Reflections

Ascension Thursday

There are some aspects of the Christian faith that are a little bit odd when you stop to think about them. We believe that a sea was parted so that the oppressed could walk free. We believe that a donkey spoke. We believe that a blind man was healed with a little bit of spit. We believe that our Messiah defeated death.

I affirm all of these statements with the entirety of my heart, but I am not naïve enough to say that they don’t sound a bit fantastical. I love that my faith can transcend (though it does not exclude) all the reason the human mind can muster—that is what makes it faith, after all.

One of these tenets of Christianity is the bodily ascension of Jesus into Heaven, which we celebrate today, on the 40th day of the Easter Season (39 days after Easter Sunday). The story is outlined in Acts 1:6-11

“They gathered around him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you sand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.’” (NIV)

The story goes like this: Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus was raised again, and Jesus ascended into heaven. But the story does not end here! As we see at the end of this passage, Jesus will be coming back in the same way they saw Him go.

Pretty unbelievable; but again, faith enters the picture.

So, once we become Christians and state this in our list of beliefs, what do we do with it? What does it mean for us to have a savior who ascended? Why does the Church worldwide celebrate this momentous day?

I’ve been doing some reflecting on these questions, and I have a few thoughts:

1.   Jesus is alive, and so are we.

The first, and perhaps the most important, implication is that Jesus is alive right now. When He ascended, He had already shirked the gates of Hell and ushered in new life. He is the first fruit of the New Creation so, just as we will all one day live eternally, so He is living and breathing as we speak. We will follow in His footsteps and also have life eternal. This can be a difficult thing to fathom because Jesus feels so far away and ethereal, but He is flesh and blood, a fully redeemed and renewed body, who is alive and well and watching over us. This is good news, indeed!

2.   Jesus is interceding for us.

The book of Romans assures us that Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)To intercede is to plead on one’s behalf. We intercede for our friends when we pray for them and Jesus intercedes for us when He affirms our worthiness into the ear of the Father. Jesus is our advocate and He is the only one worthy to assume that role. He is there as the symbol of our freedom, a marker that those who call upon the name of God will be saved. In short, Jesus is now the go-between. He is the bridge who invites us into relationship with Divinity and is untiring in His speaking up on our behalf.

3.   Jesus will come again.

 The fact that we have an ascended, risen Lord means that He is not only alive, not only interceding for us, but also poised and ready to return when the time is right. In the passage that we read, the angels who appeared affirmed that He will come back in the same way He went. When He does, the throne on which He now sits in Heaven will be forever established on Earth and all darkness, sin, and death will be gone. When we look at the broken world around us, this might be the hardest part of the story to believe. But I heard an insight this week (I think it was Tom Wright?–forgive my lack of reference!) that stated that, as Kingdom people, we are not sitting in a dark room waiting for someone to light a candle. Rather, we have seen the sun rise and we are confident that full daylight is on its way. Jesus will come again, the sun will reach the heights of perfect day.

4. We have the Holy Spirit.

The final exhortation for Easter people with a living, ascended God: go and tell! When Jesus went up, the Holy Spirit came down. Not only does this mean that we have a comforter and friend in the very presence of God that lives within us, it also means that we have the power to be witnesses to this story. While we wait for Him to return, fully embodied and fully glorious, we are to let as many people in on this beautiful narrative as possible. Our aid and power in this is the Holy Spirit, who is power and light and healing this side of Paradise and beyond. If we trust the Spirit and live in Her influence, we will find our greatest joy in bringing God glory. 

Happy Ascension Thursday, friends! Having a risen and ascended savior makes all of the difference. Live in that strange and glorious reality today and be at peace.

God Behind the Scenes

A famous and oft-used line in storytelling: “There I was, minding my own business, when…”

That has been on my mind this week. Over the past month or so there have been multiple moments in which God has reminded me that, though He chooses to use us, He is infinitely capable of working things out on His own. Often, while we are off doing our thing (and “doing our thing” can be in line with God’s will—we are not talking about “doing our thing” by working against God), the Lord can have something special brewing behind the scenes of which we are completely unaware. We can’t see all of His movements, but we can trust that He is eternally good.

