Not a mountain in sight, here.

Not a mountain in sight, here.

I don’t think I saw this anywhere else but on Instagram.

I follow the National Geographic account there, just for fun. I love the casual photojournalism. I love that these photographers, who I now know by name and photographic subjects, post pics of iPhone shots, or outtakes from the magazine. I love the personal touches, the I was feeling this when I captured this shot, the sometimes imperfectness of it all.

One week ago, Pete McBride posted a photo of a climber and said this…

A climber is dwarfed by towers of frozen debris on Everest’s Khumbu Ice Fall, one of the most dangerous regions on the mountain’s south side. Every spring climbing season, a small team of Sherpa build the route through this perilous zone that stretches between 18,000 and 20,000 feet. While most climbers try to limit their exposure in this jungle of crashing glacier, these Sherpa known as the ‘Ice Doctors’ go up and down every other day for 2 months to maintain the route.

Then, Andy Bardon posted this…

Well, it’s climbing season on Mt. Everest, where each day seems to be a balancing act. Team logistics, acclimatization, physical hardship, and objective danger are all part of the deal. Wishing all a safe season, & massive thanks to the Sherpa that make it all possible.

And a day later, from Aaron Huey posted with a photo of Sherpa climbers circling their altar at basecamp before ascending the Khumbu icefall on their way to the summit of Mt. Everest…

My prayers go out to the family and friends of the Sherpa climbers who died on Everest today.

From Stephen Alvarez…

A high altitude helicopter drops off survivors from the avalanche on Mt Everest yesterday in Pheriche, Nepal. Survivors and the dead were transferred to a military helicopter for the final flight home. All day long trekking down the Khumbu we’ve been met with a steady stream of monks heading up valley to attend to the funerals of the dozen dead Sherpa climbers. Yesterday was the most deadly day in Everest climbing history. My heart goes out to the residents of the Khumbu Valley.

And then today, from Aaron Huey…

I have been at a loss for what to do in these days after the Everest tragedy. As a photographer who has worked with the Sherpa community (for an upcoming story at National Geographic), I am devastated. Two of the deceased were men I knew. At the end of the day I decided to give back to the community that gave so much to me, by creating a Sherpa Photo Fund. Some of the best photographers in the world joined me. For this week only, 10 of us who have worked in the region will be donating small, signed prints of our work for sale. 100% of the proceeds (after printing and shipping) will go to the Sherpa community – distributed by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation (nonprofit), which has been working with Sherpa climbers in the Khumbu since 2003. By purchasing a print today, you are helping provide relief to Sherpa families in crisis, as well as long-term support that transcends this single incident. Together, we can help to build a more comprehensive safety net for the high-altitude workers who help so many Westerners realize their dreams of the summit. To buy a print and learn more about distribution of funds visit Sherpa Photo Fund here.

I’ve been struck hard by this story as it’s played out in my Instagram feed, among the pictures of my family and friends and my own pictures of my kids doing kid things. The contrast has been stark and compelling.

I can’t help but think of the Sherpa and the role they play over there in that other place, that distant world so removed from the prairie on which I live.

Their work is for the benefit of others. They prepare the way. It could almost be biblical, the example of perseverance and fortitude and patience and preparation. Kind of John the Baptist-ish.

But really, it’s their work. It’s their adaptation to a system that entered their world. I don’t know if they love it or hate it, or maybe it’s both, but they do it.

It’s beautiful in captured photograph, but hard in real life. Kind of like a lot of things.

If you are so inclined, the photos for sale are six inches by six inches of beauty. Each is $100 plus shipping.

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Monday was fine. Fine, as in warm, snow almost melted, glorious bright sun after a long winter.

Fine enough to get us out of bed early to gobble down a quick breakfast and head outside. Because on the first warm day of spring, my husband wants to burn things.

I could smell the smoke before I got the dishes cleared.

There’s something about new warmth that makes us want to disappear the old cold. The winter’s accumulated pile of mouldy bales and dead animals and general yard yuck. He gathered it all and lit it up and called the boys to watch it. Because a fire of old stuff can out-of-control itself pretty quick when spring is not yet green.

I walked out to check on them, gathered around the burning pile. One on the fence, one on his bike, another on the dirt road with the dog. Sitting and watching the winter garbage disappear. Raking it from time to time to keep it from spilling into the still dry field around it.

I don’t know if there is a lesson in this. If I thought hard enough I could probably come up with something.

Really, though, it’s just a thing to do on the first warm day of spring.

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I’ve had a cold this week. And my husband has been working out of town and I’ve still had six people to take care of in between the coughing bouts and the sneezing and the poor-me-my-head-hurts moments.

It kind of felt like suffering, but even while I was in the middle of feeling sorry for myself I knew I didn’t really get suffering.

And on Good Friday, when I’m thinking about the Jesus of dusty roads and mountain sermons and upper rooms, the Jesus who carried a wooden beam to a hill of death, the Jesus who was stretched and nailed and lifted and who died in plain view of family and friends and enemies… on this day, like no other day, I know I don’t know.

If I’m honest, I don’t want to know. I don’t know how Paul could have written that, really, and actually meant it. He said it more than once, so he must have.

I’m not a theologian, but I can google.

… that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10-11

Here’s what I see in this verse. I see the resurrection part (see, he says it twice) bracketing the suffering and death part, and that seems important to me.

