Why is it Called GOOD Friday?

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Growing up, I was always confused about why the Christian church called this day Good Friday– the day that Jesus Christ was put to death. I knew the story: the blood, the nails, death on a cross, the method used for criminals. I had learned about crucifixion in gory detail, and how the one crucified would struggle to breathe in such a position, how Christ would have needed to lift his body weight just to get a breath– his body weight pressing against the spikes nailed through his feet. I knew about the hours of darkness, the quaking earth and breaking rocks. About the curtain of the temple being torn in half, top to bottom.

My family would go to a Good Friday service, the front of the sanctuary bearing a cross adorned with a drape of purple fabric. Sometimes we would hold a railroad spike in our hands. We would always take communion: a small tab of bread to represent Christ’s broken body, a small sip of grape juice to represent his blood.

And I would wonder: why is this good?

I remember as a passionate, deep-thinking, sensitive child thinking, I wish I could have stopped this nightmare.

My God had been ridiculed, beaten, and killed. Why was this good?

……………………………………

Friday is good because of Sunday.

Because Friday was not God losing the battle– it was part of the battle plan all along. It was a well-conceived, strategic move before the checkmate.

Because, as I said above, the curtain of the temple was torn in two— this represents our direct access to God, where before we needed a priestly intercessor.

No matter what it looked like on Friday– the end of the world, I’m sure many of Christ’s followers thought, and certainly the end of hope— Sunday was just around the corner. Sunday, the resurrection, the culmination, the checkmate, the victory. It was all part of a master plan, one that we– nearly 2000 years later– can see in full, even if our brothers and sisters at the time could not. We can see the rescue waiting just around the corner. We can say, This is good.

……………………………………

Years ago, I attended a conference where I heard a sermon by Louie Giglio that I will never forget. It profoundly moved me and helped to shape my worldview. The bottom line of it is this: when the bottom drops out of life, we can still have hope — because of the cross.

If you will do just one this for me this entire year, would you please watch 1 minute and 38 seconds of this sermon? I’d love to have you watch the entire thing, but please at least watch from 24:45 to 26:23.

From the foot of the cross, the cross appeared to be the worst thing– from the perspective of history, we Christians see it as the best.

And we can trust that God is at work even in the times that are hardest. This is why I have hope.

……………………………………

This is so core to my identity that I put it into my book in the form of a parable.

Silas tells West that he believes that God is in control, even over the bad things, and she asks him why.

“Writers know that the climax comes before the resolution.” He was quiet for a second, then said, “Not just in fiction, either, West, but in real life too. How many times has the worst thing turned out to be necessary? Or even the best? Rescue wears masks, you know. It’s why people say it’s darkest before the dawn. Sometimes things take a long time to make sense. Could be years and years—or only a weekend. Or they might never make sense. But that doesn’t mean you stop trusting that the world is being rescued.”

Or only a weekend.

Good Friday, everyone. I’m looking forward to Sunday.

One Word Revisited: Sacrifice, a Trip Through Scripture

You might recall that my one word motto for 2017 is sacrifice

Sacrifice is such an interesting word, and between the Old Testament and the New Testament, there’s a big shift in the way it is viewed. I may have studied the Bible in undergrad, but I would never consider myself an expert. Still, join me for a little walk through scripture in regard to sacrifice.

Of course, in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel offered burnt sacrifices as a way to have their sins forgiven. In fact, it’s described this way (later, in Hebrews):

Hebrews 9:22 – Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Then, in the Psalms, I start to see a shift:

Psalm 40:6 – In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.

Psalm 50:14 – Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,

Psalm 50:23 – The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 51:16 – For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.

Psalm 51:17 – The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

And in Proverbs:

Proverbs 21:3 – To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

And in Isaiah:

Isaiah 1:11 – “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”

THEN CHRIST COMES.

And now we learn a whole new way of looking at what we offer:

Matthew 9:13 – Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 12:33 – And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And when Jesus dies, the temple of the curtain is torn from top to bottom, symbolizing that his death was a sufficient atonement for sins. It was the final sacrifice– by Old Testament definitions. (Hebrews 10:12 – But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.)

After that, we are encouraged to be LIVING SACRIFICES:

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Hebrews 13:15 – Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Hebrews 13:16 – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

1 Peter 2:5 – you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME IN 2017?

Well, I don’t know. But I see that my body is to be a living sacrifice, which makes me wonder: how do I honor God with my body? How can I treat my body right as the temple of the Holy Spirit and how can I use my body in ways that glorify God and promote holiness? I see I am to walk in love “as Christ … gave himself up for us,” so there is still that element of being poured out for the benefit of others. This, I think, includes my time, my heart, and my money. I see that I need to offer a sacrifice of praise– perhaps to carve out time to worship my God even in my busyness. I see that I am to do good and to share what I have; again, this encourages me to open my wallet again and again. Mercy and love are prioritized; they should be my priorities too.

So, that is what I am trying to do this year.

I am learning my friends’ love languages and trying to love them on their terms, not mine. That means taking the time to think through what would best show them how special they are and then making it happen. For example, I am a hermit. I’m happy to sit alone in my home all weekend, writing. But some of my friends feel best loved when I spend quality time with them. So, that means getting out of my house.

I am trying to become a more gracious, merciful, generous, and thoughtful friend to others and follower of Christ. To care about righteousness and justice. I am a work in progress, trying to keep my hands open.

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One Word: Sacrifice

At myoneword.org, readers are encouraged to ditch the long list of new year’s resolutions and instead choose one word to focus on all year long, one word to inspire you, one word that encapsulates the character you want to have.

I’ve chosen sacrifice.

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It came to me over the last couple weeks– but, honestly, it’s something that’s been on my heart for over a year now. I’m not even totally sure what it will dictate my actions look like.

But I do know that I have been given much. And I know that I am selfish and don’t want to be. There is a story in the Old Testament in which King David wants to build an altar to God on land that is not his. The man who own the land offers it to him for free, and not only that, but also the oxen for the offering as well as threshing sledges and yokes for the wood.

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.”

This year, I want to explore what that means for me. To offer to God and friends and the marginalized something that costs me.

Am I inviting discomfort into my year? Well, yes. But I also believe that “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

Amen. Here I go!

 

Messy: a Consolation

A new friend of mine admitted, “My faith is messy; it’s not a not cookie cutter story.”

Same.

But the gospel is messy. The story of the cross is not a cookie cutter one. Blood and betrayal; beauty and victory; agony, intention, determination. And for the believers, being gobsmacked with uncertainty, terror, heartache– but then the resurrection, the joy of it, the mind-blowing triumph.

This is my faith. Messy, unexpected, and everything I want.

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If you have a question …

and would like to ask me … you can do that now.

If you’re on my actual website (www.jackieleasommers.com), just click the blue doors in the sidebar that subtly read ASK ME ANYTHING.

Otherwise you can always click here too.

It’s anonymous or not, up to you.

Why did I add this?

  1. NOT because I’m some sort of guru.
  2. But people do have lots of questions about OCD and writing and faith and stuff, and they often email me. Especially about OCD.
  3. That can be a little overwhelming, and I’d prefer a more public platform to respond.
  4. This.
  5. Also, this way we all learn together. (P.S. I can totally do the dance below.) (No joke.)

Thanks, Wildcats! I hope you’ll use this! It will really help me know what readers want to hear about! 🙂

Further Thoughts (I know, I know) on Choosing Joy

unsplash54In recent years, many of the activities I enjoy have been “corrupted” by my anxiety, negativity, perfectionism, and proneness to comparison.

Instead of loving writing, I’ve let myself be miserable about it: Will I finish this on time? Do I have any good ideas? Am I a total fraud? Do I have a career in this field?

Instead of loving reading, I’ve let myself get stirred up to unhappiness: I can’t compare to this author. My books aren’t like this. I’ll never have the readership this author has. Why does plot hate me?

Instead of loving recruiting, I’ve been stressed and discontent: I should be working on my novel. I’ve been doing this for too long. I’m washed up. Kids don’t think I’m fun anymore.

Part of it, I can’t help. I have an anxiety disorder and I do not play well with uncertainty.

But I’m so blessed: I’ve found the right medication, the right therapist, have found freedom through ERP, and have a league of people in my court.

All those resources are allowing me to finally start to chose joy and delight. To say, “Look, I’m going to read, I’m going to write, I’m going to work. I have to do all those things. So, as far as I can, I want to delight in them.”

I know I’ve been writing about this a lot of my blog. Bear with me. Or don’t. You can skip these posts if you want. I’m just learning so much and writing about it is helping me to sort through it and maybe even understand it a little better.

Take this weekend, for example. I’m reading a tremendously good book all while trying to graft a month’s worth of ideas, scenes, and revisions into my most recent draft. In one weekend. On Friday night, I was stressed and had all this negative self-talk: You’ll never write a book like the one you’re reading. It’s so much better than the one you’re writing. And there’s no way you can hammer through as much as you want in just one weekend.

Instead, I told myself: You don’t write fantasy. Quit comparing your unfinished contemporary to this published fantasy. Enjoy this book. And enjoy your weekend of hard work on your manuscript. You LOVE writing, remember? Do what you can before Sunday night and leave the rest for later.

And know what? I did.

I enjoyed the book I was reading and I had a BLAST writing. Felt like “the good old days,” back before I was writing under contract. I did as much as I reasonably could without killing myself, and then I sent my manuscript to my editor, knowing that I’d continue to brainstorm and work on things behind the scenes while she reads it.

Here’s to a great weekend. Here’s to choosing joy.

 

 

Identity

As many of you know, I’m a college admission counselor. I recruit students to my university, attend college fairs, and read a LOT of applications. It’s very common for these seventeen-year-olds to talk about their faith in terms of actions and activities.

unsplash5I go to youth group.
I teach Sunday school.
I went on a mission trip.

I also see a lot about behavior.

I don’t drink or swear.
I don’t go to parties.
I’m committed to sexual purity.

It’s really interesting to me to think back to myself as a seventeen-year-old. At that point, I’d committed my life to Christ for about three years. I was riddled with OCD and mired down in legalism, partially due to the intense black-and-white thinking that OCD forced me into. I probably would have talked about my faith in much the same way.

Now I’m nearly 34; Christ has been my companion for many years– 20 since I made the choice to give my life to him. I’ve been through ERP therapy and set free from so many things, and I think of my faith in such different terms now.

Were someone to ask me to define my faith, I’d have to talk about my identity: I belong to Jesus. I’m a sinful, selfish, prideful, broken person who makes bad decisions and is constantly learning, but I belong to Jesus, and that is what my faith is about. I walk with Christ. He walks with me. I never tackle anything alone– not my novel writing, my persistent issues with anxiety, my career, my relationships. I have a faithful friend, guide, rescuer, and love. I cling desperately to the cross.

Don’t mishear me. I think it’s fantastic for teens to go to youth group and commit to sexual purity. I think our actions (hopefully) flow out of our love for Christ. I just can’t use my actions to define my faith anymore.

My coworkers and I were talking about this and wondering about this shift in mindset that many of us have gone through in our late-twenties and early-thirties. When you are a child, you are taught black and white. It is good to share. It is bad to hit your brother. How could a young mind even begin to fathom gray? I’m not a parent, and sometimes I’m so glad for that. I would have zero idea of how to raise a child.

This blog post isn’t a lesson or a sermon, just an observation that I wanted to share and process via writing. It’s exciting to know that my faith looks different at 34 than it did half a lifetime ago at 17, and I can’t wait to see what it looks like at 51.

Questions from Blog Readers

questions from blog readersWhy do your enjoy having your “heart pulverized” by books?
I don’t know. It seems masochistic, doesn’t it? I love the power of the written word, love the truths that fiction can expose us to without truly exposing us (Does that make sense to you? That makes sense to me.). I love the way that stories are dynamic, incredible things and the way that art– in any form– can make us feel alive.

What do you do when you aren’t writing?
I enjoy people and encourage them. I tell stories and jokes. I avoid cleaning. I waste time on social media. I make plans. I explore the Twin Cities. I recruit students to my university. I work on my blog. I read. I daydream about my characters.

How does faith intersect with your writing life, and what are your thoughts on “Christian” vs “non Christian” books when it comes to marketing in the pub industry?
If I think about a venn diagram where “my writing life” is one circle and “my faith” is another circle, it would look like two circles aligned directly on top of one another. Everything in my writing life (and all other areas of my life) is influenced by my Christian faith. My daily life (and the writing of my books) is done via continual conversation with my God.

Christian vs. non-Christian markets: I’m not entirely sure what I think. I knew that I wanted my book to not be labelled a “Christian” book because I felt like that would severely limit the audience that would pick it up. Also, when you see a book that is labelled “Christian,” you expect certain things from it, don’t you? And Truest is decidedly not a family-friendly, rainbows-and-kittens book. That said, it’s flabbergasting to me that “Christianity” could possibly mean “family friendly, rainbows-and-kittens.” The gospel itself is a story of mindblowing love, deep betrayal, and bloody, gruesome death– and also breathtaking victory. How in the world did “Christianity” come to mean anything else, anything so watered-down?

What is your favorite food?
Chocolate. Cheese. Chipotle. Really, anything that starts with ch. 😉

What is your favorite movie?
NewsiesThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Harry Potter III, VII, and VIII.

Uncompartmentalized Faith

I picture my faith as Who I Am, the core of my identity, the immovable part of my soul.

All other parts of my life– writing, friends and family, media, work, philanthropy, choices– are the parts of a beautiful and intricate mobile, of which my relationship with Jesus is the centerpiece.

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A blog reader told me, “I appreciate that your faith doesn’t happen in a vacuum and is not relegated to one part of your blog.”

It couldn’t be. My faith doesn’t fit in a compartment. It is the compartment.

For those of you who follow my blog because of OCD, writing, or otherwise– and who do not share my faith– thank you for never asking me to be only a part of who I am. I have the best blog readers, and I’m grateful.

More about my Christian faith at jackieleasommers.com/faith.

 

Image credit: Marcy Leigh