An example of this came for me in the form of a new friend reaching out and suggesting we have some good conversation. As someone who lives and breathes the Church, I am almost always thinking about how to build relationships. I am good at thinking about programming and outreach ideas and ways to get people connected to a faith family and those are all good things, but I was wonderfully sideswiped when approached with an open heart. I did not have to plan anything, I did not have to do anything, I just had to show up and enter into the scenario that God had already been planning out.

Friends, the Spirit is always on the move.

One of my favorite stories in Scripture comes from Acts 10 and 11, in which Peter receives a vision, welcomes Gentile believers into the fold, and changes the future of the Church forever. There is a whole lot to unpack in this text, but today I want to look at it through this lens of God doing great things when our attention might be elsewhere.

In the book of Acts, Peter is making great movements in the name of Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit. He is the rock upon whom Jesus planned to build the church, and Peter was certainly living up to his name. He was walking in line with the Lord’s will, but, all of a sudden, he has a vision which makes it clear that all animals are now clean to eat. There he was, minding His own business, and God lovingly flips the script. 

Meanwhile, Cornelius is a God-fearing man and Roman Gentile. He was going about the business of simply being a good and faithful person when God sends a vision of an angel to him, who tells Cornelius to find Peter and listen to what he says. 

When they are finally together, they compare stories and many were brought to faith through what God revealed to each of them in turn. 

This was all out of left field, but God had been busy behind the curtain. Though they were both doing their best to follow the will of the Lord, God seemed to have a smile and a surprise behind His back. Two big things stand out to me about Peter and Cornelius in this story.

God got their attention.

If the Lord were to hit you with a vision of an angel or a sheet full of animals (reptiles included) being lowered before you, would you notice? I know these might seem like huge attention-grabbing moments that would be hard to miss, but sometimes I wonder if I have the eyes to see when God shows up and reveals His artwork. Sometimes, when we are hustling through our lives, God can be off to the side, flapping His arms and hoping we notice the magnificent things He is showing us, but we walk right past. It’s sad, but true.

A while ago, our faith family started asking the question, “Where have you seen God this week?” and I have found it to be so profound because it implies that we are willing to let God get our attention. To be able to see God is to allow enough space to behold Him when He moves. When God came to Cornelius and Peter, they stopped what they were doing and listened.

So, I’m asking you now: where have you seen God this week? Have you noticed a vision? Have any prayers been answered? Has the Lord showed up in a completely unexpected way? Think back over your week and I promise you’ll be amazed by the moments, big and small, in which holiness is revealed.

Now, the first challenge for us today is to allow God to get our attention. Look up, look around; God is presenting Himself.

They responded.

Let’s say we start to pay attention. Let’s say that we see God’s movements and are amazed. According to this story, beholding is not enough. We must also respond. 

Something I have noticed about myself in this past year is that though I am pretty faithful to time in the Word, I am not always the most faithful to daily meditating on Scripture. I will open my Bible, love what I read, and then be on my merry way. My attention span does not always stretch to truly and deeply respond to what God spoke to me through Scripture. 

I think we are all guilty of this in some form, whether during quiet time or elsewhere, we might notice God and keep walking. Saying, “Oh, nice sunset!” without pausing for a minute seems a shame. Hearing of someone being healed and saying, “Cool!” does not seem to do a miracle justice. That tug on our heart that says, “Go here! Do this!” often gets written off as a silly impulse that should not be followed. 

Here, Peter and Cornelius are wonderful examples. God not only got their attention, but they actually followed through on the weird things He asked them to do. “Cornelius, find this stranger and listen!”; “Paul, put it all on the menu and welcome all into the family!” And, because they both trusted God, they responded. And everything changed.

Our second challenge for today is to respond to God when we notice Him. Once we have opened our awareness, His movements and His voice will become more and more clear. Seek, listen, and respond. 

