April 10, 2009

Today is Good Friday. I looked up where the origin of that phrase came from and found several different meanings. In Greek liturgy, it means Holy and Great Friday. In Romance languages, it means Holy Friday. In German is means Sorrowful Friday. No matter which meaning you look at, one thing remains the same: It was the day everything changed. Before Jesus came to earth in the form of man, there was a separation between people and God. We could not just pray to Him as we can now. People would go through prophets to get words from God, and they had to make holy sacrifices for the atonement of sins. The day Jesus was crucified, that separation was absolved. Jesus is the direct path between us and God. We are allowed to pray to Him at any time of day or night, and Jesus was that sacrifice for our sins. All we have to do is acknowledge this truth and ask to receive that free and selfless gift of forgiveness, and we become actual family members in the Kingdom.

Throughout this week, I have thought a lot about what today represents. For many of us, we have heard the account of the death of Jesus over and over. Some only attend church on Easter and Christmas, so the stories of Jesus' birth and death are two of the most well known accounts in the Bible.

I was there when my brother, Jeff, passed away. My entire family was. My mom was up near his face, on Jeff's right side, and for awhile she just talked to him and told him she loved him. I will never forget the look on her face as more and more time passed in between each breath he took; we all wondered which would be his last. My dad was at the foot of the bed, he was on his knees and I have never before, nor since, seen him cry like that. Brian was to my dad's right, I was beside him, and Tommy was next to me, on Jeff's left side. There was music playing softly in the background, I remember a Selah cd and then a Rich Mullins cd. I still prayed over and over for God to heal Jeff, even in those moments. I knew God was bigger than any of what we were experiencing. As Jeff's breaths got farther apart, I can remember praying that if this was God's will to take Jeff home to Him, if it would mean Jeff would not be physically healed here but would be able to run when he entered Heaven, then I wanted God to come take him. Reward Jeff for his months of endurance. Not more than a couple of minutes later, Jeff was standing in the presence of God. In a moment that was the saddest day I have experienced here, it was the best day that Jeff had ever experienced. And as my family comforted each other in that room at Hospice, Jeff was meeting Jesus.

I try to relate my experiences to accounts in the Bible, to imagine them taking place now. Jesus was God in the form of man. But He was in man's body. That means He had feelings like us, pain and joy like us, fear like us, love like us. He had an earthly mother that carried Him for nine months and gave birth to Him. He had an earthly father, and even other siblings conceived between Mary and Joseph. Jesus was 33 when He was crucified. My husband is 31, and it is so hard to imagine the weight of the world on someone still so youthful. I wonder how Jesus felt when He knew He would not grow old here, not see His siblings' children grow up here on earth, know of the heartbreak His mother would feel. And Jesus prayed about what He knew was about to take place. Luke 22:41-44 says:' 41He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." 43An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.'  I know how often I have been on my knees praying for God to heal my body. I know that Jesus can relate to the pain I feel deep within me as I plead my case. Even Jesus, the Son of God, asks that if there is any way for Him to not have to go through it all, that God would take it from Him. But ultimately, He wanted what God wanted. God strengthened Him through an angel. Yet, it says that Jesus prayed in aguish so much so that it says "his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground". I remember hearing somewhere that this is actually possible to do, so I looked it up to refresh my memory. And it is possible, although rare. It is called hematohidrosis. Blood vessels surround sweat glands, and if the vessels are put under a great amount of stress, they constrict. When they are released from this pressure, they expand until they rupture. Blood can spread out and enter nearby sweat glands, which can in turn, causes the person to sweat out blood.

Jesus was led to the place where He would die. He had been severely beaten, not just punched and kicked, but they used weapons on Him that were meant to tear flesh from the body. And then was expected to walk until the reached the place they called "The Skull". Jesus must have been praying the entire journey. I wonder if His body went into shock. He was nailed to a cross. Nailed. There was nothing holding His body to that cross except those nails in His hands and feet. As the weight of His body caused those wounds to tear His skin, His body sunk lower and lower. In order for Jesus to breathe, He would have to continuously try and pull Himself back up in order to take those breaths. This would eventually cause Him to asphyxiate. I imagine Jesus' mother at the foot of the cross, wondering if she had just witnessed her son take His last breath. And why did He do it? Why was He willing to suffer? For you. For me. None of us are deserving of that. But we are loved enough that God wanted to make a way for us to be with Him forever. Jesus' body was prepared and put in a tomb. Yet just a few days later, that tomb was empty. Empty. Can you imagine? Jesus conquered even death. He came back and showed His wounds to prove that He was alive before ascending into Heaven. That is where He is waiting to be reunited with each of us. It's not enough to believe this account one day out of the year. You have to accept this gift, this gift that came with such a high price, and ask God to forgive you in order for this gift to be applied to your life.

As far as a health update goes, I had a rough week following chemo on the 30th. I was really sick, and it's not clear whether this was from chemo or a virus, as I have not gotten sick from this chemo before now. My hands and feet were the most painful they have been up until now, but have been feeling better. This past week, I was experiencing a lot of lightheadedness and just felt foggy. My blood work this week at home came back normal, so it's also unclear as to what was causing this. I started feeling better yesterday and feel good so far today. My CEA level was up to an 88 on my last visit to CTCA, yet another mystery. Please pray specifically for this number in the next week. My doctors cannot see what is making this number rise steadily, and it would bring peace of mind if it starts to go back down. My next appointment is scheduled for April 20. My niece, Emily, is two years old. My mom was watching her yesterday and I stopped over to see them for just a minute. Emily has the personality sometimes that one minute she can be sitting on your lap and the next minute, she won't want to come over to you. Well, yesterday, she was in the mood where she was clinging to my mom. She held on with her head on her shoulder and her hands tightly on my mom's sweater. Nothing I could do would make her come to me, even for a second. Olivia's birthday party at my mom's is today. I was out yesterday trying to get everything together to make her cake and pick out a gift. As I drove around, the sun was shining and my radio was playing. I tried to think about what I was feeling at that moment. What comes to mind when I think of my relationship with God right now? That picture of Emily clinging to my mom came immediately to mind. I feel like that is how I am with my Savior. My arms are holding tight to Him and my head is on His shoulder. Nothing in this world would entice me to let go, not even for a second. 

I hope you all have a wonderful time with your families this weekend. We remember Jesus' death, but also know that even death could not hold Him.

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