Tag Archives: Easter

That Time That I Went to a Methodist Church on Ash Wednesday

Last night, I entered Zion Methodist Church in Grand Forks, ND, just in time to find a bathroom before the service started.  As a seasoned pastor’s wife, I knew exactly where to go to find an empty restroom – down the stairs and to the left is the typical floor plan.  I swiftly found the door, switched on the light, and closed the stall door in front of me.  I went through the motions that need not be described and started falling toward the toilet seat to take care of business and get back upstairs in time for the service.

Rewind a bit:  fall I did.

It turns out that I had found the nursery restroom, and the toilet seats are toddler height.  I know: those who have met me in person are thinking, “That’s perfect!”  However, let me just tell you all that, though the height may have been perfect, I was not prepared for it.

I had started my march toward that moment on Tuesday evening when I saw Facebook posts of our University of Mary students partying like it was 1987 for Mardi Gras – make your own masks and all. I have been awake odd hours this week, so I have had extra quiet and alone time this week to ruminate (isn’t that a great word) about how I planned to engage with Lent this year.

I grew up attending Mendenhall Presbyterian Church in East Grand Forks, MN.  After spending the first two and half years of my life being a world traveler, I spent the next 15 years in one spot.  When my mom and biological father (Air Force – hence, the world traveling) divorced, my mom had returned to the Red River Valley. As a single mom in the late 1970s, she was fortunate to find a church who welcomed her (and her organ-playing skills) with open arms.  When she married Rick in 1979, the church rejoiced with her.

I had no idea what liturgy was as a child.

In fact, it was not until I started to attend Grace Baptist Church that I realized some churches had a very similar liturgy (Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians) while others had their own vein of liturgy.  Those with their own veins of liturgy often attempt to claim they are without liturgy; however, once I realized what liturgy was, it became clear that all churches have it whether they realize it or not.

Liturgy essentially means the rhythm with which we do church.  Some people would call it a service schedule, but it is more than that.

Each part of the service has a theological significance, and the liturgy of a church can reveal its theology.  Even the location of the podium in relation to the altar/communion table reveals part of the specific church’s liturgy.  For example, in the Baptist tradition, the Word of God and its interpretation (the sermon) are central to the service. The podium from which the pastor preaches the sermon would typically be in the center of the stage.  In contrast, for a Catholic tradition, the Eucharist (communion) is central which is why the podium remains off to the side with the altar in the center.

Some traditions have written liturgies – there are books that describe the rhythm of the church service during different parts of the year.  More liturgical Baptists like the church my children (Baylor students) attend in Texas hand you the liturgy of the day as a packet on your way into the service.  This is quite a switch from the announcement-laden bulletin that we have at our Baptist church in Bismarck. It has empty blanks for the sermon notes, but that is all of the hint you get about the order of service.

In the Baptist tradition that I have lived for the past 26 years, the liturgical calendar has two basic high points – Easter and Christmas.  While we may talk of Advent and Lent, they are not emphasized.  What a contrast to the Catholic lives with whom we interact at the University of Mary.  We live within sight of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck, and even the parking lot knows its liturgical calendar.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  As the day approached, I had felt a pull toward the liturgical side of this day.  Had I grown up in the churches I have attended in later years, I might not even know what Ash Wednesday was.

If I had been in Bismarck this week, I could have attended the large mass on campus.  I read somewhere that Ash Wednesday is the second most highly attended mass in the Catholic tradition.

UMary students leave their backpacks in the hallway during mass.

UMary students leave their backpacks in the hallway during mass.

I consulted my Facebook friends who live in Grand Forks as to time and information about their Ash Wednesday services but ultimately had to make a decision based on the nicest website.  I guess that is what people who work for online high schools do – choose your life based on what people say they are about.

As I walked to my car after the service, I started to rate it in my mind.  After a few critical moments, I had to remind myself that Ash Wednesday has little to do with the church I attend and much more to do with God whom I went to worship and His impact in my life.  The point was not for the church to create some moving experience through the service.  Instead, the stillness, the lack of glitz, and the near somber attitude of those leading was liturgy.

Lent is not about entertaining me.  Rather, lent is about preparing my mind and heart to remember that all of this world’s sinfulness was placed on the body of a man who was also God, who would suffer in mysterious ways for that sin, and who brings redemption to us because of His conquering resurrection.

