I was on my way home from the hospital and my first born was lying in an incubator at Pitt Memorial. The last thing I wanted to do was leave her, but circumstances prevailed, and it became something unavoidable. As I lay in bed that night my heart and mind, extremely distressed, I could not sleep. I kept thinking of all the things that could go wrong, and thinking that my 3-pound 10 ounce little-one wouldn’t make it through the night. This night was dark and terrifying and I was afraid. But then my mind remembered the stars…those little dots of light sprinkled throughout the blackened sky. I realized these same stars were also watching over my baby, and that their creator was also her creator. Through prayer I placed my baby girl in God’s hands and I slept.
Prayer and meditation can bring us to peace within the storm. For the Christian it’s the fuel that keeps us going. I often neglect this spiritual sustenance and find myself running on empty, however, the stars of that night, thirty-two years ago, reminded me of a power ready for the taking. This power source is not some old grey-bearded deity somewhere beyond our universe. No, this power source is the God within us, the Holy Spirit who has taken up abode within our souls.
A necessary element to prayer and meditation is time. Without this element meditation of course is fruitless in our lives. Thankfully with our busy lives’ meditation can occur in small increments of time…a few moments with your morning coffee, seconds waiting at the red light, the minutes between the next meeting, quiet moments before you drift off to sleep. All of these snippets can become moments of mindfulness…moments of tapping into the power source within.
I love the picture painted in Psalms 1:3 which likens the one who meditates as a tree planted by the water…
“…we shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in [its] season…”
We are the tree, meditation the roots, and the rivers of waters the Holy Spirit within us.
Prayer: Lord, throughout this holiday season let our minds habitually visit the babe in a manger…the very one who bled and died, rose again, and now takes his abode within our hearts. Amen.
One Christmas morning I was up before the birds and all in the house was quiet as a mouse. I was sad, rejected, a misfit because there were certain relationships within my family strained and almost nonexistent. My children and I were were separated by many American miles. As I sat in the silence of that Christmas morn I read God’s word from John 1:11… and this is what God said, “He came to his own and his own received him not.” As I finished that verse I felt Jesus whisper to my heart, “I know how you feel.” Jesus, I realized was the ultimate misfit and I knew I would never be alone.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” Hebrews 12:2
Growing up I was so afraid of hell, that I actually wished I’d never been born. Daily, I was tormented with the thought of the rapture, and being left behind.
I knew God’s promises but for some reason they didn’t apply to me. It was none of God’s fault but all of mine. I knew and believed what God said about salvation, and about his promise of eternal life.
And yet, I felt sure I would, somehow and some way, mess up my part of receiving His free gift. What if I believed too hard thus turning my faith into work? For God says, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith…NOT by works…”
So, what if I put my trust in my faith instead of Jesus?
What would happen then?
Would I be saved?
I was religiously taught the Roman’s Road to Salvation. This step by step process is found in the book of Romans (of course). This Road begins with chapter 3 and verse 10 and continues as follows: Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-10, and Romans 10:13. After each step has been faithfully taken, the sinner, saved by grace, is taken to I John 5:13 to seal the deal.
I was so afraid I’d screw up one of the steps, and if I did would I be condemned to hell?
I’m not saying the Roman’s Road is wrong, and if you have come know Christ through this path, I say a hearty Amen! But for people like myself there is a danger in teaching the Roman’s Road.
For us salvation does not equate to, “take these steps and get a ‘Get out of Hell Free’ card.”
For those like me there is no wrong or right way to salvation. We come to know Christ through many paths, and for us salvation is a relationship, and any faith that we have is given to us by Christ. Therefore, in essence, our salvation depends upon nothing we do but all in what Christ has done.
So, the question could be asked… “At what point does salvation actually occur?”
To that I say, “I don’t know, and not knowing is okay.”
I don’t have to know if I’ve dotted all my I’s or crossed all my T’s because I have nothing to do with my salvation…it belongs to God.
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)