Children have a way of catching you off-guard, don’t they? Specifically, they have a way of asking the wrong question at the wrong time, literally.
The following incident happened several Easters ago. Yet, each Easter since it’s a memory I still recall with a combination of joy and trembling.
One of our choir members had brought his four-year old granddaughter with him to the early service (8:00 a.m. *yawn*). Her grandma was home preparing Easter dinner for the family. Monica, the granddaughter, and I were good buddies so her grandpa asked if she could sit with me while the choir warmed up and during the service. Not a problem!
As the service progressed, our pastor stepped forward to bring the Easter message. In it, of course, he made reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
At the words, “Jesus died on the cross…,” she turned to me and in a whisper others could hear said, “Jesus died?”
The stricken expression on her face told me I needed to quickly respond with something comforting. But what would a four-year old understand about death and resurrection? Talk about feeling put on the spot!
Quickly I asked God’s help and just as quickly received an answer.
Giving Monica my full attention and getting down on her level, I quietly told her that yes, Jesus died on the cross as a gift for us. I also told her God brought Jesus to life again.
I then indicated we needed to be quiet and encouraged her to ask Grandpa more about it once they got home.
Her response? “Amazing!”
Yes, Monica, it is amazing and stays so year after year.
Have you ever been put on the spot by a child asking similar questions? Perhaps you’ll be willing to share below if you have.
Header image attribution: Via Pixabay/no attribution required
Palm Sunday, this last Sunday, is a time for reflection on Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday also marks the beginning of Holy Week and the last days of the Lenten Season. We are now approaching the end of Holy Week and our arrival at Easter Sunday.
During Lent, our congregation celebrates the Last Supper or Communion every Sunday. Our usual tradition is to partake of Communion the second Sunday of each month. Some traditions practice Communion every Sunday all year, others once a month, some every other month. There are as many and varied ways of honoring this symbolic sharing of Christ’s Last Supper as there are denominations and modes of faith practices.
For me, the most important part of Communion is the remembering …
… remembering why God gave His only Son in this way
… remembering why Christ died on the cross and shed His blood
… remembering why we symbolically partake of Christ’s body and blood
… remembering what I am giving in exchange for the life I have been given
… remembering I am to spread His Word abroad
… and I am hopeful you can add to this list.
It was not for nothing that God chose to give up His only Son.God was giving us the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through His Son’s death and resurrection. Truthfully, I have only one child, a son, and despite how often he irritates me, I cannot imagine giving him up and watching him die.
It was not for nothing that Christ died on the cross shedding His blood for you and me. His precious blood was shed for the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life in Him as long as we confess our sins and walk with Him.
It is not for nothing that we symbolically partake of Christ’s body and blood. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 (CEB), Paul relates the Last Supper with Jesus’ disciples:
… He took some bread in his hands. Then after he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Eat this and remember me.”
After the meal, Jesus took a cup of wine in his hands and said, “This is my blood, and with it God makes his new agreement with you. Drink this and remember me.”
We partake because Jesus instructed us to do so to remember Him.
And what am I giving in exchange for this life I have been given? I am to give myself wholly to a walk of Christian faith, to witness and live so that others may see Jesus in me.
And am I spreading His Word abroad? I try, I honestly try. Wherever I go, I want to let others know I believe, that I am a Christian, and so I carefully think about my words and my actions wanting to show the best He has given me. Abroad is a hard one to manage living as I do in the U.S. and rarely travelling outside the state of Oregon. But with this blog and in connecting with others, I do pray it happens.
Most importantly out of all these things, I believe it is the instruction to “remember me” that we are called to bear witness to.
Required to remember so many things in this busy world–business appointments, doctors’ appointments, kids’ after school activities, where to be when, where you put your keys or cell phone and more–we often forget to remember Him in the middle of our daily activities. But it is what we are to do.
The week between Palm Sunday and Easter is considered by many religions to be Holy Week. During this week, many observers re-enact, duplicate, or otherwise repeat some of the acts of Jesus between the of his entrance into Jerusalem and his crucifixion and resurrection. It is this journey we draw close to during Holy Week.
Remembering the path he walked … and why.
And as we approach this holy time near the end of Lent, are you remembering? Are you able to add to my list above?
Getting back on track now we’re home after riding the rails across this country (almost) and back isn’t easy. Getting back on track after several months of fighting unrelenting pain is also difficult. Combine the two and I literally don’t know where to start.
Start at the Beginning
I suppose the safest place to start is at the beginning of our rail riding experience. Initially, our trip was single-purposed: attend our younger grandson’s high school graduation. Plus we wanted some extra days to soak up our son’s family since we only see them about once every three years or so.
