THE END?

THE END?

I am on the last few chapters of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I have been losing sleep the last three nights due to the intense action at the end of “Mockingjay”. I have fallen in love with the characters – Peeta and his “hijacked” love; Gale and his angry loyalty; Katniss and her flawed altruism and Prim’s purity. I am drawn like a moth to the flame or an addict to the needle. Each night, way past my bedtime, I try to hold off picking it up, but I plunge right back in. Hours later I am devouring the words and the world around me has morphed into the Capitol. I don’t want it finished. — I don’t want to say good bye to Peeta. I will miss Katniss’s valor and spunk. Even as I fly through these last pages of mounting action, I am savoring every last word like Katniss with the loaf of burnt bread outside of Peeta’s bakery.
I don’t think I am alone in this. Not wanting to say good-bye to something, even if the next trilogy, the next job, the next relationship, or next whatever is even better. It might even exceed our wildest dreams and could be “the one;” good-byes are tough. I believe this is part of what keeps people locked in abusive relationships or dead end jobs and missing out on what’s around the corner, or what could be if you just let go…
Yet nothing and no one in this life is permanent.
Emerson Hart wrote a song for a friend who described to him the conflicting emotions he felt while divorcing his wife. The song’s called “I wish the best for you.” Check out a few lines:
“How long can we wait here
To say goodbye?

The words once they’re spoken
Are words that we can’t take
Back to where we were, before
Things got in the way

Life gets so confusing
When you know what you’re losing

You
Me
Why can’t we see that there’s
More to love than we’ll ever know

Sometimes you’re closer when you’re
Letting go

I wish the best for you”

This song gets me because of the truth in it.
I know. I’ve walked in those shoes – The ache of saying good-bye, even if you know it is the right thing. You have to let go.
This song reminds me that I am not alone. I also find comfort in The Bible—Even people who spent time with The Almighty had a tough time with this. The followers of Jesus had just said what they thought was their final good-bye to Him as He hung on the cross and took His last breath. Good Friday.
John 19:30 records Jesus: “’It is finished!’ Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.”
But after the Resurrection, when Mary Magdalene sees Him just after she came upon the empty tomb, she cannot let go: “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
The story doesn’t end on Good Friday. This was part of His plan. It had to happen. Jesus knew they would struggle with letting go of Him and even tried to give them a “heads-up”:
“I am leaving you with a gift; peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you; I am going away, but I will come back to you again.”…. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.” (John 14:27)
He knew what He had to do. There was a purpose to the pain He would endure. He said His good-byes but He also assured His followers that He would always be with them (John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.”)
Because I know Jesus and because I believe, I have found that there is something beyond “good-byes” and beyond this life that is permanent – God’s love. “For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.” (Psalm103:11)
“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
As each of us faces the pain of whatever it is we have to let go of, whether it be a relationship, an addiction, a loved one, a job or a decision, I hope you grasp firmly to the peace that Jesus left us with. I pray that you know that there is a plan and a purpose in the pain and that purpose might just be around the next corner.
As I prepare myself to say good-bye to Gale, Katniss, Prim and Peeta, I remind myself – there is always the movie. And I ready myself with my waterproof mascara for the Good Friday services, I focus my heart on the joy of Easter –Resurrection Sunday.
And remember, even though it is finished, it is not the end.

THE ULTIMATE UNDERDOG

football ominousBroncos barrell guy

THE ULTIMATE UNDERDOG

                       

I love a good underdog story. Anyone who was born in Colorado after 1970 can attest to this.  The Denver Broncos. John Elway.  Famous now, but were you a fan when they were stacking up losses like letters of rejection during the recession? If you were a Bronco fan, you were a fan of underdog stories because they were always the underdogs and always lost.

Super Bowl commercials even mocked the Broncos, nicknaming them the “Donkeys.” It took them more than four trips to the Super Bowl and wasn’t until their5th visit to the Super Bowl that they won. 

Three of those devastating Super Bowl losses were under John Elway. 

I wish I knew what John Elway was feeling as he walked into his fourth Super Bowl trip. I don’t doubt each player was determined to win at each game. But this one had to be different. My bet is he was downright, doggedly determined to see his team through. Whatever he needed to do – he was going to do it. Leave it all on the field. His loyalty, perseverance and focus were certainly at their peak.

Not many know of their underdog days now, but we Coloradans-the orange crush– had this ingrained in us. It is a part of me. I love when someone, some team, or some family, etc., shows the sheer determination, stamina, humility, perseverance (and sprinkled with some sacred circumstances) rises up. Love it.

I had to put an underdog story in my book “grace.” Honestly, it was my very favorite part to write. Instead of sitting on the couch in front of the TV., sipping a barley soda and chomping on cheesy dip, all the while biting my nails and sweating it out to see if those “donkeys”  just might pull it through this year, I got to detail it with my own team The Mighty Lions

 

In my opinion, the thing about the underdog stories that makes them so good is the victory.  The triumph against crazy odds, unbelievable circumstances coupled with dogged determination, or whatever it might be—the story requires a “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y!”

Even though John Elway was quarterback for three of those Super Bowl losses with the Broncos, the Broncos are one of only seven NFL teams to claim two consecutive Super Bowl wins—both with John Elway at the helm.

Pretty amazing.

Yet it pales in comparison to the best underdog story of all time. It comes from the best-selling book of all time. It is about a carpenter from Nazareth;—no one would believe that something good would come from Nazareth-that pit of a place. In fact, his hometown didn’t even want to acknowledge him.

Yet, this story has God’s fingerprints all over it. Sacred circumstance. Jesus, this carpenter, at the prime age of 33, was betrayed by the closest of friends, wrongfully accused in a court of public opinion, rejected by those He came to save, denied by his followers, beaten, abused, spat on, humiliated, whipped, crushed, mocked and then, limb by limb, hung on a cross to die as soldiers cast lots for His clothes.

 

 Talk about hopelessness. Unbelievable circumstances. My mind cannot grasp…

And you wouldn’t even believe what He did as he hung on that cross situated between two thieves. 

Luke 23:39 tells us: “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us?’

But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’

Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’

Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”

Hanging there, Jesus did what He does best – He forgave. Forgiving not only this repentant thief, but all who did this to Him- “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” Luke 23:34

Forgiveness for all.  ALL. Even as He takes his last breath on earth, He refuses to give up doing what He came for.

Thinking of the elation I had when the Broncos won that first Super Bowl doesn’t even come close; nor does that second-in-a-row victory… Jesus perseveres and then he takes it even further.

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the woman bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again”

Jesus defied all odds, breaking the laws of science and the chains of the oppressed. He arose from the tomb and declared “V-I-C-T-O-R-Y” over death once-and-for-all.                                       

 He is risen.

 And the CROWD GOES WILD!!!