A question was posed at church yesterday: Where and when have you experienced the movement of the Spirit?
It was Christmas morning and I was sad.
I was sad because I felt alone.
Yes, I was the only one up…Corinne, the puppies, and the kitties were snuggled in their beds with visions of sugar plums still in their heads. But this is not the kind of “alone” I mean. This “alone” is good. I love this “alone.” I drink coffee, read, and pray to this kind of “alone.” This alone makes me happy. My introverted self has fallen in love with this “alone.”
The aloneness I’m talking about hurts deep in your spirit, and its name is rejection.
I was sad because I felt rejected by those who were supposed to love me.
They use to love me and welcome me into their life. We shared tears and laughter, and get-togethers…dinners and movies… We were partakers of time together. My time was their time and their time was my time.
But on this particular Christmas morning I was alone and the chasm was deep.
Seated on my sofa I began to cry.
I noticed the Bible on the table beside me. I reached for it with the intent of reading the Christmas story…after-all it was Christmas morning.
Matthew? Mark? Luke? John? What version should I read? I chose John.
John’s version of Christmas opens at the time of creation, and I envisioned Jesus’ Spirit moving within the mist among His heavens.
John speaks of Christ and how the words of His mouth created all we see. He paints Jesus as light and life, and how his light shown in the darkness and how the darkness comprehended it not…and how this light physically came into the world as a babe lying in a manger.
As I read I began to feel his presence.
I felt his Spirit urging me to read on. As if He whispered “Read on my child…I have something else to tell you…” And so I did, and as I did I saw the words…”He came unto his own and his own received him not.”
In that moment his gentle voice spoke to my heart…”I know how you feel…”
Is it possible that mean people are a blessing in disguise?
I’m not talking about evil people…certainly those that abuse and hurt others are never a blessing! I’m making reference to those people who “rub us the wrong way” or “get under our skin.” You know the ones…forthright, and tactless. Their words are sharp and hurtful, and they never use their tongue to uplift and edify, instead they use it to tear down and debase.
No one likes to be around someone like this. In fact, we go out of our way to avoid them.
But… Perhaps we shouldn’t.
You see, our patience is put on trial every time they grace us with their presence. Our patience literally gets a “work out” just as our muscles do when we exercise.
The apostle James writes in his book, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
Trials are never fun, but sometimes they can be beneficial in the growth to become a better person. I love the way Joyce Meyer puts it:
“Learning to walk in love with unlovely people and learning to be patient in trials are probably the two most important tools God uses to develop our spiritual maturity. Believe it or not, difficult people in our lives help us.”
Yes, mean people suck, but let’s “cook their goose” by allowing them to make us better!.
In less than a week, another year of my life will have been spent…gone forever, never again to relive. Re-do’s are just impossible with time.
The older I get the closer to dependency I become, and that frightens me.
As a caregiver, I work with elderly seniors, and their level of dependency varies greatly. I love caring for them. I think of my mom and my grandmother, who have passed. I think of the quality of care I would want for them, the kind of care I hope they received.
In some ways I wonder if I’m trying to make up for all the times I was not there for my mom. As I care for these dear ones, I think of myself and the kind of care I hope I will receive one day. I have faith that if I show great patience, kindness, and compassion I will in return receive the same when my time has come.
I realize I have lived longer than the years I have yet to live. In the span of ten years the quality of my life could drastically change. At my age, ten years seem but a whisper upon the wind. It’ll come and go quickly.
The older I get the more I think about dying.
I think of my mom in the last days of her life. I think about sitting by her bedside, holding her hand, and wondering if she were aware of my presence. I desperately wanted to be there when she took her last breath, but I wasn’t. For that I do great guilt. Don’t we all hope when it’s our time to go we will be surrounded by those we love? My heart breaks when I think of her dying alone.
I wonder if one day I too will die alone.
Today is Good Friday, and once again I find myself thinking of death. I read about Jesus’ death on the cross. I think of his last hours…his thirst, his pain, and the blood streaming down his body. I think of him when his Father turned his back, and in great despair Jesus cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me!” In that moment Jesus, as man, was utterly alone. He experienced the total blackness of loneliness…the nothingness…an utter void of everything and everyone.
This is bad, but also it is good.
