Friday, November 20, 2015

Words and context

I find communication difficult.

Not words so much.. I mean, I think I'm pretty clear.

But I am married to someone who perceives the world much differently than I do.

When I say the sky is blue, he will agree that the sky is blue.


His definition of blue is not the same as mine.  Even though we both think we are very clear :-)

This is where I think Scripture gets us into trouble.

Stories from an oral tradition.... picture all those ancient nomads sitting around a fire retelling their histories..

I know in my own family... those stories... our particular stories grow and change over time.  The nuggets are the same - the characters and the basic jist.... but the details grow and warp to make the story better.. until, while everyone remembers the incident, we all have a slightly different take on it.

Anyway, that is how the Scriptures began.... because that is how communities began.

And when the nomads began to settle... and scribes began to write.... the stories were gathered and written as accurately as possible...... and gathered into a format that was agreed upon.  By those still living.   Much like when I try to gather those baby stories of my children.. and I run them by those old enough to remember and take all their memories into consideration... we come to an agreement of the story.  But truly, can we be certain of the veracity of all the details?  For us, it was 20 or 30 years ago.

For the nomads, it was thousands of years.... and many stories heard at their elders' knees.  Even doing their best, what is the truth of the details?

Even once written...... the translations began.   And the New Testament Scriptures went through multiple translations as they were begin formed...  Languages evolve... and stories changed... even to a few hundred years ago.  And people are attempting to re-translate... ie explain.. scripture to this day.  Can we be certain of exact details?

Even if we could..... societies change.  Without education, I myself have no context for Samaritans.  Or government oppression.

I try to read Scripture as if I were there.  Clearly I would be a Mary not a Martha.  And I would be the one getting into trouble for not cleaning and cooking! 

But trying to understand the FEAR experienced by the establishment.  That is what I see in my world right now.  

I think about the people living under Roman martial law who had long awaited a king to deliver them.  Their stories and their Scripture tell them that.  How easy it would be to believe that the king - when he came - would overthrow the Romans and free them!

I think about the Romans trying to enforce civilization on this unruly rabble with a weird religion.  I'm sure they would be really wary of the rise of that king also!

And then the Jewish religious leaders of the time.... also awaiting the arrival of the king.  Good men upholding a true tradition.  Working hard to recognize and verify the king.... and making sure that an imposter didn't slip through.

Even the best of people - the most good-hearted intellectual people clearly thinking things through with the best of intentions - in each of those situations.... has a good opportunity to mess things up.

So we come back to Jesus... the most unlikely king of all in that scenario.  And his message was love.  Clear, right?  Not so much.

But Jesus' recorded behavior IS clear.

I never read about Jesus give a test of religion before he gave aid.
I never read about Jesus hold back because he was afraid of a stranger.
I do remember him chiding his friends for keeping the children from him.
I do remember him getting angry at people who used  a worship space to make it harder for people to worship.

So my prayer today is.... to try to be like Jesus, to be compassionate and try to understand my brothers and sisters.   Their motive behind their words.  Their fears.
And failing understanding, to be kind.  To listen.  To love.  And to retreat into the wilderness for a while when it all gets to be too much and I can't be like Jesus.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We have to choose.... Jesus... or Fear.

I do not understand

how mean

people get when they are afraid.

All reason goes out the window.

But Scripture is clear.

Fear is Satan's tool.

Over and over, we are told

"Do not be afraid."

And it is clear by the behavior of our leaders,
By the ranting on social media
And by our lessons in history

That when fear is rampant.
people cannot

act like Jesus.

I cannot extend a helping hand if my arms are up guarding myself and my property.
I cannot go forth and love

if I am afraid I will be hurt.

It doesn't make sense to vilify an entire people or religion
for the crazy acts of a few.
But that is what we hear over and over.

"Do not be afraid."

If I say I am Christian
that I follow Jesus
My belief system demands that I love.

Without fear.

And the fear part?  THAT is MY attitude - also known as Satan.
My fear needs to get out of the way

so I can be like Jesus. 

He would not be afraid

Scripture is clear
He would not turn away refugees because he fed and healed them
He would not make refugees take a religious test because he never did that.
He would not stir people up and make them angry and more afraid because that behavior leads people to evil..... Jesus calmed and loved.

