Pieta-Tears of Eternal Life

Pieta - 1 (1)

“You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:31-33

Keith and I just returned from Rome. The Pieta is my favorite piece of art. While tourists are pointing and snapping photos, I work my way through the crowd to stand next to the barrier that separates us from Michelangelo’s meditation in marble. Each year that I’ve returned, I’ve cried or I’ve hugged another woman who could not control the tears.

Mary’s grief became our grief.

I wonder if she was thinking about Gabriel’s proclamation about her son, the One who would be the Son of the Most High, Jesus who would reign on David’s throne.

From a mother’s eyes, I saw a woman who had experienced everything miraculous about her Son, her Savior, her Lord … from His birth, to the turning of water into wine, from raising the dead, to healing the lepers, restoring sight to the blind and song to the deaf. This was the Man who was slated to save Israel. In her lap was her Messiah. Here was all her hope, all her love, all her dreams. Beaten beyond recognition. Dead.

As she holds her Savior, her hand asks “Why?”

Why?

You and I are sinners.

Why?

The cost of our sin is death – complete separation from our Holy God.

Why?

Jesus paid the cost of our sin by living a perfect life and dying in our place – the perfect sacrifice.

Why?

Jesus’ death on the cross cleansed us from our sins and made it possible to live forever with Him – if we become His followers.

Why?

Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death.

Why?

Jesus now sits in heaven at the right hand of God speaking on our behalf when Satan accuses us of sin.

Why?

Jesus loves me. Jesus loves you.

Why?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

My prayer

Father, thank You for Jesus. Thank You for giving Jesus to the world as our Savior. I pray that You will fill readers with a deeper knowledge and appreciation of Your sacrifice and bring those who do not know You to a saving belief in Jesus. I love You, Lord.

Music in Rome Airport

Pianist - 1

In 2007, the world-class violinist Joshua Bell, played for tips in a Washington, D.C. subway during the rush hour. He was curious if anyone would notice the quality of his performance. People walked by him, rushing off to their destinations.

In 2014, he showed up at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station with young musicians, this time, to a packed crowd awaiting the performance. No rushing this time.

History, art, religion, and music permeate the Italian atmosphere–ready to delight those who will stop to notice. Recently, Keith and I were waiting at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy to return home.

I noticed a beautiful grand piano roped off on three sides in the middle of the terminal. A young man was sitting close by focused on his cell phone.

A woman noticed the piano and sat down. She began playing a classical piece from memory. For about 20 minutes, I watched the man focused on his cell phone. I watched travelers talk, look around, and rush past the pianist. I watched the group I was with continue to talk, laugh, and text.

I watched this young woman completely absorbed in her music.

I listened. I shared her creation with her. I enjoyed.

She ended elegantly. I walked over to her and clapped. I thought someone else would join me in clapping. No one joined me. She looked up, smiled, stood, fingers still on the piano keys, and smiled again. I clapped again. She took a few steps, turned and smiled again. I continued to clap.

In the to-and-fro of this busy international airport, the two of us shared the joy of her music and the exchange of smiles that summed up the delight of shared moments.

Ears to hear

Repeatedly, Jesus urged His followers to hear Him, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.” Vine’s Dictionary indicates that the word for “ear,” οὖς, means the “faculty of perceiving with the mind … understanding and knowing.”

His followers were listening to Him. But Jesus was asking them to stop and really listen to Him, to absorb His truth, and to follow His instruction.

T.S. Eliot wrote about experiencing a moment but missing the meaning. He wrote about the music hanging silently in the air.

God has instructed His children to meditate upon His Word, His precepts, His works. That takes time.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds. Psalm 77:12

I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands. Psalm 143:5

What if we were to stop when we see the heavens declaring the glory of God and meditate on God’s artistry?

What if we were to stop and meditate on one verse of Scripture throughout the day?

What if we were to stop and admire a painting or a melody, and really ponder its meaning, absorb its beauty?

What if we were to stop and really listen to another person?

What if …

My prayer

Father, make me sensitive to the moments when I need to stop rushing and absorb the meaning of a moment. Creator of the Universe, You have created a world filled with beauty, and it all points to Your magnificent glory. Stop me in my tracks and show me Your glory. I love You, LORD!

What’s your prayer?

Reverent moments in Rome

Stairs long

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sancta Scala (Holy Stairs) are thought to have led to the Praetorium or judgment hall of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. Jesus could have climbed these 28 marble steps on His way to His trial before Pontius Pilate. Helena, Constantine the Great’s mother, brought the steps from Jerusalem in 326 AD and placed them in the church and palace of St. John Lateran. The marble steps are covered with wood for protection, and pilgrims are only allowed to ascend the stairs on their knees. Several popes have climbed the stairs on their knees. There is a suggested prayer for each step.

 

 

Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. … Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:28

Pilate went out to the crowd and told them that he found no fault with Jesus, but the crowd wanted Jesus crucified. Pilate had Jesus scourged. The soldiers twisted a crown made with sharp thorns and jammed it on Jesus’ head, put a purple robe on Him and slapped Him many times and mocked Him. The crowd got its way.

As I climbed the stairs on my knees, I thought of my Savior resolutely climbing those stairs, knowing that He was on His way to be beaten, mocked, crucified, and finally, take on my sin, my sickness and the rest of the world’s sin and sickness.

For the Lord GOD helps Me,
Therefore, I am not disgraced;
Therefore, I have set My face like flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed. Isaiah 50:7

The cross was a curse and the sin Jesus was about to take onto Himself was shameful; yet, Jesus was glorified in His sacrifice.

Stairs Karen

Kneeling on the first step (righthand corner in black blouse), I begin a transformative pilgrimage, “Thank You, Jesus, for Your great sacrifice.”

