A little Easter story

I wanted to share something with y’all. It’s something I wrote a while ago, but was able to share publicly for the first time on Friday, aka Good Friday.

It’s a short story from the perspective of John, watching Mary, Jesus’ mother, at the foot of the cross. My church held services on Good Friday during which each of the seven last words of Christ was addressed. I was asked to address the sixth word. My story, “Tetelestai,” covers the moments just before Christ calls out, “It is finished,” which is English for the Aramaic title of the story.

I was humbled to read from John 19:29-30, and then talk about the meaning behind “tetelestai.” I followed my brief thoughts with this story. I hope you enjoy it. If so, please visit my Facebook page and click “Like.”

 

Tetelestai

by Jay Lamborn

 

            Her heart relaxed between beats, the semilunar valves closed and the atrioventricular valves opened.

            The crimson drop slid down his forehead, slowly and methodically, as if attempting to avoid separation from its point of origin.

            It moved ever so slowly along beneath the crown of thorns, slipping into the space between his brows, where it waivered for a moment before deciding to take the track along the inside edge of his left eye.

            Her atrium contracted and blood flowed to the ventricle.

            Agonizing as it must have been to have the dot slowly moving down the edge of his nose, the man made no attempt to shake his head and dislodge the dot. His hands, nailed to the wood, were useless.

            The ventricles of her heart contracted.

            Waves of sound broke against the man, but none moved the globule from its appointed course. It continued to slide, through the hair above his mouth, moving now along the upper lip, delicately tracing a path along it before moving down through the scruff rough Roman barbers had left him and on to his chin.

            The ventricles emptied and the semilunar valves opened. Her focus on this singular dot was amazing. She was racked with sobs, tears flowed freely, but she never lost sight of it.

            The sky darkened and still her eyes kept watch as it quivered upon his chin. His voice rang out, laying bare his pain, and the movement of his jaw sent the scarlet blood flying. Her eyes locked on it, following the drop through the air and onto the suddenly shaking ground, even as her heart stopped the end of the contraction to begin its next beat.

            “It is finished.”

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The Lesson I Unlearned About the Bible

I had certain verses pounded into me growing up. Chances are, you did, too.

John 3:16, anyone?

How about the 23rd Psalm?

Year after year my Sunday School teachers focused on the same stories and verses. Repetition taught me something I didn’t realize fully at the time – they taught me to believe some parts of the Bible are more important than others.

They aren’t.

God clarifies this in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. All Scripture is God-breathed, which is to say it is the Word of God. That’s in 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

It’s like saying that chapter with Tom Bombadil isn’t important in The Lord of the Rings. If you’ve read the books (seeing the movie doesn’t count), then you know that several things could not otherwise have happened. To remove it is to impact the story as a whole.

The Bible might seem to be a whole bunch of stories, but in reality it is just one story – the story of God redeeming his people.

I thought some parts were more important when I was a kid. As a man I finally put childish things behind me and learned otherwise.

OK, so I put aside this silly notion that some parts of the Bible are more important. A couple of days ago, some 20+ years after most folks would say I became a man.

What is something you believed about the Bible as a kid that changed when you grew up?

Finding joy in the midst of depression

Depression is trying to tell me my dreams are dead.

And I want to listen. I’m tired and outside influence on my schedule is working against me. I barely have time to get done things I have to get done, like assignments for school, let alone the stuff I’d like to get done, like writing this.

Depression likes to suck the life out of everything. Don’t take my word for it, though. Feel free to ask other people who suffer with depression.

We live in a broken world and I certainly believe that part of my depression is in response to my environment, but it’s also, in part, chemical – something inside me that’s broken.

What to do about it? Well, in part, seeing the right doctors and taking the right medicine helps. The other thing, the one that keeps me going, is Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1 

There is joy and hope in knowing Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-9Galatians 5:22,  and Psalm 51:12.

Sometimes I struggle to find the strength to carry on with my dreams, but is these verses, and many more, that remind me that I can go on. Christ sustains me. Like in Philippians 4:13 where it says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” These verses serve as reminders that the darkness doesn’t win and we don’t have to let it win in our daily lives.

