Today, our world seems darker.
Today, my heart is heavy and grieving.
Today, I acknowledge my guilt and wrap myself around my shame.
Today, I try to fully take in the magnitude of this beautiful, amazing Love.


 On this day, creation mourned and the sun hid itself in grief.
On this day, Jesus chose to stay nailed down, for His heart was full of love.
On this day, Jesus took my guilt into His own body and gave up, for a time, His perfect closeness with God the Father.
On this day, God once for all proved His love for us.
On this day, He proved His Word, that He truly meant it when He said
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
He loves me. He came to rescue me and to make me perfect and holy. He came to conquer death and to make me alive.
On this day, God proved through Jesus that He means to accomplish all of these things.
And yet.
Is He able?
Today, I do not yet know.
I suppose I’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.


art credit: Sketch by Rembrandt, The Three Crosses

Deepest Need

I desperately wanted Kristina to be healed.
I long for the lost wisdom of my Papa.
Analise, Natalie and Papa
I dream of a normal life for my friend, Stephanie.
There are so many stories that I, in my limited vision, would change if I had my way. What story would you change?
I am forced to look deeply at myself, however, when I read the story of friends who lowered the paralyzed down to Jesus through a hole. I hear Jesus’ first words.
Your sins are forgiven
I imagine myself as a friend.
Yes, yes. Forgiveness is good. But we cut away that barrier to You for healing. We want you to fix this. We want him to walk!
But this is Jesus. He is answering the deepest need first, and the deepest need is not to be able to walk.
Lent Candles
It sometimes feels as though my deepest need is to be relieved of my burden.
Cancer is a heavy burden.
Rejection is a heavy burden.
Death is a heavy burden.
Yet over and over again, God’s best work happens when I am carrying my heaviest burden.
I can see this truth at work in the art that I love.
It is interesting to note how many artists have had physical problems to overcome, deformities, lameness, terrible loneliness. Could Beethoven have written that glorious paean of praise in the Ninth Symphony if he had not had to endure the dark closing in of deafness? As I look through his work chronologically, there’s no denying that it deepens and strengthens along with the deafness. Could Milton have seen all that he sees in Paradise Lost if he had not been blind? It is chastening to realize that those who have no physical flaw, who move through life in step with their peers, who are bright and beautiful, seldom become artists. The unending paradox is that we do learn through pain…Pain is not always creative; received wrongly, it can lead to alcoholism and madness and suicide. Nevertheless, without it we do not grow. ~ Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water
In the midst of these hard things, Jesus wants to be certain that I am still able to rest in Him. He wants me to know that He has overcome all of these burdens so that even while I am underneath my burden I can have peace.
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.
The knowledge that I will have trouble is a hard truth. One that I don’t like most of the time.
A large part of me wants to clutch tightly those I love best and protect them. Yet a tiny part of me knows what is truly important.
Lent Candles 2
God’s way of forgiveness and transformation is more important than relief from my heavy burden. I try to trust and let that smaller part of me grow.
I long to be who God intended for me to be. I want to grow. It seems that transformation requires hard things.
Paul, the one who was beaten and imprisoned and shipwrecked and stoned and rejected by many, calls these hard things “light and momentary troubles“.
I can’t do that yet. I cannot open my arms and embrace these burdens.
I can, however, accept them and choose to voice words of gratitude and praise to God for them, even if I don’t truly feel grateful. I can choose to allow these burdens, this pain, to help me grow rather than to drag me down into depression.
I am tempted to try to avoid not only my own suffering but also that of those around me, the suffering of the world.
Lent Candles 3
Instead, I will continue to allow suffering to inspire my art, to trust that God will make all things beautiful.
Instead, I will allow pain to deepen and strengthen my life rather than to destroy it.
Instead, I will pray this grace for those around me as well.


Art credits: my thanks to Eddie Lowen, Pastor at West Side Christian Church in Springfield, Illinois, for his thoughts on this subject; The Palsied Man Let Down through the Roof by James Tissot; Illustration for Milton’s Paradise Lost by Gustave Dore

The Last Temptation

This, the Friday before Easter, is a hard day.

I’d much rather jump straight into Easter, to the joy of the earth singing as it once again feels the touch of Jesus’ feet.

Yet you cannot get to the empty tomb without going through the suffering of the cross.

I’ve written a lot about suffering and pain in these pages. I am often tempted to do almost anything to avoid feeling pain.

It recently struck me that perhaps that is what temptation really is: Satan doing everything he can to help you avoid suffering here on earth.

We don’t know about very many of Jesus’ temptations, but God gives us enough glimpse to know that He, like me, desired to avoid pain.

That is what Jesus’ wilderness temptings were: Satan trying to convince Jesus to believe in him and take the easy, pain-free way of becoming king rather than believing God and obeying His pain-filled, cross way of becoming king.

The way that would also rescue His people.

Too often, I believe Satan instead of God.

Yet Satan did not end his tempting of Jesus in the wilderness.

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time. ~ Luke 4

That opportune time?

The Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus’ last temptation.

The temptation to once again take the comfortable way instead of the suffering way. The temptation to believe in Satan’s hazy seductions rather than in God’s rock-solid promises.

Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will but Yours be done. ~ Luke 22

I bow my head in shame, knowing how often I choose to believe Satan.

Yes, He was God, yet He still struggled as much as we do with this same temptation.

And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. ~ Luke 22

And so we come full circle.

That which began in a garden now ends in a garden because this time the man obeyed.

Jesus obeyed. He chose to believe in God’s promise while knowing the immediate consequences of pain.

My heart wants to weep because I know why He did this.

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5

Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil. ~ Hebrews 2

Because He loves us and He wants to rescue us, to rescue you, from the power of pain and death.

This. This is why we linger long on this hard day instead of leaping ahead to Sunday. To remind us to believe in God’s promises of the end of death and pain even while knowing of the fleeting death and pain we might face in obedience.

May I end with something I wrote and a video I made with a friend? (if you are viewing this via email/in a reader, click here to view this video)

Pause for a moment and dwell on the hard things so that on Sunday your heart can resonate even more fully with Easter’s joy.

It swirls around me like a hurricane
sending my intentions spinning into the blackened sky.
I hear the voice of God
I hear Him tell me what is good
Why can I not obey?
My consistency is that I fail to listen
My constant is that I continue to fall.
The ugly truth?
I don’t believe God.
I don’t believe Him when He tells me what is best.
If I believed, I would obey.
If I trusted in God’s goodness, His love, I would always do what He asks.
I would choose love instead of anger.
I would choose compassion rather than bitterness.
I would forgive instead of clinging to my grudge.
I would assume the best rather than enjoying my irritation.
I would think of others and forget about myself.
How can I obey,
how can I root out this ugliness that is deep inside my heart?
I cannot listen when I will not trust.
And yet I remember.
God is mercy and God is grace.
He changes hearts and He captures our gaze.
He is faithful if we ask;
His wisdom He delights to give.
Christ stayed in the wilderness
He faced down our sin
He trusted in God
Trusted God’s love and goodness
Christ conquered to make me a conqueror.
It captures my heart and teaches me to trust
changing my nature so that I am now able to believe what God says
And obey.


(special thanks to Kati Pessin for putting together the video and to our Pastor for his thoughts on Christ’s temptations)

art credit for the video: music is “Window” by Album Leaf