The Cross of Christ, the Savior’s embrace, breathtaking love

(June 1989)
When the child was still not three, the only outdoor rule was this:

You may not go outdoors by yourself. Ever.

It could not have been simpler, clearer, or more reasonable. Stay in with mom or go out with mom. Those were the options.

On that particular Wednesday night when the dinner hour arrived – for which I had miraculously cleaned up, not a small thing in the days of small children –  I could not find the child. Anywhere. Which was not entirely new or unexpected. He had no great love for being found.

I methodically checked inside closets, under beds, down basement stairs, and behind the shower curtain. I rechecked inside closets, under beds, down basement stairs, and behind the shower curtain.

The child not-yet-three was in none of those places because he was here instead:

Child swims in mud.
Child swims in mud.

Front-crawling through the mud puddles he was, because there is nothing better than swimming if you are not quite three.

He’d gone outside. Without me. Which was against the rules. And then he swam in a mud puddle because it was there, calling his name, and I had never said:

You may not swim in the driveway mud puddles. Ever.

Dinner was late. I was clean. The child was dirty up and down and all around. And the child had done wrong – much or little didn’t matter. He was a muddy mess indeed. I could have said:

Do you know what happens to little boys who sneak outside to swim in mud puddles? They turn into mud pies and spend their whole lives living in muddy muck, eating dirt and slime, crying because they are locked out of the house forever and ever and ever. That’s what.

I considered it. I really did. After all, I was clean. That doesn’t happen every day when the kids are not-yet-one and not-yet-three.

But it was chilly out. And people were getting hungry. And there are no beds or books or blankets out in the mud. And he was a child, – my child.

The only option: to go out myself, walk through puddle after puddle until arriving at his puddle, bend down to eye level, and say:

Here I am. I’ll help.

He was not interested in being helped.

Child swam in mud.
Child swam in mud.

I wrapped my arms around him anyway – because sometimes mothers must; cringed as the muddy slime smeared all over the clean me – because where else could it go; felt that precious not-yet-three boy against my body – because that’s right where it belonged; and caught my breath – because, gracious sakes alive, mother love will take one’s breath away, no matter how much muddy slime drips around the edges.

(Luke 15)
When the boy was not quite a man, there were rules aplenty, but more importantly there was this:

Home, security, family, love.

Which was more than enough. More than more than enough.

But not enough for the boy. Not nearly enough. What he wanted was a dead dad. Because that meant money. And money meant power and freedom and life. Everyone knows that.

But the power, freedom, and life drained out dry, leaving behind nothing but the slimy filthy stink of hopeless disgrace and shame-filled self that dragged on and on and on until even the disgrace and shame was sucked dry, a lifeless shadow of its lifeless self.

When the son came back, dirty up and down and all around, stenched through and through, having done wrong beyond measure, the father could have said:

You? Here? You?? Here?? YOU ARE DEAD TO ME!

But he never considered it. Not even once. Not even though he had every right to. This was not a child in a puddle. This was a soul in a tempest.

So: filled with love and compassion, he embraced the boy; and when that filthy stench of death and shame smeared all over his own unsullied self, he did not cringe, draw back, cover his eyes, or hold his breath to keep out the stench.

Rembrandt: the father embraces the son.
Rembrandt: the father embraces the son.

But indeed, he did catch his breath – because gracious sakes alive, a holy love will take the Savior’s breath away, no matter how much sin drips around the edges.

And drip it did. Drip and smear and suffocate, all over the Savior while he hung there on that gloriously death-drenched cross, holding us in his breathtaking embrace, hugging us from death to life.

Eugene Delacroix (c. 1845)
Eugene Delacroix (c. 1845)

(I Peter 2)
He personally carried our sins – dripped and smeared all over his holy soul – in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. And having carried them there, and nailing them there, and hanging them there on himself, he said IT IS FINISHED,

And then he breathed his last.

Because we really do take God’s breath away – that day, this day, every day.

Easter Day-After

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss (The Breath of God)

Compared to other holiday day-afters, Easter day-after is an odd post-holiday day, with vague purposes and undefined parameters.

On Halloween day-after, we pillage all the (childrens’) candy bags in search of chocolate-covered and peanut-butter-filled goodness.

On Thanksgiving day-after, we eat leftovers (because apparently we are still hungry) and prepare for a long and holy day of football.