I’ve heard that Billy Graham is famous for (among so many other things) once saying, “I’ve read the last page. God wins.” That’s a comfort for those of us who walk with God. He is, as it says in Psalm 46:1, our ever present help in time of need.

I don’t know about you, but I feel needy often. I need help to overcome depression. I need help to overcome bad habits. I need help to figure out how to make the money we have cover the bills. I need help feeling grateful and being forgiving. I need help sometimes just loving my wife and kids. God is there for that. Thankfully. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go this alone, with just doctors and medicine to make me right. Just thinking about that makes me feel more depressed. Seriously. My doctors are in the VA. The psychologist position at my clinic has changed hands five times in the last two years, maybe more. The psychiatrist blew off my problems, behavioral issues, to want to look for the roots of my depression.

Look, dude, I know the roots of my depression: it’s living in this messed up world. I’d love it if they’d focus on things like overcoming addictive behaviors or developing my skills in anger management. I took a great class on that at my church. I used to feel guilty about being angry, which just fed my depression, but then I learned a great verse, Ephesians 4:6, “Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Couldn’t even get the VA doctor to talk about anger.

Anyway, the point is, I have joy in my life despite the depression. I have a wonderful wife. Incredible kids. I’m about to finish my bachelor’s degree. I have great friends. Even though I’m unemployed, I’ve had some really great opportunities to go do things, meet people, and experience lots of cool stuff. Just in the last 18 months I’ve been able to be a part of the work done by a number of incredible ministries like YoungLife, Inca Link, World Vision, MudLove, and more. Later this year I hope to take my youngest daughter on a mission trip to Moldova with Operation Mobilisation.

I may not smile all the time. Life’s going to be hard, but through all of this I have learned a few things. The obvious lesson, of course, is that God is always there. Another, perhaps not as obvious lesson, is that happiness and joy are two different things. It’s possible to have depression issues and still experience and have joy in your life. Finally, that there are people out there willing to listen when things get hard. Please, please, if you are having serious problems with depression, turn to a friend or find one of the many help lines out there.

Every child matters, not just those in Sandy Hook

Blame guns.

It was God’s punishment on a sinful nation.

Mental illness is to blame.

Let’s eliminate public access to guns.

Let’s purge sinners from our nation!

We need more beds for the mentally ill.

Hogwash.

A gun is an inanimate object. Does a spoon lift itself to your mouth? No. A gun is a tool. If someone wants to hurt others they will just find another tool.

God’s punishment? Hardly. We live in sin in a broken world where we are free to exercise our will. Our punishment is that we spend eternity apart from God if we don’t accept the Gift he gave us, the Sacrifice he made for us. Not the deaths of innocent children. Those deaths are merely the result of the broken and sinful nature of our world.

Whether you view mental illness as strictly spiritual or strictly chemical, or a little of both, the illness alone is not to blame. I have dysthemic disorder, a chronic type of depression. Sometimes my mood dips and I skirt around the issue of hurting myself. I have a pretty hearty grasp on the sanctity of life, though, so I don’t.

Would stricter gun laws have made the events of last Friday impossible? Maybe, but not likely. When someone wants to hurt people, they’ll find a way. As a matter of fact, recent history is full of instances where people legally carrying a firearm stopped behavior like that of Adam Lanza’s, so it’s possible that stricter gun laws would actually result in more people being harmed.

Would it help if we institutionalized more of the mentally ill? Maybe. Would that have helped prevent what happened in Sandy Hook? The answer is unclear, but probably not. The truth is that our nation is focused on locking away convicts, not treating people with illnesses — whether you see that illness as spiritual or physical is immaterial.

But we must do something to save the children, some of you cry out. Yes, we do, but criminalizing everything won’t do it. Institutionalizing everyone won’t do it, either. Further, fixating on a group of kids who died senselessly won’t help, either. If the children of Sandy Hook matter, so should all children, everywhere.

The answer doe not lie in changing the system. The answer lies in changing hearts. The answer isn’t just about saving American children. The answer is about saving all children.

