Details: An Easter Message

details

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5)

This verse of scripture was the assigned topic for the talk below, which I delivered in church this past Sunday. Feel free to throw some Easter in there, was basically the only other direction I received.

A few weeks ago, I didn’t even realize Jesus stayed in Bethany with the three siblings – Martha, Mary, and Lazarus – mere days before his death.

And now…

Let’s just say I may never before have written anything this important.

Details
By Angelica Hagman

Yes, Jesus Christ lived and died for us.

But His life and death were also His own.

In each life and death, there are details. Many details. The scriptures hint at only a few of the details in Christ’s.

But there were details.

Details that if we knew them, would make us nod in recognition. Details that if we knew them, would make us sad or angry for our Lord’s sake. Details that if we knew them, would make us smile, chuckle, and even laugh out loud.

And yes. Details that if we knew them, would make us cry. A lot. And for many different reasons.

So. Because I am a writer of fiction, I will now take some artistic liberties.

I will add details.

Some of these details might be right on target. Some of them might be close, but not quite. Some of them might be so far off, they’re almost laughable.

But I hope my added details, regardless of their accuracy, will make you think. I hope my added details, regardless of their factuality, will make you feel.

They made me think. They made me feel.

Because I can almost see it.

It’s mealtime. Dinner. The scent of freshly baked bread smells like a hug feels. As the sunset breeze seeks its way inside through a door left slightly ajar, a lone candle on the table flickers.

In only a few days, Jesus will die on Golgotha for the sins of all mankind. But right now, he is in Bethany, a small town just outside Jerusalem. He’s visiting Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, the three siblings John the apostle spoke of in his gospel:

“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5)

Lazarus, now lying down at the table, looks so different than he did that time not too long ago. That time Jesus, with a loud voice, called him out of his too-early grave.

Lazarus, come forth! (see John 11:43)

And Lazarus did come forth. Even after having been dead four days – four days! – he did come forth.

When Martha and Mary had wound off the burial bandages from his face, Lazarus had still looked a little…well, to be honest, a little like a walking corpse. Pale, sickly. A little disoriented. And maybe Martha’s previously voiced concern, uttered right before Jesus performed his miracle –“Lord, by this time he stinketh” (verse 39) – would prove kind of true.

But now, Lazarus has washed himself after a full day’s hard work and his rosy cheeks are plumped into a smile as he retells a joke he heard at the market. It’s a stupid joke, but everybody laughs anyway. Because without occasional laughter, looking at Jesus would be too hard.

They want to kill him. They want to kill him. They want to kill him.

Lazarus knows this. Martha knows this. Mary knows this.  

So they try not to think about it, and laugh whenever they can. Because even with the Light of the World across the table, darkness is difficult to push away.

Jesus thanks Mary and Martha for the excellent meal. Martha cuts off his praises and gently scolds him. He helped too much in its preparation, despite her protests. After all, Jesus is their guest, and diligent Martha wishes to be a good hostess.

Still, she is secretly pleased. Yes, Jesus is their guest. But He’s also their friend. No, more than a friend.

A brother.

And they want to kill him.

Just like they wanted to kill Lazarus, after Jesus raised him from the dead.

It makes no sense. They are fools! And yet, Jesus loves them. He loves them all.

Martha’s heart aches with tenderness, and to stop the tears from spilling over, she apologizes for the sixty-seventh time that day.

“Again, Jesus, I am so sorry about Ephraim,” she says. “Lazarus, if that stupid rooster crows again this coming night, you will slaughter him, Mary will pluck him, and I will cook him for tomorrow night’s supper.”

Lazarus just laughs, but Mary’s eyes widen. “No! Not Ephraim the Rooster! He’s too old, anyway. Too hard to chew.”

It’s a silly tradition, naming roosters. But their father started it, and…

And now when Martha sees Jesus’ smile she regrets mentioning Ephraim the Rooster, and joking about killing it.