Reading this scripture I hear Jesus whisper within my heart, “Lisa, your mom was never alone…I was there, just as I’ll be there for you. I died alone so you wouldn’t have to.”
Today, His forever presence is what I will choose to dwell upon.
Anything we give to help hurting people, God will always return many times over. Not only will He meet our needs, but our joy will increase as a result of giving in love. Joyce Meyer
Lord, open my eyes that I may see, open my heart that I may love, and open my hands that I may give to those that are lonely, poor, and hurting. Let me walk through this day with eyes wide-open, and when I am my busiest remind me to pause to linger among the least of these. Amen
“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.
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)
“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!
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!
One is happy when one believes their Christian life, and relationship to Christ is nobody’s damn business! LH
If you are too lazy to plow in the right season, you will have no food at the harvest.
Today’s proverb reminds me of my bulb story. (true story)
I had high hopes for the bulbs I held in my hands. As I went to the register to pay for my treasures I thought how pretty my yard would look with the new scattering of pinks, blues, and yellows. Yes, I thought, my yard would be the envy of the neighborhood. There would be tulips around the mailbox to greet Jenny our mail lady, as she delivers our mail. I pictured her smiling as she put our letters into the box. Three different kinds of daffodils would wave its yellow hues attracting the bees and butterflies, that would, no doubt, help pollinate my garden. After paying, I put my newfound bulbs in a safe place in the back seat and headed home. Once home, I put my treasured bulbs in the garage and didn’t think of them again until the next Spring when I saw the neighbors’ flowers blooming.
I had reaped what I had sown…nothing!
Oh…okay…sure I made a half-assed attempt to get something from the nothing I had done. I took the forgotten bulbs and haphazardly planted them in one of my raised beds, and again…I reaped what I had sown…a haphazard, sickly mess. After their weak attempts to bloom, I pulled them up and planted corn and cucumbers in their place. So far they are looking good.
So…what’s the “moral of the story?”
If I had to choose it would go something like this:
Intentions are wonderful and quite inspirational, but if you fail to do the nitty-gritty part, then your dream will always be that…a dream.
I stuttered horribly as a child. Verbally expressing myself was extremely difficult. Sometimes I wonder if that is why I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I spent years living with the dream of becoming a writer, but the fear of failure kept it at bay. I mistakenly thought that every single word I penned should be so “earth-shattering” as to move mountains. Of course, I was not up to such a task, so I wrote little.
Then one day a wise person told me…
“If you want to be a writer, write!”
Simple? Without doubt. Profound? Absolutely!
BUT…if we truly stop to ponder the greater truths of life, aren’t they all…simple?
I think about it now and I understand…beautiful words will never move mountains, only faith can accomplish that.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to be or to do? Take the first step toward that dream today…don’t wait.
Most likely the beginning will be arduous and even mundane but persevere, you will reap what you sow.
Mountains of faith rise from the valleys of failure. –Mart Dehann
Don’t hate your failures, learn from them.
This looks good on paper, but let’s face it, most of us hate failure. I know I do. I’m pretty tolerant of other people’s failure…it’s mine that I despise.
Failure is embarrassing, and what if people laugh at me…it’s happened before, and will probably happen again.
I guess that’s why it’s good to learn to laugh at ourselves. I’ve found laughter helps to ease the pain…and it lightens the mood of an awkward situation.
I like what’s written in Romans,
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, [failures] for we know that they are good for us–they help us to learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation…”
Now, I don’t believe God expects us to turn cartwheels over our failure, and he certainly understands our disappointment when we fail. It is for this reason–his understanding–that he seeks to encourage us in the midst of failure. God doesn’t kick us when we are down. He is our loving Father who picks us up when we fall, applies ointment to our skinned knees, pats us on the back, and whispers,
“…it’s okay my child…just keep keeping on…We’ve got this…”
Lately, I’ve been feeling God wooing me from my comfort zones, and it’s scaring me to death. I’m afraid I may goof up, look like an idiot, or a babbling fool.
And to that, it seems God is saying…
“You’re right, those things may happen…but so what…”
Looking at failure from that perspective takes away the pressure for perfection. It’s as if God is giving me permission to fail!
And…you know what? It feels good deep in my soul.
“God, I’m scared to death of what you are calling me to do, but I’m going to do it anyway; and if I fall flat on my face…I know it’ll be okay.”