Easter 2020 Thoughts

If you’re reading this and haven’t read my Good Friday post, go back and do that first. You can’t have one without the other.


A darkening sky. A final cry.

The ripping of fabric. 

And then silence.

And then..


When Jesus comes back to like on Sunday, it’s not bombastic and celebratory like we do it today. It was, by all accounts, pretty anti-climatic and quiet. He doesn’t go storming into the Temple much to the astonishment of the Temple Leaders. He doesn’t shove his nail-pierced hands in their faces and go, “Ha, ha, you killed me and now I’m back. Suck it, losers!” He doesn’t go to Pontius Pilate and shove the Roman’s face into the very bowl he washed his hands in.

He just appears in front of the disciples, hangs with them a bit, then disappears into the clouds.

That’s it. That’s all.

Except…

Except

Several days later, the apostles suddenly start acting weird. Before, they had cowered and hid; suddenly they were proclaiming God’s goodness and love. In different languages. In front of everyone.

People start listening. People started believing. People start giving away their belongings and caring for the sick and vulnerable.

The religious establishment didn’t like that, so they start putting these so-called Jesus followers into prison. Telling them to stop talking about Jesus. It doesn’t get squelched. More people become Jesus followers.

A well-known leader gets involved. He orders the executions of these followers. Then, suddenly, he disappears. The next time he’s seen, he’s said he had a vision of God and is now actually preaching this new Jesus thing. He becomes the hugest follower of this movement, to the point of changing his name.

The religious establishment sees it as a threat. They throw this new convert into prison. An earthquake shakes loose their chairs and opens all the cells. But the convert and the prisoners do not run away. Instead, they tell the jailer and his entire household that it was God who did this. The jailer believes. His whole family believes.

This movement grows and grows. The Roman Empire falls, and it continues to grow.


Miracles are easy. Mountains can crumble. Rivers can be rerouted. Storms can be calmed. Bodies can be healed.

But what type of power does it take to change a human heart?


Maybe we all had it wrong.

Maybe the point was not for God to show his power by force after all.

Maybe all our songs miss the mark.

Maybe God’s greatest power is shown when someone realizes that their actions are evil, change their ways, and start doing good.

Maybe this was why Jesus said the greatest commandment was “Love the Lord your God with all your strength and heart. ” And then he gives the second greatest commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

It is a stupid, crazy, messed-up thing, because we want domination. We want a smackdown. We want judgment. But that’s not how God works.

God’s power has never been about domination. It has always been about love. It’s about caring for his people. It’s why, instead of going to the Religious Leaders and the Powers in government, he showed himself to the people who needed his presence the most.


So then, how do we respond to injustice?

Over the weekend, I read through theologian Howard Thurmond’s Jesus and the Disinherited. He asked the same question back in 1949, as the civil rights movement was being formed. He writes:

One of the major defense mechanisms of the disinherited is taken away from them. What does Jesus give them in its place? What does he substitute for hypocrisy? Sincerity. But is sincerity a mechanism of defense against the strong? The answer is No. Something more significant takes place. In the presence of an overwhelming sincerity on the part of the disinherited, the dominant themselves are caught with no defense, with the edge taken away from the sense of prerogative and from the status upon which the impregnability of their position rests.

Over the past few years, I’ve been wondering if God is really real. And yet, I have seen His provision during the times when my husband and I ran out of money, and yet something happened that enabled us to pay our bills. I have heard stories and seen people being healed. Not of everything, but something that was deemed impossible. I do believe miracles still happen.

But I also believe that Jesus walks with us in our despair. One of my stories of Jesus is when he goes to resurrect Lazarus after being dead for four days. Mary comes right out, weeping and angry and upset. She outright accuses him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!”

Now, Jesus had started off by giving the rote answers to Martha earlier “I am the resurrection and the life.” It’s the right response, and it is true. But when confronted with Mary’s sorrow, words fail him. And then he looks up and sees the people who had been with Mary also weeping, Jesus weeps with them. Because even though He had all the answers, He understood He needed to be present with them in their pain.

I serve a God who loves.

And if He loves the world as we proclaim He does in John 3:16 then that means he cares for the black people in Milwaukee struggling to breathe on a ventilator. He cares for the Asian person being harassed for hearing masks. But that also means he cares for that person doing the yelling And yes, He cares for the Supreme Cart makes the decision to keep the election on.

We hate it. It sucks, because we want our side to win. But God isn’t interested in saving sides. He is interested in saving hearts. And he does that through us.

A friend of mine risked her health by suiting up and becoming a pollworker. Another friend put together a FB group to contact politicians. My sister serves as a nurse at a place that was converted to a Covid-19 facility. My mother has been sewing masks. People will remember this.

