About Crystal Davis

Crystal is a campus planter with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Arizona State University, the largest university in the country. InterVarsity has a vision to see students and faculty transformed, campuses renewed, and world changers developed. She also works part-time as a speech-language pathologist and almost full-time as a plant-based, organic foodie.

Walking with Jesus Through Holy Week

This past Saturday I visited the zoo with my husband and another couple. I know, right? Cute. As we were walking along looking at the monkeys and birds, a rabbit hopped by on the path in front of us. A tiny little blonde girl with pigtails walking near us looked up at her parents and excitedly exclaimed, “maybe it’s the Easter bunny!”

I can’t remember if I ever actually believed in the Easter bunny, but I do remember that Easter has never been my favorite holiday, and actually, if I’m honest, holidays in general really don’t do that much for me. I like my normal life a lot, so why disrupt it? I’ve felt that Easter, like any other holiday, is a passing remembrance of history and is really just a day like any other. I was raised in a culture where we might take a holiday off work, but then spend it checking overdue items off our to-do list or taking an extra long nap. Really reflecting on the symbolism of holiday, sacrificing our time, letting it interrupt our life, is not something we are used to.

The meaning of holidays, a day to be holy, special, different, is almost foreign to the space-minded person like me, to whom time is unvaried, iterative, homogeneous, to whom all hours are alike, quality-less, empty shells. Unlike me, the Bible senses the diversified character of time; it teaches us to be attached to holiness in time, to be attached to sacred events, to learn how to consecrate sanctuaries that emerge from the magnificent stream of a year (see Rabbi Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man). Easter is a monumental journey along the path of the Christian year. I’m catching a vision from friends and teachers at my church that are telling me, “hey, this matters.” There are days that are supposed to interrupt our lives. While God is with us all the time, there are times that cause us to pause, recognize significance, and give thanks.

In order to understand the significance of Easter in the Christian year, we must understand the Jewish liturgical year as well. The celebration of Passover took place just before the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and the two holidays have been intertwined ever since. The word Pasch, originally meaning Passover, came to mean Easter as well. On Thursday of Holy Week, Jesus sat down with his disciples and had “the last supper,” a Passover meal. The Passover meal is a time to celebrate and remember God’s rescue of the Hebrew people from slavery. While in bondage in Egypt, the people were instructed to slaughter a lamb and smear its blood on their doorposts, so that they could be saved from impending death. How appropriate that the day after that meal, Jesus would shed his blood so that all could be free.

Yesterday while at the gym, I saw a “Happy Passover” commercial that ended with the words declared at the beginning of the Haggadah (Passover seder), All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy come and celebrate Passover. What Jesus did that weekend made it possible for all to come and celebrate.

We thus live in the mystery of Holy Week, that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:24).

Jesus’ dying, resurrection, and ascension become our dying and rising, our death to new life. Our Lord teaches us that life comes from death, that we can find meaning in suffering, that there is light in darkness. Death, indeed, does not have the last word.

*Note – I borrowed many of these ideas from the Rev. Dr. Timothy Smith, who wrote a lenten devotional called “Blessed – Daily Retreats With Jesus for the Season of Lent 2013.” It is available from http://www.waterfromrock.org

Advertisements

The Great Banquet

I love food. I have for as long as I can remember. My friend Sierra will tell you about the unyielding focus that comes over my face as I eat any dearly loved food, especially dessert. When she imitates me, she gets her face as close to the dessert as possible, focuses her eyes on it like she’s in a trance, and shovels each bite into her mouth carefully, methodically.

Though I’ve loved food all my life, it was my husband Theo who really taught me to cook. When we were dating, I watched him materialize soups, sauces, and salad dressings out of nothing but vegetables. I watched him chop, sauté, caramelize, blanch, brown, and bake. He used spices – different kinds of spices for different kinds of foods! I was amazed. His superb cooking met my love of eating and we have been foodies ever since. We will do anything for a good meal. Once we even canceled a vacation to San Diego so that we could buy another much-desired kitchen appliance.

When we both became vegetarians two and a half years ago, the old “chicken and rice for dinner” standby no longer worked, so we started expanding our cooking repertoire even more, incorporating the vast variety and beauty of eastern cooking, from Nepalese curry to fresh rolled sushi. Every time I eat these foods, I picture sitting down with Nepalese or Japanese families, eating a feast that lasts hours, laughing, sharing life, drinking wine or sake.

