Baaa Or Maaa?

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There’s no time like the present for innovation.

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!”

Yikes!

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.

***

Word-A-Day Blog Challenge:  Innovation

Fandango’s One Word Challenge:  Present

 

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“God Kills Gay People…”

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Luna Demands Attention with her Gigantic Paws!

 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.

***

"You may pet me now."

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)

***

Daily Addictions:  Gigantic 

 

Gasp! Jesus Agrees with Buddha…?

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Daily Proverb:

“If you roll a boulder down on others, it will roll back and crush you.”

Y’all, this sounds like God’s way of saying, “Karma’s a bitch!”

Could it be that Buddha and Jesus agree?  Gasp!

Damn straight!

Why should this simple thought bother us?

I’m convinced that most of the world’s religions are in some ways more similar than we believe.  Most, at its core, seeks peace with their God and peace with their fellow man.

If this is the case, why is religion used more as a weapon than the intended conduit to peace?

 My answer:  Pride.  Humans in their narcissistic, selfish pride have convoluted the simple message of most religions.  Of Christianity, Paul writes, “…I fear that somehow you will be led away from your pure and simple devotion to Christ…just as Eve was deceived by the serpent.” 

It’s sad to say, but religion in the hands of man has done far more harm than good.  I understand the case my Atheist friends bring to the table, and as a Christian, this hurts my soul.

Christianity, in a nutshell, is meant to be “pure and simple devotion to Christ.”

It was never meant to be complicated.  It was never about a list of do’s and don’ts.  Many who still use the list as a whipping stick have forgotten that Christ took care of the do’s and don’ts on His cross.

Jesus stressed time and time again to “…love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  ALL the other commandments and ALL the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”  

If we would but follow Jesus’s commands there would be no need for a list of do’s and don’ts!  Why, because our motives would be pure.  There would be no wars, and peace would reign.

Simple…and yet profound.  Such is life.

Friends, don’t listen to those who spout condemnation, those who seek to heap coals of guilt upon your head, and who try to put you once again under the bondage of “do’s and don’ts.”

Those who condemn and judge others would do well to heed the warning from Jesus:

 “…whatever measure you use in judging others it will be used to measure how you are judged.”

So, when it comes to judging others…tread lightly, my friends, because Karma’s a bitch!

Jesus and Buddha agree!

***

Personal Proverb:

One is happy when one believes their Christian life, and relationship to Christ is nobody’s damn business!  LH

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***

Word Of The Day Challenge:  Gasp

 

Remember What I Have Told You

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Sometimes it’s just too easy to forget, and the older I get the more this becomes my super-power.

I feel confident my friends over fifty can relate…hmmm…unless, of course, they have forgotten how often they forget.

It’s true, I walk into a room and forget my reason for being there.  I stand blank-eyed, trying to remember what I was just thinking about before I entered the room.  My reasoning is this, perhaps my last train of thought is what led me to this room, so if I can remember that then maybe that would jog my memory as to why I am standing helplessly looking at the contents scattered within the four walls.

One time I got out of the car, closed the door, and realized I had forgotten my phone.  Knowing I would need it later, I asked my daughter…(on the other end of the line) to wait a moment while I retrieved my phone.  (true story)

Another time, again with my daughter, I found myself stuck in the snow.

I was in the midst of helping her move just outside of Boston.  We finally finished unloading the truck and hauling her stuff up three flights of stairs, and now it was time to go out and grab a bite to eat.  Beth jumped into the passenger seat and I got behind the wheel, we were sooo tired but happy the hard stuff was over.

Well, if you’ve visited Boston in the mid of winter, you know, more than likely, snow will be upon the ground, and it was on this particular day. Thinking about a cheeseburger I cranked up the old girl (my truck), put her in drive, and proceeded to exit the parking space; however, the wheels would do nothing but spin in place.

Two hungry women on a mission would not be deterred…so I told Beth to get out and push.

When that didn’t work we dug the snow from around all four tires and tried it again…me at the wheel and Beth pushing as hard as she could.

When that didn’t work we searched for something to slide under the wheels, hoping it would give some sort of traction for the spinning wheels.  We finally found a scrap of cardboard and I put it under the left front tire, as we were parallel-parked.  We assumed the familiar position, me at the wheel and Beth, outside pushing with all her might…still the wheels did nothing but spin!

Beth, exhausted from pushing, finally stopped and came to sit beside me in the passenger seat.  We were now two hangry women.

Frustrated, I smacked my hand against the steering wheel of the truck and noticed the small red light that illuminated the word brake.

That was the last time Beth has ever asked me to help her move.

Thank God, enough time has passed so that now we can at least laugh about it.

These funny stories came to mind as I read my morning meditation.

The meditation had taken me to John chapter 14.  Here, I found Jesus talking to his friends/disciples saying,

“Remember what I have told you:  I am going away, but I will come back to you again…I have told you these things before they happen so that you will believe when they do happen.”

Jesus was telling his friends that soon he would die.  He loved them and was worried about how they would feel when he was killed.  He worried they would feel confused, abandoned and afraid all of his promises had been a lie.  So, over and over again in the four gospels, he tells them,

Remember what I have told you…”

Friends, I believe Jesus, rich in his compassion, is telling us the same thing…

“Remember what I have told you…” 

When things go wrong and people hurt us…it’s so easy to forget he is with us.  Feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, and utter despair draw us down into those dark places we created as a child to keep us safe.

How easy it is to return to that lonely stomping ground.

Jesus knew this for his disciples and presently, he knows it for us, as well.   If we could but be still in those moments and just breathe…we would hear his voice gently telling us…

“Remember what I have told you…” 

I can write this with confidence because He has put his Holy Spirit deep within us and his Spirit abides with us even our in our darkest moments.  Jesus gave us his Spirit because he loves us so much, and he doesn’t want us to be alone or feel alone.  (It’s possible to be with people but feel alone…been there done that.)   In this world, our most loved friends and family may leave us, but Jesus never will.

“…know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you…the Father sends the Counselor…and by Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit, he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you.” 

“Remember what I have told you…”  (Jesus)

His Spirit moves within us…be still, breathe, and listen.

***

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Always Assume the Worst

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Plik: Rembrandt Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee

“And a furious storm of wind [of hurricane proportions] arose, and the waves kept beating into the boat so that it was already becoming filled.”  (Mark 4:37)

***

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be a rider in the boat above!

First of all, I’m not a very good swimmer.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE the ocean, but I don’t like treading it without some sort of flotation device.

Second of all, hurricane force winds can rip a little fishing boat to shreds.

And third of all, I’m sure the air was full of electricity, and I don’t relish the thought of being struck by lightning.

If I were a character in the story above I would fear for my life.  I admit I would assume the worst.

Corinne, my wife, and I once stayed in a high-rise in New Hartford Connecticut.  On the 17th floor, we had settled in for the night, under covers and enjoying an episode of Law and Order SVU.  At approximately 11p.m. a voice from the speaker above filled our room.

“Attention, there may be a fire in the building.  Please exit your room, in an orderly fashion and take the stairway down to the first floor, …there is no need to panic.” 

Corinne and I proceeded to the closest exit and began our descent with hundreds of other guests.  We had a long way to go to reach the bottom.  The 17th floor turned into the 16th and the 16th turned into the 15th, and with each passing floor, the fear inside of me increased.  My mind filled with pictures of people jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center.  As I continued down the long stairway, I heard the sirens from the firetrucks below.  At that moment  I made the assumption that this was it…I was going to die.  In my mind, I decided that I too would jump rather than burn.

Obviously, I didn’t die that night.  When we finally reached the bottom, we discovered it was a false alarm and were directed back to our rooms.  Once again in our room, it took me a while to calm down.  When I wondered how the episode of Law and Order ended, I knew I was back to normal.

It is so easy for my mind to automatically jump to the worst scenarios.

Maybe you have this problem as well.

The men in the boat from Mark’s story felt the same way and I don’t blame them!  The story goes, “…but soon a fierce storm arose.  High waves began to break into the boat until it was nearly full of water.”  But Jesus was in the boat.  The frightened men ran to Jesus and cried, “…don’t you even care that we are going to drown?” Jesus “rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Quiet down!”  Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.  Then Jesus looked at the men, I believe lovingly, and said, “Why are you so afraid?  Do you still not have faith in me?”

This morning, for my personal devotion, I read an article called, Facing Unexpected Storms, from one of my many Joyce Meyer books.  She made the point that “…not all storms are in the forecast…”  Her advice, “Don’t get distracted by the storms of life.  Stay focused and do what you need to do whether it is easy or difficult.  The more we use our faith, the stronger it will become.”

Her words comforted my heart and reminded me to do what I could and to not fret over what I couldn’t.  Whether it’s easy or difficult…only one step at a time.

Remember, Friends,…Jesus is in the boat!

***

Daily Prompt:  Assumption

 

 

Let’s Get The Party Started!

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Photo from Images Buddy

Would it be too premature if I said, “I’m enjoying Heaven on this Earth?”

Well, lets take a look-see…

So, first of all, my description of Heaven is anywhere I can commune with Jesus.

Yes, I know that one day this body will die, and my spirit will ascend into Heaven, and I realize Heaven to be a tangible…touchable place.

After all, Jesus said this about Heaven,

“In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you…so that where I am you may be also.”

So, yes…physically I am far…FAR away from the physical Heaven.  Even the Pharisees, of long ago, questioned Jesus about the whereabouts of Heaven, and He said,

 “The kingdom of God does not come with observation;  nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Jesus proclaims that His kingdom abides within us!

There may be thousands, upon thousands of galaxies that separate me from Heaven, the place, but guess what?  Nothing, absolutely nothing, separates me from Jesus or His Love! Even the Apostle Paul agrees with me on this one, for he writes in Romans,

 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

So, who freaking cares how many galaxies exist between me and Heaven!  It doesn’t matter because God has already set up His Kingdom within my heart!  Jesus lives within me, and He wants to live in you too!

Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

Don’t wait to celebrate Heaven, dear friends!

Open the door and let’s get the party started!

***

Jesus Wants Us To Be Happy Christians!

Daily Prompt:  Premature

 

 

Today…Never Again

“Exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today…”  (Hebrews 3:13)

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This morning my daily devotions took me to chapter 3 of Hebrews.  In verse 7 the Holy Spirit admonishes me to “listen to his voice.”  Not only am I compelled to listen but I am urged to do it now…right away…in this very moment.

Listen to the urgency… “Today you must listen to his voice.” 

As I read, I wondered…. “Why the urgency?” … and I came to a few conclusions.

First, none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.  We live in the moment, and even that may be snatched away without warning.

Second, as human creatures we are prone procrastinate.  James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”  When we are young we tend to believe we have all the time in the world, and then one day, as a fifty-plus year old we scratch our heads and say, “Where the hell did it go…”

Third, I wonder, if… perhaps…His message for me today will be somehow different from his message of tomorrow.   If so…and I fail to hear it…then it is lost to me, forever.

I believe God tries to say “I love you,” MANY times a day.  I don’t know about you, but I love hearing the different ways he expresses his love.  Maybe it’s in a kitten’s purr, a gentle breeze, the flutter of a dragonfly, a bluebird’s serenade, or even co-mingled within a good cup of coffee.

Jesus and I have this thing between us…and it goes something like this:

“Whenever the dragonfly’s path crosses my way… Tis but Jesus saying… “I love you, today.” 

You’d be surprised how many times I see them ….even during the winter months!  When I do, I can’t help but smile and say, “I love you, too.”

The idea for today’s post came from, Seize The Day,  found in Our Daily Bread Devotional Journal, and also from today’s daily prompt, infect.  When I saw the word infect, immediately my mind thought, cancer.

Vernon C. Grounds opens Seize The Day with a paragraph about Jim Valvano, and it is that paragraph I leave for you in closing…

“Before entering the broadcasting field, Jim Valvano led the North Carolina State University basketball team to a national championship.  Then cancer developed in his lower back.  Invited to address the Duke University squad, Jim had this to say: 

“Life changes when you least expect it to.  The future is uncertain.  So, seize this day, seize this moment, and make the most of it.” 

***

Daily Prompt:  Infect

Do you like ghost stories?  Visit my other blog, Creepy Reflections, to read a different take on today’s daily prompt called Deadly Infection.

Thin the Clutter

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Image from thinkingfaith.org

The gospel of Matthew opens with the ancestral lineage of Jesus.  Most of us just skim over these verses because, lets face it, its pretty boring, but often, there are surprises hidden within the mundane, and they remain unseen unless we are willing the thin the clutter, and look beneath the surface.

You may be shocked to learn from whom Jesus descended!

I love a good surprise.  I love movies and books that end with a crazy twist that you just don’t see coming.  I love writers like Stephen King are are masters of this.

Good surprises can also do wonders for stale relationships.  Want to create sparks in your love life?…send flowers, write love notes, take them out for an unexpected date, pat their hiney, and grab a few stolen kisses… etc.

We all love these kinds of surprises.

As I read the Bible it seems to me that God also loves surprises.  The wonderful stories between Genesis and Revelation are mostly about how God uses the mundane to confound the wise.  He uses simple folk like you me to change this world for the better.  We become vessels of the Holy Spirit to carry out the plans of His radical love.

Yesterday, my morning devotion just happened to be called, Surprise Me!  It opened with a beautiful passage from the book of Ephesians that tells of Christ in our hearts, and how we become spiritually empowered through his love and presence.  I’ll attach this scripture at the end with hopes that it will bless you as much as it blessed me.

In this devotion, Cindy Hess Kasper, associate editor for Our Daily Journey, writes,

“Do you like surprises?  Would you dare say “Surprise me!” to God?  Through out the Bible we read that God delights in doing the unexpected.  Jesus’ time on earth was filled with amazing events…He turned water into wine, calmed the storms, healed the sick, and raised the dead.  What kind of God do we serve?  One who is not confined by our finite imagination.  He wants to bless us…He delights in His children who trust Him and are willing to say, “Surprise me, Lord!”  

God, open my eyes…Surprise me today!

***

When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.  I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.  May your roots do down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, and how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.  Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.  Now glory be to God!  By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we world ever dare to ask or hope.  May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages.  Amen.               Ephesians 3:14-21

***

Daily Prompt:  Thin 

 

 

 

Accepting Bridges, Instead of Walls

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God has called us to build bridges and not walls.  The whole story of Christ’s life, testifies to this.  During his ministry, Jesus broke down many walls of separation.

For example:

  • Jesus was a Judean Refugee living in Egypt.  (What if Egypt had built a wall?)
  • Jesus had many women disciples. (Gender Wall)
  • Jesus praised the Samaritans, whom the Jews considered dogs. (Race Wall)
  • Jesus spent his time with sinners, instead of the religious. (Religion Wall)
  • Jesus admonishes the poor, instead of the rich. (Status Wall)
  • Jesus proclaimed Grace instead of Law. (Rule/Regulation Wall)

Jesus leveled the playing field, where all are equal, and He calls us to do the same.

For He is our peace.  He has made us both one body, and has broken down the hostile, dividing wall between us.  Ephesians 2:14

 

Daily Prompt: Acceptance

 

My Soul To Take

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Painting by Florence Kroger

 

Oh, that God would mold this clay,

nothing but dust, dirt and decay!

And yet, in me, He saw some worth;

He sent his Son, from Heaven to Earth.

To lay down his life, upon the cross,

to thirst, and bleed, and suffer loss.

And so for me, His Glory awaits;

one day I’ll walk, through pearly gates.

So nothing to fear, because I am free;

His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

The shadow of death, there is no escape,

But God’s in the valley, my soul, to take.

***

As a tiny girl, often, my mom and I, prayed the prayer, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.”  I was always comforted by this bedtime ritual.  As an adult, when I think on the memory, I find I am blessed just as much now, as I was then; perhaps even more.  Thus was the inspiration for this poem.

“Mama, thank you for the foundations of strength you’ve given me.  I am a better woman because of you.”

now i lay me down

(Daily prompt: Luck)

Luck has nothing to do with my spiritual life.  It is orchestrated by the hand of God.