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I gave up Netflix for Lent. It’s been easier than I expected, except when it’s been hard.

It’s been my distraction, you see. It’s been the escape-from-reality and the end-of-the-day reward. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escaping and rewarding. But I know myself, and of all the things I considered fasting from, Netflix was the one that made me kind of sad. And that’s, well, kind of sad.

So I gave up Netflix. It’s my first time to practice Lent, let alone to fast from anything during Lent, and it’s been slow and deep and kind of beautiful in ways I didn’t even know to expect. I had no clue, basically.

I signed up for an N.T. Wright online Lenten devotion, and together he and I and the book of Matthew have been making our way through the season. Slowly and carefully, like picking our way down a pebbled path, looking for wild flowers that might be growing along the edges. It’s really been a lovely walk.

And Netflix? Mostly, Netflix has been replaced with reading or visiting or watching movies with the family. Mostly, it’s been a fairly easy temptation to resist. Easier than I expected.

But the other night, after tossing about for hours and finally relocating to the downstairs sofa, I gave in. I tapped the app button on my phone and looked through the menu options and feasted on three episodes of a show I’d been watching before the whole Lent thing started. I caved, big time.

I’ve been trying to feel guilty about it, but you know what, I really don’t. I’m not sure what that says, exactly. I guess I’ve decided it’s not about perfection. I know I am weak. I’m totally the follower fretting in the storm while Jesus sleeps, or sleeping in the garden while Jesus prays.

This morning, N.T. and Matthew and Jesus and I picked up where we’d left off. And you know what? It’s still beautiful.

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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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I am reading this story for, oh, about the seven thousandth time in my life, but this time I don’t get beyond this first paragraph. My eyes stop here, and my heart stops, too.

I know this story. I’ve listened to countless sermons that have emphasized all manner of different points along this Jerusalem-to-Emmaus journey. The unknowing travelers, the request for Jesus to stay longer with them, the irony of speaking face to face with the man they thought was dead, the immediate return to Jerusalem once they realized who He was.

Today, though, I can’t get past the first paragraph…

 I am guest posting today on Rob Still’s blog, where he has been doing a series of devotions during this Easter-to-Pentecost season. Please stop in if you have time, and read the rest of this post and Rob’s other devotions in this series while you are there.

Rob is a worship guy. Its what he studies and workshops and blogs about. You’ll enjoy getting to know him, I think, at RobStill.com.

Yes, it is spring and there are still mountains of snow on the ground. My husband is worried about flooding. The children need and the house needs and the goats need. There is more need than there is time or money. In big mental piles in my brain are the school work and house work and relationship work. And soon we will be up to our eyeballs in spring mud.

You understand.

I’m not complaining. I don’t think I’m complaining. These are not things stressing me or keeping me awake at night. These are the realities of my day-after-day, and I am challenged, at times, to look up from them. Way up, as the giant on one of those old CBC children’s shows used to say.

To look way up, and to really see.

Today I look up and I see a cross. The sight of it stops me, holds me still. I’m a bystander at an accident scene. Only it’s not an accident. It’s on purpose, for a purpose, and I’m shocked out of my silly smallness. I’m looking up, I’m really seeing, and it breaks me. I look over and I see a mother, weeping, and I weep with her.

Michelangelo's Pieta, which I would dearly love to see one day.

Michelangelo’s Pieta, which I would dearly love to see one day.

A year ago, on Good Friday 2012, I wrote the following:

Today is a Good Day, because today I do not have to watch my son die. I don’t have to watch him, hurt and bleeding, carry a heavy piece of wood up a hill. I don’t have to witness crowds of people making fun of him. I don’t have to see soldiers nail him to a cross or lift his hanging body into the air. Today, I don’t have to watch my son die.

Ah Mary, it seems like just yesterday I was with you in the stable, celebrating his birth. Today, I’m with you in the nightmare.

While the soldiers were looking after themselves, Jesus’ mother, his aunt, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the cross. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her. He said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that moment the disciple accepted her as his own mother.

John 19:25-27

Today is Wednesday. The day before Valentine’s Day. Two days before my second son’s sixteenth birthday.

Oh, and its the first day of Lent. Should I have remembered that before I saw all the Facebook posts and blog posts about it?

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The truth is, I didn’t grow up with Lent. Ash Wednesday? I hadn’t a clue. I’ve only recently even bothered to find out what it is all about. Easter, growing up, was about finding eggs and eating chocolate, and somewhere in there was a vague understanding that for some people it meant something about Jesus being crucified and raised up again.

But Lent? I had no idea, except from references in books to people giving things up for it.

I’m giving up chocolate for Lent. Or movies. Or cigarettes. Or men.

I never really got the religious significance of such gestures.

I understand it better now, since google made understanding these things so much easier. I’ve thought about it some. I’ve not embraced it, although I sense it’s become the thing to do. People are embracing it, I know, even if it wasn’t a faith tradition they grew up with.

I’m not giving anything up for Lent this year. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. I’m not denying myself a pleasure or abstaining from an indulgence. I’m not tuned in enough to the why of it to make it meaningful.

I guess I’ll just keeping doing it, living it, day after day for the next forty days. Thinking about things, praying, doing what I can. Ordinary stuff, ordinary days.

Keeping on instead of giving up.

What about you?