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?

Walking in the dark

Have you ever worn a really good sleep shade? You’ll know if you have. You could stand out in the bright sunshine and still see nothing; not one tiny glimmer of light.

I’ve done this a couple of times. The first time was nearly three years ago in a hotel lobby in Boca Raton. I had someone at my elbow and a white cane in hand as I walked from a meeting room to the front entry way and back. A little case of nerves, but that was all. My biggest worry was the water feature that made up part of the area we walked through.

The second time?

That was a few days ago and it was rough. We left the hotel, walked across A1A in Daytona Beach, traveled through a strip mall, and entered Publix (that’s a grocery store chain if you’re not in the southeast). Then we walked through the store.  There were five of us, total, and three of us were blindfolded. There was someone around to check on me, but I had to rely principally on my cane. I’d been through the area we covered several times, which helped, but imagine not having that mental map to rely on. Our country, our world, is full of blind people who face such a situation on a regular basis.

My oldest daughter has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that limits her visual field. She has about a 10-degree cone of vision and her vision is about 20/100 in that cone. With glasses she can correct it to 20/70, which helps her a small amount in some situations. We own a pair of goggles that simulates her vision. I can’t walk through our house safely with them on.

Being blind can be scary. As humans, many of us struggle with a fear of the unknown. For the blind, much of the world is unknown. Being blind, if you weren’t born blind, is full of unknowns. One of the biggest unknowns is whether people will accept you as you. This fear can limit blind people from building relationships.

I’m fortunate enough, as is my daughter, to belong to an organization dedicated to accepting blind people as they are, but helping them to change what it means to be blind. My experiences with sleep shades have come while attending the annual conference of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. I’ve been privileged, and Heather would agree, to have met people for whom blindness is a nuisance, not a defining characteristic of their lives.

Like Heather, and many others, they have asked themselves over and over what God intended for them to do. Heather has said it often, and I hear others talk about saying it: “God, why am I blind? What purpose could my life possibly serve in this state?”

In the Bible some of the disciples asked Jesus what sins caused a man to be blind. Was it because of something his parents did? Was it something he did? Blindness could come from something the parents did or something an individual did, or could be the long-term consequence of a broken world. People have free will and God has a plan. Time and again I’ve seen blind people step out in faith, both literally and figuratively, and the result has been the glory of God.

Coincidentally(?), that was the answer Jesus gave  his disciples, that sometimes someone is blind solely that they may be the way through which God is glorified. Jesus returns the man’s sight in that passage, but God can be glorified through other ways, as well.

This weekend Heather grew a lot. She still wears the same shoes, the same clothes, but something inside her changed. She got involved in her blindness. She joined, and subsequently was elected to the board of, the Florida Association of Blind Students. She voted in NFBF elections. She listened to speakers talk about overcoming blindness to achieve success, often in ways they never dreamed of. She heard, too, of people who trusted God in ways I don’t often see in similar sized groups of sighted people.

Walking in the dark is scary. Finding the light in the darkness can make a lot of difference. Do you know what it’s like to walk in the dark? Literally? Figuratively? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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.

Pursuing God: The Ministry of Silly Walks on the Narrow Path

What kind of man sits at home all day on a computer while his wife is out working her butt off?

Believe it or not, people ask me this. Sometimes blatantly, and at other times they use tact. Either way, it can be tricky. I’ve handled this a couple of different ways the past few years, most of them badly. Then I realized something: we’re all different. Further, as we take the narrow path, we each walk differently. Picture Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks, if you will.

When I met my wife I was doing a work-from-home tech job so I’d be around for my son, who I’d just gotten custody of. A few months later I began making use of my G.I. Bill before I lost the benefits I’d earned. My wife, who I was dating by then, had (and still has) an excellent job with great pay and benefits. She also has a child with some chronic health issues and taking off work all the time to handle those wasn’t done lightly during a time her employer was looking for people to let go. So she asked me to help out with that; an undertaking I gladly took up and still cherish today.

Today I take care of the kids, the house, the dog and cat, and pretty much everything else around our home. I also am afforded the time to write both my blog and a variety of stories and poems. Further, I am able to act as a board member for two non-profits. Finally, I am part of a couple of groups in our church and volunteer as a part of several ministries.

