Can written words expose hidden, heartening truth?

I contributed the following on Good Friday to the 2019 “PictureLent” daily devotional series, written primarily for adults. PictureLent is a ministry of the Rio Texas and the Michigan Conferences of The United Methodist Church.

Each day’s devotional is based on a word found in the Lectionary scripture, which for Good Friday was John 19:14-22.

My word was “Write.” Here is my devotional. I hope that you find meaning in it. May Easter be a restorative time for you.



The daily word is “write”?? Where does that word show up in the story of Jesus’ crucifixion?

A slow re-reading reveals the answer:

Pilate wrote a sign and put it on the cross. It read: ‘JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS’   (John 19:19, ICB).


Showing the placard on the cross above Jesus' headDid you know that it was customary at a crucifixion to attach a placard above the condemned person, with their name and their crime?

This makes sense. Romans performed crucifixions in public locations as a deterrent.

To ensure that everyone could read an edict, it was composed in the three major languages of the time—Hebrew (Aramaic), Greek, and Latin. Those observing would want to know what sorts of activity to avoid!

Written words proclaim Jesus’ identity: The King of the Jews.

John’s gospel reports that this phrasing caused consternation among the Jewish Temple leaders, who protested to Pilate. They didn’t want Jesus labeled as their King, giving the impression that this claim was in fact acknowledged.

They told Pilate: “Don’t write, ‘The King of the Jews.’ But write, ‘This man said, I am the King of the Jews’” (verse 21b). Pilate’s answer: “What I have written, I have written!” (verse 22).

It was as if Pilate issued a proclamation of the gospel: Here is your King!

Follow this thought: Perhaps Pilate was constrained by the size of the piece of wood. What if he had a bigger piece? There could have been so much more to write! But Pilate was also limited by his understanding. With our post-Easter view of the situation we would add more, writing:

Here is your suffering King. (But see how this means he understands your suffering?) Don’t worry, death will not be the end; it will be a new beginning! You can live free from the hurt and pain of your past! You are forgiven! All is grace. Welcome to the new you!

What words do you wish could be written about who you are – this new you?

Undertake another exercise with me: Imagine you have died. (Don’t worry; it was painless.) Your family and friends have gathered together to write your obituary. In the manner of Pilate’s defining epithet, what would you like them to write—not what do you think they might write about you—but what truths do you long to hear?

For me, I would hope they could write:

Creative Carol, a survivor, a life-long learner, one who embodies a meaningful picture of Jesus for others, who bravely points out God-present, and always with us.



Many of us lack healthy self-worth. Today, let the cross change you!

Who do you aspire to be?

Me with 'who I am' words written on a clipboard

Surprise: God already sees you that way!




A Short Prayer:
Nurturing God, the words that you use to describe us are so different than the ones we use on ourselves! On Good Friday, when darkness and death take center stage, may we be reminded that our old ways of thinking can change. Help us to see ourselves with the same delight and expectation with which you see us. Amen.

An Action Challenge:
For friends and family that you encounter today, consider what sign would be placed over their head.
Name a positive trait you see in them. Tell them about it.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:
1. Who is Jesus to you? What would you write on the sign above Jesus’ head?
2. Do the obituary exercise. (Don’t worry about the exact sentences; just write key words.)
3. Write some of these better-feeling thoughts about yourself on a piece of paper. Take a selfie holding your new words. Share on social media tagging #pictureLent

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Photo credits…
Placard above Christ by Luciano Ramos Solari from Pixabay, released under Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Public Domain.
Selfie with defining written words, copyright from my archives.

How I survived All Saints’ Day with help from an impenetrable fog

The day’s first light disclosed a thick, soupy fog. My initial thought:
Drat! Another bleak, dreary day; so common in autumn around these parts.

The weather matched my mood.

A foggy day on the lake

How appropriate, I thought, for this to be my window-view…

On the day we celebrate “All Saints’ Day” in church – an event that I wasn’t sure I could handle.

But then…

(surprisingly)… upon closer scrutiny of the dark greyness…

I discovered…

amiable beauty in this somber landscape!

Curious coloration.
A softness to edges.
An almost mysterious misty-look.
Peaceful.

So what is All Saints’ Day (United Methodists? Celebrating Saints?)
and how does it relate to an impenetrable fog with uplifting elegance?

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First, All Saints’ Day…

  • Actually occurs on November 1st but is celebrated on the first Sunday in November.
  • Got started for the Western church, around the 4th century, initially honoring those who had died, who had led holy, laudable lives for Christ. (Think of the capital-S-real-stuff Saints.)
  • Later expanded to include everybody – dead or alive! Anyone who has shared their faith; who has leveled the path before us. Often referred to as the great cloud of witnesses.
  • For United Methodists, “saints” are different than those in the Roman Catholic tradition. In the FAQ about what United Methodists believe, it clarifies our tenets on this matter.
  • Includes in particular remembering those who have died in the past year who were members of the congregation, and… well… those who were close to you who have recently left this earth.

The latter point ties the fog to the memory of saints.

I lost both my parents this past summer. Five weeks apart. I wasn’t ready to face (again) a remembrance of so-close, lost saints. (Are we ever?)

It has been hard. Sort of like being in a deep fog.

But then I remembered… As he receives the Ten Commandments, Moses goes up the mountain and “approached the thick darkness where God was.” Exodus 20:21.

Darkness can contain the presence of God.

The fog this morning was a reminder. In what could be seen as dreary darkness, when I looked closer, I found reason to give thanks for beauty. God was with me in my darkness.

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Photo credits:
An as-it-was, un-retouched photo from my archives. Shared at Flickr; licensed under a Creative Commons (BY NC-SA 2.0).