Friday, April 29, 2011

On Weight Loss: Water, Walking, and Watching

Dear friends,

My Aunt Nancy e-mailed me this morning to let me know that my mom has issued a fun little challenge.  Mom is concerned about the risk of Type 2 diabetes, which runs in the family, as well as heart disease.  She also knows that many of us struggle with our weight for various reasons, whether it is serial childbearing (my story -- 10 kids in 18 years) or joint injuries (also my story, as well as others) or chronic migraines (my sister's story until recently) or whatever.  So Mom has proposed a little weight loss contest.  We each pitch in 5 bucks, and at the end of next month, the biggest "loser" wins all the dough -- er, I mean cash!   I'm in!  I've got about (mmph, grrr, let's not get specific but way too many) pounds to lose.  I've actually already been thinking about this.  I've put on some pounds this past year, and my joints are sure feeling it.  So I'm going to give it a shot.  I think there are seven of us taking the challenge so far.

My personal strategies?  It's WWW for me!  Drink lots of water, walk at least a half an hour a day, and watch out against calories from butter, juice, second helpings, and junk food snacking.  That's a start anyway.

WATER: I know I'll write more about water later, but that's definitely part of my strategy.  My friend Mary Lou once told me, "Don't drink your calories!"  And I do drink way too much juice for someone who is at risk for diabetes. The nutrition books that have been gathering dust on my shelves all say water is vital, and not just to replace liquid calories. In fact, Dr. Don Colbert devotes the entire first chapter of The Seven Pillars of Health to the importance of drinking clean water, and the fifth chapter of Pamela Smith's Smart Weigh is titled "Air and Water."  So I'd better start tanking up!   It's interesting that this morning my kids begged me to start reading another historical novel to them since we finished our assigned one for this week early.  They were asking for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor, but since we've read that one before, I chose its prequel, The Well.  It's about a black family from Missisippie around 1910.  There is a drought going on, and the Logan's well is the only reliable source of drinking water fit for humans.  Fortunately for their neighbors, the Logans are willing to share freely, even with racists who treat them poorly.  I won't spoil the rest of the story for you, but for me, it underscores the importance of fresh water.  Also coincidentally, today the PBS Kids show Sid the Science Kid was about the water cycle and how important it is to conserve so that we will all have fresh water to drink.  Do we in the good old USA ever remember what a blessing it is to be able to turn on the kitchen faucet or buy bottled water?  So many millions or even billions of people around the globe do not even have the privilege of clean water...  More on that some other time, after I dig up the names of organizations who are building wells and water purification facilities in impoverished regions.

WALKING: As I was reading my Aunt Nancy's e-mail on my iPod this morning, I was already lacing up my sneakers for a brisk walk.  I had been going out once or twice a week in the mornings with my friend Tonya, but stopped a month ago when I broke my elbow, and we hadn't started up again.  I haven't done much eliptical machine at the YMCA this month, and no weight lifting since then either. This morning I figured I just better get out there and walk by myself.  Anyway, about six blocks from my house, a lady pulled out of her driveway and then stopped her car next to me.  Rolling down the window, she said something like, "I really want to walk, too! Would you walk with me in the mornings?"  She needs to go out earlier than I am accustomed to even getting up, but I'm going to give it a go.  I need to be getting up and getting a jump on the day earlier anyway, so I can be back and take a shower with more time before I start our morning home schooling time with the five younger kids.   I'll be leaving the house the same time as Lydia has to leave to catch her school bus (a little before 6:30 AM), so I'll walk that direction with her toward Jennifer's house.  I figure I can walk with Jennifer at least a few mornings a week and Tonya once or twice a week (as we used to), and that will get me into my sneakers and out on the street more often!  [Update: Jennifer isn't able to walk after all yet, since she is recovering from foot surgery, but we had a very nice chat later on anyway!  I have been walking with Tonya most weekdays though.]
WATCHING:  My third strategy is to watch my excess calories a bit more.  I love butter! That's going to have to go except for rare occasions.  So are all the snacks that I am inclined to buy for my kids -- ones that aren't necessarily fatty in themselves, but that I eat too often.  And those second helpings at dinner really aren't helping me do anything except put on pounds.  I'll need my family's help to remind me of that one.  Fortunately, they want to be healthy, too, and often remind me to buy more fruits and veggies and less junk food.  We all love fresh spinach! 
Also on the topic of WATCHING, I wanted to say a word about WATCHING TV.  I really don't watch much of it at all, except for occasional educational videos with the kids.  When I was a child, my parents removed the TV for about six years, and there were no video games or Internet to replace them.  They did this because they knew we were rotting our brains and wasting our time as couch potatoes.  We all spent the time reading, writing, playing musical instruments, doing art, and gardening. Not a bad trade!  But even though I still don't watch much TV as an adult, I am often tempted to let my kids watch too much, usually so I can just sit and chill out myself.  I've been talking about taking the TV out of the house at least until our school year is done at the end of May, and one of my conscientious sons has kept reminding me of that, so I'm in the process of doing it.  This afternoon, I rendered it powerless by removing the digital converter box, VCR and DVD players.  I can't lift the TV, but once I figure out where I want to put it, I'll get my teenage son or my husband to do the dirty work.  Honestly, we will survive without it. We've gone TV-less for months at a time before, and the kids are better off reading, getting their chores done, doing crafts, or, even better for their health, running around outside, climbing trees, riding bikes, or swimming at friends' houses or the YMCA.  Besides, if we really get desperate, we can use our computers to watch the news or play DVDs.  So, no TV, but more family exercise!  Right now, one of my sons is bugging me to go to the Y.  He must have been reading over my shoulder.
What are your best strategies for keeping your weight under control?  They don't need to start with the letter W!  Do share!  Add a comment button or e-mail me!