My wife’s job is stressful. It makes her feel good to know I’m available to take kids to doctor appointments. She doesn’t need to worry about cooking dinner every night or fighting with the kids to get and keep the house clean. She knows her husband is pursuing a dream that makes him happy and has the potential to help pay the bills. At this point, at the very least, I can pay for a fast food lunch somewhere for the two of us every now and then.

Finally, I’ve been the guy that hires people in a couple of different industries. I can’t turn my head all the way left and right. My knees give out. I have shoulders that don’t like keeping my arms at “10 and 2” on the steering wheel without a lot of pain. Besides, when it comes down to it, we’re not likely to risk my wife’s $30/hour job by having her miss work to take care of a hospitalized child (which is something we do at least once a year with the child who has chronic health problems) when the best I’ve ever made in my life in hourly or salary work is about $15/hour.

In short, I’m the kind of man who wants to make my wife’s life less stressful. She’s not your wife. Your wife might require something else to make her life less stressful. I love my wife. I’m betting you love yours, too. Our dream isn’t about chasing more stuff. It’s about chasing more time together with each other and with God.

God made us all for his glory, but he made us all different. Please remember that the next time you see someone pursuing life, pursuing God, differently from how you do it.

You might be walking sedately, in a stately and upright manner … I’m more like the guy shuffle, shuffle, high kicking.

How Now, Mr. Cow?

My primary goal this month is being a more consistent writer. I’ve set a bar that determines my day’s progress: 1000+ words. Writing that much can be tricky, but I’ve figured out a few things that help me get it done.

 1. Write at the right time. I tend to write better — and more — if I write around mid-morning.

 2. Write in the right place. I sit at the dining room table with my laptop when I write. It means I’m out in the open, accessible, while I work. The alternative is sitting on the bed with the laptop, in my room, alone. Which of the two do I think is safest and most likely to be blessed by God? The dining room has worked well so far.

 3. Write. I can sit there for an hour and scratch my head looking for something to write about. It would get me nowhere. So I just write. Maybe I open up a file with a story I’m already working on, or maybe I start a new one to work on a line of thought. The important thing is that I write during the time I’m able to.

 Next on my list is building a healthier me. That’s tricky. I have years of bad eating habits to overcome, plus the double-whammy of bad knees and a shoulder that doesn’t support me well during push-ups or planks. The final kicker is that I can’t afford a gym membership right now, especially not anyplace with a pool.

So what am I going to do?

I’m glad you asked. I turned to Google. Several results came up for people with bad knees. If you’re in the same boat I am, you want to focus on results that have lots of pictures or videos, so you can see the exercises being done. You don’t want to try exercises you don’t know on injured body parts based on one photo. That’s just a bad idea.

Several sites suggested I ride a bike for cardio. Cycling definitely doesn’t have the impact issues, but having raced for a few years, I know you can stress your knees riding. It’s important to place your feet properly on the pedals, adjust the seat height and position yourself properly above the pedals. Correct body position on the bike will help alleviate any potential pain.

I swam in high school and played water polo and swam for Kutztown University before I joined the Marines. I love swimming. Sadly, my shoulders are yet another part of my body that got wrecked while I was serving, and you need them for swimming. Not so much for aqua aerobics, though. It’s not something I can do right now, but I’ll be looking into them if we reach a point when we can join the local Y. Low impact exercise aimed at raising your heart rate and maybe pushing your heart and lungs to work harder is a good thing.

None of this is easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is. It requires discipline and it requires accountability. You need a friend or family member who will keep you on task.

Today has been a strong case-in-point for my writing how. I know what time of day works best for me. I didn’t use it. I let it drift away, making even 500 words a difficult chore. Looking back, though, my distraction led me to write a lot more than I realized on a topic I had not planned. So, sometimes God will make the most of our failures. In this case, I wrote a personal piece to two high school seniors who plan to make a 13-week visit to Parris Island, S.C., after high school, encouraging them for their future endeavors and providing some suggestions for how to make the most of the time they have before boot camp.

I hope that my sharing about the things I am doing in 2014 helps you make a change and stick with it. What are you doing differently this year? You’ve read about my what, why, and how. Tell us about yours.

The Great and Powerful WHY

Several months ago I checked out a company a friend is fairly successful with. I felt a little like I was checking out an MLM presentation. Great products, but it was nothing like Amway. Great structure for building wealth, and not like an MLM. It’s a real business. What I loved most though, was the lady who did the presentation talked about why she was sitting in my friend’s living room that day. Her son had looked at her one day and said he loved her, but hated that they never saw each other. He was 14 or 15 at the time. He’s ready to graduate high school in a few months now.

My friend Shelly was making great money. It was just the two of them and she had a nice house, nice car, money to do things, but she had no time. Making all that money was taking all her time. She found that something needed to change. She had a good “what” – make lots of money so my son and I can be comfortable and debt free. Her why was fuzzy, though. Until that talk with her son. Her why became to be home with him whenever possible, to be a strong and important part of his life when a teen needs guidance the most.

Since then she started doing this consulting gig and making good on being there for her son. She left her regular job and began doing this part-time. Part-time, because full-time requires you work a certain number of  hours a week and she doesn’t work that many. Recently her previous employer offered her a raise to come back. Shelly didn’t want the raise; she wanted a guarantee of being home, which they couldn’t give. (By the way, she still makes more being a health consultant than she did as an executive for a large nursing home community; let’s talk).

Shelly is successful at this for a few reasons, but the chief one, according to her, is her why. Her “why” is what keeps her going when things get rough. The friend who introduced me to Shelly also does this, but is still working full-time doing something she loves in an organization that’s killing her. She wants to be a part of her daughter’s life and do great things together with her before she’s grown and flown the coop. She wants to do what she’s doing now – nursing —  in other parts of the world where she’s needed. She puts the whole idea together more succinctly, because it’s something she’s passionate about. She’s making headway and building to a point when she can say goodbye to her current job. She’s told me, if it wasn’t for understanding her “why,” she’d probably have been swallowed by all life’s distractions and fallen short of her goal.

So, here we are with 2014 before us and everyone trying to work with a new, clean, slate. We’re making plans and resolutions. We’re setting goals. What do we want to accomplish? We want to lose weight, get faster, get stronger, make more money, finish our education, and more. That’s great. We need to know what we want to do.

For example, I want to do a few things, like write more consistently. I’ve set a standard of a minimum of 1000 words a day. I also want to improve my health and I’ve set a schedule for 30 minutes of exercise daily. These are just two of a handful of things I’m trying to do better and have actually been working toward since before the calendar flipped (there’s no time like now to make a change). The underlying factor of all of these, is my why. Why do I want to accomplish these goals? I want to write consistently in order to earn a paycheck from writing so that I can be at home to take part in the lives of my children. I have a few health issues, so I want to take care of myself so that I can be there for them as they become adults and parents themselves. I can go on, but my “why” is about my family, about leading them, about showing them that life is a vibrant thing that God means for us to enjoy.

But if we’re going to make it through the rough spots, we need to know our “why.” The “why” is what keeps you going when the world fights back. So, as you begin 2014, write down what you want to accomplish. Then, next to that, be sure to include why.

A warrior awakened: my thoughts following Promise Keepers 2013

I was part of a group from my church who went to Promise Keepers in Daytona in October. The theme this year was “Awakening the Warrior.” It made me think about where I’ve been, and where I am now.

     At 10 I came to the Cross because I wanted to be John, a Son of Thunder, learning and loving at the feet of Jesus for all time.

     I drifted though; fell asleep as I began to navigate that narrow path and got lost along the way. Like Peter I found myself in danger because I had taken my eyes off Jesus. Oh how easy it would be, it seemed, to just slip beneath the waves forever. Or, returning to the trail analogy, to just set up a small cabin in the woods where I was.

     I thought Jesus will love me more if I work hard at being nice, doing good deeds, and trying not to do wrong. That’s what I thought. That’s what I’d often been told. What I’ve found, though, is that Christ’s work in me and through me is something more, something different and more exciting. Still, I often found myself resisting.

     He is not to be denied, however, for He is Lord. He called to me, through storms of lust and malice, and calls to me still — wake up, Jay, wake up; that thunder is not in the clouds, it is all around you. It is the sound of spiritual conflict — warfare of the highest and most pressing order. Take up My Sword, not a blade, but my Word. Put on My Armor, My Helm, Breastplate, Boots … and having gird yourself for battle, stand.

     God has called us to war against the rulers of darkness, etc. Not to fight members of the decorating committee, or members of another denomination or to attack someone for being a different faith. By all means, counter lies with God’s Truth, but do so with love, and heap ashes on them thereby.

     God has begun a good work in you, or maybe he is trying to but you are resisting his call. The message I took from PK is that it is well past time to put Jesus at the center of all aspects of my life for my sake, my family’s sake, but most importantly, for His Kingdom’s sake. He woke me up.

     At 41 I return to the Cross every day, every hour, and sometimes every second, to meet with the Author and Finisher of my faith, so that I would not, will not, forget, that no work of my own will ever extend or accomplish further the work He has begun in me and will continue to the end. I need Him every hour to remind me it isn’t about me. It isn’t about my wife or kids, no matter how much I love them – I even washed their feet when I got back from PK. Even then, though, I reminded them of what I learned at the end of October. It’s all about Jesus.

24

My son is out walking the dog, so it is pretty quiet in here right now. Tomorrow at this time, though, will be a different story. We’re packed. Our passports are ready. I’m counting on God for great things when we go to Ecuador.

And yet.

When the time comes to go somewhere, I’m on everyone’s back about getting out the door “on time.”

What constitutes “on time?” I was raised, and later had this confirmed by the United States Marine Corps, to believe that on time was five (at least) minutes early and arriving on time was being late. In order to achieve this, I build in buffers for expected travel time, usually 20-30% more time is allowed for a trip than what I know it can be done in at speed limit (also known as Google Map’s estimated travel time). Needless to say, I get some places ridiculously early.

What does that have to do with tomorrow? We’re meeting at the church at 8:30. Taking the back way it takes about 12 minutes to get there. This early on a Saturday morning? I can get there in seven. You just know I’m going to want to be early (for no good reason, I might add — we’re stowing our luggage in the church bus tonight).  *Side  note — Chick-fil-a isn’t far from the church; maybe I’ll do breakfast there before we go.* We’re leaving the church at 9 to go to Miami International Airport. It’s a three hour trip (per Google maps). The last I saw, TSA recommends international travelers arrive two hours prior to their flight. This only leaves an hour for lunch and getting luggage checked in and stuff like that.

This is God’s trip. Not Jay’s. I need to pray about the time anxiety today. God has proven again and again in my life, especially as we prepared for this journey, that he can be trusted. It will work out.

At the beginning of this adventure neither my son nor I had a passport. Not only that, his birth certificate was missing and I had to order a new one so we could get his passport. The same day I realized this and looked up the cost ($50), someone sent us $50. A few days later it arrived and off we went to the Clerk of Court’s office, having received enough in the two days prior to pay for the passports. Well, more, as it turned out, because I over-budgeted for them, not understanding I didn’t need the card, just the book. But that was okay, too. A few weeks later I had raised — from my own pocket, through fund raisers and with donations from family and friends — about half the cost. That little extra from the passports came in handy. This past summer my ex-wife and I had reached an agreement about custody and child support that erased my back support debt, but I found out that her state didn’t close the case. This needed to happen if I was going to get my passport. I could pay the fee they demanded with the leftover from the passports. A few more donations came in after that and several folks told me they would send certain amounts. Great, that got us closer, but still left a pretty hefty sum to figure out.

That gets us to November 4th. A friend asked how close we were. I named a figure and he said that was how much he planned on giving us. Awesome.

Fast-forward to the seventh. None of the promised donations I was expecting had arrived, which meant there was a big gap again. One of my wife’s friends had told her she was going to donate to our trip and I saw her at church that evening. I had not discussed an amount with her and figured on maybe $40 or $50. I was way off. She paid the difference.

So, you see, I have all the reason in the world to trust God about this trip. I even knew it was going to work out this way. I said so to my wife, repeatedly, trying to ease her stress about it.

Which brings me back to time anxiety. I didn’t write all that just to share how awesome God is (though that was one of the reasons I wrote), but also to remind me I can trust him in all things.

Please pray for our team. There are 23 of us going. We’ll be working with Inca Link, visiting orphans in Quito and teaching children in the Amazon, as well as helping to build a school for preachers and missionaries in the jungle. Please pray for the children and families we will be in contact with. The orphans are orphans, in most cases, because their parents are in jail and won’t be back before the kids are grown, and they have no other family.

First Alliance will be focused on orphans this year for our Advent Conspiracy. With that in mind, I still have those bracelets available for $10 each. The proceeds of any I sell after today are going towards our project for Advent Conspiracy.

Twenty-four hours and we’ll be getting ready to go. I think I’ll be calmer now, too. Thank you to each of you who has donated, prayed, and shared this with your friends. Our God is an awesome God who has given me awesome friends, indeed. Thank you, Jehovah Jireh.

Did I say 23 were going? Make that 24. God will be there. Count on it.

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!