Project Resurrection

“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God, God’s Sunrise will break in upon us, shining on those in the darkness, those sitting in the shadow of death. Then showing us the way, one foot at a time, down the path of peace.”

—Luke 1:70-79


For over twenty-five years, my family has visited Teton National Park in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. One of our favorite hikes is the String Lake trail around Jenny Lake and up into Cascade Canyon. There is a section on the trail that looks like a meteor landed and scorched every square inch of green. In the summer of 1985, a terrible forest fire burned through 900 acres of vegetation.


It appeared that the population of the Lodgepoll pine tree was gone forever. For many years it looked like a cemetery of ash. But then these little green shoots started popping up all over the place. What had happened? A little miracle. You see, the forest was created and programmed to come back to life. Dozens of pine cones live within the crown of every Lodgepoll Pine. Inside are seeds that are sealed tightly by a kind of superpower “glue.” Only extreme heat can soften the resin thus releasing the seeds. After the fire, the earth sets into motion, “Project Resurrection/Project New Life.” Visit Teton National Park today and you will see a whole new generation of Lodgepoll pines.


How did we get through that catastrophic day of March 27th, that first devastating week, the first month, the third month, the seventh month, now a year? Trees are one thing, human hearts another. I didn’t know how we would rise from this kind of devastating trauma and loss.


Now, I do. The answer springs from Jesus’s promise: “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me though he dies, shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”


The Divine spark in the pine tree and the human heart can never be extinguished. God’s love is too stubborn and unrelenting. It never gives up. It slowly revives pine forests burned to a crisp, and most remarkably the human spirit. God proclaimed from the beginning that Creation would be a place of life not death.


Nothing created in love ever truly dies. It would go against who God is and His redemptive plan for Creation. The mission is life and life in full. God supremely has planned for every scenario, for that Lodgepoll pine and for our human hearts most especially.


Our whole lives are held together by this ultimate truth: Death cannot have us…… God has us. We are made to rise. Our precious souls were created for eternities. Frederick Buechner once said, “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.” There is life after death, the little deaths that we experience here on earth and our Final death.


One day, like Evelyn, we will be transformed by light and love in the most mysterious and miraculous way. It’s a promise. We will resurrect, and we will be more alive than we have ever been. No more tears, nor more fear, no more pain, no more loss. All will be as God originally intended. Heaven will exceed our imaginations and every good, and beautiful and divine thing that we ever experienced here on earth. We will live amongst the angels, and every person we have ever loved.


But “Project Resurrection” is not just for heaven, it’s God’s plan for us here on earth too, here and now.


Tucked inside my heart and yours is an invincible hope. There will be circumstances obliterating our hearts and turning life as we knew it to seeming ash.


But God is prepared for the unexpected, the devastating. God will not let us stay in any tomb anywhere.


Just like the Lodgepole pine, God has a plan to give us new life too. The reality is we live in a broken world which means we must be prepared (with faith and courage) to rise from the ashes many times over our lifetime. Never alone. God, as close as our heartbeat, and as near as our breath.


What I know to be true is what appears impossible, God makes possible. When we see no way, God makes a way. “When we say, “there is no coming back from this.” God gently smiles and says, “Watch!”  He rolls away the stone from the tomb and Jesus walks out. No matter how dark and grave the night, the light will always return, prevail.


God is tender. God is creative. God is determined. The mission is always to transform us into “risen people.” The earthly world might see us defeated, but God does not. Love will not allow it. Get ready…..because God, the Author of Creation, is intent on writing new plots of hope in your story and mine.


To resurrect here on earth is the most beautiful, faithful act we can possibly do on this planet.


But let’s be honest. The process of resurrection here on earth is not easy. Slow and brutal at times. Rising from the ashes is blood, sweat, tears, prayers, dark nights of the soul labor. It is so difficult to start life back after such terrible loss. Ash everywhere.


It requires courage we didn’t think we had. It takes a living net of beloved community to hold us so we don’t fall. We will weep. We will curse the skies. We will doubt God. We will believe we will never, ever experience joy, peace like before. But God promises, “Hold on, give Me some time, have faith, because I am going to bless you.”


Slowly, God edges the stone away from whatever tomb of circumstance holding us captive. Gently, God helps us see that there is a reason we are still here. Tenderly, God opens a new chapter. Never forget that beneath the ash, our roots are eternal. Miraculously, little green shoots push through your charred earth. We don’t forget where we have come from, or the pain we have experienced. The loss lives front of heart. With gritty hope, we decide to follow God out of the tomb. In and through the light, we experience healing, redemption, even joy again. Love provides a way forward.


I admire the wise little book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse. We are introduced to these poignant characters on a special journey. A dear and powerful conversation takes place between the horse and the boy.


Sometimes,” said the horse. “Sometimes what”” asked the boy. “Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent.”


God will move heaven and earth on our behalf. I am stunned by the infinite mysterious and creative ways God breathes new life into ash. When I look at Katy, Mike, Eleanor, their families, their living net of friends, my co-worker and friend Abby and her family, the Buck family, the Pyron family, the Davis family, the Manning family, Lynn Thompson, all the Covenant students and their families, this special church, Claudia Huskey and the team at Safer for TN, the whole Nashville community—it is so clear that Project Resurrection is in motion.


Ya’ll have become my “hope teachers” proving the darkness cannot, will not, have us. Love is triumphing over the evil. People are rising all around me. That invincible hope that God planted at our center has been activated. We are fight, fight, fighting for the world God intended for us, a world where children are safe, goodness conquers, and we live in peace.


Resurrection is possible if we have God and one another. Look around you, it is because of the person sitting next to you, before you, behind you, and in every single pew, along with God’s radical, redemptive love that we have arrived to this moment. A risen people—that’s how we were made, that is who we are today, that is our promised future.


I invite you to listen to the very special service of Hope for the Anniversary of the Covenant School Shooting. The music is extra special!

  • Polly Keith

    April 1, 2024 at 10:28 am

    Farrell, The Gratitude Song just filled me up. It sums up the entire season of Lent for me this year. Woodmont and all its special people brought Easter to life in so many ways. I ache that everyone in Nashville didn’t get to live it with us. Bless you.

  • Diane Tucker

    April 1, 2024 at 11:25 am

    Farrell, listened the service for Covenant. You did an outstanding job. I know the Dieckhaus family as well as all the other Covenant families and teachers appreciated your words.
    Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

  • Sallye Galloway

    April 2, 2024 at 11:36 am

    Farrell, thank you for ALL you participated in during our outstanding Easter services. The service for Covenant was so special in every way. We have HOPE. Stay with us Holy Spirit.
    Sallye G