He is not here…

why weepest thou
“Why weepest thou?” J. Kirk Richards (jkirkrichards.com)

What must it have been like on that early morning, millennia past,
to have walked faintly to the place where lay his beloved body —
once alive but now
in order to anoint the Anointed One
to prepare the one whose way had been prepared
to weep over the one who had wept over all creation —
only to find the stone rolled away.

What must it have been like on that early morning, millennia past,
to have stood fearfully in the place where lay only burial cloths —
once filled but now
to find angels ablaze
to gaze at lightning faces
to feel thunder from heaven —
only to hear “He is not here.”

What must it have been like on that early morning, millennia past,
to have run fiercely from the place where lay their doubts —
once afraid but now
to shout the news
to proclaim the joy
to embody the living Word —
only to be doubted by the world.

What must it have been like on that early morning, millennia past,
to have spoken faithfully of that place where Christ was not —
He is alive!
He is not here!
He has conquered sin!
He has defeated death! 

to be a follower
to be a mother
to be a friend —
and to know that nothing in all creation would ever be the same again.

Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?
Why are you looking among the world for something only Christ can give?
Why are you looking among yourself for what only Christ can be?

He is risen. He is risen indeed.





Easter and the Breath of Life

Friday is about the embrace of Christ as he wraps our sinful selves – each and every one of us muddy beyond measure – in his infinitely loving arms, taking our sins upon himself while hanging on the shockingly sacred cross.

Saturday is about waiting with bated breath for the time to pass and for the Christ to breathe again. Knowing how the story ends does not lessen its glorious unfolding, and so Saturday is marked by holy suspense and wonderment.

Sunday is about life, hope, joy, disbelief, deep belief, new clothes, and a feast to end all feasts.

(Luke 15)
When that stinky, filthy, sorry and soiled son – just returned from a life of utter independence, and also utter pig stench – was embraced by his gracious, forgiving, gentle, and loving father, the story was not ended.

Not even close.

That son needed cleaning up (done by the father) and new clothes (provided by the father) and a joyous welcome home party that blew the roof right up off the house in a burst of wild celebration (hosted by the father).

The older son – who had never left home outwardly but had surely left it inwardly – wasn’t at the party, not because he missed it or wasn’t told. He skipped it. Entirely. Totally. Even after being warmly welcomed and invited. The older son didn’t want hugging. He didn’t want cleaning up. He didn’t want reclothing. He didn’t want rejoicing. He didn’t want a party – not that party, at least. And what we don’t want is not forced upon us. Ever.

The lost son was found, and the family partied like there was no tomorrow (even though there were endless tomorrows.)

(John 20)
When Jesus hung on that cross – dripping with the stink and stench and filth of the world’s sins – and held all of humanity in his embrace while breathing his last, the story was not ended.

Not even close.

Less than 48 hours after he’d been nailed to the cross, and maybe just 36 hours after he died – really and truly and totally died – Jesus’ tomb was empty. Really and truly and totally.

This is rather a big deal. A stupendously, shockingly, and stunningly big deal, in fact.

Resurrection doesn’t just happen every day (though a little part of me is brought to life each day after it has first died out really, truly, and totally).

And of course, no matter how much he’d told them it would happen, his best friends weren’t expecting their really, truly, and totally dead leader to ever be anything other than really, truly, and totally dead.

They didn’t know the end of the story yet. Their suspense and fear were real. Truly and totally.

So you can imagine their surprise when just 50 or so hours after watching him take his last breath, they saw Jesus right there with them – where they huddled behind locked doors for fear of what might happen to guys who were friends with the man who had turned the world upside down really and truly and totally.


Also understandable: their fear of what might happen to them was nothing compared to the shock of what did happen to them. Seeing a dead guy, that is. Who was really, truly, and totally no longer dead. He spoke. He embraced. He laughed. He comforted. He breathed in and out, in and out, in and out, no more breathing his last, now re-embodied in flesh and blood – flesh no longer just human and blood no longer merely shed.

And then the unthinkable: the risen Christ, breathing in and out, in and out, in and out – really and truly and fully alive – breathed in and out right onto his friends, much like God breathed into the first of humanity, eons and ages and lifetimes ago.

“Don’t fear,” he said. “It’s me,” he said. “I’m here,” he said. “Be at peace,” he said.

Then he breathed on them and said, “Be. Be born. Be new. Be mine. Be filled with the Spirit of holiness and life.”

So you see, there is no doubt that we all – each and every one of us – takes God’s breath away – not by force, but by the depth of his own holy love: first on the cross, where he breathed his last; then at the party (for that’s what happened behind those locked doors on Sunday night – a party indeed), where he breathed their first. Our first.

The Lord is risen. The tomb is empty. We have been cleansed. Our spirits are full.

We know how the story ends. Let’s now live into its glorious unfolding – really, truly, and fully.

