Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lent Ponderings {Resurrection Sunday}

{Edited and updated on Easter Monday, April 21.}

That day 20 years ago, when he became "Papa" to me...

I will miss him dearly... though hard to accept that we aren't able to see him when we visit the Philippines just two short months from now, I am deeply thankful that he is no longer suffering and is now resting in Jesus' everlasting arms.

Just a few hours after publishing this blog post yesterday, on Resurrection Sunday evening, Papa went home to be with Jesus.

Though unknown to me at the time of posting, I am thankful that this blog post has now become a tribute to a man who lived a life well-lived.
Brothers and sisters, we want you to know about those Christians who have died so you will not be sad, as others who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and that he rose again. So, because of him, God will raise with Jesus those who have died. What we tell you now is the Lord’s own message. We who are living when the Lord comes again will not go before those who have already died. The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. And those who have died believing in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive will be gathered up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NCV.
Some of our last photos with him...

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It has been...
a roller-coaster-like, emotionally-draining, tough-to-face kind of week for our family... this past week leading up to Resurrection Sunday.

One who is a dearly beloved of ours lays suffering in a hospital's Intensive Care Unit, half a world away, battling pneumonia while fighting stage four lung cancer. Hard of breathing, loss of consciousness, suspected blood clots.

The fragility of life hits close to home. Its brevity, its fleetingness all too real.

Our hearts break. Our tears fall. 

And we wait for news... we wait, wait, wait. 
Waiting is hard. Waiting from afar, even harder.
Trusting and waiting is hard. Pain and suffering, even harder.

Photo Credit: Red Letter Christians

Yet, in the places and circumstances resembling dark Holy Saturdays... there is nothing left to do but to trust and to wait.

In this past week's particular trusting and waiting, these words from Psalm 139 have been a balm for my aching heart...
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.
Your thoughts - how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them - any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you!
Ah, yes! All the days of our dearly beloved's life have been prepared by God before he'd even lived one day. I came to be reminded that he isn't only a dearly beloved one of ours, he is God's dearly beloved child, his name inscribed in the palm of God's hand... what beautiful truth! 

And the reality of Sunday a-coming gives me Hope... because in Jesus, there is always Hope! 

And in that Hope, we are commanded to live as resurrection people. 
Our task in the present is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day. ~ N.T. Wright.
So we do just that. We trust as we wait. We hope for what seems impossible.

We reminisce and rejoice... of our dearly beloved who is always good-natured, joyful and happy, who is content to live a simple life, who is radically generous, who is uncomplicated, who is unconcerned about fame and wealth and status, who understands and lives this truth... “So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)

We give thanks for a life well-lived and pray for the grace of more time on this earth with him.

And in the living out our life this way, as people of the resurrection, even as we still wait... peace comes.

Just as Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)"

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
On the eve of Resurrection Sunday...
We get that first bit of good news. Our dearly beloved one is breathing more and more on his own again. There's even talk of perhaps being discharged from Intensive Care Unit in the coming days!

A glimmer of hope. A flicker of light getting ready to break through the darkness. Joy!

I think... much just like how it was on that very first Resurrection Sunday!
The holy grail of joy's not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of wondrous now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! The only place we need see before we die, is this place of seeing God, here and now. ~ Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lent Ponderings {Start of Holy Week}

Last night at Home Church...
In reflection of God's great love for us and to prepare our hearts to celebrate this Holy Week, we broke bread together, in Holy Communion, around the table of thanksgiving.
And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them... ~ Luke 22:19, NIV.
It was a beautiful time... us all reflecting on the immense significance and impact of Grace, of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, for us as individuals and for humankind as a whole... and us all sharing, around that table of thanksgiving, the things that we have to be thankful for, even for those hard things and for those broken places in our lives!    

From page 32, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.

We read excerpts from the book One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. It is no secret to those who know me personally and to those who read this blog regularly that this book has impacted me in a very deep way and has changed me for the better.

Since Ann's words on pages 32 and 33 are so relevant for this Holy Week, I wanted to share a snippet with our Home Church family last night:
Deep chara joy is found only at the table of the euCHARisteo - the table of thanksgiving.
Is the height of my chara joy dependent on the depths of my eucharisteo thanks?
As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible.
The joy wonder could be here! Here, in the messy, piercing ache of now, joy might be - unbelievably - possible! 
Charis. Grace.
Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving.
Chara. Joy.
"The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live... He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything."
Last night's communion around the table of thanksgiving with our Home Church family was just the boost I needed to jump-start this Holy Week. It was life-giving, joy-inducing, soul-lifting!

During this season of Lent...
As I go through daily readings from A Place At The Table by Chris Seay, I have been reminded once again that we really do have so much to be thankful for... and that it is utterly important for us as Christ-followers to live out our faith, to live out our thanks, to be bread for those in need... to give, to bless, to sacrifice.

For God loved the world so much that He gave... 

Jesus is our ultimate example. With outstretched arms, nail-pierced hands, thorn-pierced head... He suffered and gave us the greatest gift... a life abundant!

So, shouldn't we live fully? In response to Grace? 

Shouldn't we live out thanks? As an expression of our faith?
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well” — but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. {Read more from James, chapter 2.}
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As I continue to count grace-gifts, with unending thanks... these are the things I am thankful for... #3189 - #3207:
:: Our Home Church family! ♥ 
:: Abundant life in and through Christ Jesus!
:: Reading letters from our Compassion children.
:: Getting new passports... even before knowing that God is sending us on another wild adventure this summer. {More on this in a future blog post.} 
:: Access to free and world-class, top-notch medical care... a normal brain MRI result for my girl... and hopefully a confirmation of a diagnosis for eye migraines.    
:: Our whole family at a live Raptors game to celebrate my girl's 17th birthday
:: My new cast-iron pot!
:: March Break... and a short getaway to Montreal, for a speed-cubing competition {for my boy} and to visit a university {for my girl}.
:: Another successful AIDS Care season at our church!
:: Visiting our friends at Camp Freedom and touching base about some summer plans.
:: Another sandwich run for the homeless... and the opportunity to partner with my boy's school on packing the care packages.
:: A lunch with some girlfriends.
:: Tax returns filed on time! Phew!
:: Celebrating a family wedding.
:: A great team of leaders to serve alongside with at our church. Blessed! ♥
:: Spring update from our Lead Pastor... thankful that God chooses to partner with us to build His Kingdom.
:: Coffee time with my sister... 
:: A great youth retreat for my kids just this past weekend.
:: God's peace in the midst of our stresses, worries and troubles. 
In counting grace-gifts...
I am learning to let be and be still... and to pay more attention to my Jesus... and to be ready to act on the things that He has in store for me to do... because "all there is to see is Jesus."
Gratitude is the only appropriate response to Grace.
~ Bruxy Cavey, Part 2 of Life 2.0 teaching series at The Meeting House.

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