Do you need some resurrecting? On Saturday, all was quiet while Jesus was in the grave. Friends and supporters sat weeping with loss and dashed dreams.
Detractors were gloating and feeling some relief at finally being proved right and getting what they wanted.
Middlemen were glad to be out of the middle. Bystanders who never were quite sure what all the commotion was about anyway went back to their regular routine.
Who are you in the story? Bystander? Middleman? Detractor? Supporter? Crucified?
The crucified one lay in the grave. Just days before today they had a huge parade to welcome him into the city. The celebration was huge … hosannas lifted … coats and palms laid on the street. It was big. But, he knew.
The detractors were not happy. Detractors are rarely happy. They celebrate brief victories before moving on to their next target.
Supporters were at their peak thinking all they had dreamed about and planned for was finally coming into place after 3 and a half, long, often-difficult years.
Bystanders came out to watch the parade before going back to their regular tasks.
And the middlemen? They were just hoping not to have this spill into anything else bringing more work for the weekend.
Which are you?
Many of us have experienced some of what the crucified one experienced.
We remember the big celebration when we got the new job and everyone was thrilled to have us on board. And then we remember the conversation gradually changing around the water cooler over the next two years. We remember the feeling of friends changing sides to join the detractors and feeling betrayed. And then, we remember the end and giving our notice feeling numb.
Or, we remember the huge wedding celebration and being so much in love. We remember the talk of the future and building a life together. We remember the spouse who never had a harsh word, gradually moving to the other side of the spectrum and speaking only criticism. And then, for some of us, the agonizing pain of betrayal and the death of our dream came with “crucify” translated to “divorce.”
It has happened to the athlete who was the star. Gradually he stopped wowing his adoring fans and saw his Twitter feed change from “best ever” to “trade him” and “overrated.” “Crucify” in different language.
Or, you had the college graduation party, summa cum laude, with big dreams and bright future. And then, that changed as your biggest fans and biggest supporters, transitioned to telling you that dreams are fine but reality demands that you settle and “just get a job, any job.” And now you hear the beep of barcodes scanning 8-10 hours a day.
The pain of crushed dreams. The pain of betrayal when friends move to detractors. The pain of seeing that all your efforts apparently were not enough. The shouts of “crucify” translated to “you’re fired” and “you’re done.”
Jesus knew and he still walked forward. We had no idea and were taken by surprise but we can still walk forward. How? The same power that rose Jesus from the grave is alive in us.
It’s Saturday and many of us need resurrection. The good news is that Sunday is coming. The good news is that the detractors and middlemen have some major disappointments ahead. The good news is that Jesus did not quit but did exactly what he said he would do. He rose.
You and I are not finished.
“By Your spirit I will rise
From the ashes of defeat
The resurrected King, is resurrecting me
In Your name I come alive
To declare Your victory”
Tomorrow, Sunday, we will gather at 10 AM at 733 Main St in Westbrook to celebrate the resurrection. Join us. And yes, detractors, middlemen and bystanders are always welcome. And, if you miss it? We’ll be there next Sunday doing the same thing, and the next, and the next …
Some of you know that I see more in my photographs than the obvious. Things I photograph often speak to me.
Today, while I walked around a historic train yard, these old padlocks and weathered chain drew my eye. In the shape of a cross, the message of Easter on my mind, I pictured the locks busting open and the chains falling off. I must have looked strange spending so much time photographing the scene.
I thought of the power of the cross and the freedom I’ve found in Christ. “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my savior, has ransomed me.”
But then, I thought of how easy it is for us to reach down to pick up those heavy chains. We choose to carry them wondering why we feel so weighed down, so depressed and such strangers to peace.
Drop them. Their only power over you is now the power you give them. Drop the hatred, the fights, the drama. Chill instead of raging. Stop partying in the pity pool and swim away. That faction-focused friendship is dulling you. It will always find a new fight.
Galatians 5:1 “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.”
Those are my thoughts today while photographing old trains. I like it when my photography sparks something within.
On Tuesday mornings, I volunteer at one of our local schools reading with first graders. I love doing it. Kids always make me smile.
