Easter…

Easter.

The most important date on the Christian calendar. Like Christmas, there’s a lot of other influences that have factored in to how we celebrate now. Bunnies, chickens, chocolate, colouring eggs and so on…and like a lot of things religion, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the religious rituals surrounding Easter.

Maundy Thursday. The day of the Last Supper. Praying and crying. Betrayal from Judas. Didn’t realise that some denominations have a tradition of the minister washing the feet of his congregation. Heck, the Pope was kissing the feet of people this week. I do get it – this is what Jesus did with his disciples. But I’ll be honest…I don’t even like getting a pedicure. I have ‘dancer’s feet’ so this is not a ritual I want to participate in from either side. Kudos to Jesus and the Pope – I don’t think I could do it!!

Good Friday. The day Jesus died on the cross. I still don’t understand why they call it ‘good’. Of course yes, Jesus was dying in the place of others. But this comic strip that went around in response to people like me who question it being called Good Friday actually disturbed me a bit…

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I don’t think I’d feel good at all about someone taking my place to be hanged. And of course, the people who knew where friends with Jesus did not have the benefit of hindsight that we have. They were scared for their lives. They were sad that their friend/son/brother was killed so brutally. They say it’s ‘good’ because of the fact that He was separated from God so we would never have to be. Personally, I don’t think hope comes in his death, but with what happened later that weekend…

Saturday. The sabbath.

Easter Sunday. Two women go to his tomb – to discover He is not there. Jesus reveals himself to them. He’s alive! Ressurection has killed death’s hold on us, and there is the promise of eternal life. This is what we celebrate. This is what gives us hope. This is where our second chance comes from.

And I love that in a chauvinist culture, Jesus once again breaks down the barriers – the first people he shows himself to are women.

For me the rolling of eggs is symbolic of the stone of the tomb being rolled away. I never give my friends children easter bunnies (though I do love the fun of Easter Egg Hunts!) though mini Lindt Easter Bunnies are so yummy that sometimes they get included in an easter egg hunt or two! It is a rule in our house that you can’t eat your easter egg before you’ve rolled it to make the chocolate crack. Though we did discover a decade or so ago that you should not try and roll a Matchmakers easter egg down the stairs (the egg burst open and bits of matchmakers went flying everywhere).

 

 

Quote of the Week – Week 13

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Christian in Moulin Rouge

**Hi, I came down sick (again) so didn’t have time to do my usual picture of the quote – sorry!!**

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Eva, her friends and family. It’s difficult to believe that it was as much as 3 whole years ago that I clicked onto my blog reader to discover a message on her LiveJournal page left by someone else saying that she had died that morning. I remember going to church the next day and bawling my eyes out. Someone said to me that she had lived much more than most people did in a lifetime. She was sick, she was in pain. But I remember all too vividly her posts in those last couple of months, how she asked for her family to make sure people fought for her life. She so desperately wanted to live, though she had accepted death too.

When news filtered out that Eva had chronic rejection people began to send her mail again from all over the globe. What was created was her ‘Wall of Love‘. One of the things sent was the quote from Moulin Rouge that she and her Dad quoted often in those final 7 weeks she spent in hospital.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Like three years ago, March 27th falls in Holy Week. I remember walking through The Meadows on a rainy day a few days later, reflecting on Eva, her death, her campaign for CF research and organ donation, my desire to be an organ donor and Jesus’ sacrifice when he was crucified. I remember thinking how Jesus died so others could have life. I remember thinking how that’s a little like organ donation…when you are an organ donor, you give an opportunity for someone else to have a second chance in your death.

Now I think back on those words from Moulin Rouge. I think back to all the people that spoke at Eva’s memorial and how she lived a life of love. She loved well and loved hard. And she was loved in return.

Love is a huge theme throughout the bible – particularly in the New Testament. It is taught that the greatest thing in life is to love God, and love the people in this world. 2 simple rules, but tough to always apply.

I’m sure as the year goes on I’m going to write more about love. My real hope is to live those words out though.

