Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Labyrinth Lessons

While visiting New Harmony, Indiana for our 15 year anniversary trip, we visited the town’s two labyrinths. I am deeply attracted to labyrinths. Maybe it’s the beauty of the repeating form or maybe it’s the ancient history that surrounds them. I think it’s those reasons plus this: I am not very good horrible at sitting still and meditating or doing anything that requires stillness. My mind races from topic to topic, and I find it hard to quiet myself enough to just “be.” The three or four times in my life that I’ve walked a labyrinth, an almost magical clarity has descended on me and I have been able to quiet my soul by occupying my body with the singular task of following a trail.

This makes sense to me; back in the day when I was a TV news producer and worked the overnight shift, I had to force myself to sleep during the day. The most difficult part of this schedule was trying to fall asleep after just walking in the door from work, pumped up from an adrenaline-filled newscast. I developed tricks to occupy my brain so my body could fall asleep. One of those tricks was writing the Lord’s Prayer in my head, in cursive. Or sometimes typing on a mental keyboard.

The first lesson I’ve learned from the labyrinth is that, for some reason, my body and mind need to separate in order to rest._MDS1564

When I walked the Cathedral Labyrinth in New Harmony, a light rain had just started falling. I dropped my umbrella and decided to walk in the rain. The labyrinth pattern was carved into stone, with the path being a rough pattern and the sides of the path being a smooth surface. The falling rain wasn’t enough to drench me, but it was enough to make the lines between the rough and smooth surfaces blur a bit. After a few steps in the labyrinth, I realized I couldn’t stay on the path unless I kept my eyes straight down. The second I looked more than a foot in front of me, the glare of the daylight erased the path on the wet stone. I couldn’t see where I was going anymore, and was in danger of stepping off the path and getting myself looped onto another track of the labyrinth._MDS1574

I concentrated on keeping my eyes strictly on the path I was walking, not the path three feet ahead or one foot to either side. That’s when I felt God speaking to my soul, telling me to live my life – not just this moment in a labyrinth – like this. He said, “Let me lead you. When you look ahead, you get caught up thinking you know where the path is going. You’re not watching your feet and you misstep and get off course. Let me do the thinking for you, and I promise you I’ll tell you when to turn. I won’t let you wander aimlessly; there IS a purpose to this winding path you’re on. Trust me. Walk with me, not ahead of  me. I will take care of you and lead you.” I relaxed into the moment, let tears spill down my cheeks, and trusted God to get me where He needs me to go. Stepping into the center of the labyrinth (the “end”) was a surrendering of myself to Him, and an acknowledgement that He knows what’s best for me._MDS1653 -

Later that day, we walked to the Harmonist Labyrinth on the edge of town. Truly, I can’t begin to describe the way this place felt to me. Picture this huge winding hedge of bushes with a path carved into it, and a little stone hut in the middle. I was immediately drawn to the hedge and not the hut. I stepped in the entrance and started curving along the path. Dan took the one straight trail directly to the hut, and waited for me there. I wound around a bit, then realized this was one BIG labyrinth and it might take me a really long time to walk the entire thing. And since the rain was still drizzling, I opted to head to the hut instead. I cut through a thinner hedge, and walked to the rough hewn wood door of the hut._MDS1656

I opened it and stepped into a little piece of heaven that defies words. No words I choose in the following paragraph will do it justice, but I’m going to try._MDS1664

This little hut was barely ten feet across. The walls had three windows cut into them, which gave a view of the hedge labyrinth from all sides. The walls were painted a terra cotta brownish orange, with inset panels painted Wedgwood blue and white. But when I looked up, I was stunned; the ceiling was painted in the same blue and white, and inscribed with Harmonist and Biblical quotes: “We endure and suffer, labor and toil, sow and reap, with and for each other.” And “A harmonious and unified society of man may be said to be a kingdom of God.” And “The Creator of the Universe has always in view the happiness of all the human race.” And “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”_MDS1661 (2)

