I’ve been thinking about Easter since this past Sunday, and about the message of Easter. I taught my students this weekend that Easter is all about hope – hope for salvation through Christ. I talked through John 20, where we see the stories of Mary Magdalene, the Disciples, and Thomas specifically, as well as through the story of Peter’s denial and restoration. I focused on how encountering the resurrected Jesus changed each of them:
- Mary’s grief over Jesus’ loss turned into hope that all would be well, that those we lose aren’t really lost.
- The Disciples’ fear for their lives turned into hope for salvation, both for themselves and for others.
- Thomas’ doubt and disappointment turned into hope that Jesus was greater than what Thomas thought he was.
- Peter’s shame over his own mistakes turned into hope that his story didn’t have to end with failure.
It was a good message, and I was glad to be able to speak it into students’ lives at our Easter services this past weekend.
Then yesterday my wife pointed out the new South Carolina licence plates. To be honest, I like almost everything about the old ones better – the swatch of orange fading into blue behind the palmetto tree, evoking a beautiful South Carolina sunset; the silhouetted terrain at the bottom; even the palmetto tree itself. Side note: I did not like the “travel2sc.com” advertisement at the bottom; it was tacky.
But the one thing that I truly love about the new license plates is the inclusion of our state motto at the top. Officially, the South Carolina state motto is Dum Spiro Spero, which translates from Latin into English as While I Breathe, I Hope. I’ve lived here 10 years now, and I didn’t know that.
What a great motto, and what a great message to put on every single car in our state!
You’re probably aware of this, but 2015 was a pretty tough year for South Carolina, especially in the arenas of racial tension and violence. We saw a political fight over the Confederate Flag turn into quite a bit of ugliness on both sides, had a nationally publicized incident of a white police officer shooting an unarmed black man who was running away from him seven times in the back, and had to deal with the horror of a white man sitting through an entire bible study at a black church before pulling a gun and killing nine people. With the possible exception of the kerfluffle over the flag, I must say that we acquitted ourselves nicely.
I have to believe that part of why we were able to come through such a difficult year in the manner that we did is because of hope. #CharlestonStrong started popping up everywhere as a way for people to say, “We are united and strong, regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, or religion. We cannot be broken by one broken person, and we will not succumb to an agenda of fear and hopelessness.”
I’m proud of South Carolina, and I’m grateful for the hope that Jesus’ resurrection brings us. I do hope that we can find a middle ground between the colorful artistry of our old license plate and the statement of hope on the new one, but that’s a discussion for another time…
Peace. And hope.
Easter – You probably didn’t miss Easter. In fact, I’d wager that most of you who read this blog are committed church attenders and probably looked forward to Easter. And even if you’re not a committed church attender, statistics bear out the fact that a large percentage of people who don’t normally go to church will do so on Easter. So either way, I hope it was a great experience for you, and I hope you have been growing closer to God since.
Since Easter, it’s been a lot of grindstone type stuff. I haven’t goofed off as much as I’d like to, though to be fair I’d probably like to goof off more than is good for anyone. I’m like that sometimes. The new ministry/church has been going well. We’re plugging away at this whole Family Ministry concept, refining it, implementing it, rethinking it, doing it, redoing it… I really like the direction we’re headed, and I think it’s going to bear lots of huge fruit moving forward. So all in all things have been normal-to-quite-normal.
Then last week happened. Did you know that dogs can get auto-immune diseases that attack their brain stems? Because we sure didn’t until last Thursday. Our little dog Penny ended up in the pet hospital last Tuesday because she wasn’t eating, was throwing up whatever she did eat, and was generally lethargic and not herself. As symptoms worsened and an exploratory surgery revealed no blockages in her GI system, the diagnosis came down to something Michelle and I had never heard of – Granulomatous Meningoencephalitis (GME).
The good news is that Penny is responding well to treatment. The bad news is that GME is an early death sentence anyways; even with treatment we’re looking at anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years. I’ll be writing more about this whole ordeal in the coming weeks, I’m sure…
So last week was just about the craziest mix of weird highs and lows that I can remember. Good thing tomorrow will be largely relational time as we have an office-full (literally!) of IKEA stuff to put together.
How has your weekend/week/month been?
Eight years ago today, my father died. He had fought a seven-year battle with leukemia, and the complications finally caught up with him. I remember the whole week leading up to it. He had gone into the hospital on Sunday afternoon (the 10th) after a blood transfusion failed to stabilize his red blood cell counts. Monday night several blood clots moved from his legs into his lungs, heart, and head, resulting in a mild/moderate heart attack and stroke. The rest of that week saw steady improvement, though, and by Saturday he was out of ICU.
Sunday night (the 17th) as I was leaving my small group leader’s house, my mom called to ask me to come by the hospital before I went home because Dad had been moved back to ICU. She said it was nothing major, but she just wanted me come by. I will never forget walking around the corner into the ICU waiting room and seeing my cousin Jeremy standing there, sobbing. In the 30 minutes between small group and the hospital, my dad’s heart had stopped and been restarted, and as I arrived the doctors were restarting it for a second time. They got him stabilized, but couldn’t get his blood pressure above about 50/20, and he never regained consciousness.
At about 4:30 on the morning of March 18th, 2002, I lost my father to death. It took me several weeks to get to the point where I could actually mourn. I don’t know if I was trying to be strong for everyone else, or if it just didn’t really sink in until then. Even when the tears finally came, there weren’t that many.
Eight years later, I can look back on such a hard time in my life with at least some understanding of why it happened. In the summer of 2003, I had the opportunity to tell my story to about 150 middle school students at a camp, and how God’s love expressed through my friends, and specifically my youth group, brought me through. The next fall, a friend at college was dealing with the death of her father, and I got to be there for her. Since then I’ve told it many times to various people, and had the opportunity to share some of the love that was shared with me.
I’m grateful for the ministry opportunities, even though it still hurts a little bit. What about you? What difficult thing has happened in your past that God has brought you through? What opportunities to share God’s love, grace, and peace has it created for you?
Side note – You know what I’m most thankful for out of this whole experience? I’m thankful that the last words I ever said to my father were, “I love you, Dad. I’ll see you later.” Both statements were true then, and they still are today. Please make sure that the people you love know that you love them.