I read a statement from someone earlier today that Sandy Hook is what happens when we shut God out of the public square. Nope.

Sandy Hook is the result of hearts that are closed to God.

Our society clings to laws and institutions to make them safe. The reality is that laws do very little to control peoples’ actions. Where they work it is because someone has been raised to see the sense of the laws. There is a fear of consequences, at the least, and at best there is an understanding of how obeying a just law has a long-term benefit.

Laws and institutions do not encourage you to help others. At some point someone taught you that other people matter. This encouraged you to reach out to others when they are in need.

Our institutions rely on funds and when they don’t exist they don’t provide help. You and I, however, have hearts that want to reach out and help. We will find a way to do it, too.

The short version is that relationships are what heal and what makes the world a better place. The ultimate relationship, of course, is one with Jesus Christ. It is that relationship that helps me see that relying on man to make this right is a fallacy. It is that relationship that helps me to see that each life is valuable, and because each life is valuable, I cannot get any more upset over the children of Sandy Hook than I can over the 25,000 children who died worldwide that same day because they couldn’t get a cup of water. Each loss is tragic and heart-breaking.

I can’t keep a mad man from getting his hands on a weapon and killing someone, but maybe I can prevent a man from reaching that point by reaching out to him in his pain and helping him. Maybe I can help another child reach adulthood and become a doctor, a teacher, a pastor, by supporting a group like World Vision or Blood Water Mission.

Bickering with each other over gun laws and mental health institutions is just delaying the help someone needs. Get out and help someone. If you find yourself unable to get away from the mouse and keyboard, head to World Vision, Compassion International, Inca Link, or Blood Water Mission and help a child you can help.

Ecuador: On the ground

Day five of being in Ecuador is drawing to a close as I type this. Or day six, if you count Saturday, when we arrived here sometime between 7 and 8 p.m.

We spent Sunday in Quito at Inca Link‘s Casablanca. Well, we were there when we weren’t at church or visiting some of the tourist sites in Quito — the President’s Palace, the Basilica, the Virgen del Panecillo, and more.

Casablanca

The church service was incredible. I couldn’t understand most of the songs they played, but the lyrics were projected on a screen and I hoped I was pronouncing the words right as I sang. Then we went into a few other items and the kids broke away for Sunday School while the grownups settled in for the message. The kids from First Alliance were invited to join the local kids. My son and a few others joined in. Rich Brown, the regional director here, interpreted the sermon for those of us seated near him.

La Luz

We attended church in Quito at “La Luz.”

After that we had lunch. Believe it or not, we had McDonald’s and it was the nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever set foot in. It’s also the only McDonald’s I’ve ever been to that had a private, armed, security guard. The guard was fairly effective, I guess, though it was obvious he had a thing for the barista at the McCafe counter.

Then we turned tourist for several hours. Words cannot begin to describe the majesty and splendor of the works we saw. I’ve never seen, in person, something so incredible as the Basilica here. The statue of the Virgen del Panicello was also amazing. Both, however, were like dust when compared to the beauty of God’s creation encircling the city. Ecuador is a truly gorgeous country.

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Monday we traveled to Huaticocha where we spent three days based out of the Ninawachi Missions School, a project that is still under construction. We helped with building and maintenance at the site each morning and then performed some ministry work later.

We arrived in Ninawachi, just outside Huaticocha, and began to paint kids’ faces. The kids decided to paint ours, instead.

Tuesday we hopped on the bus and started the trip to Nueva Esperaza. As we bumped along a stone road, the bus turned a curve and then stopped. Gustavo, from Inca Link, told us to grab our stuff. We would have a five minute walk to a tourist area where we could leave some gear. We would return there later for lunch. We grounded gear at the site after about 10 minutes.

From there we crossed a hanging bridge and began the rather steep ascent to the village of Nueva Esperanza. It took at least 30 minutes to get to the top. The kids pretty much bolted up the hill. The rest of us paced ourselves. I know I heard angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus when the school finally came in sight.

The kids here ranged from nearly newborn (I think they lived in the village and came with their parents to the see the Americans) to about 12 years old. One of us gave the Gospel presentation in a really neat format while another of us translated. Then we asked the kids about their relationship with Christ. One boy said he needed Jesus in his life and the tag-team prayed with him for a bit. We then gave out some gifts and led the kids in some songs. Soccer came next.

We took a beating. These kids can play some soccer!

We got spanked.

Then we headed back downhill. Remember that bridge I mentioned? It runs over a perfectly wonderful river. We ate lunch and headed for the water. I stopped short when my feet hit it, though. It was really chilly. Some of the Inca Link interns, however, didn’t mind it that much and were bathing in the river. A few of the braver kids began to swim and some of the adults washed off as well. I eventually decided that since I talked the kids into swimming, I should, too. And I did. I was one of the last ones out. Noah and I swam across the current a few times near the rapids and Missionary Jungle Jim talked Noah into jumping from some rocks a few times.

Then we headed back up the hill. Gustavo reminded us it was only a five minute walk. Something was beginning to sound fishy about him and the words “five minute walk.”

Back to Ninawachi (which, by the way, means “House of Fire”) for supper and some fellowship and prayer.

Wednesday dawned and we had breakfast, did some more work and had lunch. We wouldn’t be doing any ministry until late afternoon. This afforded us the chance to visit a property near the missions school that had a cavern, small swimming area in a river, and some near archaeological and fossil finds. I was in the second group to visit the cave. It was really neat. It had been a few years since I’d been in a cave, but I handled myself quite well. When we came out though, we found out the first group had bathed but we would have to forego that pleasure to get to the kids we were to minister to.

These kids live in Huaticocha and are pretty familiar with the folks at Ninawachi. We shared a Bible story with them, did some crafts, and — of course — played soccer. Then we made the short trip to Ninawachi to clean up for dinner. Dinner that night was at the home of Pastor Ivan and his wife Nancy. They lead the local Alliance Church. Following dinner we sang and shared testimonies. Then we brought in some cake and sang happy birthday for the daughter of my friend Manny, who turned 16 today (Thursday). After a lot of fun we headed to our beds so we could be rested for Thursday.

We weren’t sure what the status of the bridge was, but we started the day packing and handling our chores. Halfway through breakfast a truck arrived with lumber. We offered food and then finished our meals and got to work. Then we did some more packing and cleaning before a truckload of block arrived. We unloaded that and then I headed to the stream to bathe. It was primitive but wonderful. I got dressed in some clean clothes and got ready to go. Our hosts fed us an early lunch and I helped do dishes. Just as we finished the dishes the order came to mount up and move out.

The trip back was long, but not nearly as laborious as the trip out. Our hearts were heavy at leaving our new friends behind, but at least we had less stuff to cart across the nearly-completed bridge to the other bus. It was at this point that our bus driver in the Huaticocha area asked us to pray with him as he asked Jesus into his heart. It was an awesome moment. I was one of those who was with him when this happened. He was inspired to do this by seeing the love and care we exhibited to everyone we met, including him, during our time there.

We’re back in Quito now. Nearly everyone has taken a shower. The lone exception would be me. I’m not even sure where to get a towel at the moment or which shower to use. Also, my clean clothes are in Noah’s pack and I don’t know where he put it. I should have thought of that earlier, before everyone else went to sleep. Oh well, I’m feeling every bit of the 54* F that we currently have here and figuring it is time to get to sleep.

10 Days til Ecuador

Wow. Time is flying. This Saturday my church is hosting the Run4aReason and then Freedom Fest. A week later and I’ll be off to Ecuador.

My son, Noah, and I will be helping Inca Link by building a school in the Amazon and working with orphans in Quito. We’re still looking for help — prayers and finances.

Christmas is coming up before you know it and we are selling bracelets that would make great presents for many people on your list, especially teachers and others who teach, inspire and imagine a better world for tomorrow. If you’re not interested in a bracelet, but still want to help, you can still donate via PayPal using the information below.

Thank you!

The Backhanded Blessing

Have you ever been the recipient of a backhanded blessing?

Laura Story covers this topic in her song, “Blessings,” with the whole “what if your blessings come in rain drops” bit.

