Friday, March 30, 2018

3-29-18 WASH Maundy Thursday

It took five decades of living for me to discover the delight of a pedicure. While issues with nerves in my feet make it less pleasurable to experience the pedicure itself, the final result feels liberating to to my calloused soles. Even in the dead of winter I wear sandals, for various reasons, so my sorry feet get a little worn and weary and a little dirty and dry. My every-days usually begin with a shower, but by bedtime my feet are ready for a nice washing. I always sleep better with clean feet, and I feel so blessed to have fresh water so readily available.

Today, as part of my preparations for Easter, I read in the New Testament book of John, giving extra attention to chapter 13. Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, is a great day to read John chapter 13. Go ahead, it's only one chapter. You can do it.

I was especially struck by verse 10:
Verse 10, as I read it, refers to Jesus telling his apostles that they're already clean, in the more spiritually holistic sense. All that needed to be washed, at that moment, were their feet. He took this opportunity to tell them they were all clean, spiritually, except for one. (That one was Judas.) I think it's interesting that He would note the fact that they were clean men. I guess He wanted them to really know that they were OK. They probably didn't get what He was talking about until much later. Funny how that happens to us humans.


I don't think there is a single thing that was done during Jesus' ministry that was coincidental. I mean, He is the most intelligent and creative soul in the past, present and future of this earth, so I am pretty sure He knew exactly what he was doing and what He chose to say, especially during his final hours with his disciples. 
So, after He had washed all of their feet and was sitting again, He asked them to tell Him what he had just done. Rhetorically, perhaps, because He answered his own question. What He seemed to be doing, looking back on it, was setting the stage for a new commandment. In the past, Jesus had been dutiful to testify about keeping God's commandments. If He had new perspective to bring, He usually gave it in the form of parables, which could be safely and broadly interpreted. But now, when the wheels had been set in motion, He could speak plainly. He was finally, beautifully, emboldened. He had always, always, been empowered; but for so long, in order to fulfill His ministry, he had to be restrained. I inhale as I think about the kingly boldness He exhibited repeatedly after he returned to Jerusalem on that donkey.


Maundy Thursday, the day that would end in the darkness of a Garden, was the day that brought to mankind forevermore one distinct new commandment. "Maundy" is based on the Latin word mandatum, which means "command, or order." 

Love One Another - it's a Christian mandate. Except there is more, and we sometimes forget that something more, but I think it's really important. We are commanded to love each other as He loved his apostles. With exactness, with purity, with reverence, with expectation but with an embracing sense of brotherhood. With forgiveness, with patience, but without dismissing out of compassion that which is against the other commandments of God. To Him, actually doing what is commanded was as absolute as 2 + 2 = 4. We of the let's-love-the-way-it-feels-good-to-love mentality get a little confused, and boy does the Adversary use that against us. Loving like Jesus loved requires serious spiritual intelligence.
I hope for the focus and determination I need to prayerfully study-out the way Jesus loved while he was on the earth. He came, after all, to give us the pattern. I need to lay myself down on His pattern.

Tonight is the anniversary of that holy event where Jesus broke bread and initiated the sacrament, a sort of "feet washing" ordinance we repeat weekly, that helps keep us spiritually clean. It was the night when He felt the sting of betrayal, the incomprehensible burden of atoning for the weaknesses of humankind, and the loneliness of the withdrawal (to what degree I do not know) of His most faithful and devoted companion. Imagine how weary He must have been when finally they raised Him onto that cross. 
Oh, my heart!

Tonight, at the close of Lent, I finish with my own witness that He lives, as He lived. I believe this, and trust it as it directs my daily actions. I believe that He loves me, with a perfect love. And I want to love Him, and my brothers and sisters who share my faith as well as those who don't, with increasing Christlike perfect love. While I have given, in my Lenten offering, many words to bring me closer to Him and to those I love, in the end there are no words to adequately express my heart.
Let my life testify where words fail.

Tomorrow, Good Friday, let's pause to remember. The heartache of loss is such a beautiful indigo wash against the brilliant landscape of hope that was given to all mankind on that Easter morn.
He is mine,
and I am His

If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. John 13:17
A happy Easter tide to one and all.

