl, part 1

Much to my surprise, this precious girl turned eleven at the beginning of the month.

I'll never forget the moment I laid eyes on her.

I knew we were having a girl so I was expecting a mini-me.

And she was born looking exactly like JD.

Look at those eyes and cheeks!

So distinguished, even as a young girl.

One of her favorite restaurants is the Japanese steakhouse, so we decided to venture out with everyone.

A first.

My mom and Avery.

Jimmy Jam with his miso soup.

Clearly, I too like the Japanese steakhouse.

Is this seriously the only shot of the birthday girl?  Good gracious.  

Brooks and Jackson were beside themselves with 'Awesome!' and 'That's cool!' throughout the night.  The loved the onion volcano and when the chef lit the whole thing on fire!  So much so that our chef did an encore because Brooks kept saying how awesome it was!   This was a first for them and they loved it!

Then, the following weekend, it was time for Payton's annual sleepover.  With her best buds: Emma, Sarah and Ella.   Build-your-own-pizzas, cherry cola and cream soda (no, that is not Sam Adams for the girls!).

With cupcakes to follow.

And a movie ('The Odd Life of Timothy Green') and popcorn.

There you have it.  Our girl's eleven.  It's unbelievable.  In some ways, it feels like yesterday when she was born.  In others, I have lived every moment and remember each one.  

I wouldn't trade her for the world.  She's amazing.  Sometimes sassy, yes, but amazing nonetheless.

Thank You, Lord, for this precious girl that we get to have for this time.  Oh, how we love her and thank You that You chose her to be our first born.  She is a true gem.

We love you, P-Girl.  

Thanks for being you.

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