Back in January, one little girl who is always pretty outspoken, was clearly frustrated. She explained that her teacher was making them write manuscripts and she said, “I don’t know why. I can never be an author.”
I told her she could be anything she set her mind to but she wasn’t buying it. I told her I could write books like the books we were reading and she laughed. “You’re not an author!” she said.
I have self-published some photography books for family and friends so, technically, I am an author but not in the distributed author sense. I was so determined to show her that being an author is not impossible that I found myself saying, “the next time I come read with you I will read a book I wrote.” She just laughed at me. Challenge accepted!
That left me needing to write and produce a children’s book and have it in hand the next time I came to read to the class. Thankfully, I had about 4 weeks to get it done between their school break and my being away for a conference and planning time.
Since the class always teases me about my aversion to cats, I knew my book had to be about dogs. I also knew that I wanted to convince my little friends that they can decide what they want to be in the future. So, “I’m Just a Dog” was born. Fortunately, a dog event was scheduled nearby during my time in Florida giving me plenty of subjects to photograph.
The class was pretty thrilled when I returned and read “I’m Just a Dog” for them because each of the dogs was named after one of the children in the class. The concept was simple, “Eva wants to be an artist but she can’t because she’s just a dog. But you can!”
That lead to wondering if perhaps I could find a traditional publisher for my children’s book and researching the publishing process. Several sources recommended approaching publishers with three projects demonstrating versatility. So, now I have three children’s books ready to go.
The publishing process, if I find someone, will take at least a year but if you simply cannot wait that long, each is available in a one-off printing service online that prints and ships book by book. (That makes them more expensive than they will be if they ever make it to the shelves of Barnes and Noble.)
It has been fun and, even if they never get published for real, my grandchildren will have some keepsakes from Grampa.
If you want to see, just click on the titles. That will allow you to see and read them online.
I’ve been doing some studying … mostly because I’m coming to the end of my six months of messages and teachings for the church I serve and am asking God what’s next. In the process I am looking in the mirror and seeing a change in myself that I do not like.
I’ve been at our little church revitalization work for just over five years now. When I started, I was just on the other side of the liver transplant journey that shook me to the core. It was a process that stripped me back to nothing.
When I started at this historic building on Main Street, I was in a place where I was vulnerable and absolutely awed by a God who I came to know more intimately than I ever before. I had been through difficult seasons in life. but I had never been totally broken and desperate. I always had some core strength or belief that I could do something, make some changes and pull myself through. The transplant journey offered none of that. Everything was entirely out of my control. All I had left was my faith and my people. And even some of “my people” distanced themselves from me because, like Job of the bible, I was too much to look at and too uncomfortable to be around.
When I started with this small group of people, all I wanted to do was worship and show others what I discovered. All I wanted to do was tear down barriers so that people could find the life-giving, always faithful, sustaining Jesus I had come to know so intimately. I remember times of singing songs in our gathered worship service and having to take a few minutes to compose myself before being able to speak. I went to worship. Not much else mattered.
Skip ahead to 2018. I am relatively healthy, just having the normal immunosuppressed challenges of catching most every virus and every bug going around. I am reestablished and financially secure in middle class Americana. I have appointments on my calendar, planning meetings to attend and even long-range goals. I remember not being confident enough to even plan things two months in advance because I didn’t know if I would be in the hospital or even alive. I am not desperate for God and the intimacy of suffering has faded. I’m operating on my own strength.
I have been studying why Americans go to church. I’ve been reading blogs, watching videos and studying church growth resources with their formulas for building attendance. I see things listed like:
attractive children’s spaces
quality coffee, welcome area
comfortable and inviting lobby areas
engaging stage design
practical, upbeat messages
parking lot greeters
I am being offered resources for attractive, targeted, direct mailings promising 1-2% response rate.
I just watched a young man make a very good and passionate plea for Christians attending church for the “right reasons.” It was all basically good stuff:
Because Jesus went to temple and the church is His Bride. He values it.
To contribute and serve.
To give your children a faith foundation.
Community – caring for each other and receive care.