Dan said while he waited for me in that little hut, he stood and listened to the silence and watched me circle through the hedge as I drew closer and closer to the center of the labyrinth journey. He prayed out loud, “Thank You for not giving up on me.” God was right there with him, and then I joined them both inside the hut. As I write this now, I wonder if maybe that’s what heaven is like: Jesus waiting for us to finish the journey, watching while we walk the winding road toward him._MDS1655 (2)

The next day was our last day in New Harmony. Before we drove out of town, we stopped one more time at the Harmonist Labyrinth. I walked directly to the stone hut and entered it, then shut the door behind me. I stood alone in that little building, which looks barren and cold on the outside but masks amazing beauty inside. I closed my eyes and listened to the silence one last time. I imagined taking my hands, grabbing some of the stillness and wrapping it up in a little package. I even visualized tying it with a bow. Then I mentally tucked it into my heart, knowing as I returned to my “regular” life that I would need to pull that tiny bit of silence out and nibble on it once in a while to feed my soul.IMGP1259

Monday, May 16, 2011

15 Years, 5 Months and a Second Honeymoon

Well, technically, I wouldn’t call this our second honeymoon. I think previous cruises and trips (Germany, Italy, Jamaica) would already count for that. So we’ll call this another honeymoon. Because, honestly? When you are STILL in love after 15 years of marriage? Even a trip to Costco can be romantic. (It works better without the kids, though.)

Dan and I wanted to get away for our anniversary last December, but the holidays and work load and life in general kept us from celebrating the Big Fifteen. Instead, we made plans and decided to take a trip this past weekend. I asked a few friends, and one suggested a little town called New Harmony, Indiana. It’s about two and a half hours east of St. Louis; far enough to get away, but close enough to drive (and skip airfare). My only prerequisites for the trip were that it had to be somewhere new, and it had to be relaxing. We scored on both counts! I’m going to give a little summary, then let the photos speak for themselves.

I have never been to a town where I spent this much time looking up. Quiet. Solitude. Spirituality. Shhhh… Rain. Receding floodwaters. The Boatload of Knowledge. “Where the past and future meet in the present.” We met a Civil War buff who was carrying a jug of beer. We visited the top of the town by climbing on a spectacular roof. We huddled under umbrellas. Lots of walking. Sitting on a covered patio, drinking New Harmonie Bier (and wine for me), while watching the rain fall and learning new camera techniques. “The whole store’s got the flu.” Bugs attacking Dan’s head, while he ran around wearing a nun’s habit. The Roofless Church. “We are lousy with turkeys.” Unplanned recommitment of our marriage promises while eating dinner at The Red Geranium Restaurant (steak and creme brulee). Geocaching! Beer snobs: “None of that green bottle nonsense!” The Cathedral Labyrinth AND the Harmonist Labyrinth (which will require their own separate blog post). Beautiful doors. Thought-provoking signs. Sacred, holy, and soothing to our souls. Gratitude to each other. Writing a couple’s mission statement, and our love summed up in six words: Thank God we didn’t give up. _MDS1696 (2)_MDS1548 IMGP1116IMGP1162_MDS1564_MDS1563_MDS1423   _MDS1603  _MDS1628_MDS1735IMGP1296   IMGP1222

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day Eve started with two photo shoots: my neighbor’s prom and child dedication ceremonies at my church (my bloggy friend Gina dedicated her children).

Mother’s Day Eve ended with a last minute date night with Dan at the Cheesecake Factory.

The big day started with the gift of sleeping in while Dan picked up the kids at Grandma’s. Then I puttered around the house, laid on a blanket in the yard (in the sunshine!), and got to shower without any kids bursting in to interrupt.