As the pastor described that he had prepared the ashes for last evening by burning the palm branches used in last year’s Palm Sunday service, I was moved.  As another pastor read Psalm 51 aloud, I was moved.  As the small group who had gathered to worship together sang songs that directed our minds to the saving work that Christ did on the cross, I was moved.

Being moved did not come from anything that they did but rather what I did in obedience to worship, remember, and consider.

It turned out that my junior math teacher attended the same service with her husband.  We sat together, sang together, went up for our ashes together, and connected briefly afterwards.  As I drove away from the church service, I thought again at the unity we have with others who believe in the uniqueness of Christ.

Because of that unity, I could walk into almost any church in almost any town in almost any country around the world and worship.  The world will know God’s love through Christ when we come together and worship in love.


Filed under faith, Relationships, Thoughts

Music Monday: Easter, Opera, and Flash Mobs

Yesterday was Easter.

I could just stop writing there and let the thought of that sentence sink in.

Yesterday was not Easter in the secular sense with the bunny and the candy – it was also the day on which we celebrate the Resurrection, an event that – in my mind and in the minds of many – changed the course of human history.


I did not eat a single ounce of “Easter” candy, but it was not because I oppose it entirely.  I just had no need and no time when it was available.  Besides – it will go on clearance today.  The sad thing about my kids growing up is that they now know when days of the week are and discuss that with their friends.  When they were little, I could give them candy after it went on sale.  And I needed to when they were little because we were living on a single, very-small income while at least some of that income went to pay for the pastor huz to attend seminary.

I did enjoy the day, the church service (the music and the sermon were fantastic), and the company at the afternoon meal.

Once all of the hub-bub settled down, I took to the internet to search for a song to feature on the blog today.  I thought it could be fun to feature a grand rendition of one of my favorite Easter anthems.  I have several favorites, and most make it into the church service each year.

Crown Him With Many Crowns, He Arose, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, and others top my favorites list.  As I searched for them on YouTube, though, I also happened about a few “Easter FlashMobs” that were fantastic and fun.  I do suggest that readers spend a little time on YouTube today checking them out.

What I happened upon in the searching that must be shared is a recording of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus (also in FlashMob form) from a performance coordinated and funded by the Opera Company of Philadelphia as part of a series bringing opera into the community rather than being “stuck” in concert halls.

Watch as this fabulous idea takes over a Macy’s store.

I do not own this video. I found it on YouTube and share it here for the fun of all.

As I watched, listened, and enjoyed this performance, I thought how much like Christ this idea is.  Jesus spent little time in the temple; He went out to where the people were.

Rather than wait for people to find Him, Jesus went to them.

I am willing to say that it could be a stretch to make this comparison; however, this is what struck me.

Jesus still meets us where we are today whether that is on the streets of Jerusalem or the check out line in Macy’s.  If our lives are out of sync with His will, He says to us, “come to me.”

The hope that Jesus brought to the world is bigger than the smiles that 650 choristers brought through their performance on October 30, 2010, in the Macy’s in Philadelphia. This hope – that we could be in relationship with God – changes everything about how I see today, tomorrow, and yesterday.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!

Happy Monday!

PS: I am not fooling around in this post – not one iota!

Leave a comment

Filed under faith, Music

Was it a “Good” Friday?

Unlike most Holy Weeks in my past, I have been traveling and focusing on things like college visits, family time, and…driving.  As a pastor’s wife, Holy Week tends to be one in which our family focuses much time and preparation…and go to church.  This year is very, very different because of this travelling week.

Last night, we were on the road – not at the Maundy Thursday service. 

Today, we are still on the road (at least for part of the day).

Unlike most Holy Weeks, though, this year I have had a book (Long Live the King by Dale and Jonalyn Fincher)  and a little book group to help me focus my mind on the last week of Christ’s life.

Today is Good Friday.

Today, we remember that Christ died on the cross. Today, we remember His suffering. Today, we remember that we were the cause of His death.  Today…”good”?

What is so good about today?

“Celebrating” death is a very foreign thing to most of us.  Death hurts.  It is not fun.  We miss the one who has died.  We suffer.  We cry.  Part of us seems to die along with him or her, and we want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.  Or perhaps we are angry and want to lash out.  We want to cry out and shake our fist at whatever disease, accident, or incident brought on the death.

More than anything, though, we want that person back.

There is no celebration in death.  There is nothing good about it. Even when we know that our loved one, taken over by pain from their disease, is now released from that pain, we see no good reason for it.

Death snatches something precious from us, and we mourn.