Connections – personal and professional networking.
I’m reading a lot and watching a lot of presentations. There is no shortage of materials aimed at helping struggling churches attract people. That makes sense because the American church is not even keeping up with population growth. The American church is searching for the formula to fill the seats.
Worship, beyond a well-produced musical package, is missing. I am trying to discover when all-encompassing worship left the equation. When was it that gathering to simply worship God moved from the key reason for believers gathering to not even making the list?
I attended a large church service recently with a few hundred others and though the message was strong and the people welcoming, I was bothered. The band was tight and well-produced and the two large screens gave us the lyrics we needed.. We sang about how we can do anything in Christ, about how much God loves us, about our power in him and we sang about God’s “reckless” love pursuing us and chasing us down. I sang “boundless” because I can’t assign “reckless” to anything my God does. It was all good in reminding us of our position and standing in Jesus. But, I left feeling like I had worshipped myself rather than my God. Does that make any sense? It was all about me somehow … or, at least, that was my perception. The energy was great and the enthusiasm palpable. It was so good but I still felt like something was missing.
Worship is missing. Worshipping the living God for who he is, worshipping him for his character, his mercy, his love, his justice and his position is missing. It’s been missing in me.
I’ve been going to teach good Truths. I’ve been going to church worrying about who comes and if this person is happy or why that person doesn’t like me anymore. I’ve been going hoping that people will get something out of it and even hoping people find hope in Jesus. I’ve been hoping our children’s program grows and hoping we can see our music team add musicians in key spots. I’ve been putting presentations together and searching for memorable object lessons. But, I haven’t been going to worship.
When worship is my focus not many of the details matter. When worship is my focus I don’t tend to notice who came and who skipped and I don’t leave wondering if my message landed as a 9 or a 3. When worshipping God is my motivation, other things flow out of it naturally.
I want to stand up and say, “hey, if we’re here for something other than worshipping the living God, we’re here for the wrong reason” because that’s true of me. My God saved my life and preserved me not to revive a little church in Westbrook; that is not my primary purpose. He preserved me, saved my life so that I might worship him, give him all and then stand back and see what he brings out of that worship. This privilege I have to shepherd here in Westbrook is not about me at all, it’s an outflow of worshipping my God.
We’ve been fooled into thinking that our evaluations and our opinions are what matters more than anything else. We give our reviews and feedback immediately on Google or Yelp. Waitress too slow? 2Two stars. Meat overcooked a little? Two stars. Temperature in the theater just right and popcorn good? 4 stars. We really believe our personal opinions, preferences, likes and dislikes are the most important thing. We write our blogs, tweet our thoughts and compose our rants on social media fully believing that our “right to be heard” is tantamount.
And then, we bring that mindset into our churches where we evaluate everything, Children’s program? 1 star. Music, 3 stars. Coffee, 1 star. Decor, 1 star. Preaching, 3 stars. People, 4 stars. It goes on and on. It’s about us. It’s our job and responsibility as reviewers. We are the consumers.
I’ve been doing the same thing. It’s not unimportant to have quality programs. Cleaning is important and comfort is not a bad thing. But worship is to be our primary motivation.
I am not talking about ‘worship music,” if there is such a thing. I am not looking for a 4 star, tight, energetic, get-them-on-their-feet, great lights and sound, “worship experience.” What I long for is a total focus on being in the presence of God to worship him.
I’ve been blessed to worship singing along with a terrible guitar player trying her best. I’ve been blessed to experience powerful, authentic worship inside a large, hot, very uncomfortable big-top, tent. I’ve been moved worshipping with believers with no PA system and no electricity and I have worshipped in a setting with 5,000 others lead by a song-leader who became almost invisible, directing everything to God. I’ve been immersed in worship where the speaker was not polished or funny or energetic. In each circumstance nothing mattered except for gathering to worship the living God.
