Saturday, April 23, 2011

The day after "Good Friday"

About 2,000 years ago this was a sad and hopeless day for the disciples of Jesus.  I could only imagine the mourning, pain, and guilt they felt.  I couldn't imagine a more hopeless group of people clinging on to his last few words.  Having seen him murdered the day before was awful, but not having his presence at all was devastating.  The day after good Friday, I believe, was the darkest and most utterly painful day in mankind's history.  But, what a glorious day to wake up to the following morning! 

Walking up to the tomb, with spices and ointments to complete their embalming process, must have been cumbersome.  But, it was astonishing to see the angel and hear him say, "Why do you look for the living among the dead.  He is not here; he is risen!"  From the account of Luke, the angel reminded them what Jesus had told them before his crucifixion.  Jesus told them that he must be handed into sinners hands to be crucified, but on the third day be raised again.  Then the Bible says, "Then they remembered his words." -Luke 24:1-8.  I can't even fathom the joy and amazement they felt after being told this.

After the resurrection of Jesus, the Bible states that Jesus visited the disciples and rebuked them for their lack of faith.  Then Jesus gave them the "Great Commission," telling them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, the son, and of the Holy Spirit"- Matthew 28:16 and Mark 9:16-19.

I read the story about the two walking on the road to Emmaus.  It gives me chills reading it.  The two were downcast and disheartened.  Jesus appeared to them, but they didn't know it was him.  Not only did they not recognize him, they thought he was a visitor traveling into Jerusalem and were still astonished that he had not heard the news.  They told Jesus about the death of a great prophet, whom they expected to redeem Israel.  I think about the sorrow these two men felt as they walked on that road.  I think about the heartache that burdened them and weighed down their every thought.  They were at a point in time where it seemed as though all hope was lost.  They were devastated, crushed, and ruined. 

Jesus pointed out their slow belief (or their lack of understanding/perceiving) in the prophets' words.  Then Jesus started from the beginning and explained all the scriptures concerning him, from Moses and all the prophets.  Jesus continued walking as though (pretending) he were traveling farther.  The two men urged him strongly to stay with them.  They saw that the day was almost over and were concerned about his well-being.  At the table Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them.  The Bible says that they then recognized him and suddenly Jesus had vanished.  Then they said to themselves, "Were not our hearts still burning while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"  Then they got up, immediately, without delay and went to Jerusalem!  It amazes me that they were concerned for the safety of someone they thought to be a stranger and urged Jesus to stay with them, but didn't even consider their own safety as they left immediately to tell the others that he was indeed alive! 

They found the disciples, among others, gathered together and exclaimed, "It is true!  The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon!"  While they were still talking about what happened on the road to Emmaus, Jesus appeared and said, "Peace be with you."  They were troubled in their hearts and had doubts.  Jesus pointed this out and told them to look at his hands and feet!  He told them to TOUCH!  He wanted them to believe!  But, they couldn't believe because of their joy and amazement.  Jesus then asked for something to eat.  They gave him a broiled fish.  He ate it in their presence, I believe, as a further demonstration that he was indeed alive.  Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures!  Then he explains to them that he will be returning to the father and he commands them to stay in the city until they have been clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:13-52).

The day after "Good Friday" was full of hopelessness.  But, Easter morning was filled with amazement, hope, and joy!  If they hadn't experienced such sorrow the day before Easter, how would they have responded that third day?  The scriptures concerning this story literally excites me to tears!  The joy I have in knowing that Christ suffered for me; that Christ put those closest to him, in devastating sorrow for me, brings me to tears!  Even the joy I feel can't compare to the joy they felt on that marvelous day!  Easter is an amazing time of year and the Easter story is full of hope and joy!

Some of us are living our lives in the "Day after Good Friday."  Some people have no hope and are devastated!  Some have been stripped of their joy and peace.  Some are looking at the tomb of despair, thinking that their hope, joy, and everything they live for will never resurrect.  Some people are stuck in that moment of time, that day of sorrow.  I have good news.  Easter has come.  My wife just said that Easter is her birthday (although she and I both know her birth certificate says December 21st).  It made me think.  It doesn't matter if you read this blog six months from now.  Your Easter is the moment you realize Christ is risen.  You can have the joy that many others have experienced.  Easter isn't an event that happens once a year at your local Church.  Easter isn't getting on your finest clothing and gathering your children to attend Sunday service.  Easter is realizing that Christ IS RISEN!  Easter can happen now!

Thank you Lord for your patience with us in our slow mindedness.  Thank you for coming into our difficult moments and revealing yourself.  You are present in all our sorrows and you are our comfort and hope.  Thank you that you put out your hands and feet for your disciples to touch and believe!  How much more do you want us, who live in this present moment, to believe?!  You are amazing and no language ever used by men will ever be able to convey the Easter story, nor your present glory!  Your glory exceeds all existence!  You are amazing and beautiful!  I am yours!  Please do with me as you wish!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Looking for a sign from God? Read this....

It's been a while since my last post, but honestly I have been busy!  God has been doing a lot of things in me and through me. A few weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to catch up with a friend of mine.  We haven't seen each other in a while because we have both been very busy.  We decided to get some coffee at Starbucks and hang out.  My friend's name is Levi.  He's an awesome friend and an amazing brother-in-Christ.  Levi is deaf.  He has been deaf nearly all of his life.  I took American Sign Language (ASL) last summer and I fell completely in love with deaf people and their culture.  I can't help but to fingerspell everything I see and sign everything I say.  ASL has been integrated in my life and I can't help, but use it.  I find myself signing during worship and signing when I am talking to people.  I can't help but sign.

We were catching up on how things were going.  He got a job in Dallas and works regularly.  Since he lives in Fort Worth, the drive takes a long time and doesn't leave him much time for anything else.  I have been busy with school and told him that all I have time for is work, my internship (learned that sign during the chat), and Church.  It was interesting, but after catching up we started talking about Church and we shared our testimony of how Christ came into our lives.  I am not going into details about what was discussed, but we had similar stories about "hearing" God.  We shared similarities on views about Church and how head knowledge gets in the way of heart knowledge.  He explained this by making a cross with his fingers and placing them on his head and then moving them to his heart.  

We also talked about deaf Churches and how it's important for deaf people to fellowship with other deaf people.  A lot of hearing Churches have an interpreter, but there is a lack of fellowship, because majority of hearing people don’t know ASL and can’t communicate with their deaf brothers-in-Christ.  They will write on a piece of paper and use gestures, but the lack of language will always hinder communication and relationship.  Fellowship is unity through culture and language.

I am going to give a little lesson on what I have learned about deaf culture.  Please be patient with me as I explain.  Also, have an open mind and really consider what is being communicated.  

Deaf Culture is Unique:

Deaf culture is different from any other culture on earth.  It’s unique and precious.  Deaf culture is not fundamentally based on race, religion, or location.  It’s based solely on the fact that the people of this culture cannot hear.  That’s it.  All people of all races, of all religions, of all origins belong to deaf culture.

Deaf and Hearing Culture:

Majority of deaf children have hearing parents.  Majority of deaf parents have hearing children.  Now, hearing parents with deaf children are more likely than not, to try and "fix" their children's hearing.  This is a long, expensive, and hurtful process.  Technology isn't what hearing parents are told it is.  Instead they are let to believe that their children, because they are deaf, will never amount to anything and the only hope for them is cochlear implants.  While all this is going on the child is left without a language.  Language is essential to the development of a child.  Culture ties strongly with language.  The bonding that every young child needs with its parent is lacking if there is no shared language.  Bonding is incredibly important for the healthy development of a child.  Deaf children, in hearing families where ASL is not the primary language, suffer many hardships.

Now, hearing children with deaf parents grow up in a home where ASL is the primary language.  The main difference between this scenario and the former is hearing children can learn ASL, deaf children cannot learn spoken language.  Why?  Because they are deaf.  How can you learn a spoken language you have never heard?  How can you enunciate sounds you have never heard and how can you make those sounds if you can’t hear yourself?  Don’t get me wrong, there are some deaf people who are very good at speaking, but this is rare and it is the result of rigorous training, which takes years to learn.  Hearing children with deaf parents, or Children of Deaf Adults (CODA’s) grow up learning ASL and a spoken language.  Think about it.  If you are hearing and you are immersed in a world that speaks, then how can you not learn the language?

For my hearing friends reading this (if you aren't deaf or hard of hearing this means you) ASL isn't just gestures and acting out things so that you get a point across.  ASL is a thorough language that expresses ideas, concepts, both abstract and concrete.  ASL has it's own language structure, much like French, English, Spanish or any other language.  I am explaining this because I don't want my hearing friends to have the misconception that we are miming when we communicate using ASL.  I want my hearing friends to understand that we are having a deep conversation using a language foreign to most hearing people. 

So with all that said, there is a divide between deaf and hearing cultures.  Technology is changing and making it easier to communicate, but I want to encourage my hearing friends to take an ASL course and learn to fingerspell.  Since I have taken ASL classes I have made some awesome friends.  Some friends I have made by meeting in public places.  Every time I see hands move I get excited!  It’s another opportunity to meet a new friend and chat!

I hope that this blog was interesting and not as boring as my last two blogs.  I am new at this, so give me a break :-p



p.s. If any of my deaf friends feel they need to add to this blog, please feel free to do so.  Also, if I had said anything that was not true or not fully explained, please let me know.  I am learning and I want others to learn also.