On Christmas day-after, we make pilgrimage to the reliquary Returns and Exchanges Department. And then wage battle on Some-Assembly-Required blessings. And conclude with the fray known as Detangling All The Power Adapters.

On New Year’s day-after we enjoy a quiet cup of coffee (for various reasons) in the stillness of our homely houses wherein we slept a solid 7 or 8 hours in perfect peace and stillness (or not)  and wonder what all the fuss next door is about.

But on Easter day-after, we awake to a new week because always, always, always this day-after is a Monday which seems a serious mis-calculation. There are no candy bags (the seasonal trimming known as The Easter Basket is, for a pillager, not worth the effort.). There is no NFL (and possibly no March Madness because of Easter’s calendar fluidity). There is no commercialism mania (which is as it should be). And for a very few pathetic folk, there is no coffee.

Instead, a new week has begun. Monday morning in all its ridiculous glory has arrived. Again. Here we go. Oh joy.

But this is the day after the day that gives all days meaning. The day after the day that defines all other days. The day after the day that life truly begins. Surely it should be a day-after to define all other day-afters.

And so it is. For this is not only the day after the morning that Christ arose. It is also the day after the night that Christ breathed on his disciples, a little detail that gets very little attention or coverage.

That long-ago Sunday evening, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because – as was so often true of them, and is so often true of us – they were afraid.

Suddenly Jesus – crucified just days before – was standing there among them. A dead-but-now-living man. A walking, talking, speaking dead-but-now-living man. A real live, present, visible, actual dead-but-now-living man.

And to those frightened, weak, shocked, terrified, bunkered-down men, He said this: Be at peace. (Much like He did when they were in a boat, on a lake, in a storm, sure beyond sure that they were going to drown. Wrong. Relax, boys. Be at peace.)

And they went from being afraid to being filled with joy when they saw Him – the Lord. Or more likely they went from being just afraid to being afraid and joyful. (This is an important detail. Too often we overlook joy when we are troubled because we assume they cannot co-exist. And too often we overlook our own and others’ trouble when we are joyful and so fail to experience life in all its fullness.)

And then – most amazing of all the amazing things that happened on the day after the day Jesus rose – he breathed on them the Holy Spirit.

God’s fullness is surely heard in the thunder, felt in the wind, and seen in the fire. But it is sometimes most evident in the gentle whisper of air that Jesus breathes on us the moment we first set eyes on His living presence and hear Him say: Be at peace. It is I. I am here. And I am Lord.

The resurrection changes everything for us. Absolutely. But even more so does the day-after breath.

Because of the first, we know He is alive. Because of the second, we know He is here. Breathing onto us. Breathing into us. Breathed onto us. Breathed into us.

Today marks the day we are filled with His breath because he began breathing again after he had breathed His last for lost and sorry sinners into whom He long ago breathed the very breath of life.

Easter day-after (even though a Monday) is a day to live. A day to shout. A day to sing. A day to dance. A day to breathe the Holy Spirit into our souls so deeply and fully that He spills onto the world around us where He is oh so desperately needed.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed!


He is here! He is here, indeed!

[All content copyright Crystal Kirgiss]

No Service

I am spending two days here to, you know, get away from it all.

To enjoy the peace and quiet.

Away from the crowds and busyness and traffic and chaos.

Away from the noise and stress and rush and press.

Away from the piles and stacks and tasks and lists.

Away from all that is of this world.

All of which sounds prosaic and introspective and intentional and even spiritual…a little time for me and Jesus, me and family, me and I, to do some serious reflecting and resting. It doesn’t require much beyond a good book (check), a decent bed (check), and indoor plumbing (check).

So this should be great in every way. It really should.

Except for this: two words in the top righthand corner of my phone screen –

No Service

Nothing. Zip. Zero. Not even half a bar of “can you hear me know now?”

I’m stymied. This has never happened to me before. I’ve always been connected, even if by nothing more than the tiniest glowing arc….just a dot, really, at the base of that rainbow-ish / radiowave-ish / parachute-ish symbol that is the supreme essence of 21st-century existence in a wirelessly connected world.


No Service.

How, exactly, am I supposed to fully enjoy and appreciate the peace and quiet of this place – away from the chaos and noise and stress of the world – if I can’t, with the click of a button and the swipe of a screen, pull up a minute-by-minute reminder and replay of said chaos and noise and stress?

How indeed.