Love, Cori

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

3-28-18 NEGATIVE SPACE Silent Wednesday

"Draw the air around the chair, and the chair will appear."
We woud-be artists sat at the table in the room behind Jan's house, pencils in hand, learning art from our neighbor, a truly accomplished and talented painter. Our lessons were based on a book called Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain, and the chapter for that particular lesson addressed the value of "negative space". 
Try it. Try looking at a chair, or anything else for that matter, and then ignore the item and just look at the space directly surrounding it. We are accustomed to seeing only the items themselves, in general. But that space around the chair, where there is a break in the energy of the item itself, is just as important in that it sets the chair apart. We need negative space. This feels like an eternal truth to me. The fact that our bodies require sleep testifies of the concept. And any experienced storyteller knows that the quiet before the climax makes the story so much more engaging.
So it is that the fourth day of the final week in the life of our Savior is often called Silent Wednesday. Though the word silent likely refers to the fact that there is little said in scripture about the events of the day, I think of it also as the negative space, the quiet against which the powerful and poignant are set. The day is also sometimes called Spy Wednesday, because of the whisperings of betrayal that set Judas onto his steep and slippery downward slope. 
The drama of the previous days, beginning with the Triumphal Entry, and the cleansing of the temple, and the vocal retribution of the temple tribunal, interspersed with Jesus offering seven parables in one day; imagine the emotions and the exhaustion. 

I recently read about the stages of Anticipatory Grief:
Jesus had to have grieved his impending death. The fact that only he knew it was coming had to have been so lonely. There was the isolation evidenced as he wept over Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! " (That passage makes me weep) Then the anger evidenced in the temple. And then the quiet. This stage includes what grief counselors refer to as depression, but they separate it into two types of depression. Here's how one describes the second type of depression:
The second type of depression is more subtle and, in a sense, perhaps more private. It is our quiet preparation to separate and to bid our loved one farewell. Sometimes all we really need is a hug.
This is the negative space, the silent air around the chair. 
It is noted that on Wednesday, whether it is through recollection or the actuality of chronology, Judas sold his salvation for a bit of silver, and Jesus quietly visited his friend Lazarus and his sisters,Mary and Martha. I think it is no accident that he visited the home of one whom he had raised from the dead on the day before He entered Gethsemane.Their home was likely his emotional, safe place, where he was known for exactly who he was, and loved for it.
It was there that Mary anointed Jesus' weary feet with expensive oil. Ironic that Judas would complain about the cost of that oil. It was no accidental occurrence that Jesus would, in life, be anointed as he would soon be anointed in death. That, while he had offered so much meaty teaching the day before, he sat quietly at the table with his friends. Mary must have sensed the need for calm, as she poured the expensive oil Spikenard on his skin and wiped it with her hair. Scripture says the aroma filled the room. Spikenard was anciently used for strengthening the immune system against ailments, and was also used to calm nerves and treat anxiety and stress. 
All these centuries later I inhale slowly, imagining the scent. I close my eyes and listen to the silence, the occasional rustling of fabric as he shifted his weight and she lifted his feet in her hands. I hear the water being poured, feel the gentle strokes of her hands in the washing. And then the dusty air of the room being infused with the sweetness of precious oil. I sense a hovering sadness in the air, and an overwhelming radiance of love. When the Savior's companions broke the silence, Judas the betrayer complaining about the wasted valuable oil, I hear the reassuring tones of the Master, telling them that she had done a beautiful and symbolic thing. I wonder if, in the coming day, when he hung there on the cross, in the heat and the agony of impending death, did he catch a whisper of the scent of that oil brought to Him on a sacred breeze?
The events of the next final days of our Savior's life, brutal and unfair and agonizing, are sweetly placed against this backdrop of Silent Wednesday. 
Be still, my soul.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