In first century Jewish culture, wedding meals lasted an entire week. Hosts were responsible for providing not just food but abundant wine for a lavish celebration. It is behind this backdrop that we find, in Matthew 25, a story of ten young Jewish women, waiting around, getting ready to attend a wedding feast. The Bridegroom in this story, though, seems to be less than timely and keeps them waiting until midnight. Their stomachs must have been grumbling as they waited for the feast.

Any meal is great, but my favorite meal by far is dinner, because dinner symbolizes the end of the day, a job well done, a race well run. There’s nothing like surmounting an insurmountable task like running 5 miles, pursuing forgiveness, climbing a mountain, balancing a budget, or teaching a class of kindergartners how to read, and coming home at the end of the day to a steaming hot, delicious feast. The harder I have worked on any given day, the hungrier I am.

The first time Theo saw me cry, it was at the top of a mountain. We had been dating for a few months and he had come out to Colorado to visit me. Now, neither of us are really that outdoorsy. So, of course, I planned for us to hike a 14er. That’s a 14,000 foot high mountain for those of you that don’t know. It seemed like a fun idea. Thankfully, I had checked hikingincolorado.com for advice, and knew we needed to leave early to avoid being struck by lightning. So off we went, to Longs Peak, at 3am, up the mountain, in shorts, light jackets, a couple water bottles, and a few snickers bars. When we reached “the cliffs,” which are exactly what they sound like, I realized we should have brought gloves, and when we finally reached the summit 7 ½ hours later, I cried. Not out of relief, but out of panic, realizing that this journey was only half over and there was no zip line. I didn’t think I could make it back down the mountain. But Theo was there to whisper to me those two sweet words of encouragement: “chicken soup.” He had put a chicken soup concoction into the crock-pot before we left, and it was sitting at my apartment, at that very moment, waiting for us, if and when we finally made it home from our long journey. I could almost smell it already. On our 5-hour journey back down the mountain, even when we ran out of water 1.5 miles from the trail head, still we sang sweet hymns, literally sang, about the chicken soup. To this day, it was the best chicken soup I have ever had.

While the young women were waiting to get into the wedding feast, some were prepared, and brought enough oil to keep their lamps burning, but some were foolish and ran out of oil. Jesus, the storyteller of this parable and almost assuredly the Bridegroom in the story, finishes with this admonition: “therefore, keep watch, for you do not know the day or the hour.” We know from the context immediately prior to this parable that “the day or the hour” refers to Jesus’ return, when the world will be set right. Many days I, too, long for the world to be set right – to be led by righteousness and justice instead of corruption and fear. Sometimes the work seems long, and the Bridegroom feels late, and I’m hungry. If Jesus were talking to me, I picture him saying, “keep burning oil until I come. Persist, work hard, and wait.” Some days, I don’t feel like working hard or even showing up. But someday, I will sit down at a feast, with Japanese believers, and we will eat the best sushi ever made, maybe with some grilled salmon and a nice glass of sake. I hope there will be curry too, and injera, falafel, some turkey and potatoes for my American friends, and fresh baked enchiladas. May our hike down the mountain, whatever provisions we lack or sufferings we encounter, feel small compared to the grandness of the meal.

“Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”

– Revelation 19:9 (NIV)

In Defense of Rest

I remember vividly what my daily schedule looked like in graduate school. My graduate program was two full, long years, and at the same time I had begun my first year of ministry as a campus staff member for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. My days looked a lot like this:

7:10 AM – run to Kinko’s to print something really important for work.
7:31 AM – Triple shot espresso (I am not a morning person!).
8:07 AM – Set up and run a discussion board board leading and training college students to engage the campus in conversations about Jesus. Have 3 spiritual conversations with atheist students.
12:10 PM – Eat 2 cupcakes for lunch (forgot to plan ahead!).
12:20 PM – 4:00 PM – Class for 4 hours.
4:30 – 6:30 PM – Clinicals (a part of my graduate program).
6:30-7:30 PM – Phone date (gotta give at least an hour to maintain relationships!).
7:30 PM – Broccoli for dinner (a little healthier this time!).
7:30 – 10:30 PM – Lead our weekly ministry large group.
10:30 PM -12:30 AM – Best friend comes over to study and fill out invitations for upcoming Halloween party.

At this point of my night on this particular day, I remember thinking, “why in the world do I have a headache?” This day, though, was followed by at least 3 more days like just like it, running from one thing to the next, until I crashed that weekend and slept for almost two straight days, and at the end of it all, I thought, ‘awesome.’

But hey, I’m an achiever. It makes me feel good to get things done, go after new pursuits, accomplish big things. That’s how God made me, with a never-ending fire to dream, go, live, try, lead.

The problem comes when the God that I follow, the Creator of the universe, sets up a system that includes and demands space for regular rest. What a waste of time, right? I can sleep when I’m dead! In college, I began to wrestle with this tension, at a time when I had started taking seriously my own growth as a disciple of Jesus, and one thing that trusted mentors kept telling me was that I needed to take a regular Sabbath every week, a day to rest and not do any work. I hated that idea. For me, a day of no accomplishment felt like a day wasted. My identity was so tied up in my various forms of work that taking that day off actually felt harder, more uncomfortable, than jumping back into the daily grind. For me, the grind was easier.

Our culture seems to feel the same way that I did. How often, when you ask a friend or coworker, “how is your week going?” do you hear, “it’s going great! I’ve finished work on time every day this week, spent quiet evenings home with my family, and gotten nine hours of sleep every night!”? No, instead, we hear, “busy” (followed by a long sigh), “I’m exhausted,” or, “I can’t wait until Friday” (also followed by a sigh).

According to a study by CNN health, the percentage of Americans that get 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night is steadily increasing, while the percentage that get 8 or more hours steadily declines. Though we are praised for our busy-ness and applauded for our hard work, deep down many of us long deeply for a life that is more than just work.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recently published a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying about the wisdom she has gathered talking with her patients. Guess what the second most common regret was?

I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

Maybe I should have stepped off the daily treadmill more often, maybe I should have sat down, and really looked… looked at God, looked at myself, looked at my family.

Maybe the world really wouldn’t have fallen apart if I had done that, if I hadn’t spent those extra hours doing paperwork at the office, worrying about the laundry that didn’t get done, or catching up on the 73 emails I didn’t get to during the week. Just maybe.

In the beginning of the Creation story in Genesis 1 and 2, we find a God who busies himself making things out of nothing for an entire week. And then, amazingly, we find this:

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:2-3).

But God wasn’t really 100% done, was he? He does more after this and continues to work to this day. He had just “finished the work that he had been doing.” And this is God that we’re talking about here. Did he really need to take a nap or sleep in to feel better for the next shift of working? Probably not. If God himself is not above rest, is it not arrogant for us to think that we’re personally too important to take a day off?

So why does God rest, then, if he doesn’t need it?

Perhaps he was setting up a system, built within the very threads of Creation, that would make humans more than just workhorses, more than machines. Maybe, out of great love, he was modeling rest, so that, from the least to the greatest of us, we would find our identities in how he sees us, not in how many widgets we can make in one hour. In any society, children produce and accomplish very little of value, and yet Jesus, who was grounded in the heart of the Jewish Sabbath, says, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Children are valued for who they are, not what they accomplish, and so it should be with you.

Not only does God model rest, he “blesses” the seventh day and calls it “holy.” During the previous days of the week he has called many things good, but this is the first day to be called holy and the first day to be blessed.

Is it possible that days of rest are even more important than days of work, even if your work is sharing the gospel, or feeding the hungry, or preaching?

This past year my husband, Theo, and I had the opportunity to lead our church Bible Study in Lectio Devina, an ancient practice in which we read a Scripture passage aloud several times, asking God what he might want to say to us, both individually and corporately, through that passage. The passage was the feeding of the five thousand in Mark. As we began to go through the experience, we realized that God was speaking the same message to everyone in the group through Jesus’ advice to the disciples: “Come away by yourselves and rest for awhile.” Even though this wasn’t the main point of the passage, God was speaking strongly, trying to get through by any means possible. This was an intergenerational group of engineers, vets, nurses, and parents, and they were all exhausted and struggling with anxiety, insomnia, lack of space for God, and sickness as a result of not resting regularly.

How should we respond, then, in a world of stress, exhaustion, and busy-ness?

If I weren’t a follower of Jesus, I would most certainly overwork, make more money, accomplish big things, ignore any personal problems I had by working more, and overall just be my own god.

That would be the easier choice, but if we are followers of Jesus, we are called to be different.

We are called to pursue worthy endeavors with all of our hearts, yes, but we are also called to rest, regularly, before all of the work has been done, and just “be.” For me, this has meant taking some time off every day, pursuing a schedule that allows for a full night of sleep, and taking a weekly Sabbath. On that “blessed” day, I turn off my phone, forget about social media, and just let myself “be,” with God, with myself, and with my husband. Maybe that’s the rest that you need for your soul; maybe it is something different, but may we all experience deeper fullness of God’s kingdom by pursuing regular, holy, and blessed rest.