**Note: I’m sad to say that this week (the day before the anniversary of Eva’s death), her friend Meg Moore died from Cystic Fibrosis related illness. Meg also starred in the award winning documentary 65_RedRoses with Eva and their friend Kina. There was a beautiful letter written by Director, Nimisha Mukerji to Eva on Wednesday which you can see here paying tribute to Eva and Meg.**

11 years on…

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That was the status on my facebook yesterday. It’s weird to think that 12 years ago I was swearing blind that God didn’t exist. 11 years and 2 days ago I believed that I wasn’t allowed to be a Christian.

It is true that I still doubt my faith and beliefs at times. I spent a long time being really angry at God for giving people control of their own actions in this world. It means people get hurt. It also means we get to make choices.

I’ve been asked many, many times by a close friend of mine ‘Yeah, but do you think you would have become a Christian if you hadn’t gone through all of that before?’ (that being more trauma and struggles as a teenager than I like to admit). I can’t really answer because my past is my past. But for sure, in 2011 more than any other year, I really questioned whether a bunch of control freaks had manipulated and taken advantage of my vulnerability at 17. I took several months away from all organised religion after a year of being made to feel like crap about things that I no longer felt crap about. Adam Hills comment in a stand-up sketch about women’s magazines ringing in my ears. Advertisers want you to feel crap about yourself so you’ll buy their products – it’s a basic sales pitch the Christian church have been using for years. I was starting to notice how often preachers were telling me how crap I felt about myself, stuff that had happened and how I needed healing for it. Again and again and again. The time away taught me that God was still there, just being misrepresented and the Holy Spirit having her identity stolen at times.

Clarity was gained.

(Not to mention it showed me who was faking friendship with me for Jesus points).

And it is most definitely true that the reasons I believe in God make me sound like I need psychiatric help. Whether it’s angels sitting on my bed, hearing voices telling me to get baptised or that someone’s relative has died or falling flat seeing visions of women I’ve not yet met while hearing voices speaking foreign languages to me. I guess it’s the weird stuff that no one can control or engineer that gives me faith. If faith is a step on a staircase, then that stuff is the electricity that powers the light so I can see where the steps are.

If I learned anything it’s that God can handle me just as I am. He is not afraid of my anger or questions. He is patient, but He’s also not afraid to admonish me when I’m not living the best way for myself or the other people He loves.

I don’t always listen or obey.

Being a Christian – a follower of Jesus – is hard, I’m not going to lie. But to suddenly ‘unconvert’ would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular and liked by the majority of western society who think people like me are strange, offensive or maybe even delusional. And to become religious would be to turn my back on my beliefs just so I could become popular with all the church leaders and not have to say ‘no’ or feel offended at some of their rhetoric and politics.

I hope it’s all going to be worth it – it seems to have been so far, so that’s a good sign. And now, I have that constant reminder inked indelibly on my skin of ‘themba’ – faith, hope, trust, love. Memories of covenants marked by rainbows and weird moments I’ll narrate about with good humour for many years to come.

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Let’s see what happens in the next 11 years…

Rebirth

Yesterday, me, Elastatoddler and Mr Teapot were sitting around the kitchen table while they ate apple I had chopped up for them to eat. We were talking about birthdays (since it was mine on Thursday, will be Elastatoddler’s on Tuesday and their Mummy’s (my friend Carrie) next weekend. I asked my godson

“Do you know what tomorrow is?”

“We get to eat chocolate tomorrow!!!”

“Why do we get to eat chocolate?”

“Because Jesus died on the cross and then HE CAME ALIVE AGAIN!” *please picture some bouncing here*

Essentially that is what Easter Sunday is all about. Not Jesus death, but Jesus coming back to life. And everyone having a second chance as a result.

The eggs I guess are a symbol of new life and rolling them a mixture of making eggs crack (as they would when what’s inside is ready to be ‘born’) but also the stone being rolled away from the tomb where Jesus lay.

This Easter Sunday is extra special to me. 8th April 2007 was also Easter Sunday. It was the day that I moved back to Edinburgh. God had told me to move back to Edinburgh at Christmas, and I had ignored him. He gave me a second chance to go. Not only that, but I also got the greatest gift – the chance to go to Australia. It was a time of healing and rebirth for me.