That foot-washing thing, reconsidered

During this Holy Week, I’ve thought quite a lot about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. I’ve worked my way through some tricky Greek words, wrestled with the exasperating response of Peter (who can always be counted on for that kind of thing), and contemplated the gravity of the coming days.

But mostly, I’ve just thought about Jesus – the son of God, the Almighty incarnate- kneeling down in willing service to wash 24 dusty, dirty, calloused, cracked, leathery, worn, and smelly feet.

It was an insignificant and lowly job, that foot-washing thing, worthy of nobody beyond the lowest servant. It’s a task that doesn’t get noticed, an action that doesn’t get lauded, which is perhaps why the three earliest gospel writers don’t even record it: because it wasn’t something people paid attention to; because its significance was completely lost on those who were right there to see it and experience it.

That’s the thing about foot-washing. When done in the right spirit, for the right reasons, people aren’t likely to take notice. That’s because most foot-washing jobs are entirely inglorious. Entirely. They are not the stuff of headline news or award ceremonies or viral retweets.

They are the dusty, dirty, calloused, cracked, leathery, worn, and smelly jobs. The jobs that absolutely no one wants to do. Ever. Not even a tiny little bit.

Except Jesus – who consistently throws a wrench in the way humanity would choose to live were it left to its own devices.

Like many others in a ministry community, I have washed another person’s feet – one set, anyway, after a month of really hard work during which some of us didn’t perhaps love each other quite as well as we should have all the time, so, you know, we washed feet to make things right and to publicly express unity and grace, forgiveness and humility, which, though beautiful in its own way, isn’t really the point of that foot-washing thing.

What Jesus did when he washed those 24 feet – two of whom belonged to a traitorous friend – certainly embodied unity and grace, forgiveness and humility. But more importantly, it displayed an attitude that says:

  • I will do the task that no one else will do.
  • I will do the task that most others consider to be beneath them.
  • I will do the task that promises no rewards or accolades or notice.
  • I will do the task that goes unnoticed and unappreciated.
  • I will do the task that others overlook.
  • I will do the task that everyone else takes for granted.
  • I will do the task that leads to nothing bigger and better and grander.
  • I will do the task that is unpleasant and messy and sometimes even disgusting.
  • And I will do it quietly, discreetly, and humbly, to the best of my ability, with a gracious spirit.

As moving and beautiful and sincere as our actual foot-washing ceremonies may be – whether in the context of summer camp, large ministry communities, or intimate small groups – washing feet isn’t Jesus’ real challenge for us. Rather, it is to have a foot-washing attitude. In every situation. All the time.

We are all incapable of this on our own. Entirely. A foot-washing attitude cannot grow except in a soul overflowing with the Spirit’s love and grace and strength. A foot-washing attitude cannot thrive except in a life that is totally surrendered to the Lord’s sovereignty. Even more elemental, a foot-washing attitude cannot even be except in those who know their true identity in Christ, know their purpose, and have an eternal perspective – just as Jesus did.

Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything, and that he had come from God, and would return to God. SO – he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.

During this Holy Week, when the cross proclaims his immeasurable love and the empty tomb proclaims his infinite power, that foot-washing thing that Jesus did proclaims his wholly servant-minded and humble attitude. We would do well to remember it and do likewise.


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]

Winter in Spring (or: This, Then, is March 2013) (or: When Narnia comes to Indiana)

So, March 20 was the first day of spring in this, the year 2013.

Ergo, yesterday – March 24 – was the fifth day of spring. As in the season the follows winter.

But there must have been some confusion because last night – the fifth evening of spring – looked like this:

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Note, if you please, the white-covered branches. I half expected a faun to the step out from among the trees into the light of the lamp-post, holding an umbrella in one arm and carrying several brown-paper parcels in the other.

Admittedly, it was quite magical for any number of reasons. The still silence. The storybook setting. The anticipation of curling up in a warm bed under a pile of toasty blankets.

Best of all, I did not have to sneak silently back to a distant wardrobe, trusting neither tree nor bird, but rather could joyfully re-light my Christmas tree that is still standing because, well, it’s made of books and so it still is. (I find it quite impossible to contemplate a home where it is not, but of course one must prepare oneself for the possibility.)

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Thankfully I do not live in a land where it is always winter and never Christmas. Where there is no sight of spring. Where grace and hope and love are hidden away in small and secret places.

I live in a land where winter – even if it lasts for ever so long – is always filled with the joy of Christmas and always followed by the miracle of Easter. Where grace and hope and love are free for the taking.

That is: the sun always shines, no matter how dark the wintry clouds may be. And just when it is needed most, it pierces through the air and sky and soul to shatter our little world and save our desperate hearts.

The spell, you see, is broken. The patches of green are growing bigger. The patches of snow are growing smaller. The mist has turned from white to gold. And overhead, there is blue sky between the tree tops.

Photo: CKirgiss
Photo: CKirgiss

Rest assured: underneath the deep, deep snow, springtime and new life are bursting from the ground.

All is very, very well.

(Select descriptions of both winter and spring borrowed respectfully from Narnia.)