Good Friday, Is it Really Good?

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.

Good Friday truly is good.

***

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Lingering

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

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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

Word of the Day Challenge: Lingering

It’s Not a Dirty Little Secret

“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.

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

 

“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

 

How About Those Bulbs!

Daily Proverb: 

If you are too lazy to plow in the right season, you will have no food at the harvest.

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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.

Ouch.

I had reaped what I had sown…nothing!

35471642_10217565794641700_928200088306581504_nOh…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.

***

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Leaving Our Comfort Zones

Mountains of faith rise from the valleys of failure.   –Mart Dehann

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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.”

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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