(And thanks, Mom and Aunt Nancy!  Always nice to know someone is looking out for my health!)
Virginia Knowles

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Holy Week: The Resurrection and Doubting Thomas

Dear friends,

Happy Easter to you! 

Caravaggio: Doubting Thomas

"Saint Thomas Putting his Finger on Christ's Wound" by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

This morning in church, introducing his sermon with this Caravaggio masterpiece, our pastor Mike Tilley told the story of doubting Thomas. He was the disciple who wasn't there when Jesus first appeared to the others on the day he was resurrected. Even though the others told him about it, Thomas said he wouldn't believe it until he saw it for himself, until he could feel the wounds on Christ's body. Jesus appeared again about a week later, suddenly in a locked room. Nothing could keep him out! The thing is that Jesus didn't chew out Thomas for doubting.  He greeted him with "Peace be with you!" and invited him to see and touch the wounds so he could fully believe.  And when Thomas saw him, he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" I think he got it right that time.  Thomas understood his relationship with God personally and he also responded with a heart of surrender, acknowledging Jesus as his Lord.

Mike encouraged the doubters among us to freely come to God with our honest questions. There is more than one kind of doubter.

Some aren't sure that there is even a God, or that Jesus is God. I remember, as I once wrote in a poem, "looking for a skylight in the floor of my upside down world." I not only didn't believe in God, but I was mad at Christians for trying to tell me about him. I was quite some doubter. Maybe you are, too. There is nothing wrong with exploring the historical evidence to find out if what the Bible says is true and asking God if he is really real. Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, both solid skeptics, dared to do this -- and ended up convinced of the claims of Christianity. McDowell later wrote the books Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More than a Carpenter, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door and many others. Strobel penned The Case for Christ, The Case for the Creator, The Case for Easter, and more.

Other doubters, also like me, have served God for years, even decades. I've been a Christian for 35 years as of this July. I have read the Bible all the way through multiple times, memorized large portions of it, read hundreds of Christian books, gone to church nearly every week, served on missions and evangelism teams, taught Sunday School, home schooled my 10 kids, written Christian books/e-magazines/blogs, and talked about God to groups of people more times than I can remember. Do I have all the answers by now? Not by a long shot! I have my own perplexing questions about God, too. There are times that I just don't understand what he is doing or why. There are times when I am angry at God and wonder if he is really a loving Father after all. Is he really good? Is he really just? Will the burdens ever lift? How badly will I mess up, and will he be able to fix it when I do? Does he really have it all under control? Will it really come out all right in the end? With all of the varieties of Christian teachings out there, some of them at odds with one another, how do I know what to believe and how to behave? And how do I take what I know in my mind and make sure that is seeps all the way into my heart, too, so I can trust him? Lord, have mercy!

Fortunately, God is big enough to handle angst, confusion, and cynicism. And it helps to know that devout Christians throughout the centuries have faced the same doubts and spiritual insecurities. It is just reality until we get to Heaven and see him face to face. For now, it's better to be honest, wrestle the doubts, and ask the hard questions, even while knowing it's not all going to come clear until eternity. For me, it helps to read the Bible and pray, even when it is hard to sense God's presence. Another thing that is an immense encouragement is to read and hear the testimonies of other believers about how God has been faithful and real in their lives during the most difficult times. And oddly enough, getting out there, putting one foot in front of the other, and serving him the best I know how somehow draws me even closer to him. I don't always know just what I'm doing when I start out, but seeing God work through me -- in spite of me -- is something of a miracle to behold.

