Our Hearts Burn Within Us

Luke 24: 30-32

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

This story of the risen Lord appearing to two despondent disciples later on the day of His resurrection tends to get overlooked in the excitement of the rolled back stone, the empty tomb with grave clothes left behind, and the angels announcing “He is not here, He is risen!”.   Yet at the end of a blessed and full Easter day today, and after 6 weeks of daily meditations in preparation for this day, it is the Road to Emmaus that I keep coming back to.  It reaches me because it makes my heart burn, not in a “too much acid” way, but in a “wishing I could more fully understand God’s plan for us”  way.  It helps open my eyes and see a living Jesus in the people around me.

Like so many, I tend to walk through life blinded to what is really important, essential and necessary.  I can be self-absorbed,  immersed in my own troubles and concerns, staring at my own feet as I walk each step, rather than looking at the road ahead and taking joy in the journey.

Emmaus helps me remember how He feeds me from His word, and I hunger for even more, my heart burning within me.   Jesus makes plain how He Himself addresses my most basic needs:

He is the bread of life so I am fed.

He is the living water so I no longer thirst.

He is the light so I am never left in darkness.

He shares my yoke so my burden is easier.

He clothes  me with righteousness so I am never naked.

He cleanses me when I am at my most soiled and repugnant.

He is the open door–always welcoming, with a room prepared for me.

So when I encounter Him along the road of my life,  I need to be ready to listen, ready to invite Him in to stay, ready to share whatever I have with Him.    When He breaks bread and hands me my piece, I want to accept it with open eyes of gratitude, knowing the gift He hands me is nothing less than Himself.


~E Gibson

Take Time to Mourn

“Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to the decision and action. He came from the Judean
town of Arimathea and was waiting for the kingdom of God. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus body. Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen cloth and placed it in a tomb cut in the rock, one in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin.” – Luke 23:50-54

Do not pass Holy Saturday without a second thought.

There was recently another student suicide in our community on the Lakota reservation. While I did not have the student in one of my classes, I had many of her friends as students. As I saw their despair, confusion, and grief I felt a deep and real frustration with God. How could someone, with only 16 years of living, make the determination that they no longer deserved to live, or could not tolerate living any longer. What kind of world is it in which God has us live?

What did Mary and the disciples feel when Jesus was on the cross? What did Joseph of Arimathea feel as he peeled the bloodied and lifeless corpse down from the tree? It could not have been deep feelings of gratitude. They were not sitting around thinking: ‘Golly, I sure feel justified now. I’m so glad Jesus just took care of my sins and such.’

Instead there was a deep and real despair, along with a re-entering into the daily routine. Joseph knew the Sabbath was about to start and he had to get Jesus down and placed in the tomb before it did or else he would be ceremonially unclean. Had he or the disciples known what was going to happen, the Resurrection on the third day would not have been nearly as glorious.

At the end of the day, I cannot provide the consoling words or hope that my students need in the face of deep pain. Lament and complaint to God is a needed and
natural response. To simply say it will all get better is to ignore the reality of sin and pain that we know from experience are the realities we face on a daily basis.

Do not pass Holy Saturday without a second thought.

Take time to mourn. Take time to lament. Give yourself the time and space to sit in discomfort. The disciples took time to be in that space. Christ himself took time to dwell in that space. The pain and sin we face are real. Take time to let that sink in before the coming morn establishes a new reality.

~Ben Gibson

Soul Will Be Pierced

“This child is like a pearl,
Some men will forfeit everything
To have his love, while others cling
To worthless things and forfeit life.
He is a source of peace—and strife.
And many thoughts he will reveal
That men have thought they could conceal.
And you, most blessed woman too,
Will see what wicked men can do.
Your love to him will take its toll,
And like a sword will pierce your soul.”
from John Piper in “Simeon

Older than eternity, now he
is new. Now native to earth as I am, nailed
to my poor planet, caught
that I might be free, blind in my womb
to know my darkness ended,
brought to this birth for me to be new-born,
and for him to see me mended
I must see him torn.
from “Accompanied by Angels” by Luci Shaw

The God of curved space, the dry
God, is not going to help us, but the son
whose blood splattered
the hem of his mother’s robe.
“Looking at Stars”  by Jane Kenyon

This was the day she had been told would come yet she could not have anticipated how horrific would be His suffering, how hideous His wounds, how extensively His blood covered those around Him.  She could not have imagined the helplessness she felt in being unable to comfort Him, ease His pain, or smooth His torn brow.  She could not have known she would feel His hurt so deeply; it was as if she too had been lacerated and drained of life herself.

Yet looking down at her from the cross, despite His own distress, He compassionately provides for her future care and protection.  He continues loving her even when He is beyond her reach. He doesn’t abandon her even as He endures the unendurable–separation from His Father and betrayal by His people.