They want to kill him.

She thinks back to the moments right before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Part of her hoped Jesus would choose to perform a miracle right then, and part of her was prepared to wait until Resurrection Day for that miracle.

jesus-raising-lazarus-from-dead

Lazarus raised from the dead.

Martha still remembers Jesus’ exact words:

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”

Martha also remembers her response:

“Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)

She still feels that way. And she knows Mary and Lazarus feel that way, too.

They want to kill him.

It’s too much. The tears sting so hotly behind Martha’s eyes, she has to turn away.

“Don’t worry, Martha,” Jesus says. Two beats later, he adds: “Ephraim the Rooster didn’t wake me.”

But Martha hears the real message in Jesus’ words. And she sees it too, in those loving eyes that cut into her very core and still love her.

Everything will be okay. In the end, everything will be okay.

And yes, it’s true:

Ephraim the Rooster didn’t wake Jesus in the middle of the night.

Ephraim the Rooster didn’t wake Jesus, because Jesus already lay awake.

So many thoughts. About what has been. About what is. About what is to come.

And then there are the stars, visible through the stable roof. Jesus will help Lazarus patch up the roof the next morning, but for now, the stars are a comfort.

The siblings offered him a bed inside the main house, of course, but sleeping in the stable somehow seemed right.

Thirty-three years ago, he was born in a stable. He won’t die in one – he knows that – but staying here now, in his last few days as a mortal?

There’s a sense of closure, somehow.

And the manger, the animal feeding trough in the corner…it looks a lot like one of his first big carpentry projects.

At the thought, Jesus’ heart squeezes.

Yes, Jesus is the Son of God. But he is also the Son of Joseph, the carpenter who taught him so much more than carpentry.

“I miss you, Father.” Jesus’ words seem to drift up to the stars, to both His fathers: the earthly and the heavenly.

He will reunite with Joseph soon, as well as Elohim. That is a comfort.

But who will comfort his mother, Mary? Who will stand by her, take care of her after Jesus is gone?

It will become clear to him soon, of that he feels sure. In fact, he already has somebody in mind. John, the man who will witness of him, keep his legacy of love alive in words that will one day be read by millions.

But Jesus still hopes he gets to speak privately to his mother before he draws his last mortal breaths. She’s lying awake now, too – he can feel her worrying. Yes, his mother is a woman of exceeding faith, but like Martha, she worries.

She was the one who told him to hide in Bethany with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.

“It’s not safe for you here with me, my son,” she said. Now, in the darkness, as Jesus stares at the stars through the broken stable roof, he can still feel the love in her faltering voice, the love in her hand on his cheek.

What a woman. And still, she doesn’t fully understand. Neither do Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.

But they are on his side. He knows that. And they are taking great risks for his sake.

In only a few days he will bleed in a garden, and then hang on a tree-turned-cross in Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.

And when that happens, the thought of them, and others like them, will grant him the strength he needs.

In some ways, Jesus knows, it would have been easier to spend his last few days alone, with only his Heavenly Father. Like he did those forty days in the desert before his ministry began.

But he needs the reminder. He needs the strength. He needs the comfort.

They want to kill me. And I will let them. For my mother. For Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. For all.

But he is ready. For one, Mary of Bethany – who’s now in the main house, dreaming she’s once more a child, running through the fields – has already symbolically anointed him for his grave. He can almost smell the costly ointment of spikenard. He can almost see Mary bathe his feet with the salve, then wipe it off with her hair.

Mary didn’t fully understand what she had been inspired to do, but she did it anyway. As usual.

Not that Mary or her siblings are anywhere near perfect. But that’s the point.

That’s why Jesus is here. That’s why he will do what he came here to do.

At the darkest moment of the night, Ephraim the Rooster crows. Crazy bird.

In a few days, another rooster will crow, and the life of Jesus’ chosen successor – Peter – will change forever.