I think I see this. I think the power of His resurrection comes first in this verse because that’s the power that takes me through my life. That’s the power that takes me through the ups and downs and the challenges of faith and eventually, hopefully, to faithful death. Faithful to the end, like Him, and then the beautiful resurrection, like His.

This is what I think on this Good Friday, while the spring rain falls cold – funeral weather – and the cross is in the back of my mind. I think the fellowship of His suffering begins with first accepting the power of His resurrection.

It’s backwards or upside down, maybe, but that’s what He does. That’s what His death does. His resurrection surrounds it all, even death.

That’s Good Friday.

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So many memorable things happen over a meal. Gather some friends and relax into the evening and who knows where the conversation might take you.

Who knows.

The teacher might even surprise everyone by taking off his coat and rolling up his sleeves and washing everybody’s dirty feet. And wouldn’t we all wonder at that. And if he did that humble job, and then served out the meal with words that made his friends scratch their heads, well, you’d have the last meal Jesus spent with his disciples. You’d have fellowship and service and gutted honesty and uncertainty about the future.

This is Jesus in the flesh. This is Jesus with his friends, and even his enemies. This is Jesus, teaching by example even as danger looms.

He finishes the meal. There’s Gethsemane and betrayal and the cross ahead, but he finishes the meal with his friends, and he asks them to follow the example he showed them that evening. He asks them to love each other.

It’s Maundy Thursday and some people publicly honour that request in different ways. The Queen of England hands out little pouches filled with coins. The Pope washes the feet of elderly and disabled people in Rome.

But if you’re not the queen or the pope, and the people around you don’t want to take off their socks and shoes for you, what do you do?

I guess you sit at the table with him for a while first. You sit in fellowship and you marvel at his teaching and his incredible example of selfless service and you let it all sink deep into your soul, the fellowship and service and gutted honesty and even the uncertainty about the future.

Then you push away from the table with your clean feet and your sweet memories, and you do your best to walk in that grace.

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There’s a cross at the end of this week, but I’m having a hard time finding it.

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It still seems silly, the whole Easter candy thing, but I bought chocolate Easter bunnies in Walmart last week. Five of them (four for the boys and one for the mom who wondered aloud if babies got Easter treats). Then I read about ethical chocolate and now I have chocolate guilt because I’m guessing these bunnies are the unethical sort. And what does any of it have to do with that looming cross, anyway?

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The wind is cold and last year’s soggy leaves cover the ground and inside we are all coughing and blowing our sore noses and it’s hard to find the holy in this week that’s named such. There’s that cross waiting down the road a ways but when I sit and try to think on it for a bit, my eyes close and my thoughts wander and I feel bad when I can’t make myself feel what I want to feel. It’s not the end of the world, I tell myself, but it’s my world and we’re sick and that’s real life, right now.

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Sometimes, writing real things feels like complaining. And not very holy at all.

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I’ve never watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, except for the parts that have been played during communion from time to time. I resisted watching it when it first came out, even though I got raised eyebrows and was told it was something every Christian should see. I resisted though, because I’ve learned the movie is never as good as the book and I really like that book. And I wasn’t sure I wanted the movie to play in my mind every time I read those verses or thought about those events. I know it’s a movie some people watch this week to help them feel the holy.

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The moon was blood red one night this week, Passover, but I forgot to look and the lunar eclipse happened without my experiencing of it. Isn’t that just the way it is sometimes. The event happens whether I remember to experience it or not. The documentation is all I have to go by. Other people’s writing of it. Other people’s pictures of it. It’s like that this holy week. I’m reading other people’s holy words, seeing holy through their eyes. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got, and it’s better than nothing.

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There’s a cross at the end of this week. And a weeping mother and a bleeding son and mocking crowd. I wish my heart would engage more with it all. I’m not sure why it won’t – maybe it’s all that coughing – but that’s honesty and real life for you. Sometimes, I have to simply know and honour, even when I can’t feel. God knows why the feelings are absent. God knows.

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When you get home from a great weekend and boom, life begins right where it left off with the kids and the kitchen and all those life things that jump up in front of you like grasshoppers when you’re summer-walking the back roads behind the house.

For a while you do great, fending off the bugs and fixing lunches and you feel prayerful and joyful and thankful, and then you catch the baby’s cold and there’s a phone call that sets you on edge and you miss having that Saturday morning breakfast with your husband, and a week passes and it’s Monday again and you start the day with a sigh.

And that joy stuff slips away without you realizing and instead of smiling you’re gritting your teeth.

But you remember what you said back when you were talking about joy, about how it’s not about success but about surrender. And how it doesn’t come from accomplishment but from acceptance. And how it’s not something you manage through muscle, but it’s how you breathe.

It’s breathing him in and breathing him out.

You remember all that and you blow your sore, red nose and you slip into the day, knowing joy will find you there.

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I spoke at a Spring Renewal on the weekend. I mean, I spoke a tiny bit. Mainly I soaked my soul in words and music and the fellowship of a gathering of beautiful people. My soul needed that bath. And it came away fresh and perfumed and lotioned with Holy Spirit joy.

But the tiny speaking bit was fun too. I shared some words about joy and Jesus and the cool thing was having my husband sit in one of the classes. I’ve never taught a class to my husband before. It was odd, for sure, but kind of wonderful at the same time. To look out into the crowd and to see his face there.

I think I saw good things in his face.

After, when they asked a couple of people to come up and pray over me, my husband mouthed an apology to me from his seat. I’d cry, he said, and that was the most wonderful, prayerful compliment I could have received.

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