Today my wife surprised me with a call shortly before her lunch period. “I miss you. Can you pick me up and we’ll go out to lunch?”

“Uh, yeah, sure. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

We really have no business going out for lunch. We need to be putting money aside for the mission trip to Ecuador and not being frivolous with it. Sadly, though, her masters degree program and my bachelors program have us living almost separate lives lately. We aren’t spending much time together, so it was a chance to just talk on our own for a few minutes.

We went to a local place we frequent enough to be friendly with the manager. As she was finishing things up and about to ring up our order, I went to the soda fountain. As cola ran into the cup, a bug ran out.

Creepy, a little gross, but stuff happens, you know? No big deal. We laugh about it, I throw out the cup and get another one. Meanwhile, Carolyn and the manager are chatting about crazy experiences at restaurants. I only heard part of the conversation, so I was surprised when Carolyn came to the table we usually sit at and said, “Lunch was free.”

I was confused. “Why?” I asked.

“The bug. She said we shouldn’t have experienced that.”

“Yeah, but no harm, no foul. I was okay with it.”

I wasn’t complaining though. God was on my mind and so I was thankful. I even saw the blessing in the incident. That’s not something I’m good at usually.

“Lord, thank you for this time to have lunch together. Thank you, Father, for the backhanded blessing. The bug was kinda gross, but you made it good for us.”

I really had no idea what else to call it. So “backhanded blessing” it is. Have you ever experienced one? Want to tell us about it in the comments?

Redefining 9/11: Don’t let hate triumph

There is a lot going on in the world lately. So much that it makes my head spin.

  • Commemoration of 11 years since the events of September 11, 2001
  • Ambassador Christopher Stevens killed in a terrorist attack in Libya
  • VA cost-saving measures resulted in one of my appointments being cancelled
  • A thousand children have died of malnutrition since I started typing this

And it’s all connected.

No, I’m not some conspiracy theory kook. I mean that these things are all tied together by how we, as Americans, view the world.

September 11 of every year since 2001 has been an opportunity for Americans to renew the call to battle, to call out for the blood of the Muslim, and renew the vigor with which we pursue security in the name of liberty. Somewhere in this mess a number of Americans put on the “Christian nation” mask and talk of religious war, as if the Bible is the book that calls for jihad.

Let’s be clear on this. The message of the Bible, in its entirety, is not one of hate or war, but of peace and love. If America is a Christian nation, why are we trying to solve our problems with guns and bombs? The Gospel of Jesus Christ should be such Good News to us, and so true to us, that living it out — and possibly dying as a result — should not be a fear of ours.

Yes, we are at war, America. Let’s not forget that. It may not disrupt the majority of our lives, but it is there. We should be supporting those who are sacrificing so much in this endeavor. At the same time, though, we need to be honest with ourselves: how much longer does this need to go on? Have we accomplished our stated objectives? Are we pursuing those not accomplished in an appropriate manner? The answers to these questions are very important because the lives of young American men and women hang in the balance of how we answer it.

Some “Christians” in America would rather offend, belittle, and agitate Muslims. People like Ambassador Stevens die as a result of such behavior. Behavior such as that attributed to Terry Jones, who seems to have made a film that Muslims feel belittles Mohammad, is not Christ-like. It doesn’t further understanding or foster relationships that reflect the character of Christ. The Enemy comes to maim, kill, and destroy. Jesus came so that all might be saved.

In our misplaced zeal we continue to put troops in danger, but to do so we are gutting the systems that care for them when they return. Many veterans are receiving mental health treatment via video conference instead of face to face meetings. Mental health is about building healthy relationships, not just with ourselves, but with others. It is difficult to do this when your doctor is on a computer monitor because the VA cannot afford to put a live person in the facility near you.

We are told that young men and women today want to be a part of something larger. They are finding many different ways to do so. Sadly, the mission field is being overlooked. Long-term opportunities to bring food, clean water, and the Gospel to those in need are being missed. One reason, I believe, is because the “Christianity” that many Americans see is self-serving, hateful, and hypocritical. The news often contains accounts of Christians, supposedly loving people, protesting military funerals to spread a message of hate about homosexuality. Other stories are about Christians belittling young women as they try to enter Planned Parenthood or abortion facilities. Then we hear about people like Jones who speak and act in hateful ways about other religions. This is NOT how Jesus asked us to live. We are people and we make mistakes, but we need to be honest about them. Most importantly, we need to stop living so comfortably and start speaking up with loving actions.

When September 11 rolls around again, I’d love to look back and see a year when love defined Christianity, as it should.

The Break That Isn’t

Ever tried to take a break, but found yourself doing more than ever?

Intellectually, I’ve wanted to take a vacation. Classes are out for a few days between semesters and I don’t have much going on at home, for once. So, the brain should be able to shift to neutral and just coast, right?

Wrong.

I must be on a downhill slope or something. I shifted to neutral and my brain is suddenly more active than usual. I’m on overdrive, it seems, thinking of political matters, household matters, and any and everything under the sun.

It all ties together in my faith, though. Much of what I’m thinking about politically has to do with trying to help people understand that my Christian faith fits well with my libertarian views of government; in short that man should rely more on God than he does government. God makes changes in our lives that government cannot.

Meanwhile, at home, my son and I are preparing for a mission trip to Ecuador in November. I’m asking him to help write letters asking for support – both financial and prayer – for this journey. He, too, operates in fast forward, so asking him to take his time and do this properly is causing him an immense amount of stress.

Then I find myself in this place trying to figure out my life. I’m 40. I know lots of younger men who have direction in their lives. They seem to have their mission before them. God has set them on a path and they are walking it. I know this doesn’t make their lives perfect, but I still feel like mine is less perfect because I have no idea of how to give my life purpose. In the meantime, as I wait for God’s wisdom, I’m not sitting still. I try to love the people in my life; both those I know and see all the time, as well as those just passing through.

It seems as if I don’t have a garden of my own to tend, so I’m planting seeds wherever I go. Does that make me a theological modern day Johnny Appleseed, sowing seed wherever I go and hoping it takes root?

Do you love yourself, or are you self-centered?

Recently I was listening to someone, I forget who (most likely Donald Miller in Blue Like Jazz), talk about Matthew 22:34-40 and they mentioned something I’d never heard before. They said that the part about “loving your neighbor as you love yourself,” has a lot to do with how we feel about ourselves.

You see, loving yourself isn’t the same thing as thinking the world revolves around you. Loving yourself has to do with developing relationships, not being so hard-headed you don’t go to the doctor when you’re sick and understanding what’s bad for you and avoiding it, no matter how good it feels.

Today, in America, we’re told that loving yourself is all about beating someone out for a promotion or job. We’re told it’s about stealing the guy from your friend or having the most friends on Facebook. “See,” we proclaim, “I’m better than you. I have more. I’m the center of the universe.”

That’s not love. That’s blindness.

When we love, people are no longer commodities we use to improve ourselves. They become people we care about and work to build up. As we go about this, we notice something. They aren’t the only ones being built up. We are, as well.

This past week members of my church took part in Compassion Week, culminating in numerous projects on Saturday stretching across three counties. I took some small part in this due to another volunteer commitment, but my oldest son and youngest daughter spent several hours painting and cleaning up a home for an elderly couple raising five grandchildren ages 4- 15. My daughter, especially, was deeply effected by this work.

At 13 she has been the epitome of teen girl selfishness: “I want an iPod; our house isn’t nice enough; why don’t we have a flat screen?” Yesterday she was appreciative of what little we have. Today her selfishness had fallen away to be replaced with an understanding that loving others is about walking in Christ’s footsteps, not putting the world in line behind her.

When we are self-centered we’re zeroed in on our wants. When we love, we are compassionate and we see needs. Wants are secondary. Cause is secondary. What matters is that someone has a need and having it met. Love is a verb, action we take to show how much someone matters. Loving ourselves is about meeting our needs. If we’re going to meet ours, then this verse is about meeting the needs of others and that doing this is just as important, if not more, than meeting our own.

Or maybe I’m just crazy and off base. What do you think?