Our first stop along the way was the ever-bustling city of Chicago where we rented a car to drive the rest of the way to Springfield, TN, where our son, his wife, and their son live. Grandson, Steven Michael (aka Mikey), was graduating from East Robertson High School on May 20th and we rolled in on the 19th.
Graduation was a fairly routine ceremony–procession, speeches, awards, diplomas, recession, camera flashes, tears, laughter, tossing of hats, etc. Rather than chain this well-honored student to family, we released him to enjoy a party with friends. After all, we had a few more days with him.
The three guys–Grandpa, Steve, and Mikey–spent a day drooling over Corvettes at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, as well as a tour of the assembly plant.
While they did their thing, DIL Amy and I took in some retail therapy at Opry Mills Outlet Stores, the former site of Opryland. We did more talking and drinking cool drinks (it was hot!) than we did buying retail items, but the entire day was good for our souls.
Leaving these three as well as Amy’s parents was not easy, but leave we must and so we drove back to Chicago to drop off our rental and pick up the train headed back to the Northwest.
Another Celebration in the Middle
Just before we left home we received word that Bob’s sister, Frances (87), had passed away following a stroke. A memorial service was scheduled for May 27th in the afternoon. Our route home passed within three hours north of Avon, where the service would be held. We changed our rail tickets, ordered up another rental, and got off Amtrak in Whitefish, MT, on May 26th at 8:45pm.
Our drive was in total darkness down a long and winding road with few possibilities for stops. However, with Steady Bob at the wheel we made it without incident to our hotel in Helena. Early the morning of the 27th we drove to the home of our nephew and his family for breakfast. Fran’s older son, Walt, and his wife, Marilyn, have six children. Soon the two youngest will be the only two at home. The rest are either out of or in college.
What a delightful morning that was as we sat around the kitchen table eating homemade waffles, fresh fruit, and freshly made whipped cream and celebrating the life that was Fran’s. After breakfast, we headed out to the family ranch, handed down generation to generation, and now operated by Fran’s younger son, Hank. Many memories are held there as well.
This was the passage Grammy was meditating on before she went into the hospital and this is what her bookmark says ” My meditation of Him shall be sweet.” I am going to miss her with her hugs, challenges to my spiritual walk, challenges to memorize more verses and the example she was to all her grandchildren. She poured her heart and life into us. I am thankful for the time I had with her this past week. Talking to her, even though she couldn’t talk to me. She found a way to comfort us with the squeezes from her hand and the nods of her head. Now she is in heaven with Jesus with no more pain, no more sin, singing praises to Him and gazing on His face. She has finished the race.
What an amazing hope we have through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Memories flooded our minds and hearts all day and especially during the celebration of life that afternoon. Many more people attended than expected and extra chairs had to be set up quickly. A time we were so glad to be able to share.
Unplanned side trips can be a blessing and this truly was one. Not only had we witnessed our grandson’s graduation from high school to college, we had celebrated Fran’s graduation from this life to the great life awaiting her in her heavenly home.
Getting home and back to your own stuff is always the best part of any trip. We had driven back to Whitefish to catch the last leg of our rail trip. However, the train only stops once daily in Whitefish and that’s at 8:45pm, leaving at 9:16pm. We had a day to drive back and then kill in Whitefish. Driving around Whitefish we saw some interesting places. Some closed. Others open and crowded.
Bob explored the outdoor exhibits at the train station. We picnicked by spreading our lunch in our rental car (the wind was a bit blustery outside). With Kindles in hand, we both read, then napped, read some more, people watched, and then went somewhere for dinner (I can’t remember where!). Around 7:45pm we headed into the station to freshen up before boarding the train for home.
Following a good night’s sleep and our last meal onboard Amtrak, we pulled into Portland around 10am on Sunday, May 29th. Home never looked so good.
Getting on Track
After a doctor’s appointment that first week home, I began physical therapy and rehab for my many months of incessant pain. Interestingly enough, after all the waiting, the pain management doctor suggested an injection in a different site. During our trip (started four days after the shot), I was the most comfortable I had been since January or February. We decided based on that result I should begin PT, and I can say for the first time I actually look forward to my appointments.
This therapist has taught me so much about my spine, the curve in it and how it impacts everything about my body, and what I can do to keep up good spine health going forward. I still can’t believe that after my first appointment and some exercises and manipulations, my shoulders are level for the first time in years. My skirts even hang straight now.
I’m nowhere near the end of this journey. I don’t know yet how many appointments I have, but I do know the exercises I’ve been given are a lifetime commitment.
On an unrelated health issue, I’ve learned I will be having an exploratory procedure in July. Pending the outcome, I am keeping things low-key for now with respect to blogging, social media, book reviews, and the newsletter.
