Hosanna!

In dedication to Lorraine Williams, I reflect on a blog I originally published in 2011. Updated now…

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I had had been reflecting on the Easter season when my kids and I had read through the book of John, we came to the chapter about the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.  Often in our churches, Palm Sunday will be marked by children walking into the sanctuary waving palm branches and shouting out what the people of Jerusalem did, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”   Palm Sunday is a cheery, celebratory day and we revel in the history and joy of Jesus’ entry,  but how did the same cheering crowd praise Jesus one day and crucify him on another?

Several years ago a dear friend of mine began a battle with breast cancer.  She is a pastor’s wife and a woman of great faith, so she began this fight with much optimism.  Her life was on display, and her community was ready to witness a miracle in her life as we expected God to do a miraculous healing.  Many weeks passed, many prayer vigils held, many prayer chains contacted, and many encouraging words spoken, but the healing did not come.  She stood on God’s promises of healing and quoted the scriptures that declare that He is a healer, but still the cancer prevailed.  The tumor was growing and she had decisions that had to be made quickly.

I remember her sharing with me that late into her cancer, at one doctor’s appointment, a nurse began sharing with her that there was a “Spiritual Healer” in town who lived not far from her.  The man was a Shaman who used incantations and different concoctions to cure his patients.  Many from our town had used his services and were cured, and my friend would have been a perfect candidate for his help.  With quiet resolve, my friend declined the invitation to put her hope in a Shaman and journeyed home with the cancer still present in her body and questions in her mind.

What do you do when the Jesus you are expecting isn’t the Jesus who shows up in your life?  When you are expecting a King to come and overthrow the Roman government, set you free from tyranny, and bring governmental peace decides instead to be crucified and taken from the political scene you are living in?  What do you do when God the Healer decides instead to walk you through your pain rather than deliver you from it?  What do you do with this Jesus?

We all face this dilemma.  We love God, worship Him whole-heartedly, and celebrate Him on Sunday morning, but on Tuesday when our child is incurably ill, or our cancer is still growing, or we lose our job, home, or spouse we begin to doubt and wonder–  “Is there possibly another solution?  God doesn’t seem to be coming through for me.  Should I look for another Savior?”

Jesus looked pretty legitimate riding in on that donkey.  After all He was fulfilling the scriptures prophesied hundreds of years before in Zechariah 9:9.  The people also shouted something they had rehearsed from scripture in Psalm 118:25-26.  They were ready for His arrival!  They recognized the King in the parade.  He wasn’t as recognizable, however,  when He was silent before His accusers.

When we can’t “see” Him in our circumstances, when we don’t recognize His presence in our pain we begin to doubt and look for another Savior. We can be quick to crucify or abandon our Help when it doesn’t come in our time-table dressed the way we are expecting it.

In his book “The Mystery of the Cross”, Alister McGrath, professor of theology, ministry and education in King’s College, London said: “Just as God has humbled himself in making himself known ‘in the humility and shame of the cross,’ we must humble ourselves if we are to encounter him.  We must humble ourselves by being prepared to be told where to look to find God, rather than trusting in our own insights and speculative abilities. In effect, we are forced to turn our eyes from contemplation of where we would like to see God revealed, and to turn them instead upon a place which is not of our choosing, but which is given to us.”

My friend scheduled the surgery she wanted to avoid, and had the mastectomy.  She grieved her losses, embraced the pain and embraced her Savior even tighter.  She learned to trust God in the dark and walked with Him in the light. She would tell you that cancer taught her more about the love and grace of God than any other experience.  She found her Savior.  He was there in the suffering– promising to never leave her.

Today I will celebrate the life of that dear friend, as she has gone home to be with Jesus–the One she put her trust in. I will celebrate the battle she won in faithfulness and perseverance. I will joy in the fact that she positioned her life to “see” her Savior even when she could have kept her eyes solely on her pain. Even in the face of cancer, she was able to say “Blessed is HE who comes in the name of the Lord.”

I am forever grateful for her faithfulness, and for who she was to me and this community. She is deeply missed.

Dedicated to Lorraine Williams (1959-2018)

When we wanted a King, God sent a baby.  When we wanted revolution, God sent a Redeemer.  When we wanted freedom, God sent a cross.

Diamonds

When my 30th birthday was around the corner, I remember this gnawing sense of dread.  There were so many things I had hoped to accomplish by the time I was 30 that I just never finished and I already felt like a failure.  It seemed like such an “old” milestone and my youth was gone.  A couple of years later, I discovered a lump on my breast and that began to change my life’s perspective. From the initial discovery, to the biopsy, to the results about two months had passed and in those eight weeks I reviewed my life.  I pondered every corner of it.  I challenged all of my motives and questioned all my dreams.  Suddenly I wanted to hang on to my birthdays and celebrate them.  My list of things I wanted to accomplish became more streamlined and focused on what really mattered in life.  My desires were tempered with a new and different timeline.

Those wiser than me have said “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone”, and the tragedy of life is that most of the beautiful things are undiscovered until we embrace pain or loss.  Somehow the dichotomy of beauty and pain work together.  Pain serves as the setting on which Beauty, like a diamond sits.  The brilliance of that diamond is seen when looked at in the light of Truth.

I remember, before my biopsy results were in, calling a couple of women who were already in the fight of Breast Cancer.  The things they shared with me caught me by surprise.  Both of them said that they would not wish Breast Cancer on anyone, but they wouldn’t trade the experience because of what it taught them about life and the things that really matter.  They shared their stories with me, their recommendations, and the things that mattered most.  We cried together, talked a few more times, and prayed for one another.

The end of those two months brought me good news.  The tumor was benign.  I sat relieved.  Cancer was not part of my destiny, but it had already changed my perspective and my life.

I wouldn’t know real joy if I hadn’t known sorrow.  I couldn’t appreciate life if I didn’t realize its brevity.  I couldn’t know healing if I didn’t know pain.  These are the treasures that emerge from our broken world.  These are the diamonds worth holding on to.

Isaiah 61:1-3

 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
   because the LORD has anointed me
   to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
   to proclaim freedom for the captives
   and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
   and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
   instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
   instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
   instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
   a planting of the LORD
   for the display of his splendor.

For those of my readers who are battling cancer or terminal illness, I pray God’s peace, wisdom, and comfort.  I also pray that you would have a fresh revelation of who He is and how much He loves you.  May your story be a beautiful diamond in this broken world.