Home

Weird Saturday: Choosing Hope

Leave a comment

Weird Saturday: Choosing Hope

I know I should be writing about Easter. I always do.

Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He is risen, etc.

But it’s not Easter. It’s Weird Saturday. The end of the Lenten period of reflection and self-examination, but not yet the time of joyful celebration.

As I told a friend at our Good Friday service last night, I never know what I’m supposed to do on the day before Easter. How to respond? My friend said, “You should mope.”

Seems about right. This is the day when Jesus’s friends, family, and followers thought that all hope was lost. They had witnessed Jesus being tortured, mocked, and murdered. The one they thought would save the world was dead, crucified on a cross.

Being a good codependent, it’s pretty easy for me to get inside other people’s heads and imagine what they are feeling. (That’s often easier than dealing with my own feelings.) So I imagine what Jesus’s friends were feeling on that Saturday after Passover. Grief, of course. Hopelessness, no doubt. Darkness, fear, confusion. An existential desperation. (Think November 9, 2016 writ large.)

Darkness Falls

At our service last night, we heard the scriptures about Jesus being terrified of his calling, betrayed by his friend, beaten by cruel soldiers, mocked by passersby, and nailed to a tree. We shouted with the crazed crowd, “Crucify him! Crucify him! Crucify him!”

As each story was read, another candle was snuffed out, until at last we heard Jesus cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And then it went dark. And we were alone.

I felt real fear deep in my gut. The reality of humanity without the reality of a living, all-encompassing Love. The reality of an abyss of complete darkness without a rescuing burst of light and power. What if we really are all we’ve got? Our only hope?

We’re toast.

I felt that, just for a moment.

Choosing

I know that some people think that religion in general and Christianity in particular is make-believe. Rose from the dead? Yeah, right.

That’s OK. What we believe doesn’t affect reality. What is, is. We each get to choose.

In a sense, I no longer have a choice. I have been tagging along after Jesus long enough to know now. There is no doubt for me.

Easter morning comes. There will be light! There will be singing and rejoicing. There will be flowers and feasting and freedom from fear. There will be laughter, and there will be champagne bubbles tickling our noses.

I wish you a lovely April day, regardless of your beliefs.

Hallelujah!

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Related posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/six-tips-on-how-to-rise-from-the-dead/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/easter-miracles/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/an-easter-message-from-the-great-beyond/

Advertisements

Good Friday: A Holy Nightmare

8 Comments

GOOD FRIDAY: A HOLY NIGHTMARE

I hesitate to write this, because some of my church friends read my blog and I’m trying to be hyper-pastoral during Lent. (Not really, that’s a lost cause.) But I’ll just say that for me, Good Friday is not fun. It produces anxiety nightmares.

The past few years, I’ve been asked to put together the Good Friday service at our church, and — not being a natural fit for me — this is super stressful. It involves lots of logistics like wooden bowls and hammers and fake swords and costumes and scripts and lights and microphones. And people. Lots of people who are volunteers (like me) with busy lives and broken computers and small children. They are creating skits and writing songs and sewing soldier’s costumes and building wooden crosses.

I’m sure this can be exciting for some personality types, but not mine. I like adrenaline as much as the next person, but it’s less trouble just to have an extra cup of caffeinated tea.

photo (55)

Worst of all, because of the time and emotional investment I put into this service, I tend to abandon my Lenten practices. I don’t have time for my walk. I get home late from rehearsal, so I eat dinner after my evening fast is supposed to have begun. I haven’t done my “daily” centering meditation but a handful of times this whole forty-day Lenten period. And don’t ask about my “healthy eating” pursuit.

You probably see right through this rant: I’m simply using preparations for the service as an excuse to drop my spiritual practices. So I’m disingenuous, too. On top of my self-pity, self-absorption, disorganization, procrastination, and ego-driven perfectionism.

And you know what? It’s all OK. It’s all taken care of — because of Good Friday.

All my foibles, short-comings, broken places — the ones I know about and the ones I don’t yet acknowledge. They are all set right by Good Friday.

A Horrific Story

Good Friday is a nightmare story, a horrific story of betrayal, abandonment, and murder.