Let me affirm once again: While we are minding our own business, God is always working. He lives and breathes and His movements, if we pay attention and respond, will often blow us away. Tune in when He speaks and follow where He leads. As we have seen with Peter and Cornelius, it might just change the world.

Sunday Afternoon Poetry: “Praise in the Style of Psalm 98”

Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the sun dance a fiery polka,
and let the moon sing a soft-edged aria.

Let the waterfalls swoon,
let the clouds somersault,
and let the blades of grass flap their tiny elbows.

Let the raccoons drum with abandon,
let the butterflies fiddle,
and let the toads leap toward the North Star,

who smiles, eyes closed, enraptured. 

Let it happen,
let it all happen
in praise,
in praise,
in praise. 

Gloria

Every night, as my eyelids get heavy, my husband leans over and asks me if I have my prayer book. We flip to the compline section of the current season of “The Divine Hours” by Phyllis Tickle (how many shout outs can I give before you buy these wonderful books?!) and proceed to close our nights with the prayers prescribed for the time before retiring. There are a few pieces of the readings that vary, but it is largely full of the type of repetition which helps etch beautiful words into one’s spirit.

“May the Lord Almighty grant me and those I love a peaceful night and a perfect end…”

“Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised, for these eyes of mine have seen the savior…”

Reading liturgical prayer is a lovely practice that I cannot recommend highly enough. Even when I don’t necessarily feel like praying, these books center me and inform the shared spirituality we enjoy in our marriage. 

I often find many of the prayers get stuck in my head like an ear worm throughout the day and I feel affirmed in the fact that I have such words echoing on repeat in my subconscious, combatting the sometimes dark or hopeless thoughts which plague us all from time to time. This week, one piece of the prayer in particular has haunted me sweetly: The Gloria or Gloria Patri. The wording varies depending on where and when one finds oneself, but it goes something like this:

“Glory be to God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now, and so it shall ever be, world without end, alleluia. Amen.”

Though this was never something I heard growing up, it is used in worship around the world and has been for thousands of years. It is known as the lesser doxology, is a rich part of prayer rhythms and worship services, and is included at least twice in our bedtime routine. It has come to be written on my heart.

Because it has been stuck in my head, I figured it might be time to look at it a bit more closely. Today I want to break it down piece by piece. What exactly is it about the Gloria Patri that encourages us so much?

Glory be…

How would you describe glory? Google gives three angles: “high renown or honor won by notable achievements”; “magnificence or great beauty”; “take great pride or pleasure in”. Imagine my delight that such a quick search could reveal so much about the opening of this prayer! When we say “Glory be to God”, we are acknowledging Him with the honor He deserves, we are paying attention to His indescribable beauty, and we are reveling in all that that means for us with whom He has been pleased to share Himself. This prayer opens in a way that positions us to lift our eyes away from ourselves and toward the task of honoring the Lord, who deserves that and more. When we say “Glory be to God”, our hearts burrow in at the foot of His throne.

 …to God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit…

Here we affirm one of the richest and most mysterious pieces in the puzzle of the Christian faith. The one, true God is three in one. Confusing? Yes. Awe-inspiring? Absolutely. I love that this comes right after “Glory be” because it acknowledges the fact that God is beyond us and yet worth praising. Glory belongs to the gorgeous confusion of the Trinity, and this piece of the prayer makes space for us to ponder that anew. We can meditate upon each Member and reflect on Their meaning in our lives. These three Persons make up the fathomless depths of the Lord and it is toward this Divine dance that we lift our eyes. This is the God we serve, bask in all that that means. 

…As it was in the beginning, so it is now, and so it shall ever be, world without end…

This is my favorite part, and has been the key to my reflections this week. This portion of our prayer essentially boasts the fact that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The same Lord that spoke Creation into being is the same Lord who rubbed spit on a blind man’s eyes is the same Lord who will rule in a perfectly balanced Kingdom without end. What does it mean to you to have a God who is eternally and perfectly consistent? Whose character has always been and will always be just and loving and kind? For me, this means that my fickle heart will always have solid ground to wash up on. It means that when my knees start to buckle, the arms that bolster me do not flinch. For me, it brings the incredible comfort of knowing that the one thing that will never change is the one thing which defines life itself. Let that sink in. God has been steady, God is steady, God will be steady forever. Which leads me to say:

Alleluia! Amen!