Before naptime, Dan and the kids couldn’t wait and decided to give me my gifts. The first one was a card from Jackson. By following Katie’s sample above, he actually wrote “Happy Moth Day.” Tears pricked my eyes as I saw how much he’s learning and growing.J Card

The second gift was from Katie. She took an empty muffin box, snazzed it up with colored metallic tape, covered the top with paper, and cut a slit in it. She hand copied Bible verses onto small pieces of paper, then tucked the papers inside the box. The box is called “My Bible Veresis.” She told me, “I know you like to read your Bible. This box has verses you can read and then look up in your Bible during your quiet time in the morning.” She dreamed this up all by herself, which makes it one of THE BEST gifts I’ve ever received. Truly._MDS1265

Dan’s gifts came last. First, he found a camping heater that runs on propane. Since he knows I’m always cold, he figured we could use it in the back yard or outdoors or wherever we are (not just for camping). Second, he bought me the Human Planet DVD set. The great thing about this is my friend Mary and I were discussing it and I told her I’d love to see it. I never mentioned it to Dan. Then all of a sudden, he bought it for me out of the blue. Pretty cool! Lastly, Dan gave me a card and a big manila envelope. Inside the envelope? BEST. GIFT. EVER._MDS1256-

After gifts, Jackson took a nap and Katie had quiet time in her room (she was wiped out from Grandma’s), while I edited photos. Katie helped me make a yummy fruit salad._MDS1272

Then we moved outside to enjoy the beautiful weather._MDS1277-

Dan prepared one of my favorite appetizers on the grill: Jamaican lamb chops. Yum!_MDS1305

We enjoyed one of my favorite meals: blackened salmon, with fruit salad and pasta salad. And beer!_MDS1347

It was a wonderful, relaxing, soul-filling day with my sweet family._MDS1353 (2)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fastest Scrapbook EVER

Want to see a cool idea my kids and I love? It’s the fastest scrapbook you’ll ever make. You have to read my post about it at JC’s Loft today. Click here!
{Update: The JC's Loft blog was closed and the link no longer works. If you would like instructions, leave a comment and your email address and I'll be in contact. I'm sorry for any confusion!}

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Prayer

Each morning, I roll over to shut off my alarm clock and grab a book called Jesus Calling off my bedside table. I read the day’s devotional, which is written as if Jesus is speaking directly to me. Today, Jesus said “Begin each day anticipating problems, asking Me to equip you for whatever difficulties you will encounter.”

I’ve been feeling less-than-adequate lately. I know this is because I focus on “out there” instead of what’s inside me or what I’m experiencing each moment. I’m not living in the present. I’m looking ahead and all I’m seeing are things in my way. So today, I wrote a prayer and asked Jesus to equip me for what lies ahead.

Dear Jesus,
When feelings of ugliness plague my mind, plant a seed of beauty in the soil of my heart.
When jealousy roars inside me, let words of gratitude silence that roar.
When I doubt myself and inadequacy whispers taunts in my ears, grant me confidence in Your love for me.
When anger burns my heart, give me Your breath to extinguish the fire.
When grief makes me homesick, wipe my tears with promises of eternity with You.
There are countless obstacles on my path today, which I can’t foresee. Help me follow Your lead in this dance of life, knowing You are what makes it beautiful. Thank You for loving me!
Amen.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What Love Sounds Like

  • Hundreds of envelopes being torn open during the final meeting of my class at church.
  • “Mommy, I want to empty the dishwasher by myself for you!”
  • Dan humming Joy FM songs at dinner.
  • Whispered bedtime prayers.
  • The ding of a text message arriving from a friend who loves me.
  • Birds chirping in the morning, God’s love song telling me I get another day to try again.
  • Honking horns at Public Works Day, because it means the workers love the kids and want them to have fun.
  • “Did you sit next to Caleb?” “No, Caleb sat next to me.”

Friday, May 6, 2011

For My Sister

A month or so ago, my sister Mary found out about a book signing in St. Louis. Mary doesn’t live in St. Louis, so she wrote on my Facebook wall that I should go to the book signing for her. Since I’m such a generous sister (I wanted to go anyway), I made plans to attend.

If you’re a big blogger, you may recognize this man.IMGP0617-
If not, here’s the scoop: his name is Matt Logelin and he wrote a book called Two Kisses for Maddy. It’s a memoir of his life with and without his wife, who died the day after she gave birth to their daughter. Matt blogged here (and still does) about the experience, and then wrote his first book which was released last month. But this loss hasn’t been just a woe-is-me-poor-guy story. In becoming a widower, Matt found out how little support there is for widows and widowers raising kids on their own. He started a foundation to help others in similar situations, and he’s passionate about promoting it.

