Tree signs for Holy Week

If you’ve followed this blog for a number of years, you may recall my tree signs series from California in 2015. Well, a few weeks ago, as I walked through a park near my home, I noticed someone had started putting up tree signs here, too.

I took it as a nod from God, a call to notice messages of calm and hope and peace during this truly hard time. While we are keeping our physical distance from one another, a neighbor in my community is trying to connect with us all through these signs, and I want to pay attention to that person’s blessing.

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The last one here, this cracked tile, landed right on my heart. In a time when so many of us feel a bit (or a lot) broken, when we stumble for prayers, when life feels too difficult, this beautiful, cracked prayer sits quietly under a tree’s branches.

It’s Maundy Thursday today, and so I wanted to share these tree signs with you, partly as a reminder of the Easter promise that’s coming Sunday, and partly to help us remember that even in broken times, God is with us, and God hears our prayers, be they fractured or whole.

Courage, my friends. Do you have a short prayer or song that’s sustaining you during these challenging days?

Road trip across America: A memorial for Holy Week

Oklahoma City marked our midway point of the trip from California to North Carolina. So it feels appropriate, here in the middle of Holy Week, that I share with you a memorial that carries its visitors from horror to hope. After all, that’s what Holy Week is all about: a walk through the horrors of Christ’s arrest and crucifixion to the hope of Easter’s empty tomb.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial sits at the site of the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and serves as a reminder of the unspeakable terror that, on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people, including children who attended a daycare on the building’s second floor. The memorial is somber and serene, a way to honor those lost and to remind us all that life continues.

9:01 marks the moment before the explosion.

A reflecting pool leads across from the 9:01 gate to the 9:03 gate, a time that marked the moment when healing would have to begin.

A field of empty chairs, nine rows for the nine floors of the building, with smaller chairs for the children killed.

The small chairs for the children were the hardest for me to see, especially for the same last names on some of the chairs and the knowledge of what that meant for those children’s surviving families.

The Survivor Tree still stands, and though not yet blooming when we visited, it has just recently begun its springtime renewal.

I recommend watching a video of the outdoor grounds of the memorial, whether you are planning a visit in person or simply want to make a virtual visit. You can also follow the memorial on Twitter (@OKCNM), where they have just this morning tweeted an update on the Survivor Tree.

I’ll leave off today with a wish for your journey toward Easter to leave you filled with hope.

The Easter legend of the dogwood

My mom and I were discussing dogwoods recently. They’re the state flower for North Carolina and the state tree/memorial tree/floral emblem for several other states (Missouri, New Jersey, Virginia).

We’re fortunate to have two pink dogwoods growing in our yard, and they’re in bloom right now, just in time for Easter.

Have you heard the Easter legend of the dogwood? I thought I’d share the version I’ve always heard with you today, this Wednesday of Holy Week. Perhaps you’ve heard a different version? Or never heard the legend at all? It goes a little something like this … Continue reading

For Ash Wednesday: Ashes and 30 pieces of silver

I hope you don’t mind if I revisit an old post (from March 2014) this Ash Wednesday. I don’t remember the exact timing of how everything fell into place March 2014, but I’m pretty sure I wrote this post shortly before my husband came home and told me his company was asking us to move. And move we did, all the way across the country. Talk about your seismic shifts.

I still find I want to dust myself off when I’m covered in ashes. I yearn for an easy answer and search for that shiny, clean (happily ever after?) place. I needed to revisit this post for myself, and it occurred to me that some of you might welcome this reminder, too?

Blessings to you this Ash Wednesday, as we enter into Lent and a season of penitence and waiting for the joyful message of Easter.


I had a lighter post planned, but it somehow didn’t seem appropriate for Ash Wednesday, a day of ashes and penance, the beginning of Lent, the time we set aside in the Christian calendar to remember the events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion, the weeks we set aside to draw closer to God in advance of Easter.

Last night, I became restless and couldn’t sleep, instead pondering the ways we live in ash heaps and sell our lives and dreams short for 30 pieces of silver. We settle for less than what God has planned and even resort to forcing events in our lives that were not what God hoped for us.

Judas Iscariot did this when he betrayed Jesus. Scholars say he was hoping to force Jesus to finally take up his sword and become the warrior Messiah that Judas and others had been awaiting. Judas betrayed Jesus in exchange for 30 pieces of silver, an amount that equaled four months’ wages. Not worth much, considering the outcome for Judas, who tossed the money back at the high priests before going out to hang himself.

One of my favorite stories involving betrayal is The Great Gatsby. Did you know that F. Scott Fitzgerald considered naming it something entirely different: Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires? Fitzgerald recognized, and wanted his readers to see, too, that the separation between millionaires and those living among the ashes isn’t as great as our society might want us to believe. Jay Gatsby was popular and enigmatic but couldn’t escape the ash-heaps and betrayal in the end, despite all that his money could buy.

Sometimes we all end up covered in ash. And whether it’s the freeing ashes of penance or the weighed down ashes of our past, we rarely feel comfortable or comforted when covered in ashes.

And maybe that’s why we’re quick to sell out, to dust ourselves off for a mere 30 pieces of silver, to think it’s so easy to grab hold of our dreams and get to a shiny, clean place. But is the place we end up as clean and as shiny as we expected?

I’ve felt a disconcerting seismic shift in my life in the last few months, as if God is moving the underlying plates in my life, and last night, I wrestled to name the shift. I think it has to do with being covered in ashes from the past (not just my own past but others near me, too) and not wanting to take the 30-pieces-of-silver, forced way out. So I’ll wait to see what God has planned for me next. The waiting here is hard.

Just because I’m pondering ashes doesn’t mean I should leave you there, too, right? So if you recall last week’s post and my joy of an orchid bud, here’s what happened this week.

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I couldn’t resist sharing it, even if it has nothing to do with ashes and 30 pieces of silver. It does have everything to do with embracing life, though, and that’s what I plan to do while I’m waiting for God’s next move.

A virtual Easter basket

The last two weeks have brought some dark days for me. I’ve struggled with “Love thy neighbor” and the call to forgive. Wrath, fear and sadness have threatened to overwhelm me. Maybe you’ve been going through dark days of your own?

Holy Week marks Jesus’ darkest days but also His greatest triumph. Our messed-up brokenness nailed Christ to the cross but could not keep Him there. God’s grace is stronger than our greatest failings in ourselves and with each other.

Because of that first Easter Sunday, we are heading through the dark with a promise of light and an empty tomb on the other side.

I’ve been clinging to the beauty of Easter and its cheerful celebrations. Growing up, we always dyed Easter eggs and then hunted for them and for baskets full of delightful goodies.

Today, I give you a virtual basket of Easter goodies. There are no dyed eggs or foil-wrapped chocolates, but these Easter colors are vibrant and worth savoring. May they bring a bit of light into whatever darkness you’re facing, and may they remind you of the unconquerable Light in the garden of the empty tomb.

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Peace, blessings and joy to you this Easter, my friends!