While writing that last section, I felt my heart leaping with the desire to speak these exact words. When I ponder who God is and who God will ever be, the natural response is to want to shout and go forward with a chin held high. We burst out in praise because the truth that glory belongs to the Trinity and God will reign forever is good news, indeed. Alleluia! And when we say “amen”, we are saying, “Let it be so”. In this we are giving God the honor He deserves and then stepping out of the way to watch Him work. We affirm that He is glorious and mysterious and will be the same forever, and so our right response is to lift our voices and affirm that all of this will come to pass. When we sing, “Alleluia, amen”, we are closing this prayer with joy and boldness–Praise God! Go do Your holy thing, Lord!

My prayer this week is that the Gloria would get stuck in your head as it has gotten stuck in mine. May it draw you to meditate upon God, to revel in the power and mystery and loving consistency of God, and may it lead you to worship and surrender as our Lord continues to make all things new. 

Glory be.

Grace Sufficient

I have been blessed with the opportunity to spend prolonged seasons overseas a few different times in my life. Once was when I was in college and got to take in France for six weeks, and the other was when I spent two school years in the Middle East. Each one was a gift and I still daydream about crepes and desert camps, Metro stations and the Call to Prayer bursting forth from minarets. I loved living in and exploring faraway lands. 

Despite the fact that those were some of the most special years of my life, however, they were also some of the most difficult. I was far from home. I was struggling with the things that burden a young adult’s heart. I was trying to figure out my way in the world which all of a sudden got a whole lot bigger as my perspective widened and shifted. All of a sudden, I needed to lean on God unlike ever before. 

Thankfully, I had some good guides along the way. I remember sitting down with one particularly wise mentor who directed me to a famous passage in Scripture, one which I had heard before but, at the time, had not ever stopped to meditate upon. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 reads:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (NIV)

In its larger context, our boy Paul basically talks about how, despite the fact that he is awesome and has every right to boast, he has been given a thorn in his side to keep him humble. Then we get these two verses which are absolute, gut wrenching gems. They are beautiful as they affirm Christ’s power and the truth that we don’t walk alone. These verses encourage me more than I can say. 

But these verses are also really hard. 

It’s all well and good to say that God can and does give us strength, but what does it mean when that is the only strength we have? Or to take it further, when we brag about the fact that none of our strength is our own, that when we face down the difficult moments in life, the only thing we bring to the table is acute weakness and we are proud of it? 

I don’t like that. I want to crow about my own skills and efforts and performances. I want to have it all together and have God as a buddy rather than the Being who carries me. I don’t want to be weak. 

Nothing that I have to say today is extremely revolutionary, but I can say that these verses have been swimming around my head recently and hitting me as hard as they once did, sitting in a distant cafe and missing my mom and dad back in Ohio. When verses or passages present themselves, we need to pay attention and we need to share. Here I will share some of the conclusions that I’ve drawn. In all of this, the Lord has been reminding me that I am not alone, so I send this out especially to those who need to hear it today. 

  1. You are not above His grace.

Listen, anyone that has had an encounter with Jesus knows that we are all in desperate need of His grace. But when push comes to shove, I want to go ahead and manage things alone. I am not part of some strange elite that really can get along without Divine help (if anyone, Paul would have been in that gang, and he still experienced weakness). None of us can go without this grace which is sufficient to fill in all the gaps that we hide from the world, which can carry us when we try to disguise our obvious limps. You, yes you, need the grace of God. You are not above leaning on what he can and does offer. And it is sufficient. 