And Jesus’ own life will change. It will change into death, and then back into life.

Jesus can’t help but wonder: How will my resurrected body feel? Will I, for just a moment, be like Lazarus once was? A little pale and sickly-looking, a little disoriented? Maybe even slightly stinky?

It’s all in his Father’s hands, Jesus knows this. And he can feel the approval of both his Fathers now.

Awakened by Ephraim the Rooster, the new baby lamb brays. The firstborn lamb. The lamb that will soon be sacrificed as part of the Passover celebration.

“Sleep while you can, little lamb,” says Jesus, like a true Shepherd.

And with the smells and sounds of the stable filling him, and the hay pricking his skin through the clothes that ignorant Roman soldiers will soon divide amongst themselves, Jesus closes his eyes and tries to follow his own counsel.

Everything will be okay. In the end, everything will be okay.

 

Yes, in Jesus’ life and death there were details. Most likely not these particular details, but details nonetheless.

There are details in your life, and mine. And in the end, only a few of those details truly matter. Like:

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, offer your house to Jesus as a place of comfort and strength?

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, shelter Jesus when others itch to kill Him?

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, be okay with not understanding Jesus and His mission fully?

Would you, like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, choose to be his friend when he most needed one?

No, not would you. Will you.

Will you?

Let’s make the most important details matter.

Jesus in Gethsemane

Jesus in Gethsemane, where he atoned for all mankind.

Related scriptures:
John 11John 12:1-9

Similar posts:
While You Slept: An Easter Message
Let Him In: A Christmas Message

That Time the Internet Taught Me a Lesson

Sometime earlier this morning…

I stare at my phone screen, inhaling my first morning dose of Facebook. As my thumb moves up the screen, a friend’s post (her name and picture properly grayed out here for privacy reasons…) comes into view:

internetlesson

I slightly turn my head to the side.

Hm…that graphic looks kind of familiar…

Hey, wait – it’s mine! I took the photo (in Joshua Tree National Park), selected the quote, played around with the text font and layout, uploaded the completed graphic to this website as well as to Pinterest…

Almost two years ago.

Lately, my activity here on Feast on the Word has been sporadic (to say the least). This is my first post since Christmas. The one right before I posted in August(!)

What can I say? Life happens. And my ten regular blog followers (and I’m probably rounding up here) didn’t complain about the lack of posts, so…no big deal.

And still, here my graphic shows up and from an unexpected angle punches me right in the face. First thing in the morning, too.

Granted, the words in my graphic were spoken by a prophet of God, not me. And it’s not like the graphic has gone viral like #thedress (which my eyes still tell me is white and gold, by the way).

But the Internet still taught me a lesson. And that lesson isn’t necessarily that Pinterest is a pretty powerful tool. Or even that what goes around comes around. The lesson, in a nutshell, is this:

You probably won’t know.

So far today, my fancy website statistics tell me I’ve had a whooping three visitors to my website today. Yes, three. And one of those three is yours truly. Yesterday, the statistics were a little better. Eleven visitors! The best in weeks, I’m sure.

So you probably won’t know.

You probably won’t know if the words of wisdom you offered to a friend years ago are inspiring a group of fifth graders in Cambodia today.

You probably won’t know if your kind compliment on a stranger’s laugh made her stop hating the sound of it.

You probably won’t know if a paragraph in your History 101 paper inspired your professor to finally get out of teaching and start her own cosmetics company (don’t worry, you got an A+ on that paper).

You probably won’t know.

I know. Not a particularly unique insight. Not even unique to me – I wrote a similar post here.

Still. Made me think a little about what messages I am sending out into the universe.

And wonder if the Internet wasn’t the only one trying to teach me a lesson.

Let Him In: A Christmas Message

Let Him In

I have a message for you. Because I delivered it as a talk during a Holiday dinner a few weeks ago, I call it a Christmas message. But really, it’s mostly just a message about the man whose birth we happen to celebrate this month.