3-27-18 ANGER Holy Tuesday

I was sitting on the couch writing when Dave got home last night. As we were chatting, the kitchen door creaked open.
"Hi, Banzie!" I heard Dave say as he passed into the kitchen. When there was no response, I paused from my writing. Then I heard mumbled moans, and I could tell his arms had wrapped around our daughter Annie's shoulders, and then the sobs came.
"I can't do it any more. I'm just a terrible mom. I can't do it." 
I heard the muffled words, spoken through a stream of tears that soaked into her daddy's shoulder.
You need to know, first, that Annie is an exemplary mother; full of love and patience and good humor and lots of faith. And because she is a good mother, she is a frustrated mother. 
I will explain.
In my opinion, the person who feels weak, and has faith in a higher power, is humble enough to be taught as they witness their own weakness. That humility, when coupled with hope and effort, opens access to the Holy Spirit, which is the source of truth. There is no better parenting resource than the Holy Spirit. A frustrated mother is one who is engaged in parenting. The perfectly satisfied mother is either in denial or has checked out and let someone or something else do the parenting for them.
Parenting reminds me of the time we were in Disneyland and our daughter Kate, who was three or four at the time, got super scared when the floor started dropping out of the Haunted Mansion. If there had been any way to remove her from the attraction at that point, I would have taken it. But we were stuck. So I knelt before her, took her in my arms and told her that the only way out was through. But, I assured her, I will hold you until the ride is over, even if it gets really, really scary.
Sometimes the only way out
is through.


Annie, now on the couch beside me, sat there with a river of tears puddling in the crease of her neck. 
"I'm just a terrible mom. Why did God even think I could handle children?"
When the story finally emerged, I could see my own story in it. And, I dare say, the story of every other mom I have ever met, at least the real-life ones.
Turns out Annie had asked the kids to pick up their toys. Let's try to remember the number of times any of us parents have done that. Now let's try to remember the number of times we have been ignored. And now, lets try to remember that feeling of repeatedly asking... nicely, I might add... the same question over and over. Finally, the dam breaks, the steam builds to bursting, the straw breaks the camel's back! And Annie - worn out from lack of sleep, frazzled by non-stop dealing with irrational pre-schoolers, and being hormonally challenged during this week when she is weaning her baby - blew her stack. All this converged as Jordon walked in from work. She screamed, and threw up her hands and had that "I've had it with these kids" kind of fit that secretly made me giggle inside because it was so familiar to me. And since she knew the kids were safe with their dad, she walked out! And, here's the really great part, because they moved back to Utah she had a safe place to come and blow off some of the steam, or lift the drain in her tear catcher and let it out at her old home base - our house.
The honest truth is I was grateful for the whole sorry turn of events, because it brought her home.
Annie and Calvin
on the first day of Kindergarten
Eventually, after a good chunk of love therapy, and a hot dish of left over hamburger stroganoff, she decided she wanted to hug her kids before bed, and she returned southward to the ones she loves.
I got to thinking, late into the night when I knew they were likely all safely and happily sleeping in their darling house on Cobble Creek Road, about the emotion of anger and where it might fit in our eternal character. We give anger a bad rap, we Christians.
Monday, the day after Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he released his anger in the temple.
I am not a bible scholar, by any means, but I think I understand the importance of the Triumphal Entry. Certainly Jesus had entered Jerusalem before. What set this return apart from the others was the way Jesus let himself enter. For years he had hidden the fact that he knew he was the son of God. More specifically, the chosen son of God, who would redeem mankind. By openly admitting that he was the chosen son of God, he was breaking the law. This was known as blasphemy. And by breaking the law, he would be subject to punishment. The moment Jesus set himself on the back of that pure unblemished foal of a donkey, he knew the cog had been set in place, and the gears of fate had begun to turn.  He had been foreordained to do this, yes. But knowing that did not eliminate the intensity of the suffering that would come.
I imagine the juxtaposition of emotions during that holy week that led up to His resurrection. Believers were ecstatic that their master, the Messiah, was finally being acknowledged. But the Master, knowing what was likely to come, had to have been so sorrowful. Empowered, yes, and sorrowful, too.
So, when He arrived at the temple, able to say that this was His holy house, I imagine He was pretty upset that the humans there had scattered their "toys" all around. And when they would not pick them up, well, the Parent got angry and turned the tables over and tossed them out!
No one would call what Jesus did abuse. Still, it had to hurt his heart to get mad. Maybe I am justifying our humanness. Or maybe He is giving us hope.
Hope, that even in anger we are entitled to some direction of the Spirit. Hope, that we can be forgiven for unrighteous anger. Hope that we can tell the difference between divinely justified anger and unrighteous anger. And hope that our children will be able to forget the repeated times when we "lost it" in our attempts to parent them well.
There came a point, for Jesus, when enough was enough, and He needed to let people know that some things will just not fly with Him.
And there comes a point, in our humble castles we call home, when our littles need to know what will not fly with us.
Holy Monday is that blessed day when Jesus reminds me that He understands me, even when I am scream-my-head-off mad. And my Annie reminded me, last night, that children who have felt that increase in love that follows outbursts, cannot even remember that their mom was a screamer. Annie swears she doesn't remember me yelling.
Hooray for selective memory.
By Tuesday, the word was out, and Jesus was called by temple leaders to account for His behavior on Monday. So began the blessed end. It would be his last day, as a mortal, in His holy house.