I’ve gone to our worship gathering for the past two weeks refocused on the immense privilege and mystery of joining with other believers, as the church, to simply worship. It has been good to get back to what matters. I haven’t worried about anything. In fact, I forgot my watch Sunday morning. I don’t know if I finished on time or started on time. But, I do know that I sang my prayers to my God through lyrics that focused on worshipping him. I know that I sang songs reminding me of my position in him as his child. I didn’t really notice much else. And I didn’t worry at all about the teaching time and who would like it or not like it. It was part of worship.
“Worship” is the word we use. But the Greek and Hebrew languages use a bunch of words to describe all the elements of worship: aboda, latreia, latreuo, latreia, leitourgia, proskyneo, shachac, gonu, gonupeteo, histahawa, shachac, proskyneo, homologia, thusia. Somehow we’ve reduced all of it into a 60-90 minute block of time that we attend when nothing better is pulling us away. For many people, it’s reduced even further into just the music portion of that 60-90 minutes. Somehow, worship is now about us and what it does for us. Did we sing songs I like? Was it the right length? Did it move me?
Worship is the response of grateful and humble people to the living God where submission, sacrificial service, praise, profession, testimony and gratitude are freely expressed in innumerable ways. ~ Lee Campbell, PhD
This relationship with God is so much bigger than a Sunday morning event. Worship is saturating, shaping and defining every day. Worship is not about me at all. Worship is my response to an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God who holds everything and is worth everything.
Worship is response, praise, sacrifice, obedience, fear, service, adoration. Worship is confession, testimony, study, conforming and bowing. Worship is always.
Sunday mornings are just part of worship. Gatherings of believers is when the supernatural mystery of God’s pleasure, power and presence meld when two or more show up to focus all on him together. He indwells corporate worship for his glory and his purpose.
Worship is not about me at all. And that, in itself, has freed me from so much of the pressure I was carrying.
It’s been said that, “a donkey will sink in quicksand, but a mule won’t.”
First, why is quicksand not a big deal anymore? When I was a kid, quicksand was in lots of movies, shows and cartoons. I think it could have been one of the leading causes of death. Now, you never see quicksand.
And “the floor is lava” isn’t a thing anymore. Where did that go?
I did some research on quicksand this morning. I’m pretty sure I have Google confused by the variety of my searches. Ads for special quicksand shoes will probably start showing up now. I’m probably listed in a database of nutty people or future Jeopardy contestants. Maybe it’s just one list?
Apparently, things don’t get swallowed by quicksand. It’s something about the Archimedes Principle and FB = ρf Vf g. This Archimedes fella had known about this stuff 2400 years ago. Me? I know boats float but I am not sure why. I’m not sciency.
Anyway, quicksand is just suck mud that animals get stuck in and then die of dehydration and exhaustion trying to get out. You don’t sink unless you struggle.
Ok, I need to remember that. If I get stuck in quicksand it is best to just lay back and relax until I die of dehydration. Got it! No struggling for me.
Life is throwing a lot of suck mud at a bunch of my friends right now. There’s sickness suck mud, aging suck mud, financial suck mud, relationship suck mud, housing suck mud …
We’ve had our share of suck mud too but, right now, we’re just hiking through the forest in a mud-free time. I know there’s more suck mud ahead that we’ll hopefully avoid but it’s part of life in a broken, imperfect world.
The good thing is that we’re not making this hike alone. And, as much as we want to struggle and fight, we need to try our hardest to lay back, float, pray and wait for the rescue that is guaranteed.
“In this world, you will hit suck mud but, hang in there, I’m hiking with you.” It’s kinda what Jesus said in John 16:33. Our faith is the pole laid across the quicksand and we need to hold tight and wait for the puller to pull. I’m waiting for the puller, not dehydration.
We spent about a year hanging onto the pole of our faith across the pit until my transplant happened. But, our faith kept us hydrated and hopeful, for the most part. And then, after the operation, we spent months pulling in recovery from the surgery until we were free to continue our hike.
I don’t know if I’m more like a donkey or a mule. Sometimes I’m definitely more jackass than stubborn. Sometimes I lean toward the stubborn side more. The suck mud doesn’t differentiate. It has the same effect in both.
The key to survival is the pole across the pit. I’m thankful that our faith has been that pole in our lives.