That said, I hope it infuses some of that elusive Christmas spirit into your life. After all, the spirit of Christmas is the spirit of Christ.

So, without further delay:

Let Him In
By Angelica Hagman

Once upon a time, in a land far away, a baby boy was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. But despite his humble beginnings, there resided in that tiny boy the power to save humankind – yes, even you and me – if we would only let him.

Sounds like a fairytale, doesn’t it? The story of our Savior, Jesus Christ, is laced with miracles that seem more like products of a vivid imagination than reality.

Prophesies heralding his birth? Check.
The ability to immediately heal the sick with little more than a word? Check.
The power to raise people – including himself – from the dead? Check.

Yes, it does sound like a fairytale.

But we have to face reality: We desperately need that baby boy.

Our goal is to return to God.
But because we all sin, we are all unclean.
And no unclean thing can dwell with God.

Luckily, that baby boy grows from Jesus, the carpenter’s son, to Christ, the promised Messiah. He becomes our Savior who, through the miraculous event we call the Atonement, takes our blood red sins upon himself and washes them away.

On one main condition, that is:
That we let Him.

Now, travel back with me in time, about 2,000 years, to a little town called Bethlehem.

The poor innkeeper is – to put it in modern terms – seriously stressing out. Caesar Augustus is taxing the whole Roman Empire. Bethlehem is one of the places to register, and because of it, business has never been this good!

The innkeeper knows he should be happy about this, but his poor little inn and his head are about to explode. The guests are practically sleeping on top of each other, and still people keep pounding on that door, pleading, pleading, pleading for a room, a bed, a dusty corner, anything! It’s enough to drive a person insane.

The innkeeper feels bad, having to turn them away. And not just because of the money he could have made off them. Okay, maybe mostly because of the money.

But seriously – having to turn away a pregnant woman? Really, really pregnant by the looks of it. He feels like a villain to send off the young couple, but there really is no room…

And now the question becomes:

If the innkeeper had known that young woman was pregnant with the baby boy who could save his soul, would he have offered up his own bed?

Or maybe that isn’t the question.

Elder Maxwell once said, “Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!”

I’d read this quote out of its original context before. As it turns out, the quote wasn’t pulled out of a Christmas talk – it was a pulled out of a talk about taking the step from casual to complete discipleship.

Huh. Interesting.

So perhaps the real question is this:

Do we let Christ in? Do I let Christ in?

And I’m not just talking about letting Him do his job as my Savior by cleansing me from sin.

I’m talking about really letting Him in.

Like you, I am an innkeeper.

But my inn, my life…well, it isn’t really mine.

Christ, my Creator, built it.
And not only did He build it, He paid for it with his own blood.
And even with me as a lousy innkeeper/tenant, He tries to maintain it the best He can.
And if I would only let Him, my inn would be the best – and most cutely decorated, I might add – it can be.

Some would take issue with what I just said.
I’m smart and successful because I made myself so!

Sure. Now try that without the brain God is lending you.

Is my inn too crowded for Christ?
Why am I not giving up my bed for Him?
Why am I not making Him the center of my life?
Why am I not letting Him in?

I am an inn and Christ is knocking on my door. On everyone’s door, He knocks. Not very loudly either, except in rare cases where the person behind the door is hard of hearing. But, even if He has to wait for a really, really long time, He never forces that door open.

We have to open it. We have to let Him in.
And not just once. Time and time again, we shut Him out.
We have to let Him back in.

Christ, through His Atonement, owns us. But He loves us, so He doesn’t make us His slaves. We have to choose to serve Him.

There is really only one thing we can give Him – our will.

We have to open the door.

But what’s in it for me? I ask. If I let Christ in, I’m going to have to give up some favorite sins and bad habits. I’m going to have to live in a way and do things that are actually good for me. I’m going to have to fight against doubt and uncertainty. I will have to accept that some questions will not be answered when I want them to, and perhaps not in this lifetime. I might even have to suffer ridicule or much worse for His sake.

