The Real Truth Of Birth

It was a beautiful early summer day much like today when my mother labored at home with the last of us. I was two months shy of my seventh birthday. I knew my mother was pregnant, “expecting a baby”, but I didn’t really know what that meant exactly. I just knew a baby was coming. From where, I didn’t know.

I spent the day doing what I always did in early summer. I played outside. Most likely I was somewhere in my imagination under the big tree in the back yard. I wiled away the hours…I dreamed and imagined and conversed to myself all day long. I didn’t know my mother’s body had begun the rhythmic squeezing and letting go that is the work of giving birth.

My mother had never given birth at home before. Myself, along with my two sisters and brother, were brought through her legs in that sterile, operating room style that was the late sixties.  My parents weren’t hippies or homesteaders, they were pretty conventional people. My mother looked like Mary Tyler Moore in the Dick Van Dyke show, with her black bob and skinny capri slacks.

This baby was the fifth in six and half years, and the only push back my mother gave doctors was declaring “no more gas!” after I was born. Me, being her first, she went along with the mask being put over her face and ether being pumped into her body. When she awoke from this sort of medically induced coma, she couldn’t remember why she was in the hospital.

“Why, Mrs. Hayward, you’ve had a baby. A little girl.”

My mother vowed at the moment never to miss another birth again.

But laboring at home was based on another decision. My parents were on a journey, searching for God and trying to live a life that pleased him and laboring at home seemed to be a way they could exercise their trust in him. But I knew none of that.

I remember the sunlight dappling through the trees and the smell of new grass as the day came to a close. I remember Mrs. Alberta ushering me and my three siblings into her little house and showing us where we would sleep for the night because in the morning there would be a new baby.

Mrs. Alberta was a little old Dutch woman, round in face and body, and always in my mind, wearing a dress and an apron. She talked funny and was deliberate in her gestures and speech. She lived across the way and said she was going to help my mother. I didn’t know what kind of help my mother needed, but I got into a bed with stiff, white sheets and laid there with the rest of the kids wondering.

I don’t know if it was night still, or early morning, but Mrs. Alberta came and roused us from sleep, quick, firm…”Let’s go see.”

I remember running to the house. I think it was the dining room because on the table lay a rectangular box, tan on the outside, white on the inside. There she was. My baby sister. Black curly hair. Fat cheeks. I remember thinking, “Well, that makes five of us,” then wondering if me being the oldest meant I would have to take care of her.

I remember my mother on a bed or a couch looking really happy and really tired. I felt the same way when all of my babies finally broke through, but especially with my fifth one. I knew she was my last.

One day not long after my sister came, I saw a lot of blood in the toilet and it scared me at first. I remember looking at it and wondering where it could have come from and then suddenly, I knew. I knew it came from my mother and it was connected to my sister and that it was okay. I was about to turn seven and I had a revelation that somehow life is in the blood and blood is life and that the spilling of it can be a good thing.

Many, many years later, I was to discover how true indeed this is.

The mystery of life, the darkness where birth begins in water and blood is seen in all it’s glory on a cross.

No ether here. No masking the pain and suffering.

Jesus was not going to miss this for the world.

It was so we could live in dappled sunlight forever.

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Spike Hammer Crush

crown of thorns

Bruise, crush, pierce.
Thorns bear down
A hate-woven crown
pressed upon the head
of the One who loves fierce.

Spike, hammer,
splintered beam.
Red flows down,
a washing stream.

Hell invaded.
Keys are taken
Back.
The world goes black.
The world waits.

Ransom

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Jesus made flesh. Flesh that lives, flesh that dies.

Jesus left heaven’s gates and put on a coat of skin and bone over the makings of blood and guts. He couldn’t have died without being human. He couldn’t have died until he became one of us.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.
Instead he gave up his divine privileges,
he took the humble position of a slave-
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God,
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

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He breaks bread. He pours wine.
In remembrance of another lamb.
In remembrance of another rescue.
This time blood will spill on one wooden beam for all. All who will say yes.

In an upper room Jesus tells his friends to eat and drink. To remember him on this passover of all passovers. He explains that what he is showing them through the broken bread and poured wine, he is about to accomplish through the brokenness of his own body and the poured down red of his own blood. A ransom will be paid tomorrow.

Jesus tells his friends to eat and drink, but he will not.

And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.

Until the kingdom of God comes…

So begins Jesus’ fast.

We eat, drink and remember,  while he waits for the kingdom of God to be fulfilled for every race, tribe, people group, neighborhood, and city in this whole wide world.  He knows the timetable of this fulfillment, just like he knew that night in the upper room the timetable for the ransom he would pay the next day.

Unimaginable suffering is about to occur.
The deepest darkness will descend.
A stone will be rolled to seal a tomb.

A ransom will be paid in full.

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Who Do You Smell Like?

“For when she poured this perfume upon my body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done shall also be spoken of in memory of her.”

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This was too much for Judas.

Right away he goes to the chief priests and asks,
“What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?”
He left with 30 pieces of silver jingling in his pocket.

Why the sudden betrayal?

Was it the extravagance the woman poured out on Jesus?
Was it Jesus’ comment about his burial?

Perhaps it was that Jesus esteemed the woman so highly that he declared her act of devotion would be remembered every time someone shared the gospel.

Because when the jar busted opened the fragrance of its contents changed the atmosphere of the room. It seeped into the cloaks and robes and beards and walls and tapestries. No one could escape it.

This is how it is with Jesus. You can’t escape Him if you tried.

God is everywhere.

For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Judas’ perishing is already beginning and the fragrance of the gospel is a stench in his nostrils because this is not playing out as he’d hoped. Jesus seems bent on talking about his death when he should be talking about conquering Rome once and for all.
It is time to take matters into his own hands.

To the one, we are an odor of death and demise; to the other, a fragrance that brings life. And who is qualified for such a task?

The Rose of Sharon is about to release a fragrance that will change the world.

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Men do change, and change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.- John Steinbeck

 

An Extravagant Woman

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Breaking open a jar of expensive perfume over some rabbi’s head is a bit ridiculous.

Especially if it’s all you’ve got to get you through retirement. Maybe you were saving it for marriage, but judging from the “sinful” life you’ve been living lately, that ship as most likely sailed.

This woman. Coming into this man’s house breaks so many rules. Although, this is no real surprise knowing what kind of woman she was.

Besides all that, the audacity of walking into a man’s home while he’s entertaining somone of noteriety, someone inching toward celebrity status at this point…did this woman see how the crowds welcomed him into Jerusalem? Did she hear what he did in the temple courts with the moneychangers?

She made such a spectacle of herself, it was embarrassing for all sitting there.  If she’d wanted to give away her entire life savings, she could have at least been a bit generous to the poor and sent some their way. Judas would have seen to it.

Instead, she wasted everything on this man. This Jesus.

And she kept touching him. Weeping like a mad woman and letting her tears fall on his feet, wiping them with her hair.

His feet! To touch so intimately what had walked through the day’s filth.

How lovely on the mountains
            Are the feet of him who brings good news,
            Who announces peace
            And brings good news of happiness,
            Who announces salvation,
            And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Jesus’ feet that calloused and stubbed and mucked about the dirt of humanity.
Majesty became sandal-tied.

To be so over the top. So extravagant.

Extravagantexceeding what is reasonable or appropriate, absurd. 

Can you even come close to this kind of love?

What if you gathered your entire 401K, your insurance policy, the equity in your house, and all the little bundles of 20’s and 50’s you have stashed in a bank vault somewhere and you walked into the home of the most prominent man in town during a party?

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Everyone there knows your deepest, darkest secret. Jesus is there. You had an encounter earlier with him where you were set free of all that had held you captive your entire life, so you gathered everything you owned and managed to squeeze it all into a sealed jar and you just wanted to give Jesus everything.

Instead of crying tears of sorrow, you wept tears of joy and thanksgiving and you didn’t care who saw it. Life had crushed you and somehow knew this man was about to be crushed for your sake.

What would happen if you broke open your jar?

alabaster jar
(Mere Whispers)

Busted

It is Passion week.

The week when Jesus, motivated by compassion, walks into Jerusalem, and His extravagant love for us spreads like a broken bottle of perfume.

It goes everywhere.

perfume bottle
(Eric Sauvage)

Tables get turned over and coins scatter and distorted passion for wealth and riches and highway robbery spill over cobble stones and cobbled lives.

Passion withers the roots of a fig tree when hypocrisy is exposed.

Passion laments a city when desolation comes to withered souls.

The uptight upright whisper and plot, but Jesus already knows the whisper of their hearts before they do.

Then…a woman gets involved.

A jar gets busted and its contents are dumped on Jesus’ head. Passion perfume fills the room and Jesus and the woman are the only ones who get it.

Meanwhile, Jesus was in Bethany at the home of Simon, a man who had previously had leprosy, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

What if you busted open a jar of your passion?
What if you shattered the glass of your broken self and let it spill everything you own?

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Spilled everything you love and
every tear you let slide down your cheek,
every cry you wailed.
What if you broke open every talent,
every strength, every lame step you walked
and you just poured out to Jesus.

Past the stare, the glare,
the lips thin-gripped,
the mouths jaw dropped of those who can only see
the mess, the waste.

Everything takes on the scent of extravagant love and
everyone there, except the ones that matter,
think you’re a fool.

How dare you love this way.

But, like an expensive perfume that emits layers of fragrance and mystery, this woman went to another layer, she realized another depth.

Pouring everything she owned onto Jesus wasn’t about how much she loved, but about how much she was loved.

This is what those who mocked her passion missed and what the enemy of our souls does not want us to know.

How dare we to believe that we can be loved this way.

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We owe something to extravagance, for thrift and adventure seldom go hand in hand.-Lady Randolph Churchill