holy week.

My 80-year-old grandmother is a feisty independent woman. Though she is relatively mobile, with each passing day, it seems like she needs additional care and attention. Once a month I have been traveling to her home and spending the weekend doing my best to meet her needs. These needs are a mixture of physical and social deficiencies. It might mean helping her around the house, by pushing her in the wheelchair, or just simply being present in her loneliness – in which case, we eat po’boys and play board games!

I had the pleasure of keeping her company this past weekend and ushering in Palm Sunday, and the beginning of Holy Week, with her. Tea in hand, we sat together and listened to a few of our favorite pastors. As we digested the sermons, there was a passage of Scripture identified that seems rather appropriate for meditation on the eve of Spy Wednesday.

“Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watch for an opportunity to hand him over.” Matthew 26:14-16

I so often scoff at Judas for betraying Jesus. But I fail to admit the inner darkness of humanity that ruminates within my own soul. Though I did not betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, I find myself willing to deliver him to the cross, daily, for many shameful wants, desires, and fears.

While my wickedness makes me no better than Judas, the result of Spy Wednesday — ultimately the death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ — has satisfied and atoned for the darkness I so willfully participate in.

Spy Wednesday may bring somber reflection, but there is joy and hope in the power of the resurrected Christ. Though our actions default to our humanity, may we boldly sip from the cup of holy oil and accept the forgiveness we are offered.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.

The Prayer of Saint Francis

 

 

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America! America! / God shed his grace on thee / And crown thy good with brotherhood / From sea to shining sea!

The Fourth of July is a reflective day of celebration for citizens of the United States of America. Patriots of this great nation pay tribute to the adopted declaration by the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. It is a day colored by red, white, and blue. It is a day sketched with iconic traditionalism – the Star Spangled Banner, apple pie, baseball, parades, flags, barbecues, family, and friends. Of course the day wouldn’t be conclusive without an exultant firework display.

Just thinking about Independence Day myself, so many phenomenal memories flood my mind. When I was young my family always went downtown Grand Rapids to see the firework display over the Grand River. I actually used to hate the sound of the fireworks and I remember curling up close to my father and making him cover my ears with his hands! As I grew tradition changed and we began spending the day in Grand Haven. We would soak up the sun, walk the pier, and at the end of the day join thousands of people as the largest musical water fountain displayed patriotic anthems to a choreographed H2O musical before a firework display lit the sky with fervor. Over the years there have been a few obscure memories. One spent in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and one spent in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. What I loved most of each of these experiences was the fact that our perched vantage point allowed us to see neighboring fireworks in surrounding cities and towns! Fortunately, like the majority of Americans, the celebration doesn’t cease with the impressive show of sky-fire, but instead we head home to celebrate with our own firework displays. Some even resort to their pistols and shotguns to signify the resounding battle won that birthed a nation. The cracks and pops and booms can be heard until the morning light.

This sense of patriotism is a display of who we are as Americans and the history that brought us to where we are today. Americans are sons and daughters of immigrants. Many of us are muts – an ancestral makeup of diverse backgrounds. I for one am part Native American, German, English, and Dutch. We were born of tough people. People who fought for freedom. People who fought to give their children freedom. We defeated the British’s cruel tyrants and unrepresented taxation. And a nation was founded that is accepting of all people. A nation was founded that allows individuality, grants opportunity, fights for liberty, and allows religious freedom. The toughness, the love of country, the fight to protect our land is in our blood. It is who we are.

It was George Williams Curtis that said, “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle; and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.” Our principle in the land of the brave is truth. And “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, they they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

And in honor of this nation’s 236th birthday, I have selected a few quotes by our founding fathers that signify love for country, love for freedom, and a love for Jesus Christ.

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.” 
The Trumpet Voice of Freedom: Patrick Henry of Virginia, p. iii.

“Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. … Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us.” 
History of the United States of America, Vol. II, p. 229.

“I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.” 
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”
The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.

May God continue to bless you and may God continue to bless the United States of America!

Let freedom ring.

Quotables

“The commission is no more popular. ‘We’ve already had 17 commissions over three decades and $13 trillion in new debt,’ tweeted Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, a leading supporter of Cut, Cap and Balance. ‘No more commissions.’

“The president’s speech was notable only for what he did not say: ‘I will veto the Boehner bill.’…

“The solution to this crisis is not complicated: if you’re spending more money than you’re taking in, you need to spend less of it.”

“The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen.”

“You see, there is no stalemate in Congress. The House has passed a bill to raise the debt limit with bipartisan support. And this week, while the Senate is struggling to pass a bill filled with phony accounting and Washington gimmicks, we will pass another bill – one that was developed with the support of the bipartisan leadership of the U.S. Senate…”

Quote of the Day

“I don’t think people understand that this kind of pain and suffering fits Obama’s master plan.  It’s hard to convince them.  What president would want citizens to suffer?  Well, it’s been five months now, and we have employed every ‘fix’ Obama told us to, and it’s only gotten worse.”

Rush Limbaugh