Thursday, April 12, 2012

Like None Other

My heart is so full it could almost burst, brimming with the touch of God.  I've seen the King, the King of glory high and lifted up in the place meant for defeat.  I have just experienced an Easter like none other.  In real, life size, vivid pictures, I've tasted of the passion week of Christ and His resurrection.  I was not so much an onlooker gazing in, as I was personally experiencing the drama, drawn into its reality.  

My two youngest girls were bemoaning the fact that we would be traveling on Good Friday for the memorial service of their Aunt Sheri to be held the next day.  Normally we would be attending an "Experience the Passion" exhibit which our church hosts as an interactive reflection on Jesus' last week leading up to the cross.  Since we couldn't be there for that event, we decided to look for things along the road, somewhat like a game, if I can say that respectfully, and find all the things which reminded us of Jesus' passion week.  And what different, amazing pictures God gave us!

We started our drive that day early, while still dark, and there on the horizon was a full moon . . . awesome.  It caught our attention.  We were reminded of the passover celebration where the people ask, "Why is this night so different?"  The cars on the freeway continued their endless pursuit.  The trees and hills whizzed by as usual . . . but this night was different because of our grief for Sheri.  And some 2,000 years ago the night was like none other because Jesus was about to die for the sins of the world.
I fell asleep for awhile and woke up with a start to see snowy roads.  I did not expect this.  Fear and panic washed over me because I knew what was ahead; steep grades which came down off of these blue mountains.  The women at the cross were afraid, and likewise the disciples who had gathered in the upper room.  And I was anxious of what lie ahead, facing the sorrow and the sorrowing.  God gave us a taste of fear on this downcast mountain perhaps that we might know the fear of that day.  But we were brought safely through and reached the bottom of the hill.  I knew God would go before us in the midst of the ominous cloud of grief.

At one point, we came around the corner and were shocked to see windmills . . . huge in our faces. . . blatant.  They could not be missed.  And all the way from Colorado to Oregon we saw these windmills in various places, sharp. . . harsh against the land and sky, like cactus pricks. . . the crown of thorns in the face of Jesus.  The curse of the ground which could not be ignored, abrupt against God's perfect creation.
Then came the moment where we met the Columbia River, and followed its path for miles and miles.  How I love to see that mighty river working its way to the ocean.  The rock cliffs were littered with streams and tributaries, rushing to the river, joining its awesome force in their trek towards the sea. It reminded me of lives gone before, joining with the great cloud of witnesses toward heaven's gates.  Each of us, rushing like a stream over rocks and moss, through forest and meadow, and plunging in faith towards the river of God. . . full of light and life.

The blood of Jesus runs down, pouring out for us as a result of the fall, the curse.  His blood flows down, touching each of us who believe, for just one drop can wash our sins away.  But it is not a drop, but rather buckets and buckets, continually available for our cleansing.  The blood of Jesus flows with life, our eternal life.  He offers it generously and fully.

We look only unto You, Jesus.

All eyes look to You.
Yet to bring us that life, Jesus bore the curse in His own body, on the tree.  The tree also gives its life, stripped of its branches, that it might support the Son of God.  Yet, Jesus was stripped of His glory, cut down in His prime, cut off from His descendants, that He might bear the burden of the sins of the world.  He carried our grief, our sorrows.  (Isa. 53) The cross held the Christ that He might hold us.

Arriving at my brother's house, we were intrigued by these cork boots, unique in their function.  Once bearing the weight of their owner, falling mighty trees, holding great purpose, but now only a place for humble plants.  The glory of the boots has been laid aside while moss and succulents are placed in the forefront.  As Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, He went beyond the call of duty, laying aside his glory in order to serve.  He touched our filth, just as these boots touch the dirt, serving even after being spent.

The morning of Sheri's service, we were up early to see the fog had rolled in.  It was beautiful and still, like a garden with droplets hung in the air, obscuring our view.  I was reminded of the women going to the tomb of Jesus, their hearts clouded with the confusion of his passing.

