A Gathering of Links VI

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It has been two weeks since my last gathering of links post, so this one may be a little longer than usual!

It amazes me how much things can change in such a short time.  Two weeks ago we got about a foot of snow here in Indiana.  Today I spent the day working with my family in the community garden, in a t-shirt, in 70 degree weather.  I even have a mild sunburn to show for it!  It is just another demonstration of God and the mysterious ways He works.  He makes all things new, sometimes in ways that are beyond anything we could ask or think.

Thanks to all my fabulous readers, my most popular post in the last two weeks was A Good Friday Gathering.  My favorite post was the one that poured from my heart… What I Gather About the Walk to Golgotha.

Here are some of my favorite posts from some of my favorite bloggers.  Why not grab a cup of coffee, sit out on your deck, and enjoy some evening reading?  You won’t regret it with these links!

Easter Reflection:

From Jen Hatmaker, A Broken Hallelujah.  Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

From Melissa Greene at A Deeper Story, Easter Snow.

From Kathy Escobar, Easter Hope(less).

At A Deeper Story, The Red Balloon.

For Spiritual Inspiration:

From Mary DeMuth, The Enoughness of Enough.  I can so relate to this post.

Interesting perspective on the gay marriage debate at A Deeper Story.

From Sarah Markley, Kneeling in the Dirt.

Turning Hate Mail Into Origami from Rachel Held Evans.

Parenting:

Lisa-Jo Baker’s On Letting Our Girls Be Ourselves.

On Marriage:

Addie at A Deeper Story:  Unequally Yoked.

The Case for Not Marrying Young from Leigh at A Deeper Family.  What a great perspective!

Home Inspiration:

I love the bright colors in this featured home from Design Mom.

I love this tray from Jen at Girl in the Garage.

Food Love:

Anyone love making granola as much as me?  Check out this recipe from A Cozy Kitchen.

At A Beautiful Mess, mini pineapple upside down cakes.  YUM!

And…

Such helpful iPhoneography tips from A Simple Mom.  Loved this!

Was anyone else able to enjoy the beautiful weather today?  What have you been reading and loving lately?  I would love to hear from you!

Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to my blog, would you take just a moment to subscribe?  Just enter your e-mail address at the top of my page where it says “Follow Rachael Gathers” – Thanks and I hope the start to your week is fantastic!!

 

A Good Friday Gathering

One of my favorite moments in the life of Jesus is the Last Supper.  I am amazed reading about the conversations, the washing of the disciples’ feet, the broken bread and wine poured out.  This year was the first week in my life that I ever reflected each day of Holy Week on the last week of Jesus’ life. It was profound and moving and I am so thankful for the friends, bloggers and scripture that led me to such reflection.

In our Noblesville Gathering, we have so many leaders who weekly open their homes, prepare and study to facilitate small groups or teach, cook for the masses and give sacrificially.  I wanted to do something special for those leaders this Easter season, and the idea for a Good Friday communion dinner was born.

I enlisted the help of my mom with the food and got busy with the preparations.  I found various white dishes at Goodwill, ironed tablecloths, bought and arranged simple flowers, made simple place cards, arranged a variety of white candles and made a few sides and a salad.  It was an act of love for many of those who serve alongside my family week in and week out.

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I watched as Jimmie prepared the unleavened bread.  I felt like I was witnessing a holy moment, the loving preparation of the bread to be broken in honor of Jesus and his broken body.

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We ate our salads and Jimmie began to talk about the significance of the bread and the wine.  He described how we “do this in remembrance of Him” in a way that is more than just mimicking the actions of Jesus at the Last Supper.  We pour ourselves out for others the way the blood of Jesus was poured out for all humanity.  Our bodies are broken and sacrificed for others the way that the body of Jesus was broken and bruised.  This is honoring the meaning behind the Last Supper beyond eating bread and drinking wine.  This is what we do in remembrance of Jesus.

We passed the wine and grape juice.  We passed the unleavened bread, breaking a piece off and passing it along.  We prayed.  We cried.  We drank the wine and ate the bread, both remembering Calvary and committing to serve the lost, broken, lonely and hurting.

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My grandmother was to my left, my mom to her left.  My daughter was to my right, sitting between mom and dad.  Four generations together, three of them women who have loved Jesus, served others and dedicated themselves to the cause of Christ… one who is learning to do the same.  As I cried and prayed, drank and ate, she did the same.  My arm held her close.  She heard my prayers, felt my tears on her hair.  It was beautiful and powerful and holy.  It was what remembering is all about and I will not forget.