The other thing I mention on Easter Sunday is organ donation. I was saddened this week to receive a magazine from a Christian organisation. I’ve never actually supported this particular organisation but because I have some connections with them, I’m somehow on their mailing list. I was saddened to see an article about how they were opposing proposals to introduce an opt-out scheme for organ donation in the UK. For me, organ donation is a no-brainer. I’ve seen people die waiting for organs. I believe Jesus died for me so I could have a second chance at life. It makes perfect sense then that if I die, it should mean (if it is possible) that someone else have a second chance at life. I think it is scary that my wishes could be trumped by my next of kin who maybe are scared of losing me and selfishly say ‘No’ to letting medical staff harvest my organs in that moment.

So today – by all means enjoy hunting for Easter eggs, rolling them and eating them. But please remember what this day is really all about.

Rebirth.

And maybe, if you haven’t already, you might want to consider joining your country’s organ donor register in remembrance of that.

:)

24 days of Christmas: The Gift (by Tony)

Tony Maude is a husband, sometime stand-in Dad, pastor, preacher, trainee proof-reader, blogger and novice poet. In a former life he was a research scientist. Last Christmas he was one of “Santa’s little helpers”, delivering parcels through knee-deep snow in sub-zero temperatures.

I admit it. I’m a guest-post virgin. The cursor flashes before my eyes, hungry for words to fill the blank space. What should I write about? What voice should I use? Is it OK to just be me, to write my way, when this is destined to appear in someone else’s space? What gift can I give? And there is my prompt – “The Gift” – given to me at a Writers’ Group meeting the other day.

The Gift

The Gift is given to us with

 No paper smooth, no ribbon tied,

His glory to contain,

But only flesh and bone like ours,

Birthed through his mother’s pain.

The Gift is given to us with

No palace home, no royal throne

His splendour there unfurled.

But secretly, in poverty

He bursts into this world.

The Gift is given to us with

No honoured place ‘neath baubled tree,

To rest his new-born head.

A much-used, straw-filled cattle trough

Becomes his lowly bed

The Gift is given to us with

No herald swift, no fanfare loud

To announce his holy birth.

Humble shepherds on windswept hill,

Alone were told his worth.

The Gift is given to us still,

Glad tidings of great joy for all,

If we would just believe.

Immanuel, the Holy child

Still waits to be received.

Tony Maude – 09/12/2011 

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Tony’s poem is part of a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what Tony has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

24 days of Christmas: Christmas Seasons (by Pam)

Pam Lewsey was born in a place most people call ‘Where?’. She has travelled widely but doesn’t have much to show for it, aside from a motley bunch of wide-eyed friends and a collection of teapots. She may or may not become famous one day. God is especially fond of her. 

Christmas Seasons

I was born on a hot, thunderstormy day in December – in Zimbabwe. Most of my Christmas memories are set against a backdrop of gray-white cumulonimbus clouds sharply contrasted with a bright green lawn. Africa’s Christmas decorations could be the deep pink bougainvillea, the daisies, honeysuckle, red flamboyant, purple jacaranda and it’s carols the notes of a hundred different types of birds. I remember running across a burning slate verandah for a Christmas swim before lunch, which ironically (as the colonial traditions passed down are ‘more British than the British’) was the weighted, rich roast, stuffing, ham and veg and Christmas pud. We used to have to close the curtains to try to simulate enough darkness to even see the brandy flames on the pud!

Dickens’ world of ice-skating, snowmen, scarves and hot roast chestnuts was new to me at the age of twenty-one, when I spent my first Christmas in the North. I loved that the lights of Christmas trees shone out in the darkness, and that mulled wine went down a treat, and you could find a logfire and a thick scent of pine if you looked hard enough. Santa’s warm red suit didn’t make me feel prickley hot and I could make concertina snowflakes out of paper for decoration, and not feel silly.

Christmas as a festival came largely from the pagans and, in a way, they’re taking it back. They have every right to use it the way they want to – to get stressed and into debt and have family arguments. It’s sad for us who think it think it should all be about Jesus’ birth, because Jesus’ birth signified promise and life and grace as heaven met earth one night in a hovel in the Middle-East.