Jesus’s friend Judas betrayed him and turned him over to an angry mob — for money. Religious leaders wanted Jesus killed because he threatened their power base and money schemes. The governor Pontius Pilate abdicated responsibility for murdering Jesus, even though he knew him to be innocent. He blamed others. Three times, one of Jesus’s best buddies denied even knowing him, just hours after promising Jesus he would follow him to the grave. Soldiers and guards mocked and spit on Jesus when he was hanging on a cross, dying.

red Jesus face

So, yes, Good Friday is a nightmare.

But it is a holy nightmare.

Holy Hope

My pastor Matthew writes:

“On Good Friday Jesus took every dark thing we could possibly throw at him: hatred; violence; the corrupt, self-interest of religious and political power; all our falsehoods, prejudice, pride, arrogance and self-protection. Jesus bore all this, but it did not corrupt him. Rather than respond in kind, Jesus swallowed all this evil, overcame it and dis-empowered it. And it killed him.”

A good man, preaching love and peace and care for the poor and the oppressed, was murdered. But as he died, he overcame evil for all of us, and his sacrifice gave us the power to become whole and healthy — holy. That is the holy nightmare of Good Friday.

photo (57)

And can you believe it? Jesus came back to life three days later. (I know this sounds too good to be true, and choosing heart and hope over logic and skepticism is frowned upon these days.) But I have come to believe it. Jesus swallowed humanity’s darkness, he overcame it, and he lives!

On Easter Sunday, followers of Jesus will celebrate his resurrection and his living spirit that empowers every human to choose love over hate, peace over violence, and light over darkness. There is hope for the world, whether or not you believe in God. God still believes in us — every one of us. Our Creator believes in our goodness and dreams of a world where love wins. 

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose

Related Posts:

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/an-easter-message-from-the-great-beyond/

https://melanielynngriffin.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/easter-miracles/

An Easter Message from the Great Beyond

17 Comments

God-believer or not, you have to admit this story is cool. If you’ve been following our hero (me), you will know that I have been going through difficult life transitions in recent years, having lost my mother and my brother and now preparing to separate for good from my growing-up house.

The Search

So I’m over at the empty house the other day, looking behind doors, toeing the dust piles in the corners and opening closets for the twentieth time, looking for . . . what? At some level, I think I’m looking for my brother or my childhood or some cosmic connection to all I’ve lost.

Being a God-person, I pray: “God, I know this is silly, but can you just give me something — anything? Some comfort. Something to show me I’m not alone here.”

Then I chuckle at my “oh ye of little faith” moment. I know God’s with me; “fear not” and all that stuff. Isn’t that enough?

The Attic

I decide to go up to the attic for the last time in my life. I didn’t go up there before I paid the professionals to clear out the house — too many childhood toys and games and rock collections and moldy stuffed animals that I do not need in my rapidly dwindling fifties. Better I not even see them.

I stoop but bang my head on the eaves anyway, as I always have. The little crescent window where my mother showed me my first baby birds when I was five is now so crammed with old nesting material that almost no light gets in.

Marauding squirrels have apparently broken through the barrier of concrete blocks and old license plates I erected several years ago, and there’s Pepto-Bismol-pink insulation scattered everywhere. Otherwise, the attic is empty.

“Anything?” I say to God again. “A scrap of paper?” (For real. I said that.)

And then I see a scrap of paper. It’s peeking out from under a tuft of insulation. I don’t want to pick it up because I don’t want to be disappointed, but I do anyway.

It’s folded about two inches square, a delicate tatter with a faded floral print. I open it carefully, and here’s what I read:

“To a very dear little daughter — hoping that this Eastertide marks the beginning of the happiness her sweet unselfishness should bring her — Mom”

Might I remind you that this is Easter week.

The writing is my grandmother’s. My mother saved this precious piece of paper her whole life.

And now it is made even more precious, as the Easter message of sacrificial love, joy, and freedom passes on to another generation.

Easter Tidings From Beyond

Easter Tidings From Beyond

Easter blessings, my friends!

Easter Miracles

4 Comments

I’m so glad I had a brother.

It’s been an awful week of missing him, but I’m grateful that the week ended with Easter. Easter — the day that promises that no matter how dark things look, there will be a dawn and it will be brighter than you could ever imagine.

Miracles happen. If you prefer not to acknowledge miracles, then it might be best not to look out the window. The arrival of spring feels like nothing short of a miracle this year, after the seemingly endless winter that included a previously unknown torture device called a “polar vortex.” The hyacinth are indeed blooming and the robins are nesting and the worms are doing their worm thing, breaking up and enriching the soil so that even more flowers will blossom.