“Ok Google, what is the best way to survive quicksand?”
“Relax. Quicksand usually isn’t more than a couple feet deep…”
“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.” Jesus in John 16:33
Scott Linscott is husband, dad, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend and neighbor who received a living donor liver transplant in May of 2012.
My anxiety/PTSD is racing. I have no worries, apart from this being Day 10 of the latest antibiotic course fighting the most recent respiratory infection. My life is beyond anything I ever imagined.
So what’s the problem? Well, I did some catching up on some of my liver transplant friends from 2011-2013 this morning and it reminded me that I’m like a poster boy for successful transplant. But, why would that set me off?
Anxiety/PTSD makes no sense to me. I have come to know most of the possible hospital and medical triggers. I’ve been sent into panic attacks by beeping IVs, scrubs and even by a wall-mounted hand sanitizer station. I kind of understand those triggers now and start talking myself down walking up to the doors of any hospital/rehab facility.
But, I don’t understand why my heart is thumping this morning. All I did was check out Facebook pages of others who went through what we went through.
I’ve only had two mildly-significant scares in going on 7 years. Truthfully, “significant” is not even the right word. I’ve never even experienced true, confirmed rejection but only elevated numbers of “possible rejection” and just one biopsy to check. It was negative.
Going through transplant friends’ pages this morning I am seeing ongoing battles, regular infusions, ERCPs placing stents every few months, biopsies, CMV, and a host of complications. Seeing the pictures of people going in and out of hospitals has my heart racing even though it’s not my story at all.
I feel bad because I used to be very involved in support groups for people facing transplant. My hope was to be strong for them. I just couldn’t keep doing it because of all the triggers. Trying to be strong while sitting here counting backwards by threes and controlling my breathing was keeping me stuck.
Maybe I should have just sucked it up, faced my fears, and continued on. Did I just push it deeper in and make it worse? I really don’t know.
So, here I sit, Mr. Poster Boy, with too many amazing blessings to count, totally freaking out about things I’ve never had to face or experience. I am not even afraid I will experience them but still, my heart is racing.
PTSD/Anxiety makes no sense to me at all. So, I’ll just sit here deep breathing, going over God’s promises and giving thanks for my life and all the wonderful things that I have to be thankful for.
“The priority of Jesus’ solitude and silence is everywhere in the Gospels. It’s how he began his ministry. It’s how he made important decisions. It’s how he dealt with troubling emotions like grief. It’s how he dealt with the constant demands of his ministry and cared for his soul. It’s how he taught his disciples. It’s how he prepared for important ministry events. It’s how he prepared for his death on the cross.” – Bill Gaultiere
And yet I wonder why I’ve felt burned out, discouraged, out of balance and fatigued? It’s been almost a year since I’ve practiced the disciplines of silence and solitude.
There’s a pair of red-headed woodpeckers about 20 feet away from me, 5 mallard ducks floating by on a pond of glass, and a lone fisherman in a small boat casting into his mirror image. I can identify the calls of three early-morning birds and am straining to identify two unknown. A pair of loons is making its morning trip into the swampy cove to my right.
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10
That will be true with me or without me. How can it be that we get so busy doing God tasks that we lose touch with the Lover of our Souls Himself? How can we become so immersed that we actually lose all sense of presence?
Photographing an event is entirely different than experiencing an event. Doing God tasks is entirely different than sitting with God … alone … quiet … still.
Solitude and silence are the disciplines that deliver strength and drive. Similar to pulling into a gas station, similar to having the oil changed and similar to rotating the tires, it is solitude and silence that give me what I need to continue to answer the call of Christ. Solitude and silence are what He needed to complete the mission He was given.
Thomas Pond, Casco, Maine
A loon’s call is saying “amen” or “so be it” as my solitude is interrupted by neighboring cottages releasing their children, screen doors slamming behind them. They will want to greet my dog and ask a million questions.
But that’s okay. We were not called to unending solitude and silence. We were called to love our neighbors.
At least I am finally feeling recharged and motivated to answer that call. I’ve got an invite, or more of a challenge actually, to show off my rock skipping skills.