Monday, March 26, 2018

3-26-18 PALM SUNDAY

They took the palm leaves in their soft little hands, excited by the newness of the experience; these little Mormon children, gathered on a Sunday morning in our cozy little church. And even though it was a snowy Palm Sunday here in Farmington, Utah, they imagined they were on a dusty road in old Jerusalem. They listened intently as Rebecca testified of the event that took place millennia ago, when Jesus made his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the back of that beast of burden. I joined them as they sang: Hosanna! Hosanna! All hail triumphant King!, my hand leading them with a palm frond waving to the beat.
I have the dearest calling in the church, Primary Chorister, and since it has been well over three years I have been doing it this time around, I fear this may be my last Palm Sunday with them. This makes my heart heavy. And so, with my Primary president sister beside me (Libby), and my Primary teacher husband (Dave) and other sister who also teaches Primary (Sherry...we are getting close to having a monopoly on the Primary in our family!) we spent our Sharing Time teaching our kids about the Holy Week preceding the holiest of holidays in the Christian calendar, Easter. 
I grew up Mormon in a Pennsylvania town where we were the anomaly. My best friends were Jewish, Methodist, Presbyterian, and agnostic. I was the only Mormon in my class. I married a man who converted to Mormonism from an ancient Catholic family. Hung on the wall in our family room are the gold cross that belonged to his father and the rosary beads that belonged to his mother. We cherish our faithful Christian heritage. The days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, back in our Eastern town, were not just those days that transitioned from winter to spring, they represented the time when Christians realigned their souls with God. I compare it to taking my car in yearly to have it's wheels aligned. Driving along in life tends to get our alignment out of whack, going over all the bumps and potholes our human experience throws at us. A regular alignment is healthy. And so I require hard things of myself during this Lenten season (like this blog writing I do every day of Lent). The whole exercise culminates in this HOLY WEEK that we have just entered.
I am surprised at how few Mormons celebrate the events of the Holy Week. Our kids, many of them, do not know what Palm Sunday is, or Maundy Thursday or even Good Friday. And it takes a real devoted family to help a kid understand that Easter is something so much more than a basket and a magic bunny. I can do something about that in my little world.
So, with our blessed stewardship to teach the children in our congregation about Jesus, we took the opportunity to explain not only Palm Sunday, but other events of the week that lead up to Easter. We do something similar every year. Repetition. Repetition. 
This is what we did:
We invited some of our favorite grown-up humans to act the parts of people who had witnessed Jesus doing what Jesus did. An "attorney" presented these witnesses before a judge. It was handy for us, because my husband is actually a state court judge, and besides already being in Primary with us, he has the robes. But any old suit would do, or a black graduation gown. The witnesses attired themselves and brought props. We supplied empty plastic eggs and tiny tokens for them to hand out to the kids. We ordered palm leaves ahead of time. And the final preparation was to ask each person to pray for the Holy Ghost to join our cast.
Every one of our actors did a beautiful job.
And so did the Holy Ghost.
(I've included the script below, following the pictures from our Sharing Time. All the classes came together for this activity)
_________________

Our Palm Sunday table.