I am reminded of 1 John 4:16-12: “Dear friend, since God so loved us, we ought to love one another No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

Let us not lose hope. Let us grieve, let us mourn, let us pray, and then, let us love. Write your representatives. Give to those charities and ministries. This has been a quiet Easter. An unimpressive Easter. An Easter without streamers or shouts or huge gatherings. And yet, this is the closest we’ve ever been to Easter yet.

He is risen.

He is risen indeed.

Good Friday Thoughts

It’s not often that I do a blog post unrelated to writing. But the past few weeks have been so jacked up, particularly with Tuesday’s forced election in Wisconsin, that I need a way to process feelings.

So I’m going to do something I haven’t done in years. I’m going to write a personal blog post about faith.

Forgive me. This will get rambly in spots. It’s also being taken directly from my journal, so grammar is going out the window.


The biggest irony for me is that all of this is happening during Holy week, a sacred week for both Christians and Jews alike. Palm Sunday was this past Sunday, when we celebrate Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people sang out “Hosanna, Hosanna”, which can be translated to “Save us! Save us!” We know this story because our pastors love to point it out in their Palm Sunday sermons. They will then say, the Jews were looking for someone to get them out of their predicament. But Jesus wasn’t going to save them the way they wanted. He had his own agenda that would be “radical, amazing, and revolutionary”.

And then we as Christians throw ourselves into Good Fridays and ignore Saturday to cap it off with the huge celebrations of Easter, because that’s the true Victory. The real victory. God triumphing over death and establishing His Lordship over all the earth. He has won! Yayyy!

Except…

Except…

The Jews are still living under the Roman Empire.


Imagine living all your life as an oppressed minority. You’re always considered inferior. Told to abandon your culture and assimilate into the majority culture so you can fit in. Your people are profiled, thrown in prison for the slightest of offenses. Your young men are beaten, your young women harassed. They always live in poor communities; the only stories you hear of them is when they commit crimes. And there is nothing you can do to change this. How can you change your own skin and blood?

So you pray for a savior to come and burn down the establishment and set your people free. You want a savior like Moses, challenging the Pharoah, shouting “Let my people go!”; producing signs and plagues, and then when the Pharoah doesn’t listen, you want that savior to hurt the stubborn, foolish leader whereas it hurts. You want vengeance, you want justice, you want authoritative power.

Then you hear about this prophet who is going around healing people and casting out demons. There are even rumors that he could be the son of God. Who else can be powerful enough to throw down the establishment and free your people?

So you congregate whenever He appears. You laud him, sing praises to him. And when He comes to Jerusalem, you think, yes! This is it! This Jesus is going to change everything. Look out, you evil Romans, Jesus is coming for you! We’re going to be vindicated. Our children will be able to sleep safe. We’ll get the resources we need. We’ll get the respect we deserve. At last, we will be free!

Then he gets arrested. He goes before the temple leaders. He goes before Pilate. And he…does…nothing.

He just stands there. Silent.

No godlike power. No striking down of the authorities. No “let my people go.” Nothing. He gets sentenced to execution, and he does nothing to stop it.

When, at that is the point, when you feel your hope die?

Probably when Jesus dies on the cross.

No wonder the people turned from joy on Palm Sunday to rage on Good Friday. Without hope, all that’s left is despair.


Over the past couple of weeks, I watched the Governor of Wisconsin wrestle with the Wisconsin Supreme Court over the Wisconsin Primary. And like a lot of people, I was horrified when the court overturned the governor’s ruling to postpone the election, They wouldn’t extend the absentee ballots received deadline. And worse of all, they forced people who didn’t get their absentee ballots mailed early to vote in-person. In a pandemic. In Milwaukee and Green Bay, there were only a few polling sites open, forcing voters to stand in lines that lasted hours.

In Milwaukee alone, 66% of the Covid-19 deaths have been black.

I never felt so full of rage and helplessness. 


Where are you, I cry out to God. Don’t you see this? Can’t you feel our fear? Do something! You are supposed to be all powerful. We sing songs about how powerful for you are: how you can move mountains and calm storms and raise the dead. Why aren’t you doing that now? Are you even seeing this?

What’s the point of having all that power if you don’t even use it?

Are you even there?


If Jesus doesn’t really have the power to save, then he is useless. Is Jesus isn’t the son of God, then he is a fraud.

So why do I continue to believe in Him?

Because….

He knew this.

He knew this would happen.


Every Good Friday, I’ve made it a point to listen to a talk that John Ortberg gave to my dayjob’s Staff Conference back in 2014. This week, I’ve listened to it twice.

Give a listen. Then come back on Sunday. I’ll finish this post then.

Creating in a crisis (Or not)

So I’m finally getting around to doing a blog post. What a weird wild time it’s been huh? All of you healthy out there? Staying home? Washing your hands? I hope you are.

I’ve been wanting to put a blog post out now for the past couple of weeks, but there’s a difference between having the urge to do it and actually doing it. But I felt that I needed to do it because so many other people were doing it.

But I couldn’t. Mainly because the world was sort of collapsing on me. In February, I had plans to have an awesome birthday in April. I had been asked to do a conversation with Veronica Roth for our local bookstore for her new book coming out, The Chosen Ones. On my actual birthday. And the venue was going to be held at our main public library. Two days after that, I was going to travel to Michigan to participate in the Festival of Faith and Writing as a Festival Circle Leader talking about how to weave your faith in science fiction and fantasy fiction. It was going to be so awesome.

By the 2nd week of March, I watched helplessly as both those events were canceled/postponed.

Of course, it wasn’t just me that was affected. It threw off everyone’s plans. It certainly affected others more deeply. There were others who lost income because of those cancellations. For me, (I told myself) it was a mere inconvenience. I should be grateful that I’m in a good position, and right now, I needed to support those who were more directly affected. Besides, the Festival was only postponed to next year. This isn’t about me. And besides, canceling those events are good. This is the best way to care for those who are sick and vulnerable. 

But as the cases of Covid-19 rose, and as people were told to stay at home, and as the schools closed, and the reality that we really were in the middle of a pandemic hit, I couldn’t really function. All I could do was scroll social media and stare at the news, and watch the panic, and occasionally break into tears. 

Of course, my productivity went down the tubes. 

At some point, though, I came to the realization that what I was experiencing was a form of grief. I told myself that I was grieving because the world was upset and I was simply empathizing with those emotions, but it took me a while for me to say that I was grieving also for me. Maybe it’s some sort of Christian thing that constantly tells you to put others before yourself. But if you’re doing that and you’re not in a healthy place yourself, you can collapse real fast, or worse, be next to useless. It’s akin to how airline attendents instruct you how to put on masks in an emergency. If you’re traveling with a child or vulnerable person, you don’t rush to put the masks on them first; you put one on yourself, then them.

Once I realized that, I decided to treat myself more gently. I listened to 80s pop Japanese music all day. I binge-watched a bunch of Simpsons cartoons. I played Tales of the Abyss on my 3DS. And I mourned.

Because, really, you guys, I was going to interview Veronica Roth in front of a live audience. Veronica Roth. And then I was going to go to the Festival of Faith and Writing. It would have been the first time I would’ve been at a writing conference that also dealt with faith. I was looking forward to it because Saladin Ahmed had been an invited author there, and if he could read a vulgarity-laced story that was deeply about faith, then dang, I would be in good company. It would’ve been such an awesome, awesome birthday week.

Getting those cancellations hurt. It really did. 

This morning, I woke up. The sun was out. The sky was blue. I got up, made tea. Did work from home. I had started regrowing bok choy from the bottom of a stalk in a bowl of water, and I was stunned to see its growth in such a few short hours. My next-door neighbor was across the street, writing inspirational quotes on the sidewalk with chalk. I chatted with her from the safety of my porch. 

Then I came down to my library, shut off social media, and wrote out this post. 

Everyone responds differently to crises. But if you’re in a place where you’re telling yourself you should be writing, and instead you can barely function, then take care of yourself. Let yourself cry. Watch as many videos as you need. Play as many video games you want. Talk to people, mentors, counselors, journal, etc. If you need permission, doggoneit, I give you permission.

And don’t feel bad if you feel like everyone is writing stuff instead of you. Some writers churn out stuff instantly as the news update in real time. Then there are those (like me) who need time to observe and deal with things before they can write up anything. And that’s fine too. It’s not like there’s a hard deadline. We’re going to be processing this for years. So if you can’t write now, just observe. You will know when you are ready. 

***

One more thing that I may expand on in another post, once I’m done with all the feely emotions. You see, I had a little story published back in 2018. A fun little story that had alternate versions of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Memphis Minnie dealing with contagion and face masks and quarantines and hand washing. When I wrote it, I did a lot of research on quarantines and pandemics and such. And yeah, I also read up on warnings that we were primed to experience a pandemic in our lifetime at some point. 

I had no clue that it would happen, like, now

So yeah, on top of the above, I’ve been having a bit of a freakout because MY STORY PREDICTED THIS and WHOA I’M A FUTURIST NOW MAYBE?, especially since I’m now seeing recommendations that people wear masks when we finally emerge from this. And HOLY COW DOES THIS MEAN THAT ANYTHING I WRITE NOW WILL COME TRUE and CRAP I’M WORKING ON A NOVEL THAT TALKS ABOUT PROPHECIES THAT BRING ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD CRAP CRAP CRAP CRAP

Maybe I need to write a story about unicorns. Yeah. Happy unicorns.