On Palm Sunday, as we now call it, when Jesus rode a donkey and everyone threw down their coats along the path, or waved palm branches over his head, or whatever they did to show His worth, while they sang His praises, the Pharisees saw this and asked Jesus to rebuke his disciples. And what did He say?
Luke 19:40 (NASB) "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"
I do not know about you, but when I get up in the morning, roll out of bed and my feet hit the floor, the first thing that can be heard (other than Lance's excited patter of feet that I am getting up to let him outside for a break), is usually "Uh." It's a groan as pressure hits my knees from standing on my feet. Or, if Lance is truly silent, a person would hear the "snap, crackle, pop," of those said knees. Maybe a hip, or ankle, too.
Mornings are not a pleasant thing for me. No matter how congenial my joints might be, I am not a very good morning person. Forget the whole joke of needing coffee before talking, I need it to be noon before talking.
To be cheerful before noon. To be ready, awake, and "talkie", in any capacity, requires thought and effort, sometimes even the night before as I mentally prepare myself and physically set the alarm clock. (I definitely cannot do spontaneous mornings).
But then I get asked, how I can say such a thing when I am all smiles, laughter, and perhaps even fun whenever someone sees me, even if it is an early morning—before noon—like on Sundays?
Romans 8 refers to creation groaning, as it waits for the coming of our Lord.
Yeah, I know. I am weird. But I would rather step out in faith that it will be a beautiful day and sing His praises, then to sit unhappily and let my joints be the only noise He hears coming from my place.
Not to mention, every time I make a groan, I mentally hear that verse in my head and think that the last thing I would want would be to start hearing things…like the rocks littering the path to the road, to cry out His name. Or my joints to groan all the louder, just so He would hear something. Anything.
Another thing I have learned about faith. It requires stepping out. When I sing His praises, it is not always about feeling it, it is simply about stating it.
I do not know if you have noticed, but smiles are as contagious as a yawn. Even if I do not feel like smiling as I pass a stranger on the road, if I smile, the smile is rarely NOT returned. And the cool thing I have discovered is that when it is returned, suddenly mine feels bigger, fuller, and genuine, even if it did not before.
I have found that praise works like that too. The more I praise Him, no matter how I really feel, the more feeling is put onto the back burner and the more praise becomes genuine. The more I want to sing His praise from the proverbial rooftops, and not because I have to or need to, but truly, truly, want to!
It's contagious, people! So come on, join in…before the rocks take your place!
Today is Easter! What better day to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, to shout His praises, and sing our thanks, then on the day that death died and we were redeemed?!
Today is Easter and all I can think about is death.
If death can have a non-morbid side, let me clarify that I am not thinking of the morbid kind. (I am NOT suicidal).
Did you not hear? Today is Easter! The day we celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection, the death of death, the life of Love, and our redemption!
Twenty-odd years ago (OK, going on thirty-years, but who's counting?) I almost died. Twice. I was three years old. And again, a few months later when I was about four years old.
When asked those crazy questions by friends, "how would you rather die, by such-and-such or this-and-such?" My answer has always been "as quickly as possible! Definitely not drowning!"
Dying can be scary. Laying there gasping for air, fighting to live, fearful that I would not be able to take another breath. That nobody was truly listening, or could help me, even as the EMTs worked frantically over my little body as they quickly took me to the nearest hospital.
Dying might be scary, but death is not.
I could care less about pearly gates or golden roads, to me heaven is Jesus. I get to sit on my Daddy-God's lap, bury my face in his chest, in a never-ending hug. Literally, never-ending! What could be better than that?
Whether I died, or just almost died as a child, what I remember is a lot bigger than just those two minutes of fear and gasping for air.
My mom will say that I had been having problems breathing, and so at night she and Dad would check on me. Regularly. Dad will say that some nights he even slept in my doorway, just so if I suddenly went silent, he would know and be right there.
Then one night, I did. I fell silently. Mom says she ran to the phone and called 911 and Dad—because we lived in a little apartment on a college campus—says he ran outside to wave the ambulance down when it came.
But what I remember is a completely different story then what my parents will tell. I remember walking out of my bedroom, standing beside my mother as she was on the phone, and shortly after my dad left to hail the ambulance, when another man entered our apartment. He stopped in front of me, knelt down, and as He held my hand, he told me what was going on.
I could hear myself cough from behind me, back in my bedroom as my body gasped for breath, and slept on…and yet, I stood in the dining room, listening to this man tell me that Mom was calling for help for me and that I needed to go back to bed for the time being. I remember reluctantly heading back to my room.
Later, once the ambulance came, and I was in it, I vaguely remember waking up and gasping for air…
But the rest. The blanks between heading to my room and the beginning of the ambulance ride, or between that moment of gasping for air in the ambulance and waking up MUCH later in the hospital (I think it was about a day later). Are things that I am not sure I could ever explain. Or understand. And some of it, sadly, is locked in my memory where even I barely catch glimpses of it.
I remember mostly feeling peace. I remember holding Jesus' hand throughout it all. I remember, when needed, as we looked down through the tree tops, or through the rooftop and into the hospital, He would explain a little about what was going on. But mostly, I just remember holding His hand, sitting beside Him, and knowing no fear, no pain, nothing evil. Only peace. And love.
I have a deep, abiding, friendship with Jesus to this day. And I attribute it back to that day, to the day He held my hand.
I know He will never leave me, nor forsake me.
I know He loves me, even unto death.
I know death will never separate us.
I know He is, and always will be, my best friend forever.
Nobody, no matter how crazy they might say I am from the stories I share or the things I have seen, heard, or done, either past or present, can ever take away what we have, together. Because that day, He showed me things that have no words, or earthly equal.
But if I had to explain it, I would say He showed me that day what Love truly is. What He truly is.
And that knowledge (if one can call it that), can never be taken away.
All I know is that every day, I want more. I want to spend more time with Him. Do more for Him.
No matter how little, or seemingly inconsequential—because mobility does limit or tire me some days—nothing can separate us. And nothing else can fill His place in my heart, my being.
I do not know how to really explain it. I just know.
And in the end, that is the biggest reason I sing His praises.
Because He gave so much, so that I could have so little (in comparison). And yet, that little, seems like so much because He gave it. And yet, it seems like nothing compared to my longing for more. Of Him.
It is as though the day of my dying, was the day our friendship began.
I was "saved" when I was about three years old. And while I do not know if I was saved before or after my dying, I do know this…
It is as though the day of my dying, was the day He reached out. He started it. And I would be remiss if I did not accept it, return it, finish it, hold his hand back. Whatever, you will.
I will forever be eternally grateful to Him. For His death, His reaching out, Him, always and forever standing by my side.
As I child I used to "witness" to others by telling them: "People might say He died to save us from sin, but I say He died so we could be best friends. And He is one friend I know will never leave me, never forsake me, is always by my side. And that is why I think everyone should 'accept' Him into their 'hearts', so they can have a friend such as Him! I know for a fact I would not be alive today, if not for Him; He truly never left me!"
And that is how I still feel today.
No matter how redundant—English teacher-friends of mine will have a fit—I will always and forever be eternally grateful to Him.
I would not be alive, today, if not for Him. And I mean that in more ways than one!
So, today, on Easter, the day we give thanks for death's death, for His resurrection, our redemption, etc, let me add to the chorus of "believers" and say "THANK YOU, LORD! I AM ETERNALLY GRATEFUL"
He alone understands what I mean when I add: "Lord, You may not understand just how grateful I am, but I am. Truly."