Even my houseplants are in full celebration mode.

spring and the porches 008

Albert Einstein said that there are only two ways to live your life. “One is as though nothing is a miracle . . . the other is as though everything is.”

I choose option B.

I choose to believe that it was a divine gift that I got to live almost fifty-nine years with my brother. That somewhere in the heavenly realm, it was decided that our two souls belonged together, and God said, “Let there be laughter,” and Biff and I were born into the same family.

So today I miss him. A lot. But I am grateful for his life, and I believe that all things good are resurrected. He never could carry a tune (except, oddly enough, when he was impersonating Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin or Elvis Presley), so I don’t know if he’s singing with the angels. But he’s certainly celebrating. I look forward to joining him again when I’ve finished here.

Happy Easter!

He is Risen

He is Risen

Six Tips on How to Rise from the Dead

13 Comments

Today is the day that Christians celebrate what seems the silliest premise of their religion (the virgin birth being a close second). Resurrection from the dead.

Mystery

Mystery

Somewhere in the Bible, one of Jesus’ followers says something like, “Well, of course it sounds crazy – if it sounded sane, it wouldn’t take any faith to believe in it!” Good point.

I’m just crazy enough to believe in this stuff, and I thank God (oh – there I go again) that I do. At times I read the Bible and think, “What??” But at other times, the words go down like a draught of pure truth and transcendental joy.

Still, it is not just “crazy” Bible stories that make me believe; it is also my personal experience — the miracles I have experienced in my own “resurrection.” I know for a fact that I would not have had the strength to overcome drug addiction, or Marlboro Lights for that matter, without the power of prayer.

More miraculous are the “smaller” things I’ve experienced through the grace of God, which aren’t really smaller at all. They are all addictions in their own right. I am NOT here to tell you I’ve recovered from any of these. But I have definitely made progress in the twenty years I’ve been a committed Christian, and as they say, “progress, not perfection.” I have been raised from the dead zone of many a curse.

So here are six tips on how you can rise from the dead . . . whether or not you think Jesus did.

1. Get over yourself.

You are not the center of the universe. Other people are just as important as you are. The best way to do this is to have a kid – then they become the center of your universe.

The Center of the Universe

The Center of the Universe

But I didn’t have one of those, so I have had to work harder at this one. Humiliating and embarrassing myself works well, so I do this regularly.

2. Embrace it: nobody is any better than you are.

This is a careful balance with #1. I find that most people are a bizarre mix of grandiosity and massive low self-esteem. It’s weird. Anyway, you are a beautiful gift to the universe –please accept and love yourself, unconditionally and just the way you are. There has never been and never will be another you. I am glad you are alive.

3. You have unique contributions to make with your life. You should not waste the chance.

It’s important to get #1 and #2 above balanced, or you might miss your chance to help bend the arc of history towards love and justice. Because as Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault writes, even if you are doing “good things,” if you  have unhealthy motivations (getting noticed, being loved, even getting to heaven) then you could actually be putting negative energy into the universe.

4. You can’t help much in the world – you probably won’t even want to – unless you stop feeling sorry for yourself.

Victimhood. Oh my God, don’t get me started. When I see this in myself, and I often do, I immediately do some serious spiritual intervention in the form of prayer and journaling and sometimes even fasting, if it’s a doozy. I think the fastest way to change your life — to rise up from under – is to drop your expectations of the world and other people. You will be so much happier, and so will your family and friends. Expectations are just pre-meditated resentments.

5. Forgive yourself and other people.

We are all broken, messed up people, and we will all hurt each other (and ourselves) horribly. Release yourself from the burdens of resentment, anger, guilt, and bitterness. Obsess instead about how lovely the spring flowers are.

Easter 2013 015 Easter 2013 010 Easter 2013 007 Easter 2013 008 Easter 2013 002

Which leads me to this most important resurrection tip:

6. Practice gratitude.

If you release the victimhood curse, gratitude will naturally follow. It is the best gift you can give yourself and the world. There’s no earthly reason you should have woken up breathing this morning, but you did. Be grateful for that. And for a roof over your head, people you love, pets to feed, coffee or tea to drink, gifts that you have that you can share with the world. Perhaps you might want to make a gratitude list in celebration of this new day, this new life that you can choose if you want. Rise up from the things that hold you down! Even if you don’t believe in Jesus and you’re not celebrating Easter, a gratitude list might be a nice present to yourself on this particular Sunday. Maybe a few chocolate eggs, too.