In Long Live the King, Dale Fincher calls this day “dark Friday.”  My soul responds to that phrase so much better, for it was, indeed, a dark day – literally, according to Matthew 27:45 – “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land.” 

And then Christ died.




So what is good about this?

At the beginning of the chapter for Friday in Long Live the King, the Finchers quote a Scottish preacher named James S. Stewart.  His quote tells us what is good about this particular Friday.

They gave him a cross, not guessing that He would make it a throne.

Without the hope of Easter Sunday, the “good” of the dark Friday is nonsense.  However, we live on the other side of Easter Sunday. 

We know of the resurrection.  We know that the story does not end on the dark Friday.

And that which we know, we should tell. 

For without the hope of the resurrection for all, death is a dark day.

May today be a day filled with reflection, gratitude, and hope…Sunday is coming!

Leave a comment

Filed under faith

Looking at Life Through New Lenses

IMG-20120407-00400A few weeks ago, I went to the eye doctor anticipating that I may need some touch-ups to my lasik surgery from a few year back.  Instead it turned out that my issues were muscular in nature rather than with the shaping of my cornea which is what lasik fixes.  After 26 years of not wearing glasses, I could not believe that I would be wearing glasses to drive and to work on the computer.  Honestly, I was not too happy about it, but I have to realize that I am not getting any younger.  Eyes, like everything else, may need some help as I continue to age.  When I picked up the glasses on Friday, I tried them on so that the technician could make any needed adjustments.

I was shocked!

I knew that my eyes had been straining for quite a while, but I was completely in awe of the crispness with which I could now see through my new lenses.  I remembered the first time I had glasses (back in third grade – urgh!) and how I kept taking them off and putting them back on to see the stark difference.

Today is Easter Sunday, the day on which we celebrate that Jesus rose from the grave after dying on the cross and being buried.  In His death, our sins are forgiven.  In His resurrection, we have new life because He has conquered death.

I know that many people struggle with whether Jesus is the only way to eternal life or if we need our sins to be forgiven.  I have chosen to have the Bible be my compass and my guide.  I have chosen to believe that it is true because, of all of the choices we have in this world, it makes the most sense to me.

Christ’s resurrection provides me with a clear vision of my life. Through it, things either make sense at some point or I can have hope that there is bigger plan in the works.  Without Christ in my life, I fear that I would have less clear vision…like when I do not wear my glasses.  With Christ in my life, I have a focus, a purpose, and a hope that – although most things are beyond my understanding – God is working all things for good.

As I celebrate Christ’s resurrection today, I celebrate what that meant for all of us; however, I also celebrate for me…knowing that Christ died and rose for me – as well as for all.

Most of the time, I try not to be terribly “preachy” on my blog.  But today I want to be clear of my beliefs.

The Apostles’ Creed sums it up for me:   I believe in God the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and of earth, and in Jesus Christ – His only son, our Lord – who was conceived by the Holy Spirit (yes – I believe…), born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried.  He descended into hell (I cannot imagine how the Trinity endured this…). The third day he rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God.  From thence He shall come to judge the quick (living) and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.


With Christ as my lens, I can see clearly.

How is your eyesight?

Happy Easter!


Filed under faith

Bringing Christmas and Easter Together

A friend posted a link to a song on YouTube yesterday that really got me thinking.  I reposted the link, and a different friend commented, “It’s Christmas and Easter all wrapped up in one.”

That really got me thinking too!

The link (just click on the word link, and you will be off in YouTube land).  And the lyrics (thanks to a Google search):

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we’ve projected,
A child in a manger?
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother’s shawl –
Just a child –
Is this who we’ve waited for? ’cause…

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have, whether costly or meek
Because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he will suffer
Do you believe?
Is this who we’ve waited for?

All for me…
All for you…

For many, this season is all about Christmas.  We decorate our houses, our yards, and our streets to reflect a celebration “fit for a king.”  And we should!  This time is all about Christmas.  But it is also all about Easter.  You cannot separate the two as they point to each other.  When we celebrate the birth of Christ with joy, we also need to consider the sober reality that His whole life was an example for us and ultimately, as we remember on Easter, ended in death for us and then resurrection.

And what gifts are we bringing this king who has done this great thing for us?  Have we stopped to consider this at all in the crazy, busy, hectic, and chaotic season?

Nothing I have to give is worthy of what He has done for me.

And He does not want just anything…He wants everything – all of me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized