“Now my soul is troubled and distressed, and what shall I say? (Jesus)
Jesus was afraid. How can this be? Jesus, God incarnate, the creator of all universes, was afraid to die.
Do you ever think about dying? It’s not a pleasant thought. There are so many unknowns about this fate that we all must one day face. Even those with the faith of a mustard seed, a faith powerful enough to move mountains, find themselves troubled at the thought.
Those of the greatest faith, if they would admit it, are afraid to die, and they lie if they proclaim different. It doesn’t matter how many abbreviations follow the name no one will ever have as much faith as Jesus had when he walked this Earth. If Jesus feared how much more will we?
In the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed to his Father to remove his cup of death. He prayed with such earnest his pores dripped with blood. He did not want to drink from its chalice.
Personally, I am comforted by my Lord’s fear. His hesitation to taste death assures me it’s okay to doubt. Doubt is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s not a dirty little secret that we should hide. If it were, a dirty little secret, God would never have revealed Jesus’ inner struggle. That part of Christ’s story would have been omitted from recorded history. It is written so that our faith would be strengthened rather than shaken.
Jesus was human just as we. He knows how we feel because he himself has experienced it. He wants us to bring our doubts, troubles, and concerns to the Father; after-all, that is what he did. We are called to follow his example.
This week, as we walk through the last days before good Friday, may our souls be troubled.
Embrace your doubt because it leads to great Faith.
I had fully intended to work today, but God gave me an unexpected blessing. My phone rang at approximately 9:15 am. It was work cancelling my 10 am shift due to the fact that my client, over the weekend, had relocated to another part of Virginia.
I will miss this dear lady, but I’m happy for her as she’ll be closer to family.
I admit to feeling a twinge of happiness after the phone call. My mind immediately went to all the things I wanted to do here at home…writing, cooking, gardening, working in the yard, and perhaps buying and planting that cherry tree I had seen at Lowe’s the other day.
The one thing that didn’t cross my mind was money, then my employer informed me that I would still get paid a days work. I am grateful for the compensation, but my happiness is not contingent upon it.
After the call, I decided to pray and have morning devotions before getting to those things I longed to do. My meditation brought me to Proverbs 15:16:
“Better is little with the reverent, worshipful fear of the Lord than great and rich treasure and trouble with it.”
Often our own inner voice, capitalism, and the forces of our world urge us to “get” rather than “be.” The person who’s always driven to “get and get more” develops a noisy heart, and so great is that noise they miss the simple truth of happiness in contentment.
Today, may I keep it simple. May I quieten my heart in order to hear the voice of happiness.
About a year ago, Corinne and I had the privilege of spending a couple days at National Harbor, which is located South of Washington DC along the Potomac River.
As a physician, she had a medical conference to attend, and as the wife of a physician, I was lucky enough to be able to tag along. There was no indecision on my part!
I knew much of my time would be spent alone, and whereas some may find it pointless, I found I loved the long days alone, especially my quiet time at sunset. I guess that’s one of the perks of being an introvert.
While walking along the shores of the Potomac River I was able to capture the views below.
The Share Your World Challenge (SYW) hosted by Cee Neuner, gives writers a place to congregate and “shoot the breeze.” Each week, on Monday, Cee proposes four questions and welcomes us into her cyber living room to discuss and share our unique answers. I would like to give a “heads up” or an “alert,” if you will, to all my fellow writers…come on in and let’s chew the fat for a while!
So, here we go!
This week’s four questions are:
Since we are approaching the hottest part of our summer in the northern hemisphere, what’s your favorite ice-cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet flavor? As a child growing up in rural North Carolina, the summers were long and days were hot. Most of the time my hair was in pigtails like Pippie-Long-Stockings, and my feet were bare from sun-up to bedtime. My days were care-free, romping around the neighborhood with my numerous “Heinz 57” hounds, or playing “Hide-and-Go-Seek” and “Cowboy’s and Indians” with my cousins who lived on the same dirt road. Every now and then my mom would interrupt my play with a surprise visit to our local Tastee-Freeze. I would always get a cone of soft serve vanilla ice cream. Usually, we would sit outside at one of the scattered picnic tables to enjoy this rare treat. The coldness of the ice cream was so refreshing, making the hot days just a bit cooler. So to answer the question, I would have to say my favorite frozen treat is still a big cone of soft serve vanilla ice cream. Now, you may think soft serve vanilla ice cream to be boring, but I beg to differ, for every time I pause to enjoy its soft sweetness I’m transported back into the world of hide-and-seek, cap-guns, and bow and arrows.
How often do you people watch? Do you remember the old television show, Bewitched? Elizabeth Montgomery played the lovable neighborhood witch who could twitch her nose to make things appear, disappear, or to even clean a nasty house. (Damn! Sure wish I could do that!) Growing up I always had a major crush on this pretty lady. (Kind of still do) This loveable witch and her handsome husband, Darren, lived beside a nosy busybody who hid behind her curtains to spy at them with binoculars nestled to her nose. This year for Christmas, Corinne, my wife, thoughtfully gave her bird-watching wife (me) a wonderful set of binoculars. Now, you may think you know where this is going…but, I’m nothing like the busybody in Bewitched. I never hide behind the curtains to spy at my neighbors. No way! Instead, I sit on the front porch, behind of the cover of our overgrown hedges to watch the goldfinches eating at the feeder beneath the maple tree in our yard. The thing with goldfinches, though…they flitter and fly away to visit someone else’s birdfeeder. In their absence, I tend to get a little bored and find my binoculars swaying to the left or swaying to the right. It’s not my fault if the neighbors just happen to be in my field of vision. Just saying…
If you had a choice which would be your preference saltwater beaches, freshwater lakes, ocean cruise, hot tub, ski resort or desert? Oh wow, this is an easy one. Saltwater beaches all the way! Growing up poor my mom didn’t have the money to take us kids on vacations to the beach, however, we had family living in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. Since we could stay at our beloved Aunt Bessie’s house we were able to get away and visit family while at the same time relaxing in the serenity of the mountains. I loved it and part of my heart will always walk those hills. I was much older when I first saw the ocean in all her glory. I remember feeling fear, reverence, and love…all three mingled together and my sight fell helpless into the wild torrents rolling water. I was smitten, and I remain smitten some 40 years later.
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week? The smile and kiss from an old woman was the best thing that happened to me this week. Her teeth were stained and worn, and she reminded me of the old Eskimo women I’ve seen in photos and television. I’m not sure of her ethnicity but I could sense she knew little English. Maybe she was a refugee or an immigrant…it’s possible. I was volunteering at the food bank, busy greeting and helping those needing food. I always try to smile and ask them how their day is going, and most smile back and say “fine” or “good” and continue their shopping. I was in the process of doing this when I noticed an old lady slowly pushing her cart my way. She paused by the rice, reached for a bag and put it in her cart, then she walked a few more steps, paused and slowly reached for a bag of oatmeal and put it into her cart. Finally, she reached me and I smiled and said hello. She smiled creating a multitude of lines that seemed to frame her face within a set of parentheses. I looked at her smile and at that moment I became an esthete, a person who notices amazing beauty. Her smile was the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. She walked with somewhat of a limp, closing the distance between us. Then she took me into her arms and kissed me on the neck…she was short and couldn’t reach my cheek. I didn’t know whether to smile or cry…so, I did both.
A Love Note to my Readers: I don’t say it often enough but I’ve fallen in love with each and every one of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read my ramblings. You are a blessing to me.
As a writer, I usually try to read some word of inspiration in the early morning hours…and often with a cup of coffee on my desk.
Today my hand reached for Strong for a Moment Like This…The Daily Devotions of Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Yes, I am aware of the plagiarism by the author Rev. Dr. Bill Shilladay, but, for lack of a better term… let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. There’s some good stuff in there. Give it a chance.)
The scripture for today’s reading was taken from Matthew chapter 25, verses 34-35.
The scene opens to sometime in the future. King Jesus is sitting on his throne, and all the nations of the world are gathered before him to receive judgment. Matthew says that on that day the King will “separate them as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.”
So, what will constitute a lamb and what will constitute a goat? What will be the deciding factor as to whether this nation takes the left or as to why that nation takes the right?
The one deciding factor is simply this: The way the nation treated “…the least of these…” (I wonder upon which side America will stand.)
How we treat others is extremely important to Jesus.
Jesus views your treatment of others as equivalent to your treatment of Him. Jesus actually puts himself in the place of “the least of these.” He becomes hungry. He becomes thirsty. He becomes the stranger. He becomes naked. He becomes sick. He becomes the prisoner.
I like both lambs and goats; however, in this particular scenario, the goats are the bad guys. Yes, they are the ones wearing the black hats. They are the ones who failed to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, feed the naked, care for the sick, and failed to visit the prisoner.
Believe me, when this day happens you don’t want to find yourself on the left hand of King Jesus.
The amazing thing about this story is that both, the sheep and the goats, are stupefied as to why they are labeled as such, and amazingly their response to the King is the same. They both ask Jesus, “…when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison…?” The King’s answer to sheep as well as the goats is virtually the same, “…I assure you when you did it [or not] to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
I’ve been raised to believe that what we do with Jesus in this life determines where we will spend eternity. Jesus says what you do to others in this life is what you do to me.
This story is intended to be a glass of cold water to the face.
It is intended to wake us from our apathy.
It is intended to help us see others through the eyes of Christ.
It is intended to show us the importance of loving our neighbor as ourselves.
It is intended to show us that we cannot pick and choose our neighbors.
That our neighbors are all those whom God chooses to bring into our life. They are there for a reason. Ask God to show you that reason, and then go about fulfilling your God-given destiny.
There is no time like the present to start something new.
It almost never fails. Soon after I take a seat at my desktop to write, Luna, the nemesis gracing the headline of this blog, comes and plants herself in the center of my chest, gazes at me with demanding eyes and taps the side of my face with her gigantic polydactyl paws.
I used to be one of these writers that believed when inspiration “hit” you’d better write it down quickly before it slips away. I no longer subscribe to that idea. I’ve found if the general idea is of any worth it lodges itself in my psyche and patiently awaits for my retrieval. However, it is good to have paper and pencil in hand to jot down the random ideas that pop into my head, but I don’t feel the pressure to rush to my desktop to write like a mad woman before the well of inspiration runs dry. Later, when I sit to write I glance at my scribbled scratches and the ideas materialize and become a creative energy that blossoms like a rose.
As a writer, I’ve learned to rely upon this creative energy, and so I don’t panic when Luna jumps into my lap for love. I may become impatient, and if I do I remind myself that this little creature finds joy in my presence. My heart warms at the thought, so I hold her in my arms, and talk to her like a doting mother would talk to her baby, and I am filled with joy.
Isn’t it amazing how joy can be found in something so simple?
What a concept! It’s so simple that most of the time we overlook and even bypass those things that contain great nuggets of joy.
The disciples of Jesus were guilty of this.
One day, some two thousand years ago, Jesus was teaching in the region of Judea beyond the river Jordan. The Pharisees came and asked him a trick question hoping to trip him up. Jesus was in the throes of this important conversation when a group of parents attempted to bring their children for his blessing.
His well-meaning disciples told them not to bother Jesus with such trivial matters…after all, he had a theology to debate, sick to heal, and souls to save. But, Jesus looked up from these “important tasks” to witnesses the children being turned away. I’m sure he noticed their disappointed faces. Surely, the children felt rejected by Jesus, even though it had been his disciples that turned them away. No doubt the children faces were streaked with tears from the hurt of his rejection. Jesus, they thought, was too busy and had no time for mere children. Seeing what was happening, Jesus became angry at his disciples and he called out (I believe with a loud voice)…
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.”
Can you relate to these children? Do you feel Jesus is too busy for you? Perhaps you feel his rejection because of “this sin” or “that sin” you may harbor in your life. Have you felt the judgment of others and mistakenly believed it to be God’s judgment as well?
Once, many years ago, a “well-meaning man of God,” warned me of God’s imminent judgment. I can still hear his voice saying…
“God is going to kill you. It may not be today and it may not be tomorrow but mark my words, if you don’t repent of your sin of lesbianism, He will kill you.”
I remember that night well. I was standing in my kitchen with the phone to my ear hearing his words…
“God hasn’t told me to stop praying for you, yet…but when he does I’ll know it’s time to get in my car and head south in order to attend your funeral.”
As I listened to his words, I became just like the children who had been turned away by Jesus’s disciples. Tears streaked my face and the darkness of God’s rejection shook me to the core. For days and weeks afterward, I was paranoid, carefully watching for some wayward driver careening out of control, and on a collision course for me and my little Toyota Tercel. In time and through my constant faith in a loving God, my fears eventually subsided and gave way to a peace I didn’t understand.
As a Christian lesbian, I look back upon the unsure days of my “coming out” and realize Jesus’s presence was with me through all the tears and sleepless nights. Just as he did to the rejected children, Jesus beckoned me to come, and he took me in his arms, placed his hands upon my head, and gave me the blessing of his unconditional love.
There are so many “religious folk” who still worry about my eternal soul, and to them, I’d like to say that my relationship with Jesus is far sweeter…far closer than it ever was when I was living a lie as a straight Christian. There is no comparison.
Friends, Jesus is not too busy for you. He longs for you to come to him like a child. He doesn’t care if your face is dirty or if your knees are skint, he opens his arms to ALL of his children…and that includes you, wherever you find yourself to be.
Relationships with God are meant to be as simple as cuddling with your kitten. There is no contract to read or sign.
No Ph.D. is required.
Go to him with child-like faith, and He will open his arms and never reject you.
Great Joy is found in the Simplicity of His Love.
Restore to me again the joy of your salvation… (David)
However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. (Jesus)