Why let Him in?

“He can save me” is a pretty good reason, I guess, but I’ll offer three more, with the word inn as an acronym:

I for Illuminate.
N for Navigate.
And N for Nourish

I for Illuminate

I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

How dark is it inside the walls of your inn?

Personally, I am no stranger to darkness. Since my teens, maybe even earlier, I have struggled with anxiety and depression.

But even if you are the happiest person to walk the earth, Christ’s light will benefit you.

Think about it:

Light, to help you better see the furniture before you bump into it.
Or Legos, before you step on them! And trust me, that really hurts…
Brighter colors…a better sense of space…and it’s so much easier to get things done when you can actually see!

Christ’s light will help us see things clearer. It will help us discern between good and evil, and between good, better, and best. It will fill our minds with knowledge, and our souls with joy.

What can Christ’s illumination do for your inn?

N for Navigate

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea;
Unknown waves before me roll,
Hiding rock and treach’rous shoal.
Chart and compass came from thee;
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

These words from the hymn Jesus, Savior, Pilot Me, say it well.

Like the star of Bethlehem, Christ can not only fill us with light, but also provide guidance and direction to our lives. And if we let Him, He can steer us. Not only through the trials of life back to our heavenly home, but more. From danger. From pursuits that add little to our lives. To adventures. To experiences that make our lives riches.

What can Christ’s navigation do for your inn?

N for Nourish

Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.” (2 Ne 26:25)

Don’t you just love Christmas dinner? If we let Him, Christ can be Christmas dinner to our souls.

When Mary Magdalene mistook the newly-resurrected Jesus for the gardener, she wasn’t completely wrong.

Not only does Christ feed us.
In a sense, we are his plants, and He is the master gardener.
And more.
He is the soil.
He is the water.
He is the sun.

What can Christ’s nourishment do for your inn?

So. Christ can offer illumination, navigation, and nourishment. What else, you ask?

How about courage, confidence, and comfort?
How about purpose, peace, and prosperity of spirit?
How about strength, support, and serenity?
How about I stop alliterating and get to the conclusion already? =)

Once upon a time, in a land far away, a baby boy was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. But despite his humble beginnings, there resided in that tiny boy the power to save humankind – yes, even you and me – if we would only let him.

If we would only let Him in.

It’s not a fairytale.

“Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!”

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is standing by the door to each of our inns. He is waiting to illuminate, navigate, and nourish us, and much more. He is knocking, hoping we’ll let Him in.

So let’s not keep Him waiting.

Question Yourself – Psalms 27:1

QuestionYourselfPsalms27-1

~Psalms 27:1 (The Old Testament)~

Context: These words in David’s psalm reveal a true source of bravery.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Question Yourself: How does relying on the strength of the Lord help me become a braver person? Do I need particular help with one form of bravery (or several) over others? If so, what type/s?

A Glimpse of More

aglimpseofmore

 

Sunday church services.

Sometimes we are on time, or even early.

Most of the time, however, we are late.

I don’t know how it happens. Sure, our services start at nine in the morning, but as a general rule, our kids are early risers (too early, in my opinion…). Even with my husband away on morning church meetings, I should be able to get our two boys and myself there on time.

Maybe a black hole magically sucks away the minutes. Maybe the kids can sense we need to be somewhere at a certain time and therefore automatically go into slow motion mode. Maybe I don’t know what to wear (especially now while eight months pregnant).

This past Sunday, I thought for sure we’d make it on time. Almost, anyway. But then, as we were heading out the door, I realized we’d forgotten to pack toys for the kids.

Trust me, they need something to do.

Fun fact about me: when stress starts to bubble inside me for silly reasons – such as being late for church – my body and mind automatically stirs awake the temporarily slumbering stress I feel for less-silly reasons.