We searched a flower shop for an offering, the garden, something to give in comfort for the living, like the women bringing spices to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus.  But when we got to the church I was surprised to find there was no casket.  "Where have they taken the body?" the women at Jesus' tomb asked. (Luke 24:3,4; John 20:2)  And it was the question I was wondering of Sheri.  I knew she was to be buried in Manitoba, her homeland, but did not realize her body would not be present at this service.  It was a vivid picture of the resurrection.  "He is not here.  He is risen, just as He said."  (Matt. 28:6)  And Sheri is not here, she has risen. Her body remains on the earth for now, but she herself . . . is not here.
We were all surprised when my brother, Sheri's husband, stood up at the funeral and read a prepared speech he had written.  It was filled with hope and encouragement for the rest of us who might be struggling with the whys.  I was so proud of him.  If he could display such courage in the face of death, surely we could have none less. 

But at one point he broke down and struggled to finish what he was reading.  And silent prayers from the heart cried out, "Jesus, help him!"  I was reminded of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, crying out to God, interceding for his own who would not understand his death.  Jesus was about to go through great suffering, and my brother, who was suffering deeply, was encouraging us, just as we were interceding for him.  The younger leads the elder.  Jasper was leading all of his family as well as everyone else at the service, into acceptance and victory.
The fog had lifted by mid morning.  God provided beautiful sunshine for Sheri's day.
Jesus, in His death, became the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  But the Lamb of God sits on the throne.  This Lamb died that we might reign with him.  Jasper was reigning with Christ in His victory over death.  And he was leading all of us to take our positions at the throne and to be more than conquerors through Him who loves us.  Death would not defeat him.  He would reign over it.  He would persevere until we all reach the portals of heaven.

At last we dipped our toes into the Pacific Ocean, that glorious, vast expanse of water.  It seemed endless, a picture of heaven, and all rivers this side of the divide run into it.  This is what we run towards to gain the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Wave upon wave flows toward us, God's love . . . grace, reaching over and over into our hearts, while at the same time, the undercurrent, the desire of our hearts, pulls and calls us out toward our true home.  

So often we resist these arms held out to us.  We run from them in bitterness or anger just as we run from the waves in fear of their engulfing.  But God would fold us into His arms and hold us close to his heart.  God does not beg.  No, He has given us a royal summons into His presence, into relationship with Him.  There in His presence are treasures unending which He longs to reveal to us.

As I visited familiar sights of my childhood, I was reminded that Jesus has walked before me. He was there all along and will be with me still.  His sufficiency and presence travels into the places I have been.  Jesus walks today where I walk.

And when at last I come to my Father's house, His acceptance will pour over me like a flood, because Jesus gave His life, that I might live.
Sheri has given my family a window into heaven.  This weekend we saw Jesus.  Sheri, a lily white in fullest bloom points us to come and see.  Just before Sheri passed away, my youngest daughter came running into the house all excited and out of breath.  "Mom! Come quick!  I want to show you somethin'!"  I dropped everything and followed her outside.  There in my back yard, was a glorious hyacinth in bloom.  Likewise, Jesus takes our hand and calls us to come and see.  Look at this life.  Just as the open tomb was God's invitation to "come and see", so Sheri's life has drawn us to drop everything and come running to see Jesus.
But oh the sacrifice to make that happen!  The sacrifice of pain which my brother and others must yield.  He gave his beloved so we might see Jesus.  But isn't that what God has done for us?  God gave His beloved so we might look into the face of Christ.  "The wall of the city, [the new Jerusalem], was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones:  the first was jasper. . ." (Rev. 21:19)  Jasper surrounds Sheri like a wall, but lays down the foundation that we might draw near to the glory of God. We look forward to that city not made by hands, whose designer and builder is God.

The road of suffering.
But a road marked with victory.

After the memorial service, we walked into the dining hall and noticed a table reserved for family where we each had a place.  We were all included.  Sheri, clothed in white for her wedding just six months prior to this, is dressed in white again for the wedding feast of the Lamb.  We are not there yet, but God has a spot reserved just for us.  Save a place for us Sheri, we'll be there soon.

Come Lord Jesus.


  1. So beautiful. Thank you, Jewel.

  2. Oh Jewel........Again so sorry for your loss. We missed your family so much this Easter. Thank you for your beautiful illustration of Jesus, His suffering and His resurrection and of Eternal Life! Glad you have returned to us safely and that you feel renewed even through so much grief. Thank you for sharing your gift.


  3. Jewel, Thank you for sharing and seeing the Light, expressing it so clearly that we may all see It.
    hugs and prayers,

  4. Thanks, Jewel. You say it so well. How wonderful to rest in the wondrous sovereignty of our God!