I love the pinprick lights and cold of the North at Christmas, and I love the noisy birds and colours of the South. Maybe the seasons of the world work together to show us that dichotomy of a sort of death (or diminishment – like God becoming a baby) in a dark place and the life that is backstage waiting to make it’s appearance.

“…unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds…” (John 12:24)

 Jesus, help us to remember both darkness and quietness, and life and colour, because no matter what season it is in one place, it’s the opposite in another.

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Pam’s post is part of a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what Pam has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

24 days of Christmas: Christmas means love (by anon)

The writer is a 20-something wife, daughter and professional living in London, UK.

Christmas means love

I screamed. 

Several times.

A guttural sound emanated from the depths of my being. It was the only logical response.

I felt as if my life had collapsed around my ears.

I couldn’t believe what I had read, or comprehend what it meant for me and my life going forward. I wanted to throw things and smash things.

And then I felt numb. Silent, motionless, staring. And I waited.

I already knew I had to forgive. It’s part of the deal.

God sent his holy and blameless only son to earth, to become a human being and walk with us in our human shoes.

To be scorned and rejected and whipped and beaten.

To willingly be crucified.

All so that we don’t have to die. So that our brokenness can be fixed and we can become whole again.

He gave it all.

And so that’s the deal.  Jesus has done that for me, so I do the same for others.

It’s not easy…but we are not alone.

Christmas, Jesus’ birth, is the beginning of this.

Christmas means forgiveness.

Christmas means love.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.”

- John 3:16-18a (NLT)

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This post is part of a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what this blogger has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

24 days of Christmas: Happy Birthday (by Scott)

Whilst Scott likes Christmas he doesn’t like the over-abundance of glitter that this time of year brings. He is slowly retroactively realising his own blog is on hiatus.

Happy Birthday

I love Christmas.

I really love it. It is, after all, a birthday party for the greatest, bestest gift giver of them all. Yes, the guest of honour and praise was born thousands of years ago and probably some time in late spring rather than darkest winter and hasn’t been corporeal in almost as long but it is still a birthday party.

It makes me a little sad that the marketing folk of high-end products and supermarkets are hijacking the party. I remember when adverts just sold the features and benefits of the product and not the idea that it would fill the empty hole in your life; at least then it was less manipulative.

Let us ignore that part though, cast away any feeling of stress about buying the right gift. Let us think more about the things we can give that can’t be bought from catalogues and department stores.

When The Birthday Boy had a brief post-death jaunt on this earthly plain he met up with his friends and had a special lunch. The food itself, though a miraculous catch, was pretty simple: flame-grilled fish. The special part was the people he shared with.

That is perhaps the crux of it. Christmas is not about giving or getting but sharing what we have with the people we are with. And no slowed down cover version of an Eighties pop song will change that.

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Scott’s post is part of a series of posts over the Christmas period. Please feel free to comment on what Scott has shared, and haste ye back for more guest bloggers who will be sharing over the next 24 days. You can find all the posts so far by clicking here.

Wisdom from Teenagers

When I came back from my first Soul Survivor experience, I started finding myself at City Church – just because it was so much more warm and welcoming than the church I became a Christian in (I think)! I could huddle at the back if I wanted to, and no one questioned it. Plus it was a place of hugs and great chocolate cake.

During the 6 years in Aberdeen (and returning back a couple of times for Imagine and keeping connected with some over Facebook) I’ve watched so many of the ‘kids’ become men and women of God.

The Imagine Festival was a catalyst for inspiring so many of the ‘Mezzo teens’ (Mezzo is the name of the youth group at City), and we watched them move from hanging out at the back to being enthusiastically at the front of church every Sunday. We watched them emerge as leaders in worship, teaching, discipling.

So it doesn’t surprise me how much wisdom is coming out of their new blog.

Every single post is written by one of the teens in Mezzo. These are folks in High School (aged 12-17). The posts are kept anonymous so no one knows which member has written which post.

But seriously…do yourself a favour and head over there: http://mezzoaberdeen.wordpress.com

I guarantee you will come away with your thoughts provoked, encouraged and inspired.

(Oh, and if you are a youth leader in Scotland – do your teens a favour and provide an opportunity for THEM to go to Imagine in 2011. They’ll be missing out if you don’t).