What I Learned
While traveling, I spent my time watching the countryside pass by, read a lot, took some good naps, laughed a lot, cried some, and let the busyness of computers, email and social media fall to the side.
And you know what? The world didn’t crumble at my feet. Clocks didn’t stop. God continued to bring morning with the light and evening at dusk, and He watched over us just as He does when we are frazzled and too busy to even stop and thank Him.
The lesson in all this is that I get too busy wanting to do it all, wanting to be perfect, wanting to please everyone else, wanting to measure up to expectations I read in this or that article. None of it is necessary.
The only things I need to be concerned with are satisfying God’s expectations and everything else will fall in place. Simple as that. Forever and ever!
Today Jennifer will be sharing her thoughts and insights on embracing Christian themes while writing a Christian novel. Her post is honest and provides us with a look inside her emotions as she wrote Afta-U.
EMBRACING CHRISTIAN THEMES WHILE WRITING AFTA-U
BY JENNIFER-LYNN KENISTON
I am going to be honest here: when I began writing the first draft of Afta-U, I wasn’t writing it with an audience in mind. It was a personal book, something I had to write. Simply put, it was a life-long dream of mine to write a full-length novel, and I had to build up the confidence in myself that I could actually do it. So, I had no problem initially embracing writing Christian themes for this first draft, since some of the themes registered deep inside of me even though the story itself was fictional.
But then I finished writing the first draft.
And for a fleeting moment after I finished writing this first draft, my initial joy turned to fear. I began to panic and question if writing these Christian themes throughout this novel would discourage readers from reading it. It was then that my friend, Lisa, said to me: “Do you know what the number one best-selling book of all time is? Well, let me tell you: it’s the Bible! And over 5 billion copies have been sold.”
I smiled. I needed to hear that reminder. I also discovered my niche audience. It was the Christian reader. A few of the prevalent Christian themes in Afta-U, are ones that I’m still personally working to achieve as my novel is released into the mainstream. For example the idea of “Let Go Let God.” Like Jean, I often find myself trying to control situations and I still struggle to release and have faith in leaving it all up to God and His plan. There are other powerful themes mixed into the story, such as the idea of forgiveness for oneself and others, and being present in the now and not trapped in the past or future.
When I began the editing for my début novel, I did tone down some of the Christian themes and scenes, but I was determined not to be deterred from writing these. Instead I was going to embrace these themes and do so without forcing them onto the reader and taking away from the enjoyment found in reading the story itself.
When I finished the multitude of drafts and editing, I realized that, yes, the audience would be these Christian readers, but perhaps those non-Christian readers would actually enjoy the book and who knows, there could be that one reader who might need to either connect or reconnect with their faith, and perhaps they will decide to do so, after they have finished reading and put down Afta-U.
Thank you, Jennifer, for joining my readers and me today to share your thoughts and feelings on what, for me at least, is an area of interest and one filled with many questions. For those of us wanting to include a Christian theme in our work, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, these are issues to be vetted on a personal level like so many others.
Michael’s smile broadened. “It seems you’re surprised to see me, Jean. Don’t tell me you thought that they’d leave an eleven-year-old boy locked away forever.”
Twenty-nine years after the tragic death of her childhood best friend, Hope, Jean Cartwright Rhodes returns to her hometown with her husband and daughter after she inherits the house her friend’s family once lived in. Now, years later, she finds herself haunted by a dark truth – and by the specter of Hope herself.
Every time Jean looks through her kitchen window, she sees two stark reminders of her troubled past; the Afta-U sailboat, ironically named after young Hope, and the old oak tree where her eleven-year-old friend met her death at the hands of another child.
Afta-U unfolds as a psychological chess match, a complex web of intrigue, unexpected relationships, lies, and devastating secrets as Jean struggles with the impact of decisions she made long ago on all the lives around her. When Jean confronts and tries to come to grips with Hope’s killer, she finds herself waging a personal battle between madness and redemption.
Raised in Hanson, Massachusetts, the author earned a Master of Arts degree in English, from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, with a concentration in writing and a minor in philosophy, from Plymouth State College in New Hampshire. Jennifer-Lynn currently works as a project manager for a company that provides cloud software products for call centers at small, medium, and enterprise companies. In April 2014, she started her own business, Ansel Resume Resolution Services LLC, writing resumes and cover letters. She now lives and writes in Concord, New Hampshire, and enjoys teaching Spinning classes in her free time.
Perhaps you have considered a Christian theme in your memoir or novel, and further you have questioned whether using such themes is going to help or hurt you as a writer. If so, maybe you’d like to share a bit about how you rationalized your final choice. Let’s talk!
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