Monday, April 1, 2013

It's the First of April!

and, it's Easter Monday... 
Friends, Christ is risen... what a wonderful and most beautiful gift! On Easter Sunday, I posted this as my status on Facebook:

"Yes, God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. The one sitting on the throne said: I am making everything new."
This is the gift of Easter.
Happy Easter, friends!
{Our family is headed to Yorkdale mall right now where Easter Sunday service will happen right in the midst of brokenness. Praying for those affected by the gun violence last night.}
Yes, we had a very meaningful Easter celebration... more on that in a bit. Today, however, is a school holiday here in Canada so hubby and I sort of take the day off as well. Sort of... meaning hubby will only deal with work if a computer emergency presents itself. So, hopefully it will be a day without such incidences. :-) It's been a busy few weeks, so having our calendar fairly empty this Easter weekend was such a gift!

Amid the busy-ness of the past few weeks, I am thankful that I took the time to read a little each day from Chris Seay's A Place at the Table. Reading the gems in this book each day during Lent truly did help to prepare my heart for Easter.

Such as this prayer from Day 32: "God, do Your work within us. Give us the wisdom to know how to share ourselves, our lives, and our resources with one another as well as those scattered abroad. We pray that You will show us how to give. Everything we have is from You. We ask that our focus would remain on You. That our worship would truly change us. Your love is unyielding. Amen."

Or this gem of a prayer from Wednesday of Holy Week: "Father, Your love and provision are far reaching. Your miracles never cease. You could drop bread from the sky for Your beloved, and yet You give us the blessing of giving and connecting in Your precious name. May Your Spirit continue to free our hearts and inspire us, Father, to further Your movement of grace and love and equality next door and around the entire world. Amen."

Or this thought-provoking paragraph from Holy Thursday: "After months of the disciples fighting over who would sit in the seat of power, Jesus turned the tables; the real fight was over the largest foot-washing basin. This was a game changer... service trumps power in the kingdom of God. Which kingdom are you living in? Have you devoted your life to humble service, or do you avoid it like an infectious disease? Jesus came to change the world, one dirty foot at a time. How about you?"

By Good Friday, my heart was ready... 
... ready to soak in and to reflect on the magnitude of this gift that was given to me, to all of us, on that very first Easter. I wept through most of our Good Friday service... the music, the message, the breaking of bread... every. single. thing. moved me to tears!

One song, in particular, reminded me of my One Word for 2013... surrender... ♪♫ "Rid me of myself. I belong to you. Oh lead me. Lead me to the cross." ♫♪

I realized that, if I am truly honest, there are still many things that I am unwilling to surrender... and, if Jesus surrendered to the Father's will, so should I. Yes, so should I!

What a beautiful realization!

Saturday night came and we were chilling at home as a family when my girl noticed that #Yorkdale was trending on Twitter. 

Upon further investigation, we realized that gun violence had erupted there that night and one person died, another one wounded. The entire parking lot was on lock-down and it was chaotic, to say the least.

Well, Yorkdale is the mall our church meets at each and every Sunday! We rent the movie theatres there. What does this mean for the Easter Service that was set to happen there the very next day? Will we be allowed in? Will we have access to the parking lot? How will our church's truck/trailer unload all the gear if we aren't?

Lots of questions, no definite answers. We went to bed hoping to hear more concrete answers in the morning. Morning came, and the parking lot was still taped up... still considered a crime scene! We decided to drive over...

True enough, only a couple of parking lots were accessible... and we had to unload all our gear by the side of the road and wheel everything up to the nearest mall entrance and up to the theatres! 

Our community wasted no time and sprang into action, church was set-up, word spread on social media, a shuttle service was put in place to shuttle people from a nearby parking lot... I even had the opportunity to talk to a local reporter about our church! It was not, by any means, a typical Sunday morning at church! 

It was surreal --- having Easter Sunday service right in the middle of all this brokenness! But, isn't that what church is all about though? To be the beauty in the broken? To be wounded healers? To be a light in the darkness? 

Didn't Easter have to happen because of our brokenness?  
Didn't Jesus die because sin had left a crimson stain?
Didn't God so loved the whole world that He gave His Son?

Yes, yes and yes! 
Needless to say, I will remember this particular Easter Sunday for quite some time. I can truly say that it was the most meaningful Easter Sunday service that our family has ever had!

When it was all said and done, despite the challenges of accessing the mall, 220 people had joined us to celebrate Easter, not to mention the over 7,000 who attended cross-regionally at our church's other sites all across the province! Wow, just wow! Our God truly is good, He truly is awesome!!!

After the service, after all the gear has been loaded up into the church trailer, just before the truck pulled away... our team gathered by the side of Yorkdale Road (we still didn't have access to the parking lot at this time) and we gave thanks for a meaningful Easter service... and prayed for those affected by the gun violence there the previous night... and prayed that we would continue to be Jesus' hands and feet in and amongst the brokenness. 

As Chris Seay concluded in the book, A Place at the Table...
I encourage you to dream big. To see the problems of this world, the devastation of extreme poverty, and the many global crises we face, and to believe that God is leading us as His people to be His restoring hands that bring healing to the suffering.
At the end of the day, our greatest calling is to love God and to love our neighbor. My greatest struggle is to take myself and my selfish desires and ambitions out of the way and to replace those selfish desires with the desires of God.
As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... to The One who paid my debt once for all... these are the things I am thankful for these two weeks... #2884 - #2893:
:: Grace that sustains through busy weeks.
:: A successful AIDS Care season at church... a God-sized result in spite of my lack of faith. 
:: Heart prepared for Easter by reading Chris Seay's A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor... a must-read!
:: A moving Good Friday service... a great message, thought-provoking and convicting.
:: Easter dinner with family.
:: A meaningful Easter Sunday service, having church amidst the brokenness of gun violence. Surreal... but what church should be all about! Thankful for a faith community that understands this reality.
:: Watching the finale of The Bible Series, on Easter Sunday evening... an absolutely reflective end to the Easter weekend. A must-see!
:: An extra day off!
:: A news article about my girl... a proud mama moment!
:: No available replacement parts for our stove, so the store is giving us a whole brand-spanking-new stove as part of their extended warranty program! Wow!
Hello Monday and hello April!
To move into His presence and listen to His love unending and know the grace uncontainable. This is the vault of the miracles. The only thing that can change us, the world, is this; all His love.
~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.
Choosing to live a surrendered life... because Christ's love compels me... and giving thanks for everything that my good God so freely bestows, so lavishly gives and so extravagantly showers!

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Compassion is a command, an act of worship, a song of thanks to Him.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God!

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