Friday, April 3, 2015

Where Are You?

She slips from my lap and picks up her Jesus Storybook Bible.*  She hands it to me, saying, “Carry please, Mama.”

I say, “Sure!” as we head out the gate and toward the bathroom.

She settles in on the floor as I pull out a floss pick. 

She calls out to me, “Papa?  Where are you?”

Photo by David Barless, used with permission.

I know just what she is referring to.  They are words from the story of the crucifixion.  I turn around and face her on the floor, flipping to the familiar illustration.  (Jesus is on the cross, battered and bruised with a crown of thorns on his head and a tear falling from his eye.  Above him a sign reads “Our King.”)

She turns her head toward mine with a familiar request on her lips. “Read.”

I pull her up on my lap, there on the bathroom floor, and begin halfway through the story.

“They nailed Jesus to the cross.
“Father forgive them,” Jesus gasped.  “They don’t understand what they’re doing.”
“You say you’ve come to rescue us!” people shouted.  “But you can’t even rescue yourself!”
But they were wrong.  Jesus could have rescued himself.  A legion of angels would have flown to his side—if he’d called.
“If you were really the Son of God, you could just climb down off that cross!”  they said.
And of course they were right.  Jesus could have just climbed down.  Actually, he could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed that little girl.”    - The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

Here we pause.  

We revisit the story that we read the night before in the front room.  Jairus, the little girl’s daddy had come to Jesus.  I ask if she remembers how Jesus went to the little girl and called her from death to life saying, “Honey, it’s time to get up.”  She nods and says, “Breakfast.”  "Yes,"  I affirm.  “He asks her if she would like some breakfast.  How about you?  Are you hungry for breakfast?” I ask her with a little smile and a friendly poke.

She says again, “Read.”  And so I do. 

“He could have just said a word and made it all stop.  Like when he healed that little girl.  And stilled the storm.  And fed 5,000 people. 
But Jesus stayed.
You see, they didn’t understand.  It wasn’t the nails that kept Jesus there.  It was love.”  - The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

It was love.  I pause here.  I soak it in. 

The nails in his hands.  The nails in his feet.  The thorns.  The shame.  They speak of his love. 

He could have made it stop.  But he didn’t. 

The people didn’t understand, then. 

Do I understand, now? 

I don’t know.

I keep reading.

“Papa?” Jesus cried, frantically searching the sky.
“Papa?  Where are you?  Don’t leave me!”
And for the first time—and the last—when he spoke, nothing happened.  Just a horrible endless silence.  God didn’t answer.  He turned away from his Boy.  – The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

Oh, this moment. 

I think of my Little Love and the way she often calls out playfully from her room these days, “Daddy, where are you?” 

She knows her daddy will come looking for her.  She expects it.  She looks forward to it.  It brings her comfort, peace and such joy to know her daddy will respond. 

Here, Jesus’ daddy doesn't respond.  The Father turns his face away.  He turns away from the Son He loves.  With the picture of my girl in my mind, I find my heart breaking.  Oh, this moment.

“Tears rolled down Jesus’ face.  The face of the One who would wipe away every tear from every eye.– The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 304

My Little Love, she looks at with me with concern written all over her face and says, “Cryin'.”  Yes, dear.  Crying.

I can’t imagine she grasps the fullness of this, yet.  How could she?  I am still not sure I do.  But it is amazing to me that she does get that this is a moment to pause.  She tenderly wants to reach out in comfort as she sees Jesus’ hurting face and hears of His tears.

We turn the page.

“Even though it was midday, a dreadful darkness covered the face of the world.  The sun could not shine.  The earth trembled and quaked.  The great mountains shook.  Rocks split in two.  Until it seemed that the whole world would break.  That creation itself would tear apart.
The full force of the storm of God’s fierce anger at sin was coming down.  On his own Son.  Instead of his people.  It was the only way God could destroy sin, and not destroy his children whose hearts were filled with sin.”  -The Jesus Storybook Bible, p.306 

As I read of this storm raging, I feel it.  I feel so very aware of the many ways I have messed up and do mess up—so very aware of the sinful heart that God was seeking to save.  I think of the words of Paul: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  -2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV  

God loved his creation—the people made in his image—so much that he was willing to give his Son to destroy sin and not his children whose hearts were filled with it.  How deep the Father’s love for us. 

How deep the Father’s love for me.  The thought makes me tremble inside.

Then Jesus shouted in a loud voice, “It is finished!”
And it was.  He had done it.  Jesus had rescued the whole world.
“Father!” Jesus cried.  “I give you my life.”
Strange clouds and shadows filled the sky.  Purple, orange, black.  Like a bruise.
Jesus friends gently carried Jesus.  They laid Jesus in a new tomb carved out of rock.
How could Jesus die?  What had gone wrong?  What did it mean?  They didn’t know anything anymore.  Except they did know their hearts were breaking.” –The Jesus Storybook Bible, p. 306

Jesus speaks words of power. And then he dies? This doesn’t really seem like a rescue. 

The storm that has been raging suddenly seems to calm—like when Jesus stilled the storm.  Yet this calm seems awful and ugly.  I feel numb. 

