Archive for April, 2014

Why I’m Not Worried About the Pledge

By Kathy NickersonApril 28th, 2014mercy3 Comments

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The Pledge of Allegiance is under attack. Again. Parents in a school somewhere want “under God” removed from it, and they are suing to get their way. It’s just one more effort in the ageless battle to prove that the movie is wrong: God is dead. Or was never alive. Take your pick.

I strongly disagree with these parents. But I’m not worried they will win. Even if they get those words removed from the Pledge; even if they come up with some alternative creed that gives credit to The Earth Who Birthed us or some wacko idea, they won’t win.

Two thousand years ago, a group of Roman soldiers were hired to keep the body of Jesus in the tomb. They rolled the stone and set a seal. They posted a guard and stood a fierce watch. But they failed.

Despite their best efforts, no army, no government, no disgruntled few can ever keep Jesus in a tomb. He walks through walls.

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Going with the Flow

By Kathy NickersonApril 24th, 2014mercy8 Comments

IMG_0027One tidbit we always tell young parents is to not let your children become dependent on a specific bedtime ritual. If your daughter always has to have a story, a song, the blue cup, and the white blankie — in that order, you are setting yourself up for disaster. Some night the blue cup will be missing, and screaming shall ensue.

Instead, we tell parents to teach children several methods for soothing themselves to sleep. Rituals are good, as long as they can be altered slightly without creating chaos.

I should have listened to us.

In the past two weeks, many of my own little rituals have shifted, and I am lost. I’m pretty sure my blue cup got thrown out with the trash, and I may never find it again!

The funny thing is, the changes were all small. And, they were good! We rearranged the living room. It works much better, but my favorite chair is under a different lamp. I upgraded a software program to an online version. Better features, but nothing is in the right place. (Even my accountant was lost the first week.) I finally got a private office for the writing and administrating parts of my jobs, but I can’t find the rhythm between buildings yet, and neither place feels quite like home. And then, a new computer at work. Hurray! With Windows 8. Oh, my.

All these things have unsettled me, and I’m still trying to find my way. I’m truly amazed to learn what a creature of habit I’ve become, and I’m rather ashamed of myself for being so bothered. But I don’t know what to do except press on. Find the beat. Learn the operating system. Go with the flow. (Even when it seems to be flowing uphill instead of down.)

Pray for me, Saints.

And then, tell me how you handle change.

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The Day After

By Kathy NickersonApril 21st, 2014mercy1 Comment

IMG_0363The morning after Easter always feels so fresh to me. I love Easter Sunday, of course. Especially yesterday when I got to sing in the church choir! I am not a singer. I gave birth to four children who have amazing talent, but they got it from their father. Yesterday, I stepped into the bathroom just as someone was recruiting warm bodies to fill suddenly empty spots in our small choir.

Since I do love to worship, I agreed to go on stage. And it was a blast!!! I kept forgetting that I wanted to just blend into the background and add a visual to the experience. Instead, I kept getting carried away and singing my heart out. I almost giggled at one point when I glanced over and saw a couple of my favorite musicians just feet away.  “Yeah, I’m with the band.”

So, Easter rocked this year. Literally. But this is the morning in history when the world really changed. The morning after. The day when Peter, John, Mary Magdalene, and all the others looked around and said, “The world will never be the same. Death has lost. Evil has been defeated.”

On this Monday after Easter, when we are marking the anniversary of the terrible tragedy in Boston, I am especially aware what a difference Easter has made. We may not see its full effects until Jesus comes again, but we stand upon the promise today. We hold onto the reality. We know the secret that the disciples learned centuries ago. We win.

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Still the Greatest Story

By Kathy NickersonApril 17th, 2014mercy1 Comment
"The Veil" courtesy of Caleb Palmer

“The Veil” courtesy of Caleb Palmer

 

I’m posting this a few hours before Good Friday, which was only good for us, of course. Not for Jesus. In the unfolding of passion week, these were the longest hours of all. The betrayal by a kiss. The gripping moment when Peter drew a sword to fight, and cut off one guy’s ear. (I love him for that.)

The surprising exchange when Jesus told Peter it wasn’t time to fight, and then He healed the ear.

The awful torture by Roman soldiers. The devastating loss of friends who scattered. The three-time denial by Peter.

I read these accounts again and react just like in a movie I’ve seen a dozen times. I know the Good Guy will win in the end. I know Peter will be restored, though Judas will be lost. And, even though I know, I tremble in my soul like the women who wait near the cross. I cannot imagine how they felt that day, because I’ve always only known this story in its fullness — with it’s happy ending.

But today, approaching Good Friday, I try to see things from their perspective. I try to remember that for a few, long hours, it seemed that all was really lost.

But, fortunately, that was not the end of the story...

 

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When Death Passed Over

By Kathy NickersonApril 14th, 2014mercy3 Comments

Summer Baptism _kathynick.comMore than forty-five years ago, I heard my grandfather preach a sermon about the first Passover. The night the Death Angel stalked throughout the land of Egypt, killing all the first born. “From the first-born of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, to the first born of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” Exodus 12

I’m pretty sure I inherited some of my story-telling genes from Grandpa Adair. That Sunday, he told the story so vividly I can still hear the sound of the wind swirling through the homes in Goshen when the Death Angel passed over. We were not Jewish, and I don’t remember my grandfather ever preaching anything with as much historical detail as he gave that day.

And, I’ve never forgotten the main point of his story. The first-born among the children of Israel would be saved. One one condition. That they remained in the house and under the blood.

It was the first time I heard about the sacrifice of a Passover lamb. The first time I learned how the blood was applied to the door posts and the lintel. The first time I glimpsed a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, as the Apostle Paul would later say.

I didn’t always walk steadily in the faith from that day forward. I made some mistakes as I grew up in the era of hippie love and Viet Nam war. But anytime I strayed too far, the memory of the Passover Lamb brought me home. Long before I understood salvation or sanctification, I knew this:The safest place to be in this crazy, messed up world is in the House and under the Blood.

And I’m still there.

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The Children’s Song

By Kathy NickersonApril 10th, 2014mercyNo Comments

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One of the moments that sometimes gets lost in stories of Passion Week is something traditionally called The Children’s Hosanna. It is a brief mention in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 21. Right after the Triumphal Entry, while Jesus was healing the blind and lame in the Temple, a spontaneous shout of praise broke out.

It was more of the Hosanna in the Highest that the angels started singing the night Jesus was born. The song had been quiet for thirty-some years, only breaking out now and then when a demon was cast out or a body was healed. But now, in these last days, it is being shouted all over town.

And suddenly, it is picked up by the children. One of my favorite writers on all things historical or Jewish is Alfred Edersheim. He says the correct translation is young boys and that these were probably sons who accompanied their fathers to the Temple that day.

I love that. I can imagine those little boys, following in their father’s footsteps, trying to do everything just as their father’s did. And suddenly in the middle of the Temple rituals, a new song breaks out. A new sound is heard. And these small boys picked it up and shouted right along with the angels.

Maybe they didn’t truly understand what they said, but surely their souls were stirred. And all because they were in the right place at the right time. All because their fathers took them along for prayers and worship.

We never know when a moment like this will break out in our lives. Maybe in a Sunday service when the wind of the Spirit blows in a new way. Or maybe in our living room when a snatch of conversation becomes a discussion on how the world was made.

The song of Hosanna is still ringing. Our role as parents is simply to keep our children in a place where they can hear it. They will have to choose to sing.

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A Certain Young Man

By Kathy NickersonApril 7th, 2014mercy1 Comment

olive groveOne thing I like to do when I read the gospel accounts of the Passion is to concentrate on specific people in each scene. This year, I’ve been thinking about John Mark. Most scholars agree he is the disciple who wrote the New Testament book of Mark. It is a fast-paced, Headline News version of the gospels, with special attention to the servant leadership of Jesus Christ.

John Mark’s mother was evidently one of those “prominent women” who supported the work of Jesus. In the early days after Pentecost, the church in Jerusalem often gathered at her house. That is where Peter went when he was released from prison by a miracle. (and got the door slammed in his face by a shocked servant girl.)

Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement was Mark’s cousin. He managed to take John Mark along on some trips with the famous Apostle Paul. (They had a bit of a falling out, but it was later reconciled. Proving, once again that Christianity would be perfect if it were not for all those people in it!)

The Apostle Peter called John Mark his son in the faith. It seems probable that Mark got much of the information for his gospel from Peter.

All those things could make a young man rather full of himself. But we don’t read that in his book. Instead, the only time we have a hint that John Mark might be giving us an eye-witness account is in the Garden of Gethsemane.

After the heart-breaking betrayal and arrest, Mark’s gospel says “And they all left Him and fled.” Then, the account goes on and tells the story of “a certain young man” who was following them wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body. I don’t know why he was wearing only a sheet. Scholars don’t know why. Some suggest the commotion woke him and drew him from his bed. Whatever the reason, there he was. And when the soldiers grabbed Jesus, the boy dropped his sheet and ran for home. Naked.

Maybe it wasn’t Mark. But if everyone had fled, who would have seen the naked boy and told the tale? I think Mark told on himself. I like to think by the time he wrote this fifty years or so later, his place in the Kingdom of God was so secure, his relationship with Jesus and the other disciples so tight, that he had no problem recording his own embarrassing moment for the world to see.

I can’t imagine any other reason to include this detail in such a gripping, gruesome, moment except to say, “I was there.”

And, if that’s true, then I love him for it.

 

 

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People on the Way

By Kathy NickersonApril 3rd, 2014mercy2 Comments

mountain with lightPeople are the most important part of any journey. And Jesus met some interesting souls on his way to Jerusalem. Each one deserves a blog post and study of his own, but we’ll do a quick overview of a few today.

Moses – Jesus and Moses met on the top of a mountain we call Transfiguration. That wasn’t the name of the mountain. That is the label Churchdom has given to the experience Jesus had on the mountain when he met with Moses and Elijah. They came to encourage Him on His way to saving the world. We don’t know for sure that they talked about the cross, but most scholars agree so. At some point, though, they talked about the Glory to Come, and then they saw it. Jesus touched His Heavenly home in such power that it changed Him. Briefly.

I love all the rich visuals of this encounter, and I am fascinated by this glimpse of a thin veil between Heaven and Earth.  And outside all the other, deeper meanings, I love this: Moses stood in the Promised Land. He lost that privilege on earth. But, in Heaven, all things are made brand new. Evidently, we sometimes get a do-over.

Jesus went from that encounter back to the dusty roads and hungry souls of the world. As He trekked toward His destiny, he healed a blind beggar, called a tax-collector down from a tree, accepted the ministry of a weeping woman, and ate supper with a good friend he had once raised from the dead.

Evidently, people are important no matter how busy we are.

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