  1. We can be proud of where we are. 

It’s hard for me to imagine myself boasting about my weaknesses. I don’t particularly relish the idea of going into town square, gathering a crowd, and shouting about my shortcomings. But here Paul has the audacity to tell us that it is good to choose boasting in weaknesses rather than false strengths so that “Christ’s power may rest on me.” I don’t know about you, but the idea of Christ’s power alighting on my shoulders, lifting the burdens I carry, sounds pretty wonderful. The way to a full experience of His power is through acknowledging where we fall short. Because of this, we can be proud of wherever we might find ourselves on the journey. Gather a crowd in town square, trust that Jesus is present, and allow His power to wash over you.

  1. It is all about Jesus anyway.

Imagine me clutching my pearls! Paul, you mean to tell me that you delight in all of this for Christ’s sake?! That His power shining through your brokenness is a testament to His goodness and glory?! It turns out that letting my weaknesses fly in the wind isn’t a strange sort of masochism, but a way in which the grace of God is put on full, proud, glorious display. It was for Christ’s sake that Paul faced down shipwrecks and a mysterious thorn in his side and execution by beheading. When you put it that way, my anxiety and perfectionism and jealousy are put into perspective. For Christ’s sake, I will let you know that I don’t measure up. For Christ’s sake, I will proclaim that I am worthy anyway. For Christ’s sake, I will surrender to His goodness shining through me, broken vessel that I am. 

I leave you with the same benediction as Paul: When we are weak, then we are strong. Today, God is reminding us that, even at our sore spots, even when we are the most down, we have strength because He has strength and gives it to us. His love is empowering, friends, and there is no expectation to be perfect. Lean into His strong shoulders and know that you are safe.

Prayer for When There is Justice

God of Justice, thank you for decisions which acknowledge communities that have suffered for far too long. Thank you for the dignity that can be bestowed by acknowledging truth and taking courageous steps toward healing. Thank you that the image of God resides in and calls out from the periphery. You have always been a part of the margins, Lord, and I praise you for these moments in which the downtrodden have advocates, in which happy tears are spilled when what is right prevails. 

God of Justice, thank you that you are present behind prison bars, as well. Thank you for the thief on the cross next to yours, who was living out his punishment and yet had eyes to see and desperate sentences with which to acknowledge you. Thank you that the image of God exists in and moves beneath even the most broken of humans. You have always offered us renewal, Lord, and I praise you for these moments in which accountability steps forward, in which a new, better path reveals itself. 

God of Justice, restore. God of Justice, restore. 

Amen.

Sunday Afternoon Poetry: “Enough”

In the morning I was vaccinated,
taking part in a historic point on the timeline in which I received 
the gift of science and community 
side-by-side with my husband,
who has promised to be with me for all 
milestones, which is the best.
 
In the afternoon I rested really hard,
as human as a human can get, 
binge watching Netflix and wondering if I had done enough,
if I had accomplished enough to call myself worthy today.
I felt alone in this but
I am not, which helps. 
 
In the evening I was huffing Easter lilies,
planting Easter eggs, 
and reading the Easter story,
the Good Friday part,
the dark parts in which Jesus reminds me that there is healing and there is life 
despite all the gore, which is heavy and good indeed. 
 
I am grateful that He absorbed
the sin and its distance and brought me near
so that it didn’t matter if I watched Bridgerton for hours on end or 
if I partook in history or 
if I simply read a story—
I am worthy and I am here and I am no longer enslaved to fear,
 
which is enough.

Pontius Pilate: People Pleaser

Raise your hand if you’re a people pleaser! 

Imagine my arm shooting straight up into the air and waving erratically for good measure. I have always struggled with people pleasing. Despite the fact that I like to think of myself as a free spirit, I have trained myself to perform for the sake of making others happy, no matter the personal cost. I have a frantic need to be liked and an often unhealthy obsession with placating those around me. If you’re angry with me, I won’t be able to forget about it until the matter is resolved and we’ve hugged it out.

I realize this is not great, and I work on it every day, but this is simply part of my struggle.

I also realize I am not alone in this. Many of us (especially women) work really hard to please others because that’s what we’ve been trained to do. As Christians, our one goal should be to listen and respond to the Holy Spirit’s whisperings and no one else’s shouts, but in an effort to be loving and kind, we kowtow to the whims of others anyway. Of course, it is not always a bad thing to please others, and there are certainly healthy ways in which we can love our neighbor, but when it comes from a frantic need to be liked and never be perceived as off putting, it will drain us dry. It’s human nature, a skewing of good desires.