His Honor, the Judge
aka Bro. Connors

Rebecca - aka Sis. Gardiner

Believers waving palm leaves

Swearing-in the witnesses before they testify

Peter, aka Bro. Richins, tells of washing feet

Malchus, aka Bro. Gardiner.
His ear looks perfectly normal!

Mary, the mother of Jesus, aka. Sis. Marsh

Mary Magdalene, aka. Sis. Halliday

The witnesses and the judge sing with all the believers:
I'm Trying to Be like Jesus

If I had been there, I would have
 had a palm in my palm!

_____________________________________________________________

WE WERE THERE - WITNESSES from the HOLY WEEK
A PALM SUNDAY READERS THEATRE for children 
(script may be ad-libbed via study and inspiration, of course) 
Cori Connors
 Approx. 40 minutes long, with songs

Actors come dressed for their parts.
JUDGE
ATTORNEY       
REBECCA (PALM SUNDAY Triumphal Entry)
PETER (THURSDAY Last Supper)
MALCHUS a guard or servant (THURSDAY NIGHT Gethsemane)
MARY, the MOTHER OF JESUS (GOOD FRIDAY at the cross)
MARY MAGDALENE (EASTER SUNDAY at the Tomb)
CHORISTER: leads songs and ties it together at the end

Hand out a plastic egg to each child. Each witness gives them something to put in their egg
1.    piece of palm (representing Palm Sunday, Triumphal Entry)
2.    piece of fabric (representing the Last Supper)
3.    coin (representing Judas' betrayal, and the miracles of Gethsemane)
4.    nail or cross (representing the Crucifixion) (I got small wooden crosses from Hobby Lobby)
5.    rock (representing the Resurrection)

Bailiff: ORDER IN THE COURT! Judge ____________ presiding. All Rise!

Judge enters.
Judge: Good afternoon. You may be seated. We are here today to address the accusation that Jesus Christ was not real. We are looking for witnesses that can prove this to be right or wrong.

Attorney: 
Your Honor, I am here to bring to your courtroom witnesses from long ago. People who will testify that they actually saw Jesus.
Id like to call my first witness, a woman who was there when Jesus returned to Jerusalem. She saw him on Sunday.

Chorister will lead kids in song after each witness.

WITNESSES 1: Rebecca
Props: palms, cut pieces of palms to hand out

I was there in Jerusalem the day the Messiah rode in on a small donkey. It was a beautiful Sunday. There were many of us who believed he was the Spiritual King called the Messiah. We all gathered along the side of the street to watch him ride into the city.  We waved palm leaves, like servants wave before kings, and then we laid the leaves and our coats down on the street so his donkey could walk over them, like a royal carpet. This was called the Triumphal Entry. 
I was there, and I saw Jesus! Here are some leaves of the Palm Tree to remind you we still remember.  Today is known as Palm Sunday.
Hand out palms. One strand for each child and teacher, and one small piece for each egg.
Palms can be ordered on the Internet, $10 - $15 or at Catholic supply stores. Order these ahead of time to be safe.

Song: Hosanna #66

Attorney: Your Honor. Our second witness is a man named Peter, who was an apostle and good friend of Jesus. He saw him on Thursday.

WITNESS 2: Peter, the apostle of Jesus Christ:
Props: Bread, water, pitcher of water and basin for washing feet , pieces of fabric to hand out
I was there, on Thursday night. We were tired, and hungry. Our meeting with Jesus was an important one. We met upstairs in an Inn, and we sat around a large table. Jesus taught us, and we sang hymns, and we prayed. Then Jesus took a loaf of bread and broke it, telling us to repeat this often so we would remember that he let his body die for us. Then he poured drink in a cup and told us to drink it often to remember his blood was spilled for us. We did not know then that he would die the very next day. Now we take the sacrament to remember him. 
After dinner Jesus took a pitcher of clean water and asked us to let him wash our dirty feet. I did not want him to do this, because I should have been the one to wash HIS feet, because he was our Master and King. But he told me that I must let him do this for me. Jesus washed the feet of all his disciples there on Thursday night.  On that night he also gave us a new commandment, to love one another the same way he loved us. I was there, and I am a witness. Let this piece of cloth remind you that he cleaned the feet of the disciples, and I was one of them. 
Hand out pieces of cloth 
Song: Love One Another #136