I was 20 minutes late to the book signing because I went to the wrong library in downtown St. Louis. (Y’all should NEVER let me go downtown by myself. It’s really not safe for me OR other drivers and pedestrians!) After a phone call to my sister who was having dinner in North Carolina, I finally found the right place and listened to Matt finish reading a portion of his book. He took questions from the audience, which ranged from questions on photography to grief to infant fashion fails-turned-victories, and talked openly and honestly about his bittersweet journey.

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When the Q&A was over, everyone got in line to meet Matt and have their books autographed. Lucky me, I found my friend Gina in the room. (We had no idea the other one was going; we should have carpooled and MAYBE I wouldn’t have been late! And then maybe she wouldn’t have had her near-death experience on the way home!) I should have known she would be going to meet Matt. Gina is starstruck AND she blogs, so getting to meet a blogger who has written such an emotionally moving book is right up her alley!

We waited in line and finally met Matt, and I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself. (For once!) I told Matt how my sister really wanted me to meet him and was wondering what his voice sounds like, so he was kind enough to record a message to her.
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I got Matt’s autograph (he signed my book: “To Elizabeth, I hope you don’t hate this!”), then he posed for a photo with me.IMGP0629-
It was an honor to meet Matt, not just because he’s a real-live author (swoon!), but because he bears such unbearable scars of grief. Our situations differ greatly, but I know how tremendously hard grief can be and I have the utmost respect for him because of that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Keep Up with Me!

It’s late. I should be in bed. But I am plugging away at my To Do List. I feel a little disjointed and scatterbrained lately, trying to cram lots of priorities into very little time. (Mainly a small window of nap time!) I’ve been wanting to blog about big and little things for the last two weeks, but keep running out of time. So I’m MAKING time right now, the best way I know how: staying up late to clear the list.

So, in random order, here are random things I want to post for future reference. The little dregs of daily life alongside the bigger milestones:

  • First, there was lots of snow in St. Louis, which had me craving spring. The snow finally stopped, but rain took its place. One of the worst parts of the rain was driving and listening to my windshield wipers screech back and forth across my windshield. So I got new windshield wipers last week. It seems so inconsequential, doesn’t it? But, oh! It truly made my day. You don’t realize how much you take something for granted until you don’t have it anymore.
  • Speaking of taking for granted, today is the first day in seven days that I have had full mobility back in my left arm. On Easter Sunday, somewhere between a ham dinner and stuffing my face with dessert, I realized I couldn’t reach my mouth with my napkin in my left hand. Sometimes, my lupus acts up like this and I’ll wake up with the loss of function in random body parts. Usually I get functionality back in a day or two, but this time it lasted seven days. I couldn’t shampoo the hair on the left side of my head, wash my face with two hands, or open jars/packages very well. Today? I am *so* happy to say I have 99% function back. I am ashamed to admit how much I took it for granted. Here I am with a chronic disease, and I blithely go about life thinking it’s all peachy and forget how pain can be crouching around the corner.
  • So, while we’re on the subject of lupus, let’s tackle another biggie I just found out this week (thanks, Christy!): there could be a link between the Hepatitis B vaccine and lupus. Here’s a link to a Federal Court’s ruling on the matter. When I was a hospice volunteer, I received the three Hep B vaccines in 2001. I was diagnosed with lupus in 2008. Hmmm… I’ve called my rheumatologist about this already, and she says the FDA says there is no concrete evidence of a link and more study is needed into the possibility. I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t feel any safer just because the FDA says it’s safe! Phooey on that.
  • And now for my THIRD health-related bullet point (yes, I sound like an old man enumerating all of his ailments!): I have a neuroma in my left foot and it’s driving me nuts. I had a cortisone shot in my foot last November, and it gave me some relief. Slowly, the pain has been returning. I got custom-made orthotics, have tried staying off the treadmill and limiting my walking to only a few times a week (2 or less), and I bought new shoes too. It still hurts and it still stinks. I think my days of half marathons are over, and some weeks it seems I can barely do a one hour step aerobics class. Thank God my gym has a pool!
  • In other non-health related news, I was glad for the end of Lent because I could drink something besides water. I gave up every beverage for Lent (except for water) in support of the Living Water H2O Project for Lent. It was a lot harder than I anticipated. I am donating all the money I didn’t spend on Cokes and Starbucks and beer to Katie’s well fund.
  • Lately, I’ve been listening to regular songs on the radio and turning them into songs about God. Either I change the recipient of the lyrics to be Jesus (like I’m singing a love song to Him), or me (like He’s singing a love song to me). Have you ever done this? Try it, and see if it changes your day.
  • I took a genealogy class with my mother-in-law the last two weeks, and now I have a hankering to open my old family tree files and start hounding my relatives for more information. I especially want to find my grandmother’s sister, Nell. I have countless photos of her that I’d like to pass along to her descendants.
  • Jackson hit another milestone this weekend. The training wheels are off and he is riding a bike on his own. The pride on his face is unmistakable. I think he’d look so cool with a helmet mohawk like these. It’s such a joy to see him zipping up and down our street on his own.

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Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Experience Project: Grace

One of the highlights of the entire year is the week leading up to Easter at my church. (The other two best times of the year are the days leading up to Christmas and the baptism celebration in June.)

The reasons Easter week is so special is because I get to serve Jesus through an event called The Experience Project. I wrote about it here last year, when it was called the Good Friday Experience. This year’s Experience was similar in ideas, but some of the stations were different. Here’s a virtual Experience for you.

Enter the church lobby and there are different pieces of art on display that communicate the Experience theme of grace. One of the first pieces of art is interactive. The planning team came up with our own definitions of grace, and one of the team members created artwork to reflect that._MDS0836

We left the “A” in the word “grace” blank and asked everyone to write their own definition of grace. People wrote things like forgiveness, sobriety, relief, free, undeserved, and amazing. My daughter wrote the words “Christ is good.”_MDS0837-

Around the corner is a station entitled The Story Begins. The sign reads: That night some shepherds were in the field outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened , but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth.’ Luke 2:8-12 / This baby, a sign from God wrapped in strips of cloth, marks the beginning of an amazing story of grace through the human life of Jesus Christ that changed all of human history. He was sent for this reason. He was sent for you. / Take one of the pieces of soft cloth, perhaps similar to the cloth used to wrap the baby Jesus. Rather than putting it into your bag, hold your strip of cloth in your hand as you make your way through the Experience. Let it remind you as the story of grace unfolds that this story is true and that it was meant for you._MDS0638

Jesus Weeps As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace…” Luke 19:41-42 / Jerusalem – the city of the temple, the dwelling place of God – was a Holy City.  As Christ made his final journey down the Mount of Olives into this great city, He wept for her and her people. The long awaited Messiah, the Prince of Peace, was with them but they did not accept Him. Christ wept because He came offering the gift of God’s grace, and the gift was rejected. / Jesus weeps for you; He sees you right where you are, just as you are. Look at your life now; where in your life are you not feeling peace? In what ways do you need to know God’s grace? Jesus offers to be right there with you in the midst of the chaos. / Consider taking a moment to journal your thoughts. Let this be a time where your heart is prepared to see the grace and peace of Jesus as you walk through the experience today. Take your journaling with you. Look at it later, and consider where you are seeing God intersect your life. / As Paul pleaded with God, he was reminded… “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9_MDS0643

A Value Judgment  Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, "What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?" And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him. Matthew 26:14-16 / Pick up one of the bags in front of you and hold it in your hands while you read this sign. As you feel the weight of this pouch, the approximate weight of 30 pieces of silver, in your hands, think about what it represents. Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. In his day, this was the equivalent of about one month’s wages for the common person. / This bag of silver was the option he could control. He traded a relationship with the Lord of grace for a sack of coins that would last him about a month. In the end, this choice led to destruction by his own hands. / What do you value? Is it truly meeting your needs? What about the future? As you continue through the experience, consider what knowing the grace of Jesus is or could be worth to you._MDS0646