Second step, “Thank You, Jesus, for saving my soul.”

Step-by-step, pain pierces my knees. I wonder if I can really do this.

Prayers turn to praise and Scripture.

“Praise, You, Jesus, my Savior.”

 

 

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” Revelation 5:12

 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
Psalm 103:1

Stairs Karen Short

 

 

 

I linger on the last step. “Holy, Holy, Holy, are You, Lord God, Almighty, Who was and is and is to come.”

 

 

 

 

Worthy are You … to receive glory and honor and power; Revelation 4:11

I stand and gaze upon the people ascending the steps on their knees. Most heads are bowed. Many are softly praying. Some are raising their arms.

Reverence is in this place.

Twenty-eight marble steps covered in wood. Maybe Jesus climbed these steps towards His judgment. It doesn’t matter. The steps serve as a reminder of our Savior’s great sacrifice.

Outside the church, “Are you Catholic, Karen?”

“No.”

I am a Christ follower who has just been reminded of the price of my sin.

My prayer:

Jesus, thank You for setting Your face like flint towards the cross. The curse of the cross has brought You honor. My Savior on the cross has brought Your followers mercy and eternal life. Worthy are You to receive honor, glory, and blessing!

What have been some of your moments of reverence?

 

 

Roman Colosseum, a memorial to death pointing to Jesus

Colloseum

Built on the site of Nero’s palace in 80 AD, the Roman Colosseum entertained 55,000 spectators at a time with deadly gladiator and wild animal fights. Over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games. Some sources say that Christians were persecuted outside the Colosseum. Early entertainment focused on death.

others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill- treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. Hebrews 11:35-40

Keith and I recently climbed the Colosseum’s stone and marble stairs, walked the levels, and imagined the slaves, gladiators, prisoners of war, and wild animals as they awaited their battles and eventual death.

Scaffolding stood against the outer wall. My reaction, “I would just let it fall down.”

We dodged the tourists mindlessly snapping photos, circled the amphitheater, and stopped directly across from the emperor’s box. The emperor’s thumb up saved a life; a thumb down took a life.

A cross stood in front of the emperor’s seat.

Colosseum Cross

An estimated 4.4 million people visit the Colosseum each year, and there that cross stands as a memorial to those who died inside and outside that great arena.

When Joseph’s father died, and his brothers were afraid that Joseph would harm them because they had sold him into slavery, Joseph told his brothers:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. Genesis 50:21

What men meant for evil, God meant for good … for a memorial to the death of His own dear Son, Jesus, on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead, so that all who believe on Jesus will be saved from their sins.

My prayer for you:

Righteous Father, awaken us to the memorials You have placed in our paths. May we be living memorials to Your righteous and true nature as we walk the path that You have given us. Thank You for the memorials that You have placed along the way.

5 strategies to possessing God’s promise for you

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Entering the Colosseum in Rome, visitors are struck by the magnitude of the stone walls–as grasshoppers to this amphitheater of memories past–gladiators fighting to the death,  Christians martyred, sailors surviving mock sea battles, hunters pursuing wild animals, and executioners slaying men and women. Walls 157 feet high with a base of 6 acres and an original perimeter of 1,788 feet, this gargantuan death memorial collapsed on its outer south side in the great earthquake of 1349, tumbling travertine stones to the base.
 

Several thousand years earlier, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River on dry land to camp at Gilgal. Looming in the canp’s view were the mighty walls of Jericho, with a stone wall around it of 12-15 feet high, an embankment of about 3 acres with a mud-brick wall at its highest point 46 feet higher than the baseline.  Continue reading 5 strategies to possessing God’s promise for you

Pieta, a sculpture of love, disappointment. Waiting for sculpture of joy of Risen Lord

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“… Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, ‘Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.’” Luke 2:34-35

We lived in Italy about 25 years ago. Keith was in the Air Force, and we were privileged to be stationed at Aviano AB, a 1-hour train ride northeast of Venice. We lived in a 700-year-old town named Dardago.

We toured Vatican City 25 years ago, before the Pieta was vandalized, and it was not protected. I returned three times just to stand before the funeral memorial and weep.

This July, we returned to Rome. The Sistine Chapel paintings were more vivid and beautiful than we had ever seen them, since they have been restored and cleaned. But I was anxious to move through the Chapel to get to St. Peter’s Basilica to stand before the Pieta.

Before the Pieta, I wept.

The window reflection near the head of Mary made me think of the many people standing there taking photographs and then moving on to the next beautiful piece of art. Many did not understand the story. Others knew the story but did not stop to see the window of opportunity to understand more about Jesus, more about Mary, and to experience the pain of the moment.

“Pieta” in Italian means “pity.” Michelangelo was 25 when he released the Pieta from its marble. He believed that the sculpture already existed in the marble, and he just released it.

“Pity” is not the word I would have used to name this sculpture. From a mother’s eyes, I saw a woman who had experienced everything miraculous about this Son, her Savior, her Lord … from his birth, to the turning of water into wine, from raising the dead, to healing the lepers, restoring sight to the blind and song to the deaf. This was the Man who was going to save Israel. Here was all her hope, all her love, all her dreams. Beaten beyond recognition. Dead.

I wonder what sculpture is waiting to be released that shows Mary’s joy when she saw her Son, her Savior, risen.

My prayer for you:

Lord, You took on the beating, the scourging, the sins, the diseases, for us. You hung on the cross to take on sin and pay the price that we should have paid. AND You rose from the dead! You conquered death, and You are at the right hand of God making intercession for us. Fill us with the Holy Spirit and with Your wisdom, so that we can understand the power and joy that only You can bestow upon us as we contemplate our risen Savior.

May the Lord richly bless you as you contemplate Mary’s pity and Mary’s joy.