She shed her blood bearing Him, birthing Him to breathe and walk and live fully on this earth;  now her heart breaking,  she watches Him surrender and take His last breath.
He sheds His cleansing blood in parting, once and for all mending all that is pierced and broken in us, yet rending forever that which separates us from God.

~E Gibson

Well Pressed

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.
Matthew 26:40

“Gethsemane” means “oil press” –a place of olive trees treasured for the fine oil delivered from their fruit.

On this Thursday night the pressure is turned up high on the disciples, not just on Jesus.

The disciples are expected, indeed commanded, to keep watch alongside the Master, to be filled with prayer, to avoid the temptation thrown at them at every turn.

But they fail pressure testing and fall apart.  Like them, we are easily lulled by complacency, by our over-indulged satiety for material comforts that do not truly fill hunger or quench thirst,  by our expectation that being called a disciple of Jesus is enough.

It is not enough. We fail the pressure test as well.

We sleep through His anguish.
We dream, oblivious, while He sweats blood.
We deny we know Him when pressed.

Incredibly -He loves us anyway.

So, like the disciples who walked alongside Him, tonight I’m reminded to deliver my best under pressure:
to remain watchful,
to be faithful under stress,
to stay awake praying
when I’m needed most.

~E Gibson


Having grown up in the Episcopalian tradition, I’ve always associated the season of Lent with fasting. And I’m not very good at fasting in general. Which means I’m really bad at Lent. When I say bad, I mean really, really bad.

One year in college I tried to give up chocolate and found myself buying Coco Puffs at the grocery store because breakfast food can’t be considered chocolate, right? That was before I made a complete face plant into a chocolate fondue fountain at a social event.

Last year I tried to give up television and I didn’t even realize that I was watching television until I was into the second dvd of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at a movie marathon event.

This year I pretended that I didn’t even give anything up because I failed so quickly I didn’t even want to admit I’d tried.

Confronted by my own abysmal failure, I’ve spent some time pondering the purposes of Lent. I’ve always assumed that the fasting was intended to make us holier–that fasting during Lent eliminates something from our lives that is distracting us from God and in giving that one distraction up, we make ourselves into a worthier sacrifice.

But I realized that there’s a flaw in my thinking.

I, of my own volition, cannot make myself a worthier sacrifice. I am incapable of saving myself, reforming myself, purifying myself.

Paul says in his letter to the Galatians, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (5:16-18). He doesn’t say, “If you summon up enough will power, you will be able to resist your flesh.” No, he says that we master the desire of our flesh when we are led by the Spirit. And in order to be led, we need to submit, lay down our notions of spiritual grandeur, and follow.

While I know that I’ve failed at fasting, I don’t think this season has been wasted space because in my failure I’ve managed to acknowledge my own inability to fix myself and my desperate need for a Savior. And perhaps that’s the purpose of Lent–to see our abyss of sin, to become aware of how futile our attempts at holiness really are, and to be humbled at our own inability to master ourselves. And this is grace–that in our sinful weakness, Jesus would die for us. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross stands in starker contrast when you know he died for us as sinners, than if he had died for us, the self-reformed and perfectly-disciplined fasting-machines.

~Hilary Mulhern

“You give your help, not in proportion to our merit, but to our needs. You came for the sick and not for the healthy. How true I feel this is. I feel your love as you hold me to your Sacred Heart, my Beloved Jesus, my God, my Master, but I feel, too, the need I have of your tenderness, and of your caress because of my infinite weakness.” –From Meditations of a Hermit, by Charles de Foucauld

From Decay, Life

The trillium only thrives where death has been.
The mulch of hundreds of autumns fluffs the bed where trillium bulbs sleep, content through most of the year.

When the frost is giving way to dew, the trillium leaves peek out, curious, testing the air.
A few stray rays of sun filtering through the overgrowth and canopy encourage the shoots to rise, spread and unfurl.

In the middle, a white bud appears in humility, almost embarrassed to be seen at all.
There is pure declaration of triune perfection.

In a matter of days, the petals spread wide and bold so briefly, curl purplish. Wilt and return aground.
Leaves wither and fall unnoticed, becoming dust once again.

Beauty arises from decay.
Death gives way to pure perfection.

~E Gibson

Fiery and Sweet

May the power of your love, Lord Christ,
fiery and sweet as honey,
so absorb our hearts
as to withdraw them
from all that is under heaven.
Grant that we may be ready to die
for love of your love,
as you died for love of our love.
St. Francis of Assisi

This is a week of letting go while holding on.

If I am to see Jesus and know the power of His love,
I must let go of this life and walk with Him with every step to the cross.