And if you are a Christian, I wish you a meaningful and joyful Easter day! May you be constantly mindful of swimming in an ocean of love and rising on a cloud of hope. Amen.

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose

What are you grateful for this Easter??

Changing Your Mind?

2 Comments

This week is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. And I think it’s downright sinful that non-Christians should be excluded from one of my favorite seasons. It’s like Christmas – I celebrate the birth of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean others can’t enjoy a season of giving and celebration.

OK, so forty days of self-denial, sacrifice, and penitence might not be as much fun as a season of presents and parties and spiked eggnog. But bear with me.

The Burden of Shame

Judging from the stats and comments on my blog, people are very interested in the issues of shame, guilt, and making amends. I got more comments from friends about my post Imagine Apologizing than anything else I’ve written, and you would be surprised how often people Google the phrase “What Color is Shame?” and end up at my post by that name. I get several every week.

Weird, right? What’s that about?

I’m glad you asked.

I think that even the non-God-inclined sense that the burdens of shame and guilt call for something beyond our brains. They seek relief in something deeper — maybe in something sensory, like color?

By their very nature, shame and guilt are things that people don’t talk about easily. That’s why they weigh so much. We try to carry them all by ourselves. We trip about on the internet, looking for answers in stranger’s blogs.

Sacks of Shame

Turning Around

It makes sense that with this kind of human longing for relief or redemption – whatever you want to call it – most major religions include a season of self-examination and repentance.

(By the way, the concept of repentance isn’t as burdensome as it sounds, all sackcloth and ashy. It basically means to turn around or to change your mind.)

We need to deal with our mistakes and regrets before we can be at peace and move on, but that’s not too easy if we intend to commit the same offense again. That’s where a change of mind comes in – repentance.

My point here is that whether you are religious or not, you could probably benefit from an intentional season of repentance. Set aside some time, perhaps getting away by yourself for a day or two, to reflect on the ways you fall short of who you would like to be. Take along a journal so you don’t conveniently forget any commitments you make to yourself.

You might consider doing without something for a period of time – fasting from food, television, social media, caffeine, gossip, or alcohol. Stripping away some of the things you think are oh-so-important can remind you of what actually *is* important.

What’s Lent, Anyway?

I won’t go into the details of Lent as a Christian practice. There is plenty written on that – here is one interesting history. The forty-day season of self-sacrifice and fasting leading up to Easter Sunday has been around longer than any denomination, since near the beginning of the faith. The concept of a season of repentance, teshuva, is deeply rooted in the Hebrew faith, from which Christianity sprang.

Personally, I never observed Lent until about ten years ago. I wasn’t raised in a religious tradition, and my only childhood experience of Lent was feeling left out when certain kids would come to school with smudges on their foreheads.

I became a Christian in my late thirties when I discovered that, unlike the nasty, judgmental TV preachers, the historical Jesus was a rabble rouser who confronted systems of economic injustice and religious oppression and liked to hang out and drink good wine with imperfect people like me.

I liked the idea of spiritual practices to help me focus on God during the forty days leading up to Easter. Over the years, I’ve given up eating after sundown, drinking alcohol (during which time I found my friends to be a lot less entertaining), saturated fat (I nearly starved — did you know a BANANA contains saturated fat?), and driving above the speed limit.

The speed limit endeavor was the worst. The word Lent comes from lang, meaning long, because the days grow longer in the spring. And believe me, when you’re toodling along at 55 mph on the frenzied Washington Beltway, the days seem very long indeed.

So – I’m not sure what I’m doing for Lent yet this year. No doubt some fasting and more dedicated meditation, but probably something else as well. There’s a good chance I’ll write about it, because I find there is a phase during which I obsess about my “sacrifice” before I settle in and focus on deeper pursuits. But perhaps you won’t be reading those posts, as you may have given up messing about online for Lent.

Lenten blessings to you, no matter your faith or beliefs.

English: Ashes imposed on the forehead of a Ch...

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Ash Wednesday. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

%d bloggers like this: