Hope, birthed in an Easter Candy Hunt

Easter.

What does it mean?

I awakened this morning to the wonder of this day, Easter. A day when we Christians celebrate the resurrection of our Saviour.

For me, a day filled with warm childhood memories during the early years in Mexico, before religious traditions put an end to Easter egg hunts. Was it an annual tradition? Or did it happen only once? I don’t know. But I remember searching for Easter candy as a preschooler. Tagging along with older siblings, the place I remember with greatest fondness is the straw bales, and finding candy there.

Life was harsh, back then, with family violence and struggling parents. But those moments were sweet. It wasn’t just the candy. My memory of the day held much deeper meaning than candy, though, back then, I did like the sugar rush too. (Less, now). The sweetness was a blend of the treats and a reprieve from the mundane, struggling, ordinary life. A life I would grow up to discover was not ordinary at all. But back then it was.

Easter morning, long after the candy hunts ended, or hunt as the case may be, became a day of hope for me, starting in childhood. We moved to Canada the summer before I turned six. If we ever did an Easter candy hunt again, I have no recollection of it. But I distinctly remember the hope.

Hope that filled my chest one crisp Easter morning when I was around eight. There was no particular reason for it, other than a feeling that I had been conditioned for, in Mexico. It was a day set apart. I was dressed in my Sunday best, with little white ankle socks and shiny black patent shoes, with straps. It was the straps I liked the most. They made me feel pretty. I went outside that crisp Easter morning, and as I breathed in, it was as if I breathed in new life. It had been cool enough the night before that a thin shell of ice had formed over the puddle. I tapped it with my shoe, breaking it, and picked up a piece to feel the coolness.

It was a happy morning.

My father stood chatting with someone who had dropped by. I listened without hearing, and watched them. And then I ran off to play in the old car, with no wheels, sitting amongst dad’s junk collection. (Or ‘prell’ as we called it in Plautdeutsch, rolling the ‘r’).

I’ve often wondered why I recall that morning so vividly, and still, at 50, feel it when I think back. The scene, forever etched on my memory, is profound only for what I felt. Joy. Peace. Hope. That same feeling is associated with a special yellow dress I had in my early teens. And every Easter, most of my life, since childhood.

Easter. What does it mean to me?

In childhood, Easter was the silver lining in a hard life. It took me years to understand why it filled my chest as it did, long after the candy hunts ended, no longer part of our family’s tradition. Even before I truly understood the symbolism of its spiritual meaning. 

Today I understand.

That special day, searching for candy among the straw bales, hope was birthed in me. In stark contrast with the harshness of life, the simple celebration of that morning, wandering our property in search of candy, was a blessed relief. It promised a better life is possible.

Screen Shot 2020-04-12 at 9.09.05 AM

Somewhere in my teens I started to grasp the deep spiritual significance of that childhood hope. The stirring in my chest transitioned from that childhood unknown, to a powerful awareness of what Jesus did for me on the cross.

I, a sinner. He, God eternal. And He chose that broken path to the cross, for me. For my sin. My redemption. He chose trauma, death, and suffering. For me. To offer me reprieve from the brokenness of my life. Dying for my sin. And, not only for my sin, but all the brokenness that I would experience. And yours. He stepped in, unhesitatingly,

A promise of love, that declared I am worth being loved. Of being valued. So worth love that He would die to buy my freedom to know love.

We call that day, “Good Friday”. I read the story, and ponder the path He walked, His suffering, and I think there’s not one good thing about that day. Nothing. How can it be good when they kill an innocent man, and it is my sin and shame that played a hand in it?

It is the darkest of days in our Christian. history. It is symbolic of my life before I knew Him personally. That day. It feels like the days when violence ruled my childhood. Heavy. Broken. Tragic.

That Day.

I remember it. I acknowledge it. I worship my God on ‘that day’. I am deeply, deeply grateful for that day. But it is not ‘Good Friday’ to me. No offence to my Christian heritage and chosen lingo. It was a Friday (or Thursday, depending who you ask), from hell. It was evil, at its lowest depths, attacking the sacred like it never had before. Like it never would, or even could, again

That Day was the epitome of evil, the height of spiritual darkness.

Oh… but Easter was coming!

On that third day, when hope of a fulfilled promise, seemed to have died… When death would have begun to set into the corpse… When the rituals of spicing the body of The Christ had been delayed because of the Sabbath, and would not be so pleasant with decay having begun…

That Easter morning. Hope was dead. The harsh reality of practical burial rituals beckoned Mary to return and begin the process of grieving properly.

There, in utter hopelessness, He was. A promise fulfilled. Risen from the grave. Fully alive.

In that moment, as His body breathed in deep of our fallen world, He took in, again, the sins and sorrows of the generations.

And as He exhaled, He breath filled our world with His Eternal Presence.

Hope, birthed in an infant, snuffed out on the cross – or so it seemed, came alive in His resurrection.

Hope breathed the eternal into our fallenness. Our brokenness. Our sorrow. Our lostness.

Hope.

That’s what Easter means to me.

Hope. A promise fulfilled. New life.

This Easter, wherever you find yourself in the midst of this present chaos, I pray His life will breathe hope into your heart.

I pray that…
Where there is fear, may you be filled Hope. Where there is brokenness, Hope will touch you with His healing. Where there is fallenness, Hope will cover you with forgiveness, grace and redemption. Where there is betrayal, Hope will surround and fill you with love. Where there is emptiness, Hope will rise victorious in you; that your life will be the testimony of the empty tomb giving birth to new and greater things, of eternal value. Above all, I pray, that you will know the Jesus of the resurrection, personally. No matter who you are (or think you are), or what you have done, Jesus died, for you. But He did not stay in the grave! He conquered death so that you, so that I, would know eternal life with Him.

This is my prayer for you today, and for me.

Happy Easter!

*****

As I wrote this, Broken Vessels crossed my YouTube playlist.  I will leave it here for you to enjoy, if contemporary worship is your thing. It is my testimony. The revelation of His love. The wonder that He would lay down His life to raise the broken to life.

What a Saviour!

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

Update: Anabaptist church in the Bronx & an invitation to a day of prayer and fasting, April 3

Each day I look forward to updates from Rich about what their church has been up to. It isn’t possible for me to do what they are doing, though I would long to do so, so for now I do the part I can: pray, share their updates, and contribute financially. A week ago I didn’t know he and Sandy are pastoring a church, and knew nothing about their church, and now  they have left a ‘heart print’ on my life, and many of you. Following is his update:

***A few disclaimers to our friends and acquaintances. As I read through your kind, thoughtful comments from last night’s post and noticed that many friends shared the post, I got a bit uneasy. I mean, our family and close friends and church know that my breath stinks if I don’t brush my teeth or take a breath mint, and I can blow up a bathroom with the best of them. Another way to put this? We are just ordinary people serving an extraordinary God. Some of you seem to have been preparing nominations for sainthood for Rich and Sandy. Please don’t waste your postage. We are ordinary people serving an extraordinary God. We really do appreciate your prayers! Seriously.

This global, national, and local crisis is serious, despite those who think it is just a vast left-wing conspiracy to unseat the powers that be. Political hacks exist in every party and in every community, but this is more serious than any political hack. I am suggesting to our church group and to any other believers out there who are interested, please consider making Friday, April 3rd, a Day of Prayer and Fasting.

II Chronicles 7:12-14 is very relevant for such a time as this. “When I…send a pestilence…if my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” The people of God will always make the right choice when we humble ourselves, and pray and seek the face of God, and repent of anything we need to repent of. Fasting provides us a chance to identify more closely with the suffering that others are facing, and to direct ourselves away from our food [and other] addictions and towards God.

2 Chronicles 7:14

I am hesitant to mention names of people to pray for in this public forum, but if you are interested in a list of prayer requests email us at uwriterich@gmail.com

Friends have been asking how to give to us as we help here. We have a church PayPal account, bjcgive@gmail.com. The church received $880 in the past two days from friends interested in helping us as we help our community. If you want to give now, we will designate it for ministry for EMS workers, ER workers, and other persons affected by this crisis. We have a friend who lost his job, a friend whose business is struggling, and the friend on the ventilator we mentioned last night has some financial difficulties. Brianna said that we ought to see if we could start a fund to help people who are out of a job who can’t pay their rent. I think that’s a great idea. Unfortunately, this struggle is going to hit many parts of the US and world. We are in the middle of it right here in NYC, but there are places around the US and around the world that are soon going to be in the middle of it, either with the medical crisis or the economic crisis, and probably both. If you would rather give directly to us as a family you could PM us and we could send you our mailing or PayPal address.

We are hoping to recruit some help to take another set of sandwiches to the Jacobi Medical Center this Friday. I already asked Orville, our Christian friend on Boston Road whose restaurant is slow, if we can order our sandwiches from him. And he agreed to pay another friend who lost his job to come in and help him prepare the sandwiches. It’s probably not “trickle-down economy” for those who know the term. Maybe we’ll call it “Living Waterfalls” economy.

Brendan Weaver here at Believers in Jesus Church spearheaded some food distribution and prayer today, and sent an update to us, which I include below:

**Our church provided lunch for the EMS Station nearest us today. We provided food for 35 people including platters of sub sandwiches and a cookie platter from Subway, single-serving chip bags and drinks from Aldi. Suzie is the little Asian lady at Subway that I have worked with over the past two days for the food orders. I had explained our mission to her yesterday and today she seemed delighted to see me and was eager to help figure out exactly how much food would be need. Both days she went the extra mile to give discounts. Today as I was leaving, I bid her farewell with a “God bless.” Her response was, “No, God bless you.”

At the EMS Station it was a bit confusing to find the main entrance so I approach a running ambulance with a crew sitting in the front and explained my reason for being there. They directed me to the front door then they went inside to get help to carry the food. Probably 6 or 8 EMTs and Paramedics came out to help carry in the bags. They were all enthusiastic with their appreciation and thanks including cries of “God is good.” They asked me to come into the station where I met the desk lieutenant and EMT Guzman, who was my contact from yesterday. All were very grateful and appreciative that the church would reach out in this way. The lieutenant said about 50% of their staff is out sick and their call volume is higher than normal, but they are doing okay because they have received mutual aid support in the form of EMTs and paramedics from other states to help staff their ambulances. I spoke with them for a few minutes and then asked if it would be okay if we prayed together. They agreed and the group of 6-8 of us in the room had prayer together asking for God’s protection on them and our city. I explained that many churches are reaching out from across the USA wanting to know how to help and that they please let us know if they could think of any other way beyond food and prayer that we could be of assistance. I also made sure to attach prayer cards from Stan & Sharon to each platter of sandwiches and cookies and also gave them a stack of prayer cards. As I was leaving, they were sending out a message on their radio that the food had arrived. One thing is sure, the gift was appreciated and FDNY EMS Station 20 was blessed today.**

Ecc 11:1 Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days.
1 Cor 3:7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

If you can join us, let’s make Friday, April 3rd, a Day of Prayer and Fasting.

Rich***

*****

About a week or two into the realization that there is a serious pandemic on our hands, and it isn’t only media hype, I found the photo (above), added 2 Chronicles 7:14, and made it my Facebook profile pic. At the time I had forgotten that the verses prior talk about God sending a pestilence, followed by this call to repentance. A pestilence is a fatal epidemic disease. It wasn’t until Rich wrote about it that this detail came back to me.

For many months, even years. there have been prophetic voices speaking into this, warning the people of God to repent, to turn back to His ways, or there will be consequences. From worshipping materialism, to holding our own beliefs as ‘salvation’ — or our good name — to disregarding Amos 5, where God makes it clear that He is sick of ‘worship’ when justice and mercy have lost their place, we need to repent and turn our hearts back to Him. If you want to know what is important to God, read Amos 5:

A Lament and Call to Repentance
Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:
“Fallen is Virgin Israel,
never to rise again,
deserted in her own land,
with no one to lift her up.”
This is what the Sovereign Lordsays to Israel:
“Your city that marches out a thousand strong
will have only a hundred left;
your town that marches out a hundred strong
will have only ten left.”
This is what the Lord says to Israel:

“Seek me and live;
    do not seek Bethel (a holy place).
do not go to Gilgal (Joshua 4:20 – an alter),
do not journey to Beersheba (God’s promises, Genesis 26:23–33).
For Gilgal (the alter) will surely go into exile,
and Bethel (the holy place) will be reduced to nothing.[a]
Seek the Lord and live,
or he will sweep through the tribes of Joseph like a fire;
it will devour them,
and Bethel will have no one to quench it.
There are those who turn justice into bitterness
and cast righteousness to the ground
He who made the Pleiades and Orion,
who turns midnight into dawn
and darkens day into night,
who calls for the waters of the sea
and pours them out over the face of the land—
the Lord is his name.
With a blinding flash he destroys the stronghold
and brings the fortified city to ruin.
10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
and detest the one who tells the truth.
11 You levy a straw tax on the poor
and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
for the times are evil.
14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.
16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says:
“There will be wailing in all the streets
and cries of anguish in every public square.
The farmers will be summoned to weep
and the mourners to wail.
17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards,
for I will pass through your midst,”
says the Lord.
The Day of the Lord
18 Woe to you who long
for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
21 I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
    your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!
25 “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
the pedestal of your idols,
the star of your god—
which you made for yourselves.
27 Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus (a well-watered land),”
says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.
    Says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.

 

Do I think God is ‘sending’ the current epidemic?  No. Not at all. Disease is the result of our sin and fallenness. And when we cut God out, or turn from Him to idolatry, there are consequences. And idolatry is giving our primary allegiance and focus to anything other than God. It is exalting any other thing to the place reserved for Jesus, for God. Whether a physical idol, a belief system, or any other thing that I hold as part of my salvation or give my love and allegiance, we have a definite problem with idolatry in churches today. And God has stepped back. He has not abandoned us, but He has not prevented the consequences of sin from doing great harm. It is up to us to humble ourselves and cry out to Him.

I have written about it before, and it bears repeating. God calls believers to repent for the healing of the nation. I invite you to join in, Friday April 3, to fast and pray for our nation, to repent of what you need to repent of, and to stand in the gap for all impacted by this terrible devastation.

 

As always,

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020

 

Update: Anabaptist Church’s ministry moves Bronx nurse to tears

Last evening Rich shared an update that left me in tears. It is so beautiful, the doors God opens, and how the care of His children gives the weary frontline workers a safe place:

***Quick report on today’s opportunities to deliver Subway/ DD/deli sandwiches, sodas, box of Joe (DD) and box of hot chocolate to the ER workers at Jacobi Medical Center. Our contact, the director of communications at Jacobi, asked us to meet her at the ambulatory entrance to the trauma center, so we pulled up there and offloaded our food and drinks, enough for about 60 people. Our friends Stan and Sharon from our church made these cool little cards with verses on one side and “If you need prayer” contact information on the back and we taped the cards on the sandwich wrappers. Sandy prayed with our hospital friend who received the food with gratefulness. She said that her father has just been admitted to the hospital this morning, and she talked about the stresses of this time at the hospital. She also took a small packet of masks that our friend Sharon had sewn and told Sandy that they could definitely use these masks for patients and other people who come to the ER.

Our friend Brendan from our church got the Subway sandwiches, so it was a neat team effort. Our daughter Bri was closing down the Eastchester Dunkin’ Donuts this afternoon because the owner (he has seven Dunkin’ Donuts) needs to consolidate his dwindling work force. So the owner told Bri to give the doughnuts and bagels to her parents to give to the hospital. Sandy returned that afternoon to DD to pick up those items and she spoke with a police officer in line. She had the opportunity to speak with that police officer and pray with him, and he recommended that she take the free doughnuts to the EMS station. Sandy thought to herself that this is what she loves to do, pray for people.  She took the doughnuts and bagels and headed off to where she thought was the local EMS station, but the GPS took her back to Jacobi. So there she was at the Jacobi Medical Center. Sandy sat in the car and prayed about what to do. She saw an ambulance pull up and decided to go up and offer the food to the paramedics. A male nurse came up behind her from getting out of his car and said “May I help you?” She said “I just came to encourage you today.” He lifted his glasses to look at her and told her “I had to step away from the madness for a little while and take a break.” The man started to cry and Sandy asked if she can pray for him. She stood there, praying for this big male nurse, with tears running down his cheeks. The man told her that he and his coworkers had just stepped outside earlier that afternoon and held hands and prayed, because there is so much stress. Here is this big guy, broken up and crying, telling her “I just had to step away from it for a while.”

Brianna has two coworkers who have each lost family members to COVID-19 in the past week. One of her co-workers lost her Grandpa, and they couldn’t even go to visit him while he was in the hospital. Another of her co-workers lost her Uncle. The co-worker who lost her Grandpa is now at home, sick.

Our friend up the block on Corsa Avenue is perhaps a few years older than us, and she has been hospitalized since Friday with COVID-19. Today they had to put her on the ventilator, which seems kind of like her health is headed in the wrong direction. Please pray for our friends and neighbors around here, and pray for us. The “news” out there gets more real when it is the news right here in our community.

Rich ***

Today they planned to serve the local EMS.

Again, if you would like to financially support the costs of this ministry,  the following email is the church’s PayPal: bjcgive@gmail.com

******

One medical professional, I am told by a friend, had to wrap over a dozen dead bodies in black plastic yesterday, March 31, 2020. Unless we are them, we cannot possibly imagine being responsible for that task. The strain of this, knowing that with each infected body they are exposing themselves to this virus, and with that exposure they risk infecting their families at home, is almost too much for some. Yet they press on, knowing they, too, could be that body. You don’t work that closely with death and not feel your own mortality. It is no small wonder that a medical professional would be reduced to tears when a kind strangers shows up to care and pray.

It is my hope that hearing these inspiring stories will give more believers the courage to be bold in love, practical service and prayer in this COVID-19 crisis. We live with pre-conceived notions about the people around us. A big tough nurse, on the outside, does not show us a tender soul on the inside, taxed to the endth degree by present circumstances. To be surrounded by thousands dead and dying in your city and hospital, as these healthcare professionals are in New York, would be most difficult. Not only is there sickness and death, there is the awareness that loved ones are being torn apart in their time of suffering.  That is a form of suffering all its own; one these healthcare providers are obligated to enforce. One we do well to be aware of, to pray for the healthcare providers, all frontline workers, the sick and dying, and to support those in our lives who are isolated in ways that wear down the mind and body.

I think of my brother fighting a hard battle with cancer. He has been courageous, as has his wife. We, as family, have tried to visit regularly — with some able to go more frequently than others — and cook for them. Now they are isolated, going through this battle without the physical presence of friends and loved ones. I hear her voice, the loneliness and heaviness of the journey, and ache for them.

These are difficult times for many. I am more introvert than extrovert — ambivert would be most accurate — and adjust easily to being home, or being alone, though I do miss friends from time to time, and especially miss seeing our children and grandchildren. For many this is depressing and lonely. For those in abuse situations, this is a terrifying time. As someone who grew up in violence, I remember well how times of stress and financial hardship escalated violence and death threats. For those spouses and children, this isolation is a most hellish thing.

In some way most of us, or all of us, have been impacted, in big or small ways, and for many this increases the risk of depression and suicide. As believers in Jesus, we have love and hope to offer, even if only by extending a listening ear.

For this reason the churches who insist on meeting, rather than allowing themselves to be ‘scattered to serve’, boggle my mind. Whatever the motive — whether to prove they can do their thing, or to keep the money rolling in, or whatever else might be their motives — it does nothing to convince the world of love. Absolutely nothing. It is selfish.

If we would all lay aside our temporary losses and call one another to love, prayer and kind deeds, would we not exemplify the love of Jesus beautifully? This is what drew me to the little Anabaptist church in NYC. They are heroes. They are human. They are not seeking to be noticed or idolized. (So please don’t). But they are living the love of Jesus well. They are preaching with their hands and their feet, and encouraging through prayer. They inspire me… make me ask, “What can I do to show His love?”

And amid the pressure of completing this term of university, I’m trying to find little ways of making a difference.  In the weeks and months ahead, we will have opportunity to serve our fellow mankind,  to rise up like we never have before, to carry the burden of the inevitable cost and consequences resulting from this tragic time. We need to prepare our hearts today for this call, and the doors God will open for us to take His love into the world around us.

To have one foot firmly planted in the present reality — so we can be present and supportive, and the other firmly rooted in eternity, with a heart invested in Jesus and people, this is my desire and my commitment.

My prayer for you, for me, for us today is quite simple, “Jesus, hold your children tonight. The lost ones. The found ones. The struggling ones. The secure ones. We invite you to be present in our stories, in every part. Help us, who know you, to be mindful of those in need around us… to lean in and listen to the fears around us and offer love and compassion… to hear the hearts that feel lost and alone, and offer encouragement. Help us to represent you well. Always. And in all ways. Thank you for loving us in our brokenness. Now, help us love others in their brokenness too. Amen.”

NOTE: If you have a good news story you would like me to share in the midst of the tragedy of COVID-19 , send it to my personal email. There will be no shortage or tragedy in coming days, and that tragedy needs to be acknowledged. But we also need to hear encouraging stories, and see humans coming together to support one another, and blessing those who are in the front lines.

As always…

Love,
~ T ~

© Trudy Metzger 2020