No falling asleep.
No selling out.
No turning and running away.
No hiding my face in denial.
No looking back.
No clinging to the comforts of the world.

But of course I fail again and again.
My heart resists leaving behind what I know.

Plucked from the crowd,
I grasp and carry the load, my load, alongside Him.
My turn to hold on and not let go, as if life depends on it.
Which it does, requiring no nails.

The fire of His love leaves my sin in ashes.
From those ashes rises new life.
Love of His love of our love.

~E Gibson

From the Lips of Children

Matthew 21:16

“Do you hear what these children are saying?” [the chief priests and teachers of the law] asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise’?”

Children have a gift of getting to the heart of the matter.   The children in the temple during Holy Week continued to shout and praise Jesus’ name, shouting “Hosanna!”  just as they had done on the road to Jerusalem on Sunday.  For them, the triumph was not over.  The children continued to celebrate when the adults around them were losing momentum in their faith.

The grumbling of the chief priests and teachers of the law about the noisy children is met with a response from Jesus that is a reminder of what they know all too well themselves from reading the Psalms–praise from the children is actually prescribed by God and is therefore made holy.

I’m reminded of this every Sunday when I play piano for the Sunday School singing time for the children in our small church.  For over twenty years now I’ve watched a generation of Wiser Lake Chapel children, including my own three, grow up in that church basement, singing the same praise and worship songs from the time they sit as toddlers on a bigger sibling’s lap, to the point when they “graduate” to the high school class.  Some of those children have now become the Sunday School teachers, with their own children sitting in the very chairs they sat in such a short time ago.  There is nothing more invigorating than hearing children singing energetically with joy, knowing that God Himself has ordained their voices should be lifted up in praise.

So on this sad and lonely week that marches inexorably to Friday, to Golgotha, to suffering and death, the unwelcome shouts and songs of the children must have been soothing balm to Jesus’ soul.  The children knew His heart when the adults around Him were too blind to see and too deaf to hear.

~E Gibson


This past Monday, as I was walking through the plaza at Christian Academy in Japan on my way to work, I spied a single white blossom in a nearby branch.  This sighting pulled me from my walking-but-not-quite-waking 8:00 am stupor, filling me with joy and excitement.

Most of the trees in CAJ’s plaza are Somei Yoshino Cherry Trees, one variety of a larger family known in Japan simply as Sakura.
Forget groundhogs; forget robins–the pink and white Sakura blossoms herald the beginning of Spring in Japan.  When the trees are in full bloom, each tree, each limb resembles a vibrant cloudburst.  Each limb is filled with life and beauty.  The weather warms and people begin to venture outside for long walks and picnics under the blossoms.
This is why I was so energized and excited when I saw that blossom that morning: it was a promise; a preview; just a taste of the new season to come.  Almost every other branch of every tree in the plaza was still bare, as though dead.  The weather that day was just a little too chilly to feel Spring-like and wind-storm that night made it seem as though the weather was not improving but getting worse.  Yet, that blossom signaled something inexorable; something true and reliable: Spring would arrive in full and nothing could stop it!
We live in a rather extended version of this cool March Monday morning: the world is broken and so many things around us seem bare, bereft of truth, beauty and life.  Sometimes, it seems as though the world is simply getting worse.  Yet if we look carefully, we can spy the blossoms around us; those special moments of reconciliation, healing and restoration that hint at something yet to come.  
This combination of celebration and patient expectation is embodied in these days and weeks leading up to Easter.  Through His death and resurrection, Christ dealt a mortal blow to sin and death and the outcome of this ancient battle is now certain.  Christ will return to end the battle once and for all so that we can enjoy the fullness of victory in a newly restored Earth, and we wait for that day with earnest and deep longing.  It is perhaps all too easy to become impatient and to lose hope in the waiting, but it is essential to look for the first-fruits; those signs and signals that sin will pass away.  In time, the bare branches of this world will burst to life, beautiful, full and new.  In time, Spring will come.
~Nate Gibson, Tokyo

Many Rooms

John 14: 1-3

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

It was meant to be reassurance: trust me, don’t be troubled, I will return.  Looking back, it is powerfully reassuring, but at the time it must have been greatly puzzling.  There would have been too much to absorb and understand in these few words.

Certainly it is reassuring there will be plenty of room as well as plenty of rooms.  We are a diverse flock–each unique from the next, yet there is room for everyone.  Despite our differences, there will be a dwelling place prepared and ready,  able to fit us all in.

And most reassuring of all–nothing is hidden from us, even if we don’t always understand what we hear and read.  “If it were not so, I would have told you.”

There is a welcome mat, an open door, a room prepared specifically for us, and we will be guided there.

No need to be troubled.  Trust me.

~E Gibson