The Urban Dictionary defines Jesus Freak as:
n. Someone who displays an unusual or embarrasing amount of enthusiasm for Jesus.
I hope this is the way that others view me. I am not embarrassed by my love for and faith in Jesus. I would add that even though I talk a lot about Jesus, for me it is always in the context of the Triune, Father, Son and Spirit.
I know the moment I fell in love with Jesus. Funny how our memories work, I remember the moment but I am not sure how old I was. My best guess is I was four or five-years old. I was attending Mass at Holy Family Church in Seattle (White Center). I loved the church of my youth in that whenever I was there I felt the awe of the Creator. Maybe it was the architecture and design of the church or maybe it was the Spirit of God that captured my heart but all I know is this: When I would look at the cross above the altar and saw Jesus on it, I somehow knew in a non-cognitive knowing that He did that for me.
This is not the best photo but it is the only one I could find online.
You see my reality was this. There were many, many violent episodes in my home while growing up. I won’t go into the nitty-gritty details in this post but suffice to say there was abuse in all forms running rampant in our house. When I would go to Mass I would feel safe. I went to 12-years of Catholic School. I spent a lot of time in Mass. I made my first communion while in 2nd grade, was confirmed in 8th-grade and spent four years at Kennedy High School where my favorite classes were religion classes. I wrestled with what I was learning in my religion classes. I was fascinated by the gospel accounts of the life of Christ. I was intrigued by the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys. They included riots, beatings, shipwrecks, preaching, conversions, miracles and complete devotion to the good news that the God of the Universe crossed the cosmic divide to come to earth as a vulnerable and defenseless baby in the person of Jesus.
Jesus’ s life was one of loving the outcast, the sinner, the other. He crossed racial divides when he loved the Samaritans and the Gentiles. He treated women with scandalous respect and dignity within the Greco-Roman culture that oozed of patriarchy and misogyny. He touched the ‘untouchables’ in the lepers, the woman with the issue of blood and so many others that were exiled from community. He touched them, he loved them and he rescued them from their lives in exile. He surely brought heaven to earth when he demonstrated power over sickness, disease, nature and the demonic! He practiced life in the Kingdom of God when he turned water into wine, fed the crowds miraculously multiplying food and by cleansing the Temple of the money changers that turned His house into a ‘den of thieves’ and on and on. He turned the religious world of his time upside down! And, it got him killed. By his birth, life and death, Jesus used His power, the power beyond any weapon of mass destruction humans can engineer through death on a cross to conquer evil with love. And that is not the end of the Story.
But as it was foretold by the Hebrew prophets and by Jesus himself death did not hold him, because the same beyond-nuclear power that was demonstrated in his death took hold of death and raised him out of the grave to be the first of the throngs that will be raised to new life at some point in time. We don’t know the year, the day or the hour, but the Hope of the follower of Jesus is just that. Evil, Death, Curse – does not have the last word – Love, Life, Freedom wins!
This is my hope and where I put my faith. In the Roman Catholic tradition I remember the priest would recite ‘The Mystery of Faith, with these Latin words, Mortem tuam annuntiámus, Dómine, et tuam resurrectiónem confitémur, donec vénias translated, Your death we proclaim, Lord, and your resurrection we confess, until you come. Or in other liturgies, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
In a few weeks we will celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. That is for another post.
Today I sit in my office the day after my 60th Easter celebration listening to this song.
One year ago today I had an echocardiogram. My doctor had treated me for acute bronchitis for seven weeks but I was not getting better. My friend Sharon offered to go with me so we could get lunch after and catch up with one another. The thing is, the test revealed I was in congestive heart failure and seriously so. You can read that story at in several prior posts about my recovery process.
Today, as I reflect on this past year I am in awe of the healing process. I honestly didn’t think I would be alive to write today. I am so grateful! I have recovered beyond what my doctors ever thought was possible. I can only point to what I have experienced that I believe attributes to my recovery.
My husband. Rich kicked into absolute care mode. He was working full-time when I came home from the hospital. He would make sure I had what I needed (sometimes this meant a caregiver in his absence) and then he would come home, cook a heart healthy dinner and clean the kitchen! He made sure that I had a safe and stress-free space to recover. One of the gifts I have found due to my health crisis and recovery is how strong our marriage has become in the midst of hugely hard circumstances. I cannot express how much I love this man. He is a good, good man!
Our kids and extended family. Our adult children surrounded us with love and care. They were there for whatever we needed. To this day they FaceTime me almost daily. The best was bringing the grandchildren to see me often – this made my heart happy with each visit! My sister and cousins too brought so much care, love and support. My cousins are like siblings. We grew up together and shared in the same large and sometimes lunatic Italian family. They enveloped Rich and me and our kids with love, wisdom, comic relief, prayers and so much more.
Our friends near and far and our faith community, local and beyond. I put these two together even though many of my friends are not a part of our faith community. The amount of support we have had this past year from near and far encompasses practical things like meals, house cleaners, rides to the doctor and other places (I could not drive for six months), gifts, cards, jokes, good, good company through so many tears and so much confusion, prayer, prayer and more prayer, financial assistance in the midst of so much transition, I could go on and on. Our friends and church family are the true riches in my life. They like Rich and our kids stepped in and did all they could to help eliminate stress in my life and for some they did this at personal cost. Another gift I have received this past year – the gift of receiving (this has been tremendously hard for me) and experiencing firsthand the generosity of others. I could write an entire post on just what it means to be on the receiving end of so much. There is so much powerlessness, surrender and trust involved. I have never experienced such an outpouring of so much goodness, love and kindness in my life as I have in this past year. My heart could not help but to come back to life!
My Guides. Guides through this past year have come in many forms. My therapist has been a healing voice and presence over and over. He has listened to me cry, sob, rage, cuss, and has helped me make sense of things that really make no sense at all. And by making sense of it I mean practicing letting go of the things I am powerless over. A surrendering at the deepest level of surrender I have ever had to do. The gift of surrender has left me at peace because for me surrender means letting go and trusting in the God I love. Trusting that God really has me, cares for me, loves me. What I came face to face with is the fact that I know I am not afraid to die. I know that the God I love is just that, LOVE and to be embraced by that LOVE as I leave this life has given me peace and the ability to surrender. So many other guides too. My friend from Southern California that I met just two years ago at a Society of Vineyard Scholars gathering. He had prayed for me there and became a trusted guide over what unfolded these past two years. I could not be more grateful for the gift he has been in my life. Women that helped me process the trauma, books, poetry and art that spoke to me and gave me hope—so many guides, so many gifts!
Today as I reflect on this past year with all the change, losses, gifts and love I have experienced I simply look up and say, “Thank You.”
“Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” Crowder