Monday, April 13, 2009

The other Mary

On Sunday, our kids ministry taught what every other kids ministry across the world covered, the resurrection of Christ. I'm pretty confident in saying it was "the lesson" of the day. As I led the kids through a review game over our Bible story, a question was asked, "Who came to visit the tomb?" The answer was of course, "Mary Magdalene and the other Mary." I made a sarcastic crack (that I'm pretty sure only the adult leaders overheard) about feeling sorry for the other Mary because she was the second string Mary.

Let's admit that if your name is Mary, you get a pretty high profile spot in the lineup of women in the Bible. You have Mary, the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalen, Mary of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus fame, and then there's the other Mary(s). These women were privy to the greatest story ever told and each held a front row seat for different parts of the life of Christ. And then on the final days of Christ's life on earth, they gathered to witness the most unexpected ending to a story they were all part of.

In Christ, each of these women had found a friend, a teacher, a lord, a hope for a future that was almost forgotten, a purpose, an acceptance, a love greater than they had ever known, and a changing self that only comes in the presence of the Savior. But on that last day, they stood and watched as all hope seemed to fade away and the man they had known, had followed, and had learned from, the man in which they placed their hope, trust, and faith, was captured, tried, and sentenced to what would be an unimagined end in their minds. These women gathered at the cross anguished, broken hearted, and in pain to watch their lord suffer death.

I can only imagine the grief and questioning they experienced on that hill. I wonder if they even thought of the promises he had made, the claim to be the Christ, or where they so dispondent from the sight of the physical pain he was subjected to? Could they look past the absolute hurt at watching their friend, maybe the only one who had seen past the muck of their sin to the beauty of life in his love, succumb to the torture and death so wrongly thrust upon him? Were they even thinking of the claims he had made to be the Son of God, of his prediction of his death? Or was the grief so deep and penetrating that hope was lost?

These women, who had experienced life with Christ, were now witnessing his death and I wonder if they thought their own new life might die with him. There is a place where grief is so deep, so overwheming that hope is lost to the shadows and I think these Marys might have been in that place. There are days where the promise of a new dawn, a new day are lost to the darkness of the moment; where we are blinded by the pain to even be able to picture anything else. Sometimes these days come like the one these women experienced, filled with death or loss of hope and sometimes they are days where we just wonder if tomorrow will bring something better than today.

And then that day ended with such overwhelming grief as the women watched Jesus gasp his last breath; taken down from the cross broken, battered and lifeless; wrapped in cloth and rushed to a tomb that was not his own; then experienced the finality of the stone being rolled over the cave marking the end to a life they had joined in. I imagine that was the day that hope died for them too. And so when the Marys returned to the tomb, to show one last act of love and kindness for a man who had given them so much more, they were so filled with grief that the empty tomb held no hope for them but only sorrow.

But that day the great difference between eyes that are human and eyes that are eternal was shown. For they saw a tomb that was robbed and the angel saw a tomb that was conquered. A new day brought with it a long ago promised new reality, one that had banished the sting of death and brought with it a hope that was finally realized. Death had not won on this day, grief and sorrow would not be victorious. And the story these women had participated in had not ended with a man's death on a cross but found its fulfillment with an empty tomb. A new dawn had come, a new day was here, and hope had survived its greatest test.

So how often are we the other Mary? Maybe it's the story of our own lives, where grief and harship seem to triumph over hope, or maybe it's the lives of those we call friends, who we share life with, that go through days where tomorrow doesn't seem possible, where hope if questionable. How will we stand beside them as they struggle through their own trials? Will we believe that hope and promise will somehow overcome the darkness of today? And even if the ending of their story doesn't come out the way we want it, will be rejoice that God has a plan, a wonderous, perfect plan that is always good and always bringing Him glory?

The Marys were part of a story that was overwhelming with its joy and grief. But maybe the point is that they were part of the story, they stayed until the end, whatever it might be.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Prejudice vs. Discernment

So this post is going to be a little less refined; more thinking and typing without the aid of reason, editing, or even fully developed linear thoughts. So hang in there if you chose to keep reading and respond with your own thoughts, questions, or feel free to push back on things you don't agree with.

At what point in our lives have we formed our core opinions, decisions, or values that will then inherently drive the rest of our lives? This must occur at some point, that we make a choice or arrive at core conviction on something or many things and this affects how we view things we encounter. This can be as small as a dislike for cooked carrots or as large as your religious faith. Either way, there is a moment or many individual moments that direct your future understanding, opinions, and decisions.

Now here's another question, is this good or bad, or can it be both. Can my personal dislike for cooked carrots be valid or prejudice? See, as a child I was forced to eat them and I hated the consistency the . That mushy gushy feeling in my mouth makes me want to vomit. And from that one incident I now have a dislike for all things mushy and gushy, which also leads to my assuming something is mushy and gushy and deciding that I will not like it. I reach this absolute decision without trying the food in question to confirm that I'd would not like it.