I am thankful, too, that the good folks of Lake Baldwin Church welcomed me in when I was feeling more than a bit lost in transition last year. It's been a safe place for me to be just me. Even a few simple hugs and kind words from my sweet sisters-in-Christ there gave me a powerful boost toward more faith this morning. God might not be moving in spectacular ways, but I think he's at least whispering tenderly in my ears.

Peace be with you!

Virginia Knowles

P.S. If you haven't read my other Easter posts this week, you can click here: Holy Week.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holy Week: The Throne Room of Grace

The Throne Room of Grace

Dear friends,

Today is Saturday of Holy Week, wedged in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, so I'd like to share with you something that happened after the crucifixion but before the resurrection. I attempted to symbolize it in my 1982 painting "The Throne Room of Grace."  

I will have to give you a little background. In the Old Testament, the tabernacle and later the temple, had a Most Holy Place blocked by a veil, a heavy curtain from floor to ceiling. Only the high priest could enter the Most Holy Place, and he could only do this once a year on Yom Kippur, the sacred Day of Atonement. There he would offer a solemn sacrifice for the sins of the people. The Old Testament also foretold a messiah -- the Son of God -- who would be sacrificed for the sins of the people. Hundreds of years later, in fulfillment of the prophecies, Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) offered himself as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross. He was both the High Priest and the Sacrifice Lamb. When he died, the curtain in the temple miraculously tore in two, symbolizing open access to the presence of God in the Most Holy Place for those who believe in the sacrifice. Now we too can enter into the Throne Room of Grace -- every day! Isn't God kind?

You don't see God's throne in my painting; the man, who could be anyone, is on his way in through the heavy ripped curtain of the Temple into the Most Holy Place. I couldn't figure out a way to adequately depict the Glory of God, so I left it to the viewer's imagination what they would see further down the path of the Cross that the man is walking.

Picture with me this scene: You enter The Most Holy Place, the Throne Room of God, and bow before the Glorious King. Then after he embraces you and places a comforting hand on your head, he hands you this beautifully wrapped package. Inside are his gifts of Mercy and Grace. They aren’t generic brand either! They are specifically designed for your particular needs that very day. Whatever your problem is, there is the solution. Whatever your grief, there is a unique balm of comfort. What’s even better, his door is open whenever you choose to visit, and he has a different care package for you every time you come. All of these benefits can be yours if you trust in sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins.

Many years ago, while thinking on these truths, this little song came to me...

"Who Is There Like Unto Thee?"

by Virginia Knowles

Who is there like unto Thee, O Lord,
To Thy name give glory!
Full of compassion, righteousness and truth,
Full of strength and power, and clothed in majesty!
And yet on the cross, you were willing to bleed,
And you met us there, in our time of need.
And now at your Throne Room, we may boldly enter in,
To receive grace and mercy again and again!

And then there is the old hymn... 

"Before the Throne of God Above"
by Charitie Bancroft, 1863

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Here is a beautiful modern rendition, arranged by my friend Vikki Cook.  It gives me the chills just to listen to it.  (If you are reading this by e-mail or through Google Reader or Facebook, you may have to click on the original blog post and scroll down .)

For those who would like some more of the Biblical background of the veil and the Most Holy Place...

“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy." Exodus 26:31-33

"Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age).... But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God." From Hebrews 9
Virginia Knowles

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter Dinner Menu

Dear friends,

My holiday menus seem to be popular posts on this blog, so here's what we're planning to fix for our Easter feast!

Main Dishes

Side Dishes

  • Homemade mashed potatoes
  • Biscuits
  • Green bean casserole
  • Spinach salad with slivered almonds


  • Brownies
  • Apple plumble
  • Almond biscotti
  • Vanilla ice cream

Now for a few words of explanation...

My daughter Mary and her husband Ryan are eating Passover kosher this week, and it's a bit more strict than usual kosher. Since they aren't eating any raised baked goods or even wheat right now, they won't be able to eat the brownies or biscotti.  So I am making Apple Plumble, which is basically apple crumble with canned plums added.  I have not made it this way yet -- I'm sort of inventing it, as I did the odd name.  We'll see how it turns out!  I have never made biscotti either, and don't know if I will have time for it, but we might give it a shot tomorrow.  They are Italian cookies, twice baked, and I found several recipes on

I am not doing all of the cooking by myself.  It's a family affair!  In fact, the reason we are serving so many dishes is that everyone wants to help!  Mary is bringing the mashed potatoes, Julia has dibs on making the green bean casserole, Micah (11) has already made the brownies from scratch, Naomi (10) is helping with the biscotti and plumble, Ben (8) is making the spinach salad, and little Melody (5) is putting the canned biscuits on the baking sheet.  I'm sure that Lydia (16) and Andrew (13) will help out, too.  Rachel (20) and Joanna (18) are in Italy for another few weeks and will miss out on Easter with us, but let's not feel too sorry for them since they've been traveling to Paris, Rome, Monaco, and other fascinating places in between teaching English classes.