Attorney: Your honor. Our next witness was a guard who was there to arrest Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, very late Thursday night.
WITNESS 3: Malchus (a servant of the High Priest)  
Props: coins to hand out
I was there, on Thursday night, after that supper was over. We had given thirty pieces of silver to one of Jesusfollowers named Judas, so he would take us to Jesus. Judas was a false friend to Jesus, and he told us where to find him so we could arrest him for saying he was God. It was against the law to say you are God. 
We found Jesus in the Garden called Gethsemane, late at night. He had been praying, and was weak and seemed to have been bleeding. He was very sad. When we took him, one of his friends named Peter tried to stop us. He took his sword and cut off my ear. We were about to arrest him, too, when Jesus took the ear, placed it back on my head, and miraculously healed it. See, does it not look completely healed?  I do not know who this man was, or what great power he had to heal me, but I was there on Thursday night, and I witness that it happened. 
Hand out coins. 
SONG: Gethsemane (sheet music at Hoffmanhouse.com)

Attorney: Your honor. Our final two witnesses are both named Mary. They both knew Jesus very well.

WITNESS 4: Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Props: nail, cross, crown of thorns , crosses or nails to hand out
I am Mary, the mother of Jesus. I was there on the day he was born, and I was there on Good Friday, the day he died. I loved him, and he loved me. I was a witness to his suffering, and a witness to his death. Soldiers has laid a large wooden cross on the ground, and then they nailed the hands and feet of my beloved son to the wood. They raised the cross and placed it in the ground. The weight of the body of my son caused him to not be able to breathe unless he pushed on his feet. Soon he was so weak he could no longer hold himself up by the nail in his feet. They had placed a thorny crown on his head, and they pierced his side with a spear, so that his blood fell like water to the earth. My son could have used his divine power to destroy those who hurt him. Instead, he asked Heavenly Father to forgive them, because they did not understand what they were doing. I am Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. I am a witness that he lived. I testify that He is the son of God. I loved him, and though it broke my heart, I watched him die on that cross. I was there! 
Hand out nails or cross. 
Song: He Sent His Son #34

Witness 5: Mary Magdalene 
Props: folded white sheet, small rocks to hand out
I, too, was there! But at first I did not see Him! I am Mary Magdalene. I knew Jesus well. He was my friend, and I believed what he taught me about God. I was there when Jesus was working as a teacher and leader, telling people to do good and love one another. I wept when Jesus died, and I helped prepare his body for burial.
Then, on Easter Sunday, I visited the tomb where Jesus was buried. There was a large stone that kept the tomb closed, but when I went to visit it on Sunday, the stone was rolled away. I looked in the tomb and saw that his body was gone. There was nothing there but these folded robes that we had put around him after He died. I thought someone had stolen him, and so I fell to the ground and wept. As I was crying I heard a voice from behind me. “Why are you crying?” it said. I answered: Because they have taken my Lord and I don’t know where. 
Then the voice gently said my name…Mary. I recognized it as the voice of my friend, Jesus. I turned to touch him, and he told me not to, that he still needed to go see his Heavenly Father. I was so surprised to see him. He was ALIVE. He was resurrected, with a new body that looked just like him. He promised that one day I too would be resurrected, … that we all would. 
I am Mary Magdalene, a friend of Jesus, and I was there on Easter Sunday. I saw the stone rolled away, and I saw the Resurrected Christ with my own eyes.      
Hand out stones. 

Attorney: Your Honor, these witnesses have all seen Jesus, and they testify that He was the Savior.
Judge: It appears that there are many witnesses who saw Jesus enter Jerusalem on a donkey, kneel in the Garden of Gethsemane, die on the cross, and return resurrected. I believe he really is OUR SAVIOR.

Chorister: Briefly review what each item in the eggs represents. Ask kids what each item means, and tell them if they dont recall correctly.

SONG: I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus #78