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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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.

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.

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.