We'll be eating soon after getting home from Easter services at Lake Baldwin Church, so we're trying to make most of the dishes ahead of time.  I've already purchased most of the supplies at Aldi, the discount grocery store a mile from our home, but I'll stop by the produce market for the fresh green beans.  Maybe I'll find some other interesting fruit to add to my plumble, too.

Happy Easter to all of you!

If you haven't had the opportunity to read my Holy Week blog posts, here's the link:
Holy Week.

Virginia Knowles

P.S. If you are new to my blog, WELCOME!  I imagine that some of you got here by doing a web search on Easter menus!   Feel free to poke around for inspiration, or pop over to one of my other blogs on home schooling or motherhood listed in the left hand sidebar.  I also have a Recipe index page on this blog, so take a peek!  I cook for a huge family (9 kids still at home most of the time), so I tend toward developing or adapting recipes that are thrifty and easy, but with a bit of flare.

P.P.S. I invite you to join the Food on Fridays carnival at Ann Kroeker's blog.   

Holy Week: Good Friday

Dear friends,

For Good Friday, the day when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins, two poems - "Good Friday" by Christina Rosetti and "Who Overcame Evil with Good" by Mary Whitcomb Hess - and then an essay.

Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvatore Dali, 1951

Good Friday
by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy Blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?
Not so those women loved

Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;

Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;
Not so the Sun and Moon

Which hid their faces in a starless sky.
A horror of great darkness at broad noon-
I, only I.
Yet give not o’er

But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

This tapestry, "The Crucifixion" by Pieter Pannemaker, is found in the National Gallery of Art. You can click on it to enlarge it. 

Who Overcame Evil by Good
by Mary Whitcomb Hess
after a homily by Saint Amphilochius in 4th century

They stretch Him
On a Cross to die ---
Our Lord Who first
Stretched out the sky

Whose countenance
The cherubim
Dare not gaze on …
They spat on Him

And gave Him gall
To drink
Though He
Brings us wells
Of eternity.

He prays for them
“Father, forgive…”
For He was born
That all might live.

Round the sealed tomb
Of Him they’ve slain
They set a guard
In vain, in vain

Round Him
Creation can’t contain
Who dies for us
To rise again.

I wrote this essay many years ago and always send it out for Good Friday.  It is a good reminder for me each year.

Is the Cross a Way of Life for You?
by Virginia Knowles

When I recall the death and resurrection of Jesus, I don’t think of just a historical fact or an inspiring story of love and devotion.  If Jesus died to pay for my sins, then he has every right to all of me. The cross of Christ is a call to a new way of life: the way to reconciliation and fellowship with the Father, the way to a liberated life, the way to follow Jesus, and the way to reach the world.  Is the cross a way of life for you? 

The Cross is Our Way to Reconciliation and Fellowship with the Father

We humans have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standards (Romans 3:23).   The penalty for this sin is death – not only physical, but spiritual (Romans 6:23).  Sin alienates us from God and creates a barrier between us and him.  No person can break through it using his or her own efforts to be good.  Jesus, the perfect son of God, took our punishment on the cross so that we could enter into a relationship with the Father.  Without this sacrifice, we would have no hope at all.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.   Ephesians 2:13-16

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”    John 14:6 

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Hebrews 10:19-22 

See also Colossians 1:19-22, Colossians 2:13-15, Hebrews 9-10.

The Cross is Our Way to the Liberated Life

The cross that brought us into the presence of God also enables us to walk step by step toward in victory.  It didn’t just set us free from the penalty of sin, but from the power of sin too.   We can’t just say, “Oh, Jesus forgives my sin, so I can do what I want now.”  Instead we say, “Wow! Jesus forgives my sin, and since he bought me with his blood, I want to live in a way which pleases him.”  When we live by the cross, we want to take off the filthy rags of sin, and be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.   Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  Romans 6:6-12

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.   Galatians 2:19b-20

See also 1 Peter 1:13-19.

The Cross is Our Way to Follow Jesus

The cross is our invitation to follow Jesus Christ.  Not only do we want to stop sinning, but we want to start doing something purposeful, something radical.  We stop living to please ourselves and get our own way, and we start seeking out what God wants us to do.  This is not an option, not an extra that is to be pursued only by the “serious” or “pious” among us.  He did not come to be part of our life, he came to be our life.  Is he at the center of all you do and say?

And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  Luke 9:23 ESV

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.  Luke 14:27 ESV

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14

See also Galatians 6:14, Philippians 2:4-11 and Colossians 3:2-4.

The Cross is Our Way to Reach the World

When the cross of Christ becomes the most important thing in the world to us, we realize that we must share it with others.  Why keep the good news to ourselves?  As we realize that people are hopeless without Jesus, that they will spend eternity without him, then we are filled with a burning desire to bring them into the salvation that we have.  Can you imagine spending eternity in a glorious Heaven with your gracious Creator, who loved you so much that he died for you?  Then bring a friend along!  It’s the only thing you can take with you!

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.   For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.  Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, "I believed, and so I spoke," we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with youinto his presence.  For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.  2 Corinthians 4:8-15 (ESV) 


My challenge to you is this: Is the cross a way of life for you?   Have you been reconciled to God through the blood of Christ?   Are you seeking to live a life that pleases him by putting off sin and putting on righteousness?  Have you devoted your life to sharing the Gospel with others?  The paradox is that when we take up the cross of Christ, we are taking up the abundant life! 

Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 
Matthew 10:39

    For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings,
so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.  2 Corinthians 1:15

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.   John 10:10b

(All Scriptures are listed in the English Standard Version)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Holy Week: "Behold the Man" on Maundy Thursday

Dear friends,

Today is Maundy Thursday, when we remember the last Passover supper (where Jesus ate with his disciples, washed their feet and encouraged them about the future), his prayers and his betrayal by Judas at the Garden of Gethsemane, his arrest, and, in the wee hours of the next morning, his trial and Peter's denial.  You can read all of this in John 13-19.

The name "Maundy" is derived from the Latin word “mandatum”, meaning a commandment. At the Last Supper, Jesus commanded: "And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another."  And there also he set the example of servant-hearted love by washing their dirty feet, saying: “Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." (See John 13.)   As a side note to this, I have done a lot of informal research on the abuse of spiritual authority within modern day religious movements.  One of the hallmarks of abusive organizations or families is a rigid hierarchy of roles and rules in which those at the bottom of the pile are expected to unquestioningly serve and obey and give to those above them. Jesus rebuked the legalistic Pharisees of his day for much the same attitudes and behavior. Wouldn't it be helpful for many present day Pharisees to remember that it is the Lord himself who served us, and that instead of demanding respect and obedience, that they should instead model humility, mutual submission, and service out of a genuine love for God and fellow man?  Should the gospel bring true liberty or more religious bondage?  Should we follow Jesus or mere man?  As the apostle Peter wrote in chapter 5 of his first epistle: "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."


But back to the Bible story...  When I taught middle school English in a home school co-op, I usually gave them special assignments for Holy Week, with literature, art, poetry, music and writing.  Here is a small taste of what they learned on one of the days:

The painting "The Last Supper" (above) is by Leonardo da Vinci. He painted it in 1498 on the refectory (dining room) wall in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. It is 15 feet high and 29 feet long! Click on the picture to enlarge it.  Pay attention to the details in the picture!
All four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) include the story of the "Last Supper" but each one differs in how they present what happened. Read Matthew 26:17-35Mark 14:12-31, and John 13:1-37.  Can you find at least one detail in each passage that wasn't in the others? What parts of the story do all of them include? What is one thing that you can apply in your own life from these passages?
Read about Gethsemane and the trial at Matthew 26:36-75
The painting "Ecce Homo" is by Swiss artist, Antonio Ciseri (October 25, 1821 – March 8, 1891). You can click on it to enlarge it. "Ecce Homo" means "Behold the Man." The scene is Jesus' trial before Pontius Pilate.  Pilate has already had Jesus scourged, then mockingly dressed in a purple robe and a crown of thorns.  He then presents Jesus to the crowd, with the words, "Behold the man!"  He asks the crowd if Jesus should be released, and spurred on by their religious leaders they yell, "Crucify!"  Pilate listens to the crowd rather than choosing what he knows is right - justice for an innocent man. But even this was in God's eternal plan, for Jesus was willingly offering himself up as the sacrifice for our sins so we could be shown mercy and grace instead of the just judgement that we deserved. 

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