I think... that if I truly want to live like Jesus

I have work to do.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What a Beautiful Morning!

Oh my goodness!  What a beautiful morning you have created for me to walk in today!  A little chilly but the sunshine is glorious!

I'm glad you like it.

I can't help but worry a little though.

You always do that!


Worry!  Can't you just enjoy my gift to you?

I try.  Honest I do.  But it's Sunday!


I'm supposed to be in church.


Yes.... but it's complicated.  I live so far from my old church.  And I'm trying to make connections with the people I am already close to, you know.. the ones I live with or near or am related to?

So you are alone walking in my beautiful morning worrying about being in church?

Yes.  Well, I do have the dogs to walk with.

So.. then, you are taking care of a responsibility WHILE you are enjoying my gift and talking with me?

Yes.  But it's been a while since I've gone to church and I miss it.

But not enough to go?

Not exactly.... it's more like deciding where.  I have multiple choices within an hour's driving time.  And I work that far away so much.  I like being home when I can.

You have choices closer to home, surely.

Yes, I think so - but not the religion I was raised in.  That I am familiar with.


Okay - I hear you.  I don't care about that so much in the grand scheme of things.  But I don't know anyone I feel close to who attends anywhere closer.  And I think it's about community, right?

Okay - I see you are conflicted.  But if I understand correctly... you are wanting to feel community with someone before you gather to worship me.  

Yes.  But I can't help feeling that the answer will come to me eventually if I am patient.

And faithful?


Well... aren't you doing that?


Being patient and faithful.  Well, faithful anyway.  You are enjoying my beautiful gift and talking with me.  AND worrying about worshiping me correctly.  

Okay - now I sound silly.

Yes, sometimes.  But I love you.  And I appreciate your concern.  AND your fathfulness.  Now one more thing...


Stop worrying.  And be patient.  And keep talking to me.  I have this.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Don't Let Them Steal Your Joy



This evening I was thanked for a compliment I gave.... and the conversation twisted around to a critique of how I parent my children.

Which is bugging me.

Why is that bugging you?  You think hard about what you do... and you make choices about it.


Is the criticism valid?

I don't think so - not completely.  I mean it is something I struggle with.
You know that.

The line between enabling and helping.

Right.  You DO struggle with it.

But again, is the criticism valid?

I still don't think so.  I mean... in my head.. enabling prevents a child from standing on their own two feet.  Like welfare.  Handing out so much that a kid can't stand on their own.

Do you do that?

No. But I won't let them starve.  Or be stranded by the side of the road.  Isn't that what family means?  That you have somewhere to go when you don't know where else to turn?

Sounds like you made your choice.

So why exactly are you angry?

I think because the criticism came from someone who has benefited greatly from my parenting style.  From someone who has evidently forgotten what it was like when they were young.

Yeah, that's pretty common.  Humans do like to work their way out of a situation and forget what was behind them.



Don't let me forget, okay?  I don't want to forget.  I also remember what it was like to feel so certain about things.  Like parenting.

If you don't want to forget, you won't.  

But do something for me.


Don't let someone else's journey screw up yours.  You made your choice.  You are satisfied with your reasons.  That's enough.

Don't let them steal your joy.


Thanks, God.

Friday, April 3, 2015

#13 Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross


You died.

Your followers believed in you.

They believed you were God.

But you died.  

The soldiers verified that you died.

The high priests and elders went back to their religious celebration.

The people were gone.... back to their holiday dinner.

And your friends, frightened for their lives, felt betrayed by you.

Your mother was there.

And the ones who remained with you throughout this nightmare of a day

The others came creeping back when the crowds dispersed.

They were broken, their dreams destroyed

But they loved you, Jesus.

They lovingly brought your body down from that cross and claimed it as their own.

They did not understand what had happened but they loved you anyway.  

Even now........   when they were absolutely sure......   that you could NOT be the long-awaited Messiah.


When I think about all the people on that day.... the oblivious holiday revelers, the worried high priests and elders, the Romans who just wanted to make sure there were no riots, the grieving women, the frightened friends who came back at the end.... I wonder who I would have been.  In my life, I have been all of them.  Of course, I would want to be one of the loyal ones who stayed with you all the way.   But I would also like to be one of the frightened friends.... who loved you enough to come back for forgiveness... because we know that you forgive.  You show us how to love and forgive.... the feeling of being forgiven is only outweighed by the feeling of forgiving... you show us that too.  Help me to love like you do!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

#12 Jesus Dies on the Cross

This is it, Jesus.