As we finished, my mom and I brought out the meal.  We passed plates, served each other heaping spoonfuls of beef and noodles, mashed potatoes, corn and rolls.  We laughed and talked, a community breaking bread for a common purpose.

After we cleared plates, while we were still sitting at the table, my dear friend Heidi began to pass around small pieces of black fabric.  She reminded us of the scripture of the veil of the temple being rent, top to bottom when Christ died.  She told us many believe that veil was three inches thick and possibly 30×60 feet.  She talked about the priests of the Old Testament being the only ones to have access to the presence of God.  She reminded us that while we often may feel far from God, the veil has been rent and we have access to him.  She reminded us that even when God is quiet, he is with us.  She asked that we pray and that when we felt led, we tear our fabric, representing our barrier from God being destroyed.  She asked that we keep those two pieces in our Bibles as a reminder of our access to God.

The room grew loud with the prayers.  I sobbed, wanting to break down into a puddle on the floor, while also wanting to shout victoriously.  Such is the message of the cross.  I had chills and felt the power of God when I began to hear the sound… the loud sound of that fabric being torn at our table.

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I am so thankful for all of those who came and participated in an evening that was such a blessing to my family.  I am thankful for friends, not only the ones who were at that dinner, but all of them, who live their lives with me…. who love me unconditionally… who stretch me and support me…. who are figuring it out with me…. who love Jesus passionately with me…. who give sacrificially with me…. who aren’t afraid to remember….. and most importantly, who aren’t afraid to take up their cross and do this in remembrance of me.

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What I Gather About… The Walk to Golgotha

The road is dusty.  My gaze is fixed on him.  His eyes pierce through the layers and see my soul.  We walk.  The pace is slow.  The crowds line the road.  I know his load is heavy, but I focus on his eyes.

“Why are you showing me this, Jesus?  You know I appreciate the load you carried for me.  Do I need to appreciate it more?  Is that what this journey is about?”

I see the sweat on his brow, the anguish of the cross he does not deserve to carry.  His gaze never leaves me. We walk.

“Jesus, you know I will walk with you.  I know the price to follow is high.  I have counted that cost and here I am.  So why are you showing me this?”

And then I hear it. In all my time as a follower, I had never thought of the sounds he endured on that walk.  At first the sounds were in the background.  As my ears were opened, the voices were magnified.

Slander.  Accusations.  Hate.  Lies.  Rage.  Mocking.

Looking into the face of love, the origin of love, I am overwhelmed by the sounds.  He doesn’t deserve it.  “He is innocent!” I want to scream.  I want to silence the shouts, the screams, the laughter.  His piercing eyes tell me he feels the pain inflicted by those cries.  Yes, he is God, but he is also man and his heart breaks.

“Jesus, why am I hearing this?  What are you trying to tell me?”

When you walk with me…. when you take up your cross and follow me… you will hear what we are hearing now.  It is part of the cost of walking this road to Golgotha. 

The truth of his words penetrate into the deepest, darkest places of my heart.  Those places that are too tender to touch and so are buried in a dark corner.  Those wounds inflicted by sharp words that cut me to the core, making me question my worth and my purpose.  Those lies that I struggle not to believe about myself.  Those wounds that caught me so off guard, coming at times from my people.

But these people I hear now, on this road, these people taking aim and firing words of accusation at love himself… they are his people.  They are his family, his town.  They are the ones he talked with in the synagogue.  The ones who heard him explain the kingdom on that mountain.  They go back generations, with heritage, history, in covenant together.  The very same ones…. these are the ones I hear, even now.

We walk.  My tears blur the view of my savior’s face, but I know his gaze hasn’t left me.  I thought I had counted the cost.  Now I count again.  Is it worth it?  Accusations and lies hurt.  But if I don’t ever hear them…. am I following?  Am I on that path with my savior, walking to the crucifixion of my own flesh?

And in that moment I know, as I knew before.  No cost is too high.  If walking with him means enduring the vile sounds of the crowds, I must endure.  I must endure, for there is no walk I would rather be on than this one.  There is no company I would rather keep than my present company.  There are no eyes I would rather focus on during this journey.  There is no gaze I would rather have on me.  And so, with a heavy cross on my back, I follow him.  I follow to my death and therefore to my life.

*Disclaimer:  the previous is a conversation based on something that I saw and felt in prayer one day when I was really struggling.  I have added details for the sake of telling a story, which I hope will strengthen and encourage someone.  I am in no way saying that God and I had this word-for-word conversation.  I would also like to emphasize that I believe in spiritual authority and accountability.  The “voices” in this story are not the voices of spiritual leadership in my life.

