Sinning On Easter

April 23, 2011

I have heard the Easter story countless times. I have seen many a felt story board depiction of what it might have looked like when Jesus rose and I have the lyrics to “Christ The Lord is Risen Today” memorized from singing it so much. I have known my entire life that I was a sinner and that I had a God who loved me despite those sins. I still know this now.

A false notion that I had growing up was that it was worse to sin on Easter. I knew that I was going to sin all the time but when Easter rolled around, I was on my best behavior. I had this idea like, “Yeah, God has grace but not on Easter.” I remember one year when I was little saying something mean to my little sister on the car ride home from church and I felt the worst. It was like you treat someone on their birthday. You are so nice to that person. You may make fun of them every other day of the year but that day is their day. This was my thinking.

Needless to say, I was wrong. Easter is Grace. That is what we are celebrating, a God of complete and astonishing Grace. Ephesians 2:8 says that it is by GRACE that we have been saved through faith. That means that I can never earn it. I can’t earn that Grace by being perfect on Easter. I can’t gain that Grace by singing every hymn. Grace is being given something that you can’t deserve. I can’t deserve it.

And so, despite my best efforts, I will sin tomorrow. And while I should have to suffer the consequences of that sin, I won’t have to. I won’t have to because of a man who died and rose again 2000 years ago.


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Ruined

April 22, 2011

For quite some time now, I have been a huge fan of a website called www.noisetrade.com. Basically, this website allows musical artists to post their songs for free download and trade them for email addresses and free publicity. I can’t tell you how many dozens of artists I now strongly advocate for because of this website. Most of the time, I check out artists based on recommendation or based on already knowing some of their other music, but occasionally I will choose to listen to a random artist just for the heck of it. That is just what I was doing about a month ago when I happened upon the incredibly talented Hannah Gingrich.

I downloaded the four songs that Hannah had posted and started playing the first one. It was a song called, “Ruined”. Within moments, I was floored by how beautiful it was. The melody, the simple guitar, the lyrics, all of it. The entire song is this beautiful prayer of change that I find myself listening to often.

The lyrics start out with, “Oh, I am ruined over you. I’ll never see the morning light the same.” That first line alone hits me hard. Every once in a while, I catch a glimpse of my former self. The Allison that I was before I understood the magnitude of love that died for me 2000 years ago. This song reminds me of how far away that Allison is but also how relentlessly my King is drawing me closer to him still.

To ruin something is to destruct it, to completely break it down. That’s not an easy thing. In fact, it is downright ugly sometimes. And most of the time, in terms of my life and my relationship with Christ, that ruining happens daily. All growing up, I prayed for God to humble me, like it was nothing, like that was something that could happen overnight. It was later in life that I learned that to  humble is to humiliate. The two even come from the same root. I was a little less cavalier about praying, “Dear God, please humiliate me today. Amen.” But how necessary it is..

The lyrics to the second line of the song are, “these waters have drowned the life I knew.” For me, it is so easy to pray for the Lord to humble me, as long as he doesn’t do it all the way, or at least not every day. I can pray for Him to change some stuff, but leave some of it the same. But that’s the thing, God is not a half-and-half God. He is an all or nothing God. You can’t half drown something. You can’t half ruin something. It totally changes everything. And that is what strikes me as so beautiful about this song.

That second sentence, “I’ll never see the morning light the same” doesn’t happen without the former view being totally ruined. To me, it is almost like that classic optical illusion of the duck and the rabbit.

When I first saw that, I was so sure that it was a duck and nothing more, until someone pointed out that it looks like a rabbit from a different angle. Every time I look at the illusion now, I see the rabbit first. I know that the duck is still there. I can still find the duck with a quick shift but my mind now defaults to that being a picture of a rabbit.

That may seem like a ridiculous metaphor but the point is, I have this ability to see things in life in a completely new light. I should see everything through this lens of this faith that I have chosen. But that lens doesn’t remain without the ruining. It doesn’t happen without me being willing to be broken down. Daily.

So Dad, humble me. Every day. Ruin all my plans and all my thoughts on how things ought to be and replace them with what You have for me. Amen.

“Ruined” by Hannah Gingrich

Oh, I am ruined over You, over You

I’ll never see the morning light the same.

Oh, I am ruined over You, over You

These waters have drowned the life I knew

When these storms rage and my heart sinks low

You’ve come to save me from this place

And all I’ve seen has crashed and burned

But now I know Your hand’s on me

Overwhelmed

April 18, 2011

So, yesterday was Palm Sunday. And now we are in the week leading up to the day that my God, 2000-something years ago, underwent a punishment that he did not deserve. Naturally this week always brings me to reflection. Reflection of what that time was like, what thoughts went Christ’s head, what thoughts went through the minds of the people yelling “Crucify Him!”

Tonight, my small group girls and I went through that last week together. We read some verses out of Luke and a few from John and after we read each one, we had the same reaction: we were speechless. We were completely overwhelmed all over again by a love that we can’t understand.

One of the things that we kept coming back to is the amount of times that Jesus could have called the whole thing off.

In Luke 19, we see Christ approaching Jerusalem, the city that he loved. The city that he knew would betray in a week’s time. He looks over this city and weeps for it, yearning for them to know what would bring them peace. Wishing so much that they understood who he really was. At this moment, Jesus has the opportunity to retreat. He has the ability to avoid the next week of his life and what comes at the end of it. All he had to do was turn the colt around. Or even just stand still. And yet, he rides in.

Luke 22:42. Christ is hours away from his arrest and goes to pray. He says the words, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Now, this is how it is written but something tells me that there was some more struggling than this. Something tell me that Christ begged and wept and truly desired to call it quits. And then, after all of that, said, “No, no. Your will be done.” Yet again, Christ has the opportunity to run. He even verbalizes that desire. And yet, he continues on.

A short while later, Christ is approached by soldiers, some chief priests and the Pharisees. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said.  When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Yet again, Christ is in control. At the name of God, I Am, these men fell to the ground. Jesus has his out right there. He has these guys on the floor. He is free to walk. And he doesn’t. Instead he asks them again, “Who is it you want?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they said. Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he.”

He was always in control. Even when his friend, Peter, drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear, he reprimanded him. He had the opportunity to shut the whole operation down at any time. And he didn’t.

That’s why my girls and I were speechless tonight at small group. We couldn’t fathom that. And never will be able to. That cross was made for us. And someone loved me enough to trade places with me. Someone cared about me enough to be the one that was mocked and spat on for my sake.

I pray that that sacrifice never grows stale. I pray that I am always overwhelmed by a love that I can’t comprehend.