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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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

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There is an ice storm of sorts in Indianapolis right now.  I hear sheets of ice beating against the screen of my bedroom window.  My big girl shouted with glee at the news of a 2-hour delay tomorrow morning.  As for me, there is nothing I would rather do than curl up in my comfy chair and read, read, read.  Here are links to my favorite blog posts from the last week or so.

Are you looking for spiritual inspiration or something that will make you think outside the box?  The first handful of links address spiritual matters and the church.

First up is a post by my brother about worship:

http://faithapostolic.us/2013/02/incense-beaten-small/

These are my favorites from A Holy Experience:

http://www.incourage.me/2013/02/the-1-thing-you-really-have-to-know-about-your-family.html

http://www.aholyexperience.com/?p=15182

http://www.aholyexperience.com/?p=15107

A Deeper Story was full of great stuff this week!

http://deeperstory.com/burn-the-heretics/

http://deeperstory.com/why-the-church-should-quiet-down/

http://deeperstory.com/why-i-respectfully-decline-feminism/

http://deeperstory.com/blooming_normal/ (This especially struck a chord with me…)

Have you heard of Kathy Escobar?  Love her blog.

http://kathyescobar.com/2013/02/18/three-things-about-one-word-church/

http://kathyescobar.com/2013/02/16/formation-friday-thirsty/

Who can resist beautiful coffee table books?

Coffee Table Books: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/7452527/list/Guest-Picks–20-Coffee-Table-Books-for-Style-Lovers/

This post just glows of springtime beauty:

http://www.yellowbirdyellowbeard.com/2013/02/tuesday-treasury_19.html

Baked french toast sticks?  Yum!

http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2013/02/baked-french-toast-sticks.html

I love the curves of this home.  I could be very happy here:

http://www.designmom.com/2013/02/living-with-kids-erin-allan/

Weekend home projects?  Sign me up!

http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/7348896/list/9-Ways-to-Make-Dreamworthy-Rooms—–in-a-Weekend/

Last but not least…. I am (a very-early-beginner-so-don’t-judge-me) learning how to take better photos and edit them.  I use Camera+ on my iPhone to take the photos and am using Snapseed to edit them.  This blog tutorial of Camera+ is incredibly thorough and informative.  Check it out if you want a camera that out-shines your basic iPhone camera!

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I would love to hear what blog posts you loved this week!  Also let me know if you read and love any of these I recommend today!

Gathering Courage for Lent

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I am blessed to work with a kind-hearted, God-loving and FUN woman.  She also happens to be Catholic and we enjoy our daily talks about God, what it means to serve Him and how to stay positive when challenges come our way.  We also share another passion: chocolate.

I know, I know.  Lots of people say they love chocolate and sweets.  I choose to believe that my love beats yours, hands down.  My chocolate-loving ways have evolved over time.  Once upon a time I enjoyed chocolate.  Then I began craving it.  Now, it is nearing obsession level and I must confess…. My name is Rachael and I am an addict.  Naturally, when my co-worker told me she was giving up sweets for Lent, I felt betrayed.  I mean, she was my partner in crime, eating cookies meant for the kids at snack-time and pilfering M&Ms from the “potty reward” jar.  Me?  Give up chocolate and sweets?  She must have been crazy.

She planted a seed.  It grew.  I took a good hard look at myself and realized I have a problem.  If gaining ten pounds since fall wasn’t a good enough indication, all I had to do was look in the eyes of my ever-so-loving husband who frequently makes sweet-tooth craving runs for me after the kids are in bed.  So last night, while slurping my cookies and cream shake, I made the decision.  This non-Catholic would give up sweets for Lent.

The idea behind Lent is similar to the Protestant practice of fasting.  It is a time of self-denial leading up to the recognition and celebration of Easter.  It begins on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and ends, for many, on Good Friday.  Lent is approximately 40 days, parallelling the period of time Jesus fasted in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry.  Sounds great, right?

Funny thing is, the moment after I decided to participate in this 40 day fast, I told myself I would cheat on Valentine’s Day.  Then I proceeded to tell two other friends I was doing it, but cheating on Valentine’s Day.  It IS Valentine’s Day after all and what is Valentine’s Day without chocolate?  Thankfully, my loving Savior knocked me over the head with the metaphorical 2×4 and pointed out my tendency to MAKE EXCUSES and my LACK OF DISCIPLINE. When we take a hard look at our lives, aren’t those always the two things that keep us from reaching our life goals?

I want to work out -> I don’t have time.  I am lazy.  It is cold outside.

I want to be a better parent -> My kids are disrespectful.  I never have any time to myself.  Someone else can teach them about Jesus.

I want to eat healthy -> Healthy food is expensive. Spinach doesn’t taste as good as chocolate. I don’t like to cook. My body is craving carbs.

I want to pray -> Time just got away from me today. I would rather watch TV. I’m mad at God.

I want to study God’s word -> Deuteronomy is hard to get through. I’m tired. My kids take all my time.

I want to forgive -> They really hurt me. I’m still mad. They deserve to pay.

I want to give up sweets to show some discipline in my life, dedicate myself more to God, identify with His suffering in a small way -> Valentine’s Day is coming up.  Giving up something else would be easier. I will physically go through sugar withdrawals.  I won’t be able to feed the bitter things in my life something physically sweet in a useless attempt to mask my pain when I should be running to God in the first place.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?  I so easily talk myself out of what is good for me, settling for less than what God wants for me.  I so often fail to recognize that the scripture I have heard my whole life is actually TRUE:  “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

So, tomorrow I start Lent.  I will not be cheating on Valentine’s Day.  I’m glad to be on this journey with my friend as well.  As my co-worker said to me today, “Misery loves company”. Using my power of persuasion, I have also successfully talked my husband and another friend (both enablers of my addiction!) to join me.  What about you?  Have you ever given something up for Lent?  Did you just finish a Daniel fast?  In what ways are you disciplined? In what ways do you lack discipline?  I would love to hear from you.