Let’s talk about a historic example of people pleasing, one which resulted in the crucifixion of the Messiah.

The Gospels tell the story of how Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate in a trial which resulted in His execution. Pilate was the Roman governor of Judea and Scripture tells us that he thought Jesus was innocent. However, Pilate released Barabbas (a violent insurrectionist) to the people rather than Jesus because he wanted to appease them. Jesus’ fate was sealed. Mark 15:12-15 reads:

“‘What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked them.

‘Crucify him!’ they shouted.

‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” (NIV, emphasis mine)

Despite the fact that he could find no fault in Jesus, Pilate handed Him over because it was what the crowd wanted and what tradition (releasing a requested prisoner during the festival) allowed. What I find extra interesting is the account in Matthew, which includes an extra detail. Matthew 27:19 reads:

“While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’” (NIV)

It is just one verse and then the text moves on, but it adds a whole extra layer of intrigue. Pilate’s wife was disturbed by a dream and biblical dreams were taken seriously, so one can infer that she was the voice of reason and conscience that Pilate ignored. (Fun fact: some believers think the dream came from Satan because he wanted to prevent salvation. That’s not what we are working with today, but it is interesting nonetheless!) He listened to the screaming mob rather than the voice of his wife and, though he washed his hands of it, that symbolic gesture did not stop the slaughtering of the Lamb or Pilate’s infamous place in history.

Have you ever done this? Have you known within, or from sources of wisdom without, what is right, but choose to do what is demanded of you anyway? Have you silenced the still small voice in favor of that which is being shouted at you?

You’re not alone.

To move through the world is to be confronted by expectations. It can be extremely difficult to find a balance which allows you to love and care for and about others without bleeding you dry. We can be so embroiled by what the crowd desires that we choose to ignore what is true.

Now, I’m not saying that Pilate was trying to love and care for Jesus, but it makes me wonder what might have happened if he had chosen to err on the side of innocence rather than bloodlust. Or (listen closely, ye who have spouses) if he had chosen to listen to the wisdom and conviction of his wife rather than go full speed ahead because a group of people were whipped into a frenzy.

It is true that, in some ways, people pleasing killed Jesus.

As followers of Jesus, we are called away from people pleasing and toward the aim of glorifying God. After all, Galatians 1:10 famously states:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (NIV)

As a chronic people pleaser, that one hits me right in the gut. I get so very occupied with making others happy (often at my own expense) that I forget to put the Kingdom of God before anything else. I look a lot less like Paul and a whole lot more like Pilate. We are called to place the Lord above our desires and compulsive needs and the weight of expectations we feel, following Him alone and trusting Him for the love and guidance and care of our neighbors. We participate in that love with Him, but it does not fall on our shoulders. 

So now, I want to move us into a time of affirmations. I say “us” because I need these just as much as any reader. We walk this together.

Be affirmed:

·        The voice of wisdom is always there. Sometimes it is a whisper into the depths of our spirits and sometimes it is a dream given to someone that we can trust and sometimes it is the feeling of righteous anger that rises up in us at the sight of injustice. We must have ears to hear and courage to follow.

·        It is possible to ignore the shouting crowd. It is possible to respond to the voice of wisdom. It might not always be easy, and there might be a lot of people who are not pleased with you, but to follow truth and goodness in service to the person of Jesus is our ultimate and only goal. You are enslaved to no other master.

·        You can wash your hands of expectations that are not yours to carry. We have an audience of One, and to work to please Him is the only pursuit that will not end in decay. The only expectations to consider belong to God alone, and He will not fail to draw you into fullness as you walk that road.

The moral of the story: don’t be like Pilate. Instead, be like Jesus standing before him, innocent of everything except doing the will of God radically and with complete love and devotion. If people pleasing ends in death, then serving the Lord ends in life abundant. Reach and out hold fast.