Or, take for instance an author, speaker, etc. If I have read an author or heard a speaker before and agreed with or liked what they had to say, I assume that I'll also agree with or like their other works and will seek them out again. Yet, the opposite is true. Also, if there are certain ideas or truths that I've accepted and taken as my own core beliefs I will weigh and evaluate other people's opinions, thoughts, or written works through the prejudice of those beliefs.

Another example from my own life. I read the book On the Road by Jack Kerouac in college and hated it. I was disturbed by the main character's utter disinterest in any type of responsibility or authority, his selfishness and self involvement, and just the path of people he left in his wake as he searched for the meaning of life or his next high. To this day, I have feelings of disgust and dislike toward the book and the work. And yet on a trip to the New York Public Library I saw an exhibit about Jack Kerouac, with the original scroll on which he wrote On the Road, and his life and while I still had those feelings of dislike for his written works and even his own life choices, I was interested in a celebrated, by some, writer and the story of his life.

So is all prejudice bad?

Of course that word brings with it considerable baggage, as it probably should. And yet, I'm prejudice against cooked carrots and Jack Kerouac. I won't eat the carrots and I won't read any other works of Kerouac. Is that wrong? Or have I formed an opinion on my own experiences.

Now, this isn't to say that my opinions are always formed on truth. Because while I might have the option to dislike cooked carrots because I have tried them, can I then judge any other cooked vegetable based on that one experience? A silly example I realize, so let's look at Jack Kerouac. Since I've read and determined my opinion for On the Road can I form an opinion on the rest of the works of Kerouac, or for that matter other Beat movement authors? Can I, or more should I be prejudice toward another author because of my already informed opinion about one in the same movement?

How about a different spin on this idea. Can I read a book, any book, with a truly open mind? Or do I come to things with an already formed opinion about them, in some small form at least, based on my personally held convictions, opinions, and values? And if I do try to read something with an open mind, will I bristle at the things that peak my negative opinions and embrace without much thought those things that I already hold at true?

Can we view things with discernment and yet without prejudice? Are those two things the same or different or are they somehow connected and yet separate?

Working at a church, being in the Christian culture, and having lots of conversations with college kids I've often head the words "I was challenged by this or that". Part of me now wonders if we are really challenged or are we just continually justified in our already held beliefs. For something to truly challenge you, shouldn't it rock something deep within you, or spur you on to change a deep-seeded behavior or belief, shouldn't it shock your preconceived notion about whatever it is that the challenge rises from? Or do we use the word "challenged" because it's what we think we're supposed to say?

I'm not saying that we should question every single value or conviction we hold. Those are huge pillars in our life that form who we are, what we think, and how we live. But is discernment looking at everything we encounter (the things we like, dislike, embrace, and reject) and holding them to a standard that is above our own preconceived opinions and testing them to something that is solid and true. What is truth then? Is it my own version of what I believe, or does it rest outside of me and I'm broken upon it time and again until those values, opinions, and beliefs become something that is less "me" and more "truth"?

Ok, I need to think about this more. Sorry if you're lost or left hanging. I'd love to hear your thoughts. As I said, this is "in process" and much more rough than refined.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Admitting my obsession

Ok, I'm admitting it, I'm minorly obsessed with Lost.

Now there are some limits to this obsession, case in point: I don't cruise the MANY fan sites, I don't have a screen name like Oceanicgal or Lostie7, I don't hit the moment after the show airs to buy any work of literature (or comic book) mentioned. But I do read two websites about the show, one is and the other is a blog by people who seem to be just like me, entranced by the story but not overly geekified. I also have a good group of friends who will banter with me about theories, plot lines, and our predictions of how it will all end.

Now, there is ONE thing that might push me over the edge into a form of geekiness that is, well, let's just call it the upper level of nerddom. I have this idea of something to do between the end of this season and the beginning of the next, the FINAL season where all loose ends will be tied up and all our questions will hopefully be answered.

Since I love puzzles and figuring out problems my plan is this: I will watch the prior seasons of LOST and see anew each ep (I use this term for episode because I was told it makes me sound cool and trust me I need all the cool points I can get) with the knowledge I now have. I will also, wait for it here comes the geeky part, takes notes on questions, facts, new plot developments, character connections, and all those little tidbits that I missed along the way OR are huge now in light of future events.

Ok, take a moment and laugh at me, you know you want to.

When I mentioned this to my co-workers, some of which are fellow Lost-watchers and others who are missing out on the amazingness that is this show, they laughed. It's ok, I have a pretty good sense of self worth when it comes to my nerdy tendencies. Then they asked if I was going to turn all John Nash from A Beautiful Mind and have my apartment walls covered in theories and time lines and flow charts. Well not my apartment walls . . . . that's what notebooks are for. I did give them permission to stage an intervention if I started talking about my "friend" Dave who helps me with my theories. (BTW - that was a fun little Lost reference for those of you who might share my obsession and if you don't it's just more fuel for the fire that I'm a nerd).

So that's the plan, we'll see if it happens. Either way I love the show, I love the stories, and I'm obsessed with figuring out the mysteries that surround the story. I think when it comes down to it, I just like problems or riddles that require you to notice small things, connect random dots, and buy into the story to understand the solution.