A Gathering of Links V

blog2-1It is later than normal for my weekly post of links.  I have been stuck in bed for four days with some kind of flu/sinus infection-type illness.  Thankfully I’m feeling better today, although my muscles feel like I have just run a marathon without any conditioning.  Let’s look at the bright side… there’s at least a foot of snow outside.  Oh, that’s not the bright side?

While I haven’t been thrilled with the illnesses in my home or the horrible weather launching spring 2013, I must admit that anytime I get really sick, like stuck-in-bed-for-days-sick, it gives me a new appreciation for my health and my life.  It makes me want to live it fully and take advantage of the time I have.  So what better time to get sick and better again than the week of Easter?  I am anticipating so much this year.  I know that spring is coming and with it will come new life and beauty.

I will talk more about Easter later this week, but for now I want to direct you to some great links from the past week or so.

First off, thanks to my fantastic readers, my most popular post this past week was A Gathering of Goodwill Finds.  My own personal favorite was What I Gather About Layers, Life and Spring.  That post was breathed to me by the Holy Spirit and encouraged me so.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From Lisa Jo Baker, on hospitality

From Jen Hatmaker.  I love how bold and honest she is, while still demonstrating such love.

My FAVORITE post of the week… I wish I had a son to share this with…. from A Holy Experience.

For Parents:

From Sarah Markley, on Knitting Us Well Together.

On Marriage:

From my friend over at Becoming Whitney, Desperation.

For Easter:

Design Mom’s painted egg cartons.  I hope to find time this week to make these for my girls.

Pioneer Woman’s fun rice krispie eggs.

Food Love:

Because I lived in Cuba… from A Beautiful Mess, banana chips.  Also, their 25 breakfasts to love.

From Oh Happy Day, churros?  Yes, please!

Inspiration:

From my friend Jen at Girl in the Garage, on overcoming fear.

What about you?  What books are on your nightstand?  What have you read this week that has inspired you?  Any favorite recipes or blogs to share with the rest of us?  I would love your feedback!

A Gathering of Links IV

blog2-1I heard on Thursday that the temperature in Indiana a year ago this week reached 80 degrees.  It has been so, so cold here and all I want to do is hibernate until spring comes with its warmth.  Contributing to my blah mood was a week spent with a sick baby.

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She was so pitiful.  Thankfully, being holed up in the house, both unwilling and unable to leave, I at least had some good reading material.  I hope you enjoy my favorites from this past week or so.

My most popular post was Gathering Delight.  I truly appreciate all of the positive feedback in response to this post.  Let’s remember to be honest with each other about our shortcomings as parents.  We can draw from each other’s strength and stories to become the parents I know we can be.

My personal favorite post from my blog was A Gathering of Cuba Photos.  It took me back to a land I love.  Plus, I spent hours editing photos for the first time in Photoshop.  It’s a process, but one day I hope to have a clue what I’m doing!

Parenting:

From The Actual Pastor:  To Parents of Small Children… this made its way around the Internet this week!  I think so many parents of young children need to hear they are doing a good job.

From Luke at A Deeper Family.

Love:

From Sarah Bessey:  I love her “In which [love looks like]” posts.  The openness with which she speaks about her love for her husband and their journey is simply beautiful.

Spiritual Inspiration:

From A Holy Experience:  I love this idea of A Grace Garden for Easter.  What a fantastic way to create something beautiful with our kids to remind ourselves of the grace of God!

From Jen at A Deeper Family.  I love this post about being real with one another.

For Fun:

Design Mom’s Nigellissima.  I have been somewhat obsessed with Nigella for about ten years now.  I was thrilled to see that someone else has fallen in love with her.

At A Beautiful Mess… because who doesn’t love hummus?

If I were just a little more motivated to be crafty, I would make these salt dough eggs from Design Mom with the girls.

Please let me know if you like any of these links!  Also, what have been your favorite posts this week?  Are you reading anything worthwhile?  I would love to hear from you.

Finally, have you subscribed to my blog yet??  If not, please do!  Just enter your e-mail address where it says “Follow Rachael Gathers” above my picture on the top right of my blog.  You will receive a link to each new blog post.  Your e-mail address will not be used for any other purposes.  You can also follow Rachael Gathers in your favorite RSS feed using the RSS button at the top of my home page.  Next to that button you also have the opportunity to follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.  Whew, that’s a lot!! Thanks and enjoy the last night of your weekend!