Gethsemane And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch." And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will." Mark 14:32-33 / This classic piece of art by Heinrich Hofmann, reported to be the most copied piece of artwork in the world, depicts Jesus kneeling in the Garden of Gethsemane. If you look closely, in the background you can see three of the disciples sleeping. / As Jesus knelt before God, his prayer was completely raw. He asked if there was any way to avoid his fate. Jesus exposed all his doubts and fears before His Father and so can we. The Father will listen. Take a stone, and whenever you look at it, remember Christ’s honest and desperate prayer. Remember that even your heaviest burdens can be laid before God and that, like Jesus, you can trust Him. / On this night before the most horrific day in his life, Jesus sought support from his friends. Jesus took the disciples with him and though they fell asleep, God still encourages us to invite friends to pray for us. Is there something in your life you are trying to carry on your own? We would be honored to pray for you. Feel free to write a prayer request and leave it for our prayer team._MDS0648 Also at the Gethsemane station, kids were encouraged to write their burdens on a large rock. It was a way to help them give their troubles over to Jesus._MDS0663

Barabbas – “of the father” Now it was the governor’s custom each year during the Passover celebration to release one prisoner to the crowd—anyone they wanted. This year there was a notorious prisoner, a man named Barabbas. As the crowds gathered before Pilate’s house that morning, he asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you—Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” (He knew very well that the religious leaders had arrested Jesus out of envy.) Matthew 27:15-18 / So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. Matthew 27:26 / Barabbas, whose name means “of the [Bar] father [Abba]” had been imprisoned for inciting violent rebellion. Yet he was freed of his sentence. And in his place, Jesus was condemned, an angry mob looking for a Roman crucifixion for Christ, the Son of the Father. / If you are ready, look inside the box at these representations of the flogging Jesus suffered. / Take one of the palm crosses. What would you have felt if you watched another man endure this torture in your place? On the cross, Jesus has taken our place spiritually just as He did that day for Barabbas. Because of His sacrifice, He is able to extend life-transforming, life- prevailing, and life-saving grace. When we accept that grace, we, too, become children “of Abba.” Take the cross with you as you now walk the way of the cross._MDS0652 

Political Timeline _MDS0664

The Actual Weight of Sin Carrying his cross, Jesus went out to the place called Skull Hill [Golgotha]. John 19:17 / Feel the weight of the patibulum (the horizontal crossbar). Following the severe beatings from the Roman guards, Jesus was led through the crowded streets with the patibulum tied to His arms, resting across His shoulders. It is widely considered that the patibulum weighed approximately 125 pounds. At some point, Simon of Cyrene was made to carry the cross for Jesus. Perhaps, suffering from severe beatings and catastrophic blood loss, Jesus could no longer carry the cross. It is even possible that this heavy beam fell on Him as He stumbled under its weight._MDS0669

Stages of Crucifixion There they crucified him… John 19:18 / Upon reaching Golgotha, Jesus’ wrists were first nailed to the patibulum. A tapered iron spike measuring 5-7 inches was driven through the median nerve between the radius and carpals of each wrist causing tremendous burning pain. Next the patibulum and Jesus were lifted onto the stipes (the vertical post). Once secure, His feet were nailed to the stipes, one atop the other._MDS0659 _MDS0660 _MDS0661

The Breath of Life His body contorted in such a way that inhalation became passive and exhalation became active – normal respiration was not possible, breathing became shallow; most likely, hypercarbia (abnormally high levels of carbon dioxide circulating in the blood) would soon result. Cramping and fatigue would typically result in exhaustion asphyxia._MDS0684

His Blood Poured Out for Us One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out. John 19:34 / As a final act to ensure the death of Jesus, He was pierced in His side which caused the “sudden flow of blood and water.” Most likely the spear thrust through His ribs, tore through His right lung, His right atrium or ventricle, leading to hypovolemia (decrease in blood circulation) or acute heart failure (the inability of the heart to pump blood from the lungs through the body). The blood loss from all Jesus suffered could have been as much as 40% of the body’s blood supply._MDS0674

Cross Words Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Matthew 26:45 / Christ was both fully God and fully man. He spoke of Himself as the Son of Man. All the things that we have felt, Jesus felt – many of them during this week. If you relate to one of the things Jesus felt, circle it – knowing that He has felt the same as you._MDS0678

Paid in Full “It is a bad thing that God had to die, but it is a good thing that He thought I was worth dying for.” Lewis Smedes / For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 1 Peter 1:18-20 / The cost of our ransom, the greatest gift of grace, was high. It cost Jesus inconceivable pain leading to an excruciating death. But He believed you were worth dying for. / Our ransom has been paid in full. You no longer have to live an empty life. If you want to remember what Jesus did for you throughout today and these coming days, feel free to stamp your palm. This is grace, free to us, costing Jesus His very life._MDS0687 _MDS0690

Stories of Grace There were crowds throughout this sacrificial journey. The crowd that hailed Jesus with palm branches, the crowd that demanded His crucifixion—every person in every crowd was a person to whom Jesus was dying to offer grace. We are all a part of the crowd. From Jesus’ time through this, people have been discovering this story of grace. / On many of these seats, you can find true stories of people at The Crossing that have found the grace Jesus freely offers each of us. Please take some time to read a few of these stories. / Notice the seats where stories of grace are yet to be written. Perhaps one of these seats is for you or for someone you know still searching for this gift of grace. On the other side of the seats is a place for you to write your name or the name of a friend or family member. Offer this to God as a prayer that His grace will enter in to the story._MDS0703

The Manger and the Cross Please take one of the scripture pages and find a seat in the center section where you can read this scripture and watch the full grace story reflected in the sand of the artist. When you are ready, feel free to move to the front of the stage to any of the communion stations.Pictures of Grace - the Manger and the Cross

The Cost of Grace The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper, he did the same thing with the cup: “This cup is my blood, my new covenant with you. Each time you drink this cup, remember me.” What you must solemnly realize is that every time you eat this bread and every time you drink this cup, you reenact in your words and actions the death of the Master. You will be drawn back to this meal again and again until the Master returns. I Corinthians 11:24-26 / Remember that when Jesus died on the cross, he held back nothing.  The pain, the humility and the suffering he experienced, were all done for you.  We truly did not deserve it, but that is how much we meant to him. Take a nail and nail it into the crossbeam. Then look at the stamp on your hand—the cross was the cost He was willing to pay for you. All your mistakes and failures are covered here at the cross. Your ransom has been paid in full. / As you take the bread, feel its uneven edges and observe all of the broken pieces.  Think of how Jesus' body was broken in his desire to pay the debt for you.  Through the cross, Jesus made it possible to repair our brokenness.  In His infinite grace, Jesus can heal and smooth our rough edges.  He is the God of everlasting hope. If you are still considering this gift of grace Jesus is offering, take the bread with you. If you would like to speak to someone about this decision, please ask at the guest relations desk. If you have accepted this grace, taste and see the goodness of God and know that only He can truly fulfill you! / As you take this cup, look at the deep rich color and think of the blood that was shed for you – the precious life-sustaining blood that was taken from Jesus in an act of restoration to you.  Jesus provided us with a gift of imperceptible magnitude – a gift of grace so deep that flows eternally from the cross for you.  He is a God of second chances, a God of forgiveness, a God of transformation! If you have accepted that forgiveness, drink and remember._MDS0696 _MDS0633

The Final Word Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. John 19:38-40 / From the moment of birth to the point of His death, Jesus was walking this journey of grace for you. He will not stay in these clothes; they will be left behind. / You’ve been carrying a strip of cloth though the entire experience. If God’s grace has changed your life, as an act of hope, leave your cloth here. The past will be left behind. The resurrection—the triumph of grace—is coming. If you’re still considering whether this grace is true and whether it is for you, take the cloth with you. Let it be a reminder to keep seeking and asking questions until you are ready to make a decision about Jesus. He lived this story of grace for you._MDS0694

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