In this moment, I am with the disciples wondering, “How could this happen?  Wasn’t Jesus the Rescuer?  The King God had promised?  It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”*  

Then, I remember.  It doesn’t end like this.
Jesus is not dead.  He is alive!

I look at my Little Love and tell her, “It doesn’t end here!  Jesus rises.  He is alive!”  She giggles.

It was for the joy that was set before him that Jesus endured the cross—the joy of relationship with us, the joy of relationship with me. 

I think of the lyrics from Matt Maher’s song 'Christ is Risen': “Oh death!   Where is your sting?  Oh hell!  Where is your victory?  Oh church!  Come stand in the light!  Our God is not dead.  He’s alive!  He’s alive!”

I smile and pull her close saying, “This is good news!”

She wiggles out of my arms.  I let go of her and stand up, turning towards the sink to grab my tooth brush. 

I notice the morning sun shining.  Its bright light is pouring in right where I am standing; and I can't help but continue to hum to myself, "He's alive!  He's alive!"


“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” –Jude 1:24-25, KJV


Grace and peace be ours in abundance this Good Friday as we remember the depth of the Father’s love for us and this Easter as we remember—Jesus is risen, He is risen, indeed!  May we take joy in the hope that we have through His death and resurrection.  When we come to Him, Jesus takes our sinful hearts and presents us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.   We are so very loved.

Jessica :)

P.S.  I highly recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible if you do not already own a copy.  It is published by Zondervan. © 2012. The story referenced throughout this post is called 'The sun stops shining,' pages 302-309.  The thoughts I shared along with the disciples are from p. 310.

The photos in this post are from Badlands National Park, South Dakota in July 2010.  We got up to watch the sunrise.  The first two were taken by Jason and the third by me. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Behold, The Lamb

We sit listening to her Daddy read.

“It was Passover, the time when God’s people remembered how God had rescued them from being slaves in Egypt.  Every year they killed a lamb and ate it.” -The Jesus Storybook Bible, 286.

At the word “lamb” she begins to chirp with excitement.  “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!” 

“Yes, dear.  The lamb does say “baa”,” I respond with a smile.

Her Daddy continues to read.

““The lamb died instead of us!” they would say.” -The Jesus Storybook Bible, 286.

She shouts her refrain with glee.  “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!”

Yes, dear.  The Lamb. 

You have got it!  The Lamb. 

He is the one in this story to pay attention to.

Daddy continues to read.  My girl continues to “baa.”  I sit in wonder considering this Lamb.

This Holy Week began with whispered prayers about how to lead this Little Love of not quite eleven months to consider what was important this week.  I find now that she is reminding me.  “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!”  The Lamb.  She knows it.  Do I know it?

My husband is still reading.

“Then Jesus picked up some bread and broke it.  He gave it to his friends.  He picked up a cup of wine and thanked God for it.  He poured it out and shared it.  “My body is like this bread.  It will break,” Jesus told them.  “This cup of wine is like my blood.  It will pour out.  But this is how God will rescue the whole world.  My life will break and God’s broken world will mend.  My heart will tear apart—and your hearts will heal.  Just as the passover lamb died, so now I will die instead of you.  My blood will wash away all of your sins.  And you’ll be clean on the inside—in your hearts.  So whenever you eat and drink, remember,” Jesus said, “I’ve rescued you.”  -The Jesus Storybook Bible, 292.

I think of the lamb in the thicket, rescuing Isaac.  This rescue involved a family.

I think of the blood of the Passover lambs above the doorposts in Egypt.  This rescue involved a nation.

I think of John the Baptist’s words about Jesus:  “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”  This rescue is for the world.

I think of Isaiah 53.

"Who has believed our message
    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,    and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
    a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
    yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
    and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
    so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
    Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
    for the transgression of my people he was punished.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
    nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
    and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
    and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
    he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
    and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
    and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
    and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
    and made intercession for the transgressors."

This is what we remember this week—the rescue that comes through the death of Jesus, the Lamb, on the cross.  Yet, this rescue doesn’t end in death, but resurrection!  Jesus has victory over death.  We remember this too.  He is who He says He is, God.

I think of the scene John describes in the throne room of heaven. 

"Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.  In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped."  - Revelation 5:11-14

Somehow, in these words, I can picture the voice of my Little Love calling out “Baa!  Baa!  Baa!”

Yes, Little One.  

Behold, the Lamb and worship Him.

This is a repost from the archives.  It still amazes me the way God uses my Little Love to draw me nearer to him.  I hope you have enjoyed remembering with me.  A new post will be up tomorrow about how God is using this Little Love to draw me into His presence as we move toward Easter right now. 

Grace and peace be ours in abundance as we behold the Lamb who was slain, the Lamb who lives!  May we give thanks for the redemption that comes through Christ and worship with every breath and action of our lives.

Jessica :)

P.S.  Behold the Lamb.  Remember and worship Him today.  

I highly recommend this Matt Maher album.  It is one of my favorites and is a great a Lenten and Holy Week album.