Mid-afternoon on that terrible day

I am tired from my early walk and I am hungry.  My stomach churns as I contemplate what has happened to you.

It all comes down to right here, right now.

Where are your friends, Jesus?  Are you thinking of them?

Do you wonder if they will believe in you after you are killed?

Do you feel the despair that would fill any of us?

Of course you did.  The solitude of despair is part of the human condition

The world stopped as you breathed your last breath


  Did anyone there that day really know what was happening?  Their savior was killed.  The Romans and the high priest would be looking for your friends.  When you died, your followers were lost.  Everything they believed in, everything they thought about you, came crashing down around their heads.  What happened that day was beyond their understanding.... just like it is now for us.  Incomprehensible love.  Help me to love when I don't understand what is happening to me!

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015

    # 11 Jesus is Nailed to the Cross

    And now the time for your execution has come.

    You are at the end.

      The Roman soldiers put your body on that cross you carried

      Everyone is in a hurry to make sure you die before sundown so the people can get on with their holy feast so they nail your feet together.

      What were you thinking as they manhandled you?

      And then the inhuman spikes driven through your limbs

      Did you hear the thieves beside you being fastened to their crosses?

      Was all the noise a blur because of the shock to your body?

      Oh Jesus,

        I am not strong enough to even think of a way that I might be able to allow someone to nail me to a cross.  If it happened to me, it would not be voluntary... and I think I would probably be in enough shock that I would miss some of the cruelty.  But you didn't miss any of it, did you?  Being God, you were aware of everything.  And you let it happen so that you could share our story with us.  Thank you for loving us so much that you became one of us.  Help me to understand the love that is so great that it would allow me to put myself last for the good of others.

        Tuesday, March 31, 2015

        #10 Jesus is Stripped of His Garments

        The procession stopped.

        You reached the end of the journey, Jesus.

        But there was still more for you to suffer.
        More indignity.

        The blood-soaked garments that covered you as you passed through Jerusalem and up the hill to your death were ripped from your body.

        How many of your wounds re-opened?

        You stood alone for all the world to see

        You must have been in shock

        You lived in such a modest society... were you beyond caring about that?

        Of course not.  

        You came to be one of us.  

        To feel as we feel.  

        You were spared nothing.


        I don't deal well with rejection and humiliation.  I don't want to feel it.  The pain cuts me to the core and sometimes I don't know how to get past it.  How did you keep loving us?  How did you manage to keep going?  I imagine you standing there, bleeding with newly opened wounds.  Those robes being ripped off must have been like the biggest bandage I can imagine being torn off... the pain must have been horrible for your aching body.  And then just to stand there.... in front of everyone.... an object of scorn.  And you allowed it to happen to you simply because you love us.  Help me love those who reject and hate me.  Please help me in my weakness be strong like you.

        Monday, March 30, 2015

        #9 Jesus Falls the 3rd Time

        I don't get it, Jesus

        You suffered so much

        One more time, you fell under the weight of the abuse your body went though
          How could you get back up again?

            But just like the time you were tempted in the desert

            and you got up a third time

            and triumphed over temptation

            How many times do we fall and get back up?   

            Sometimes it hurts SO much to keep going!

            When does it become so much of a burden that we simply stay down?

            You showed us.

            You showed us that we ALWAYS get back up if we want to be like you.

            Dear Jesus, 
                 Help me be like you.  As I grow older and older, I fall over and over.  The pain of getting back up again gets worse and worse.  Nothing at all like you went through, of course... but my pain is my pain... and it gets harder to keep going.  I want to be like you.  I want to be strong enough to stay on the path God has chosen for me.

              Sunday, March 29, 2015

              #8 Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem


                      You weren't alone on this journey.  

              Two other criminals were in this procession with you.   

              A huge crowd of people were visiting Jerusalem for the holy feast day which was to begin at sundown and they were following along.

                Scripture tells us that you were followed by part of that crowd, which included many women who were crying as they witnessed what was being done to you.

                You were tired.  

                You were weak.  

                And you turned to them and told them not to weep for you.

                These women were powerless.  All they could do was watch and cry.  

                You knew that your pain would end but theirs was just beginning.

                You told them to weep for themselves and for their children.  

                You knew that they would have to live knowing what had been done to him.

                Dear Jesus,

                     I want to be steadfast.  I want to stay with you.  You understand us in our weakness.  You know that strong people sometimes are weak and run away.... and that powerless people sometimes have nothing to lose so it is easier to stay with you.  Too many times I am like your friends.  I am blessed and strong and following you causes me discomfort.  Help me be like the women.  Following you to the end, whatever that might be, whatever that might cost.


                  Saturday, March 28, 2015

                  #7 Jesus Falls for the 2nd Time


                          Steadily weakening, you stumble and fall down again.  

                  You are losing blood rapidly.  

                  It is all you can do to put one foot in front of the other.
                              Where are your friends?  

                    A stranger is helping to shoulder the burden of the cross.

                    A woman you had little to do with came forward to help you.

                    And your mother, your blessed mother, was there..

                    hard to see... but this nail-shaped stick was on my walk at this moment

                    Where are your friends?  The men you spent your time and energy teaching about love.  

                    Where are they now while you are making your way to your death?

                    Is that one of the reasons you fell again?  

                    The weight of their betrayal, OUR betrayal,  was part of the horrible burden you bore for us.

                    Betrayed and alone, you got back up.  You loved and trusted... and kept going.

                    Dear Jesus,

                                  When I think of how you must have felt at this moment, I can only imagine the incredible temptation that must have been yours.  You could have stopped this.  You could have said, "ENOUGH!"  You could have decided that humans were not worth the trouble.  But you didn't.  Your world was darkening around you and you had every reason to despair.  But you got up and kept going.  I want to be like you, Jesus.  I want to get back up and keep going.  Help me have the faith and strength to trust in you.... and keep going when my world looks dark.

                      Friday, March 27, 2015

                      #6 Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus

                      By now, blood and sweat were dripping down your face.  

                      That crown of thorns was cruelly stabbing your head.  

                      You felt so depleted.

                        A woman in the crowd offered you all she had... her veil.. and wiped your face.

                        She couldn't stop the proceedings.. she couldn't help you. 

                        But she could do was step forward to show she had love and compassion for you.
                        She might even have been shoved back by soldiers or others in the crowd simply for coming forward.

                        Even though all looked lost, she bravely showed her love and faith anyway.

                        Early writings suggest that she was the woman who believed in you enough to know that she would be healed if she only touched your garment.

                        Dear Jesus,

                                 I want to believe like Veronica.  I do believe that I will be healed by you.  Sometimes I even KNOW it.  But sometimes in the darkness of my heart, I doubt.  Sometimes I despair.  If my belief is true and strong, like Veronica's, there can be no doubt or despair..... just FAITH.  Help me believe when that belief makes no sense.... when the world is crashing down around me.... when happiness and joy look impossible.  Help me be like Veronica, stepping forward to help you in any way that I can.... making this world a better place.


                          Thursday, March 26, 2015

                          #5 Simon the Cyrenian Helps Jesus Carry His Cross


                            You were getting weaker and weaker.

                          You had been beaten.... you were laughed at.. jeered at.... but you kept moving forward.

                          It was becoming impossible for you to carry that cross alone.  

                          Simon, a Cyrenian from that Greek colony in Libya, a stranger, a foreigner stepped forward to help. 

                          Was he forced to help by the soldiers?  

                          Because he was a foreigner?   Or was he one of your Gentile followers?  

                          Does it really matter?

                          He helped you carry that cross.   

                          The cross was heavy,   The journey was grueling.  

                          But having someone walk beside you must been a small comfort.

                          Dear Jesus,

                                  I will help you carry your cross.  Or, should I say MY cross?  All the little things you ask me to do that I find distasteful.... or cumbersome... or simply annoying.  None of them compare to the cross you took up for me.  That cross that Simon took from your shoulders.  Please help me SMILE while I carry my own cross.  My heart and spirit are willing.... but sometimes I am not faithful.  Please help me be steadfast in my promise!


                          Wednesday, March 25, 2015

                          #4 Jesus Meets His Mother

                               I miss my mother.
                          She was my best friend... my confidant... my first, greatest and most constant supporter.
                          She meant everything to me...

                          She died 19 years ago and I still think of her every day.
                          I lost a part of me that day.  I still have her, I know this.... but her death was a major loss to me.

                          Jesus, I can only imagine how you must have felt.  You were beaten and bloody.
                           You were sentenced to die a criminal's death... to see her in the crowd....

                          I can only imagine your pain at having her see what was happening to you.
                          But I can imagine too.... that you gathered strength from her presence.

                           It must have been unthinkably difficult to witness her pain... knowing that you had the power to stop it at any moment.  To give us salvation, you had to hurt her terribly.  

                          Did you worry at that moment if she still believed in you?  
                          Did you want to tell her it would all be okay in the end?

                          But you knew, didn't you?
                          She was your mom.  Of course, she believed in you.

                          She must have wanted to hold you.... to stop you..... to beg you to turn the clock back to when you were safe in her arms.  

                          But she was a witness for you and gave you everything she could through the love in her eyes.

                          Watching you suffer and die was part of the magnificent "YES" that was Mary's pledge to God.
                          Is it any wonder that we honor her?

                          Dear Jesus,
                          Your mother is a wonderful example of what mothers should be.  Believing in you, loving you, staying to the very end, offering whatever she had to give.... help me be a person like that.  Help me be that supportive of my family and friends.

                          Tuesday, March 24, 2015

                          #3 Jesus Falls for the First Time

                          I am beginning to feel chilled out here on the sand.

                          My bare feet are finding all the cockleburrs.. OUCH!

                          The wind is whipping my hair around... and my stomach is starting to growl.

                          How small my discomforts are - but how big to me!

                          Poor Jesus, cruelly beaten with blood running down your body.

                          You must have been so weak and exhausted.

                          That cross was so heavy... and you fell under its weight.

                          Did the crowd around you laugh?

                          Did they mock you?

                          Make fun of your weakness?

                          Or were they silent in horror at what was happening to you?

                          How did you manage to get back up again?

                          Your love for us was so great that you struggled back up and kept moving along the way.

                           The outlook was so bleak for you... your strength was unbelievable.


                             Getting up again after you fell..... the struggle to keep that human body moving... your accomplishment makes my little discomforts seem so petty.  Yet we know you care about every little thing we go through.  You can overlook your own experiences and love us right where we are.   Help me overlook MY experiences and love others right where THEY are.


                          Monday, March 23, 2015

                          #2 Jesus Takes Up His Cross

                          So You were condemned, Jesus.  Condemned to die.  

                          You knew what was coming next.  

                          The future, so uncertain to us... was known to you.  

                          And you went on anyway. 

                          You took the cross that was given to you.

                          Thank you for accepting that special cross for me.

                          I cannot imagine where we would all be now if you hadn't taken that cross.

                          What a long lonely road was ahead of you through the streets and up the hill.

                          How frightened you must have been... but secure in your love for us.

                          I have a cross to bear too, Jesus.

                          Nothing as horrific or terrible as yours...

                          but sometimes it is daunting and it feels lonely.

                          It feels like I have been deserted and I feel afraid.

                          Dear Jesus,

                             My crosses are so small compared to yours.  Please help me trust in God like you did and take up my cross and keep moving!  Help me remember that I am never alone unless I turn away from you... and then... I have made a choice, a bad choice!  Help me always stay open so your love can reach me!

                          Sunday, March 22, 2015

                          #1. Jesus Is Condemned to Death


                            I cannot even imagine what you must have been feeling.  Totally innocent, totally pure, totally loving... and totally betrayed.

                          Standing in front of all those officials.... and a crowd of onlookers... you were all alone.  No one came with you.  None of your friends.  None of the people who swore they believed in you.
                          You were alone in your pain.

                          Condemned to death for the crime of loving us.  Everything was bleak and frightening.  Were you thinking of your cousin John at that moment?  Remembering what happened to him?

                          Fully divine and fully human..... did you know what would happen next on this journey you were embarking on?  What love you must have for us to keep going!  You could have stopped the whole process at any moment... but you allowed it to play out because you loved us and trusted the Father.

                          Dear Jesus, 
                          I can never thank you enough for what you did to save me.
                          Help me be strong enough and brave enough to stay on the path the Father has set for me....
                          just like you did.


                          #2 Jesus Takes Up His Cross