Have you ever heard a truly great preacher? I’m not talking about the stereotypical hell-fire-and-brimstone one the church of olden days churned out. I’m also not referencing the feel-good spiritual gurus who dominate the airwaves now, who seem to be OK with everything except not leaving a donation in the collection box. Read more
It’s tough to express feelings about D-Day as someone who was born over 40 years after June 6, 1944. Most historians refer to it as a turning point in western civilization. When I think of D-Day, I think of images. The opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. My visit to the eerily peaceful beach in spring 2010. But I also think of words – FDR’s D-Day prayer over the radio, General Eisenhower’s speech to his men, and more.
I’ve made it somewhat of a tradition here at The Wise Guise to commemorate D-Day with a reflective post. I’d urge you to read my best friend Jay Salato’s post from two years ago reflecting on the speech he had the opportunity to give at the commemorative ceremony at the U.S. Memorial Cemetery at Omaha Beach. Then, I’d urge you to re-visit my post from last year and listen to/read FDR’s prayer and Ike’s speech.
This year, I want to share two more pieces of history that I’ve recently found to continue the impossible task of commemorating the courage and sacrifice of those men who charged Normandy Beach.
While Joseph reflected on Good Friday last year, we urge you to enjoy this poem from John Updike and Michael Bowman’s reflections so that you can let this year’s celebration of Easter impact your life beyond Easter Sunday. Have a blessed week!
“Seven Stanzas at Easter” by John Updike
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
It was as His flesh; ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.
And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.
Through his “Seven Stanzas at Easter,” Updike does a wonderful thing. He captured Easter. I want to join in his call this year, instead of falling victim to what Easter has become. While Easter bunnies, candy, and egg-hunts are all good, I hope we do not miss the point.
The point is the death and resurrection Jesus. If you have grown up in the Church at all, or have been a Christian for any amount of time, you probably understand that everything we believe in hinges upon the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If Jesus had just died, then so what? The Resurrection is essential to our lives as Christians. We get it. But let us not take the Resurrection and dim down it’s light. Let it be transcendent.
The hope of this post is not to teach you something new about Christianity. It is here to help your processing of what Easter is this year. Maybe you have been completely numb to the Gospel, and Jesus, and the Church, and Christianity, and everything having to do with Easter for awhile now. Maybe you have been so incredibly busy that you have not had a chance to reflect on Easter at all. That’s okay. Be reminded of why we celebrate, in every sense of the word, Easter.
Let us walk through the door. The tomb is empty. The veil has been torn. He is risen!
It was clear on Saturday night how things were going to go, if you looked at Twitter, watched the Golf Channel, and listened to the pundits. On Sunday, here’s how it was supposed to be…
- Bubba Watson had only won 1 out of 14 tournaments that he had led going into the final round.
- Matt Kuchar had never finished strong on Sunday in a major tournament.
- The only other front-runner was young, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, chasing history.
- And I’d be at Augusta National to witness it all.
And with the first Masters tournament without Tiger Woods in nearly two decades, the historic victory for Jordan Spieth was how it was supposed to be, right? After all, Jack Nicklaus set the record for youngest Masters champion. 17 years later, Seve broke Jack’s record. 17 years after Seve, the 21 year-old history-shattering Tiger Woods broke the record.
And how many years had it been since Tiger changed the golf world forever? 17 years. And Tiger was supposed to easily beat Jack’s record of 18 majors, which doesn’t seem so certain any more.
It’s just how it was supposed to be. It was going to be great when…
For those who enjoy writing, you have more than likely experienced one of the worst things a writer could experience: writer’s block. You know what I am talking about. You want to write, you are excited about it, you grab a pen and paper, then…nothing. The dialogue in your head might go like this: “Come on, what am I going to write about? There’s got to be something I can put into words.”
To switch topics, my prayer life is a lot like “writer’s block” sometimes. I find myself, most of the time, listing off to God a grand stack of “Please God, do this for me’s.” Or maybe I choose not to pray out of insecurity about the fact that I really do not know what to talk to God about… or I have not really heard from God lately… or maybe I do not think God really cares about what I have to say. The list of reasons could go on for awhile. And they often do.
Why do I pray? By this question, I mean that I hit a wall sometimes and have nothing to say. Just like getting my pen and paper together without having any idea of what to write about, I almost prepare myself to speak to the “Lover of my soul” (SONG OF SONGS) and get nowhere. I feel inadequate, or maybe I even question whether or not I am a Christian, because I think that God is expecting me to say the right things.
Jesus prayed. The Son of God, in all of His glory, prayed. During His time on this earth, He would rise earlier than everyone else to pray to His Father (Mark 1:35), and He would spend nights praying to God (Luke 6:12) as well. Jesus, Lord and Savior, saw it necessary and vital to spend time talking to His Father, God, who happens to be our Heavenly Father as well. If it is necessary enough for Jesus, than it must be necessary enough for me.
But I feel inadequate. I really do. I am sinful. I am broken. I have way too much baggage. Yeah, I know that Jesus died for me and washed away my sin and brokenness. It just does not always feel this way. My baggage is so heavy.
I hear and accept the lies that I am not worthy of God’s time.
There is a hope in all of this. The perfect Jesus, whom in all things were created and in whom all things are held together, tells us that we should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). Think about that. Amidst our corruption and raggedness, Jesus came, lived among us, was beaten, crucified, died, was buried, rose from the grave defeating death to give us life, and is preparing a city for us upon His coming again.
If this is true, I think I will begin there. I’ll praise Him for what He’s done, and pray for His coming soon. Even if I do not know what to say, or I feel too inadequate, I hope to remember the truth about Jesus.
In August of 2008, I embarked on a journey that irrevocably changed the heartbeat of my family. It was then that I boarded an airplane in Nashville bound for a rural village in Africa. I would be living and working at a village for children orphaned by AIDS. I was leaving a few months after graduating from Vanderbilt to live at Lily of the Valley for a year. Fully realizing the idealism with which I traveled, I hoped that somehow my naivete would be transformed into what James talked about in Chapter 1, Verse 27 of his epistle – “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
While at Lily, I met a small malnourished boy named Aphiwe. Aphiwe was a sweet five year old little boy who was very sick. He had come to Lily only several months earlier and was a virtual loner. Every morning he would sit outside the window of my room, tending the dirt in my flower bed.
Before I start, let me say that I’m a Christian. If it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus, I’d be nothing. What you’re about to read might come across as idolatry, but I firmly believe that the things discussed in this post are all things that happened for a reason and things that God ordained for my good.
The past six or seven months have largely been pretty rough. In late June, my dad was diagnosed with stage three lung cancer. By the time it was discovered, the cancer had already spread to his brain and his lymph nodes. A month later, my mom took a job in Kansas City. We’re pretty close so having her move seven hours away was a shock to my system. In the same few weeks, to a lesser extreme, but still one that had a great effect on my personal well being, I began to grow frustrated with my career and started questioning exactly what I was supposed to “do” for the rest of my life. Needless to say, I was an emotional wreck.
About a month before all of this, my wife and I made two decisions that I wholeheartedly believe helped me from going off the deep end. First, we got a dog. Second, we started watching The Office.