So that morning, my body wasn’t just reacting to the legos my (almost) four-year-old son were taking too long to pick up. It was experiencing the stress I feel over our living situation, my writing, my capabilities as a mother to what will soon be three boys, etc, etc, etc.

Plus: pregnancy hormones.

Okay, yes, maybe I am trying to justify what happened next, just a tiny bit.

And yes, I still feel bad about it.

Probably because I was stressing him out with my stress and hurry-words, my son abandoned his legos on the floor. We rushed into the car and zoomed out the driveway.

A few feet down the street, that same son tells me he hasn’t buckled his seatbelt yet.

While pulling over to the curb, I tell him to buckle himself in, sprinkling in some parental teachings about how he should always buckle his seatbelt as soon as he gets in the car.

Slight correction:

I don’t tell. I yell.

My stress levels may be spiking, but I’m not completely out of control. The yelling quickly stops and no abusive words are spoken.

But it’s enough. Enough to make my son erupt in tears, even if those tears only last for a few moments. He buckles his seatbelt, and we’re off again.

Stress – now compounded by fresh evidence of my failings as a mother – still makes my insides sizzle. I spend half of the drive deep breathing and mentally composing a text to my husband to come outside and pick up the kids. I have decided to skip church.

In the backseat, my youngest son is babbling/whining. The oldest…

He’s quiet. So quiet, it cuts me.

When I pull into the church parking lot, stress still simmers in my body and mind. My son still isn’t talking.

But even though he isn’t talking, his soul – so beautiful, so vulnerable – seems to speak to me.

And in that moment, I realize his soul means more than my stress.

With hugs and kisses, I beg his forgiveness. And pure child that he is, he freely grants it.

Then, with small hands in mine, I go to church, praying God will forgive me just as freely.

A great writer would now interpret this experience, translating it into a brief statement of supreme wisdom.

Unfortunately, I am not a great writer. Not yet, anyway. I am just…me.

Except, because of this experience, I catch a glimpse of more. A glimpse of me as more. A glimpse of more than me. A glimpse of more than now.

Despite my failings – and because of God’s mercy – there is more.

Ps. Full disclosure: this isn’t (remotely) the first time I yelled at my kids, nor will it be the last. Nor, I dare say, is it the last time we will be late for church.

Question Yourself – Jacob 6:5

QuestionYourselfJacob6-5

~Jacob 6:5 (The Book of Mormon)~

Context: The prophet Jacob invites us to come closer to God.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I beseech of you in words of soberness that ye would repent, and come with full purpose of heart, and cleave unto God as he cleaveth unto you. And while his arm of mercy is extended towards you in the light of the day, harden not your hearts.

Question Yourself: What does it really mean to come to God with full purpose of heart? Similarly, what does it mean to cleave unto God? How can I better grab hold of God’s extended arm of mercy in my daily life?

Question Yourself – Mosiah 5:13

QuestionYourselfMosiah5-13

~Mosiah 5:13 (The Book of Mormon)~

Context: In a final address to his people, King Benjamin poses an excellent question.

For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?

Question Yourself: As a follower of Christ, how well do I know my master? How can I get to know him better? How can I make him more a part of the thoughts and intents of my heart? Do I let other masters compete for my attention?

Question Yourself – Psalms 25:4-5

QuestionYourselfPsalms25v3-4

~Psalms 25:4-5 (The Old Testament)~

Context: These verses in David’s psalm encourage humility and patience.

Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths.

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.

Question Yourself: Am I more concerned about the Lord’s ways, paths, and truth than I am about my own? Am I eagerly searching for the Lord to teach me His truth and ways? Am I waiting in patience when He reveals His knowledge to me more slowly than I’d prefer?

Ensign article

Today, I discovered that my article in the August 2014 issue of Ensign Magazine is already online! To find out how the article connects to the three handsome guys with me in this photo, read it here. 

Hfam