Sunday, March 31, 2013

Just as He said

"I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified"
Matthew 28:5

Crucified for the Jews... and for the Gentiles

Crucified for the soldiers... and for the criminals

Crucified for John the Baptist and for Herod and for the Magi

Crucified for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

Crucified for Peter and Paul and Judas

Crucified for the blind and the lame and the dying

Crucified for the many, and the few... for the 5,000 and for the 12

Crucified for the Samaritans and the Greeks and the Romans... 
for the Pharisees and the Sadducees

Crucified for Caesar and Pilate... 
for Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus

Crucified to fulfill Scripture

Crucified for the lost and the hopeless... 
and those who don't know it

Crucified for everyone on this earth before He came, 
and everyone who came after

~

Risen.... because He is God

~ "He is not here;
for He is risen,
as He said" ~
Matthew 28:5
~

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Looking Farther Forward

"looking forward to these things"
2 Peter 3:14

Funny thing.... I wrote the other day about anticipation.  About the fun of looking forward excitedly to something ~ in this case, seeing a movie for the first time.

That was Thursday when I wrote that.

But then I woke up, and it was Friday.  Imagine that.

But more than that, Good Friday.  And I was looking forward.

When I was a child, I could never understand why it was called "Good Friday".  I knew what had happened on that day, and it wasn't good.  It was bad and sad and wrong.

But of course, it's called Good Friday for a reason.  Actually, two reasons.

The first is what was accomplished on this day.  Jesus' death on the cross was for us.  His sacrifice, for our sins, offers us salvation. 

"He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead in sin, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes we were healed" ~ 1 Peter 2:24

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" ~ Romans 6:23

Good Friday is good, when compared to what came before... to what we were before.

The second reason that Good Friday is good, is because it didn't end there.  Good Friday is good, because of looking forward.

A friend of mine reminded me recently of a poem I first heard a few years ago.  I don't know the whole thing, but there's a verse that goes something like this:

       It's Friday
       Jesus is buried
       A soldier stands guard
       And a rock is rolled into place

       But it's Friday
       It is only Friday
       Sunday is a comin'!

It's catchy, but more than that, it's about looking forward.  It's about hope.  And hope is the difference between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  We know what no one knew on that first, very bad Good Friday.  And now, every Good Friday, I'm thinking about Easter.

As believers in Christ, we have a hope that non-believers will never know.  We have a hope that is the difference between despair and rejoicing, even in the midst of the trial.  We have the knowledge that He works all things in our lives, for good.  And we have the promise that He will return.

~ "And on the third day 
He will rise again" ~
Luke 18:33
~

Friday, March 29, 2013

Looking Forward

"my earnest expectation and hope"
Philippians 1:20

Well, I'm now counting the hours to something exciting in our home...

If you have read a few posts on this humble blog, you might know that I recently read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit for the first time.


Yes, that's right, I just got around to reading a book that was published in 1937, that has never waned in popularity, that is considered a classic.

Eschew the bandwagon ~ that's what I say.

But my kids got interested in the characters through the Lord of the Rings movies, shared with them by my sisters.  So we decided to read the book together, and can I just say?  I loved it.

So I guess sometimes there's a reason to jump on the bandwagon.

This week, the movie came out on DVD, and my kids cashed in a gift card to purchase it.  They had seen the movie over Christmas when it was out in theaters, but they went with their cousins (and my sisters).  I had no interest in seeing it, and certainly didn't want to spend the money. 

Now?  I'm interested.  More than that:  I'm very excited.

I really enjoyed reading about the places and characters that Tolkien created, and while I maintain that the book is always better than the movie, I'm looking forward to seeing it all come to life on my tv screen.

But to be honest, I'm just a little bit worried, too.  Tolkein created pictures in my imagination, and I'm a little concerned that the movie won't live up to the beauty and vibrancy in my mind.  From Bilbo's charming home in Bag End, to the dynamic personalities of the dwarves, my expectations are high. 

Do you know that feeling?  That "I hope this lives up to the hype" feeling?

Makes me think about the Book of Revelation.  I've read Revelation many times, and the descriptions have found a place in my imagination.  The streets of gold, and the gates of pearl... all manner of precious stones... the throne of God, with a rainbow like an emerald around the throne... and before the throne, a sea of glass, like crystal....

The pictures are vivid.  And that's just the visual part, not even taking into account that it's a place of joy forever, where we will be in the unimaginable light of His love.

In the next day or so, my family will sit down to watch our new movie, and I'll see just how well it lives up to what I'm imagining.  And some day, I'll find myself in the place He has promised me; the mansion prepared for me.  I love knowing it will far exceed my expectations.

~ "God Himself will be with them
and be their God" ~
Revelation 21:3
~

Thursday, March 28, 2013

No Rain, No Rainbows!

"I will cause it to rain on the earth"
Genesis 7:4

My family and I were enjoying the rain a few weeks ago, and it led us to an interesting conversation.

Rain is a treat for us.  Living in Southern California, we don't get enough of it, to my way of thinking.  The weather is so often beautiful, so we enjoy the change that rain and clouds bring.

Our conversation was about some of our "memorable" experiences in the rain.  I actually started the conversation, as I was thinking of a particularly rainy day, when we weren't under the shelter of a roof, in our cozy home, with access to blankets and hot cocoa.  

The day I was remembering was at the 2010 Olympics, in Vancouver, Canada.  We were attending a snowboarding event, and it rained and rained that day.  When I think back now, I can't imagine why they didn't erect a tent or canopy of some kind over the spectators.  It was a good-sized section of bleachers, but they had to know rainy weather was a possibility.

But that was my only complaint about Canada, and the Olympics, for that whole week, so that's not too bad!

Anyhow, it didn't take long before we were soaked.  Hats, coats, scarves, mittens, the works.  Soaked through.  We finally did manage to get our hands on four plastic garbage bags that the event workers were handing out as rain ponchos.  But it was far too late for us, as far as being wet.

The good news is, large plastic garbage bags do a great job of keeping you warm and keeping the rain off of you.  The bad news is that once you're wet, it's like a sauna inside that bag.

It was not our most pleasant experience.

I don't have any photos of our day at snowboarding; it was too wet to get the camera out.  So here's a photo of an aerial skiier in heavy fog for ya! 

So that was the rainy day experience I was thinking of... but that's not the rainy day my family was thinking of.

My Awesome Girl immediately recalled our visit to Washington, DC a few years ago, when we stood in line outside the National Archives, waiting to see our nation's treasures, such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

We waited in line for 45 minutes to get in.  And not just in the rain, as you might be guessing, but in a thunderstorm, with plenty of lightning.  Not having a great deal of experience with thunderstorms, my kids were pretty scared.  What I was feeling, most of all, was a thrill at the fact that all those people, were waiting all that time, in all that rain, to see those documents firsthand.

And though we were wet, at least we were warm...

See us?  We're the wet ones.  We just bought that umbrella, for $3, from a street vendor.
 
The Apple of my Eye was thinking of our trip to Missouri.  We spent a wonderful week exploring the beauty and history of that state, enjoying a couple of baseball games, and learning about people like Harry Truman and Mark Twain; Laura Ingalls Wilder and George Washington Carver; Daniel Boone, Walt Disney, Lewis and Clark.  Man, there was so much to learn in Missouri!

We also saw some of the most amazing rainstorms I've ever seen.  Like, deluges.  Downpours.  Torrents.   Giant, fat raindrops hitting the windshield as we drove from small town to small town.  And my sweetie was remembering one particular rainy day, when we stopped for gas, and he had to not only pump, but also make a minor adjustment to the car.  Suffice to say, he was a little wet when he got back in the car.  He was only mildly amused at the time, but he laughs about it now.

The Mighty Mississippi overflowing its banks from all the rain ~ Hannibal, Mo

Post-thunderstorm in Independence, Mo


My Amazing Boy's rainy day memory was from our visit to Kauai several years ago.  It rains a lot on Kauai.  Well, not a lot in quantity, but in frequency.  Every day.  Sometimes more than once a day.  Never for long, though. But by the end of our vacation, we had shopped in the rain, swum in the rain, hiked in the rain, kayaked in the rain, ate in the rain, snorkeled in the rain.... well, you get the idea. 

Though we all appreciated the truth of "No rain, no rainbows,"  I guess the rain made a big impression my youngest, because that was the rain memory that stood out strongest for him. 

Funny thing is, the sun still shines, even when it's raining!
Rain = Rainbows!
When you're getting rained on, it might not feel pleasant at the time.  But it serves its purpose.  The earth needs the water, and we couldn't have rainbows without it! 

It's the same with the "rainy" days in our hearts.  Trials and difficulties, pain and sorrow, are the dark days.  And when we're living them, we long for the sun.  But they serve God's purposes for our lives, in what we grow and what we learn.  And if we're trusting Him, we can look back on them with joy, and appreciate the rainbows!

~ "I will give you rain in its season,
the land shall yield its produce,
and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit" ~
Leviticus 26:4
~

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Jesus loves me, this I know

"Behold, what manner of love
the Father has bestowed on us!"
1 John 3:1

Remember that beautiful present a friend of mine gave me for my birthday?  With the lovely wrapping?


I shared about it here.

Well, one of the many talents of my Awesome Girl, is photography.  And she loves taking pictures of flowers, so when she saw how beautifully the present was, well, presented, she wanted to take it outside and take some pictures.  So I thought share them with you, and then let you know which one took my breath away ~ literally.




























Lovely.  Every shot.  But this is the one that struck me...



See that hand?  It made my heart skip a beat when I saw this picture.  That is the hand of my daughter.   More beautiful to me than any flower.  More precious to me than any gift. 

When I think of how much I love my children... how I love everything about them... is when I appreciate how much He loves me.

~ "He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing" ~
Zephaniah 3:17
~

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Prayerlessness

"far be it from me
that I should sin against the Lord 
in failing to pray for you"
1 Samuel 12:23

I talked to a friend today, and she didn't scold me or shame me at all. 

But she should have.

Nor did God strike me down with lightning, or smite me with His fearful wrath. 

Though He could have. 

I'm so glad He's longsuffering!

My friend and I had a nice chat today, and as we were finishing our conversation, we were sharing with each other the ways that we would appreciate prayers from one another. 

I asked her to pray for a doctor's appointment that I have later this week, and for my schedule ~ that I would prioritize the way God wants me to, not the I want to. 

She asked for prayer a situation going on in her life, but she prefaced it by saying, "I'm sure you're already praying for this..." Then she gave me some details that were new to me. 

But the thing is, I wasn't already praying for that. 

And I should have been. 

I knew the situation was going on, but frankly, I didn't even think about praying for it.  It's not really a problem situation, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need prayer, cuz it does.  It needs prayer so that it doesn't become a problem, and so that she and the other people involved will grow through the situation, and learn what He has for them. 

There was an expectation on her part that I was praying for her, and I think she was right to expect that of me.  I know we can't be praying for everything that's going on in the world.  But the things we should be praying for, we should be praying for!

She didn't scold me or shame me, because she didn't know that I'd let her down, prayer-wise. 

I don't know why He hasn't smote me down.  Forgiveness, I guess.  And patience.  And He knew that when I came to this realization, I'd take steps to right the problem. 

But shame on me. 

~ "praying always
with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
being watchful to this end
with all perseverance
and supplication for all the saints" ~
Ephesians 6:18
~

Monday, March 25, 2013

Which one are you?

"they did not understand these things at first,
but when Jesus was glorified, 
 they remembered that these things were written"
John 12:16

Palm Sunday.  It's such an interesting day to me.  When I was young, they handed out palm branches at my church, and we got to take them home after the service.  They were slender, and my mom would use her fingernail to slice a slit about two-thirds up the frond, and then tuck the top end in that slit, creating a sort of ersatz cross.  Or we'd take two, and combine them to look like a cross. 

I don't know whose hand this is; I got this off of wikihow.com  :)
 
I almost forgot about Palm Sunday this year.  Well, forgot when it was.  Because I'm studying a gospel in Bible study, and we've already studied the chapter with the Triumphal Entry, I guess I sort of stopped thinking about it.  

But don't worry ~ I still know Easter's comin'!  

However, when I was thinking about Palm Sunday, a few weeks ago, here's what I was thinking...

In chapter 11 of John, we had read and studied the passage about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  In that discussion, we had also talked about Mary and Martha, Lazarus' sisters.  Now, most people know Mary and Martha's famous "disagreement" in Luke 10.  Martha had been busy preparing dinner, while Mary sat at Jesus' feet, listening to His teachings.  And when Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to help her, Jesus replied, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."  

So, remember that about Mary. 

In chapter 12, we read about Mary pouring expensive perfume on Jesus' feet, honoring and anointing Him.  But the perfume was expensive, and Judas used this as an excuse to complain about Mary's actions, protesting that the perfume could have been sold, and the money given to the poor.  But verse 6 tells us that Judas didn't say this because he cared about the poor, but because he was in charge of the money bag, and he stole from it. 

So, remember that about Judas.

The second part of chapter 12 is the Triumphal Entry:  Jesus entering Jerusalem, while the multitudes praised and honored Him.  They took palm branches and went out to meet Him.  They laid their branches, and their cloaks in the road, and they shouted "Hosanna!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" 

But a few days later, they would be shouting, "Crucify Him!"

So, remember that about the people.

What came to mind, as I pondered all of these stories, was the Parable of the Sower, in Matthew 13 and how accurately Mary, Judas, and the multitudes illustrate the point of the parable. 

The parable tells of a man who sowed seed, some of which fell on stony ground, where there wasn't much soil.  The seed sprouted soon, but when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and because they had no root, they withered away.   This is the multitudes, who enthusiastically welcomed Jesus into their midst and into their city.  But when He wasn't the Savior they were looking for ~ when He didn't "deliver" them from the Romans, they turned on Him.   "When tribulation arises... immediately (they) stumble" (Matthew 13:21)

Some of the seed fell among thorns, and as they sprouted, the thorns sprang up and choked them out.  This is Judas.  He cared more for the things of the world ~ like money~ than he did for the things of God.  "The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful." (Matthew 13:22)

Finally, some seed fell on good ground, and yielded a crop.  This is Mary.  She heard, she accepted, she grew, and she wanted more.  "(she) who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces." (Matthew 13:23)

Don't you just love it when the Bible illuminates the Bible?  Read and learn!

~ "Therefore hear the parable of the sower." ~
Matthew 13:18
~

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Lesson From Bryce Harper

"a wise man will hear and increase learning"
Proverbs 1:5

Baseball season is a-comin.  Almost here.  One of my favorite days of the year is the day that pitchers and catchers report to their Spring Training camps, because then it's only a (short) matter of time before I'm sitting in my comfy chair, watching one of my favorite teams, and listening to the distinctive sound of Vin Scully's mellifluous voice. 

And there was an article in Sports Illustrated a few weeks ago, about Bryce Harper.
photo credit:  usatoday.com
Harper plays for the Washington Nationals ~ another one of my favorite teams ~ and was last year's National League Rookie of the Year.  So there's great interest in how he'll do this year.  Often athletes who shine in their first year, struggle in their second year.  Is it over-confidence?  Is it simply that opponents have learned their style and know how to compensate, to even the playing-field?

At any rate, Harper seems determined to not let the "sophomore slump" happen to him.  So he's been keeping in shape in the off-season, physically and mentally.  And one of the ways he's been doing that, is by watching video of himself hitting.

When you want to get better at something, watching video of yourself doing it is a great help.  You can analyze your flaws and weaknesses, maybe even finding ones you didn't know you had.

But get this:  Harper watches himself hitting singles and doubles, but he doesn't watch his outs, and he doesn't watch his home runs.  I love that.

A home run is a success.  It's bringing in runs for your team.  And there might be a flaw in your swing that you could analyze, but I think you're going to be focused more on the success, and your pride might get in the way of your learning.

An out, loosely speaking, is a failure.  There certainly would be something to learn from it, but you're liable to be too critical of yourself, and miss the lesson.

Emotion is a tricky thing.  It gets in our way, and clouds our judgement.  I think maybe that's why we should let Him look us over, and find the things we need to work on (Psalm 26:2)  We can't trust our pride or our self-doubt to let us see things clearly.  
 
I think if we find ourselves obsessing about our home runs, or our outs, that's not from Him.  He's not about pride, and He's not about condemnation.  He's about growth, and our learning to rely on the Holy Spirit to be in us what we can't. 

I heard someone say once, that God designed the human body so that we can neither pat ourselves on the back, nor kick ourselves in the behind, too easily.  I like that.

~ "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, 
that we may obtain mercy
and find grace to help in time of need" ~
Hebrews 4:16
~

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Because He said so

 "Peter said to Him, "You shall never... !"
John 13:8

Can you believe Peter??  This is God he's talking to!  And he's telling Him not to do something!

I'll say this:  Peter had chutzpah.  

Now, if the point was just that we shouldn't tell God what to do or not do, we wouldn't need to go any further, and we wouldn't need to explore the rest of that sentence. 

But as you might know, Peter's protest had to do with Jesus washing his feet.  His first response to Jesus' actions was, "Lord, are You washing my feet?"  After that came, "You shall never wash my feet!"

And when Jesus told him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me," then Peter went with, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"

Three different responses to what Jesus was doing.  But none of them were right.

If Peter was so incensed at the idea of Jesus washing his feet; if he felt it was backwards or inappropriate, then why hadn't he washed Jesus' feet upon their arrival?

And why hadn't Peter even washed his own feet?  It was the tradition in that culture, and it was needed. 

We're awfully quick to criticize, sometimes, what other people are doing, while we're doing nothing.  Or while we're doing nothing but criticizing.

We have no idea what God has called others to.  We don't know what obedience looks like for them.  Criticism is easy.  Action is hard.

And don't second-guess God.


~ "For I have given you an example, 
that you should do as I have done" ~
John 13:15
~

Friday, March 22, 2013

Walking

"walking in the garden in the cool of the day"
Genesis 3:8

I went for a walk this evening.  But I wasn't just walking; I was talking to my folks on the phone, at the same time.

Oh, and looking at flowers.  Seemed like every flower that was blooming, was purple!  Different varieties, but all purple.  Beautiful!


And picking flowers.  None of my family was with me, and I wanted to share all the purple flowers with them, so I picked one of each.  Statice, gazanias in two different shades of purple, white gazanias with purple undersides, and something that looks like wild radish. 

I got to thinking about how, every time I go on a walk with my family, we do a whole lot more than just walk. 

Sometimes we veer off the path, and have to hike a little bit, up or down the rocks near the creek. 

Sometimes I sit for awhile, on a bench or on the grass, waiting for my kids.  My Amazing Boy likes to collect pieces of nature, or try to skip stones in the water.  My Awesome Girl likes to take pictures.

Sometimes I'm resting when I'm sitting.  Listening to the water or the birds or the frogs.  Occasionally I bring my ipod and listen to music, but only when I'm walking alone, and even then I don't do it very often.  I'd rather listen to nature.

Other times I'm writing while I'm waiting for my kids.  Thinking about things I see and people I love and how everything reminds me of God.

Sometimes we talk when we walk, pointing out things we see, and sometimes we are lost in our thoughts.  It all depends...

The Bible talks a lot about walking.  There are several verses that are really talking about living, but that use the word "walk".   Ephesians 5 has a few of them, like 5:2 ~ "Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us..."  Or Colossians 2:6, which says "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." 

And I was reminded today that "walking" with Him takes all different forms.  It's not just the one verb.  Living means hiking, resting, listening, sharing, pondering... Variety is the spice of life, so they say. 

~ "For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord. 
Walk as children of light." ~
Ephesians 5:8
~

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The more things change...

"the world hated Me before it hated you"
John 15:18

I don't know how many of you who read this are Christians.  Maybe some of you are unfamiliar with the Bible, and this is something you stumbled on in a search.

But maybe others of you, like me, have been a believer in Christ for as long as you can remember, and are trying to live His will in your life the best you can.

If you are a Christian, you know it's not easy. 

*  We are assaulted daily by visuals we try to avoid ~ My son and I can't even watch a baseball game on TV without seeing ads that I would consider rated R.  

*  We have to, many times a day, push back against the temptation to speed, gossip, judge, or lie.  Might be to avoid embarrassment, might simply be because it's easier than doing the right thing.  But it's a battle, every day.

* Almost every decision we make during the day has an impact on ourselves.  Therefore, it's difficult not to choose the best possible outcome for ourselves.  Therefore, the opportunities to focus on self occur frequently, and often without warning.

* Et cetera.

I especially feel the battle in terms of my kids.  It is simply impossible to protect their minds and eyes and ears and hearts from all the bad and pain in the world.  Sometimes it's frustrating.  Sometimes it's discouraging.  Sometimes it just plain makes me mad, and I think to myself, "What is the world coming to??"

But my pastor said something a few weeks ago that changed my perspective.  He pointed out that in every generation, starting with the birth of Jesus, and King Herod, the gospel has been threatened. And I thought, really, life hasn't changed all that much.

Somehow that made me feel better.  Being Christ was hard.  People wanted to kill Him.  Why wouldn't being a Christian be hard?  Besides, He said it would be hard. 

Makes one glad to know that victory is secure. 

~ "In the world you will have tribulation;
but be of good cheer,
I have overcome the world" ~
John 16:33
~

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Love in action

"the goodness of God leads you to repentance"
Romans 2:4

Have you ever been a team captain in a "schoolyard pick"?  You know, you choose one, then I choose one, etc.  Or worse, have you ever waited in the group while the captains chose, one by one, and hoped you wouldn't be last? 

I wonder, if Jesus had chosen the disciples in a schoolyard pick, if He would have chosen Judas last. 

I doubt it. 

First of all, Jesus wouldn't have been that obvious.  If the gospel were an after-school special, we might see that:  Judas being picked last, and picked on, all foreshadowing his later actions...

But more than that, I don't really think Jesus differentiated.  When you pick for a team, one can almost see your thoughts.  We recognize the logic in the choices being made:  the strongest, the tallest, the best speller ~ all depends on what's to be contested.

But when Jesus was choosing His disciples, He chose deliberately and purposefully, knowing their strengths and weaknesses.  Peter was impulsive.  Thomas was skeptical.  James and John had strong fleshly ambitions, and were easily angered.  Judas was dishonest, and greedy. 

And not only did Jesus choose each of them, He treated each of them the same.  They knew their own weaknesses, and they certainly saw each others' flaws.  Nevertheless, when Jesus told them that one of them would betray Him, they were stunned.  The New King James translation says they were perplexed.  The NIV says they stared at one another.  Picture twelve guys, mouths agape.

Matthew says that they were exceedingly sorrowful, and that each of them began to say to Him, "Lord, is it I?"  Each disciple was a sinner, and each thought he might be the betrayer.  Can you imagine that feeling?  Peter... John... Nathanael... Philip... each asking the question, and terrified to hear the answer.   They loved Him so much, but each one knew it was possible.  And they were right.  We have no idea what we're really capable of.  This is why we pray, "Lead us not into temptation."

Now, visualize this group of men.  We know that the seating arrangements were not quite as they were depicted by Leonardo da Vinci.  The men were sitting; reclining really.  I once read, though, that the reason they are shown as they are in da Vinci's piece, is simply because they all stood to pose for the picture...

John was on Jesus' right, and Judas on His left, around what is believed to have been a U-shaped table.  And I'm so curious as to how they all ended up in the spots they did, bearing in mind the argument about who was the greatest, and who would sit where in Jesus' kingdom.  (Mark 9, Luke 9)

I wonder if He told them where to sit, or was there something pre-arranged.  Like, when I was growing up, whoever's job it was to do the dishes that week got to sit in the front seat of the car when we were out and about.  Do you suppose the disciples had some sort of arrangement like that?  ;)

I read once that John was the youngest of the disciples, and tradition was that the youngest sat on the right side of the teacher, to ensure the passing on of valuable teachings.   Judas' position, on the left, was a position of honor, as he was to watch the back of the teacher.  If that is the case, it's yet more evidence to me that God loves irony...

Peter, we can tell, wasn't very near to the Lord, so he motioned to John to ask Jesus who he was talking about.  So John leaned back on Jesus' breast  ~ don't you love that visual? ~ and asked, "Lord, who is it?"

And here's where I've been flummoxed all my life.  Jesus pretty much said to John, "I'll show you who it is.  I'm going to dip this bread, and hand it to the one."  And He did.  But somehow, John didn't get the message.

Did he not hear Jesus?  Did none of them hear?  Did John not see Jesus?  Maybe he was turning his attention back to Peter to say, "Yes, I asked Him; be patient!" and in so doing, he missed the signal.

Maybe they thought Jesus was not being literal.  He was like that sometimes, speaking metaphorically.  They'd all been together for three years now, and over that time, surely Jesus had handed bread to several of them.  Maybe John just thought Jesus meant, "It is he to whom I have shown love."  That, of course, could have been any of them.

It's also plausible ~ probable, I think ~ that Jesus veiled their understanding.   Lord knows ~ literally ~ what they would have done if they had realized.  John might have intervened.  Peter might have lopped off Judas' ear.  But Jesus knew how this evening must go.

When Jesus dipped the bread and handed it to Judas, He honored Judas.  He appealed to him.  He knew that Judas had already talked to the high priests and made arrangements.  By handing the bread to him, Jesus was saying to him, "It doesn't have to be this way.  You still have a chance to stop, and change the direction you are going."

I read a commentary on this subject, that said that Jesus was "hoping" that Judas could change his mind.  But that doesn't sound right to me.  Jesus knew he wasn't going to.  I think this gesture was for us.  It's important for us to see Jesus loving Judas, just as He loved each of the other eleven.  He washed Judas' feet, just as He had washed all of their feet.  He knew the choice Judas was going to make, but still He loved him. 

2 Peter 3:9 says that God is longsuffering toward us, because He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.   He reaches out to us, and shows us love, and appeals to us to come to Him.   God is love.

~ "Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  
If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, 
I will come in to dine with him, and he with Me." ~
Revelation 3:20
~

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Honoring Clinton Romesha

"courageous and valiant"
2 Samuel 13:28

Clinton Romesha is a hero.

He would probably tell you that's not true.  But he'd be wrong.  And I say that with a great deal of respect.

Romesha served in the United States Army from 1999 - 2011, and was deployed to Kosovo, Iraq (twice) and Afghanistan.  And last month he received the Medal of Honor for "gallantry and boldness" when the base to which he was assigned (in Afghanistan) was attacked.

This is from his Medal of Honor citation:

"Romesha distinguished himself... at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty... moved uncovered under intense enemy fire to conduct a reconnaissance of the battlefield and seek reinforcements from the barracks before returning to action.  He took out an enemy machine gun team... and engaged a second, undeterred by injuries... upon the arrival of another soldier to aid him, he again rushed through the exposed avenue to assemble additional soldiers.  With complete disregard for his own safety, he continually exposed himself to heavy enemy fire... engaging and destroying multiple enemy targets... and maintained radio communications with the tactical operations center..."

And it continues even after that.  The whole thing is available to read online.

Hero, right?

But here are some photos from the day he received his Medal of Honor:

photo credit:  nytimes.com

photo credit:  foxnews.com

photo credit:  huffingtonpost.com

I've seen these ceremonies before, on the news, or in the newspaper, and the honoree often has that same look on his face.   I don't even know how to describe it.  It's not "unhappy" per se.  Maybe it's just hard for him to remember the difficult circumstances in which he earned his citation.  To be honest, it looks like he just wants this ceremony to be over.  True heroes are often humble, and I think they aren't crazy about the attention.  But more than that, they generally don't see themselves as heroes.  The standard line is that the heroes are the ones who don't come home.  And no one can argue with that.

But in my opinion ~ and I'm sure I'm not alone ~ just because a soldier comes home, doesn't mean he's not a hero.  Frankly, whether or not someone is a hero, is not for them to decide.  A hero is who is admired, for their courage or other qualities, and admiration is in the eye of the beholder.

His expression made me a little sad.  It reminded me that I don't have any idea what he went through that day, and that I don't appreciate enough, what our armed forces sacrifice for us. 

I hope, that when Clinton Romesha looks in the mirror, he sees a hero.   But whether he does or not, when I look at these pictures, that's what I see.

~ "Well done, good and faithful servant" ~
Matthew 25:21
~

Monday, March 18, 2013

Seeing the Problem

"then you will see clearly"
Matthew 7:5

So I had some lint in my eye a few weeks ago.  Like a tiny little thread or something.  Nothing unusual.  It happens, right?  But it made an impression on me.  Sort of a Scriptural tap-on-the-shoulder.  

It was at my Awesome Girl's volleyball tournament.  I was there with just my Amazing Boy, as the Apple of my Eye was out of town at a conference.  

So I was running the show.  Well, not the whole show, but the "get-everybody-in-my-family-where-they-have-to-be, when-they-have-to-be-there, with-what-they-need-to-have" show. 

My boy and I had just come into the arena... gymnasium... whatever that place is called.  There are about 50 volleyball games going on at once, in a giant warehouse-with-a-snack-bar kinda thing.  What's that called?

Anyhow, to get the court that your child is playing on, you sometimes have to walk past eight or ten other courts.  And you try to do this without getting in the way of, or distracting, any of the players, or blocking any of the spectators.  I had my purse, and a jacket, cuz it can be cold in there.  And I had a seat cushion.  So my hands were full.  We couldn't find a spot and sit down, because they game before ours wasn't over yet.  So my boy and I stood off to the side, waiting for the game to end. 

And I had something in my eye.  I thought it was my hair, cuz my bangs are getting kinda long, so I brushed the area around my eye with one finger, and thought I had taken care of the problem.  But a few minutes later, it was bugging me again, so I did the same thing again.  And again, I thought I'd eliminated the culprit.  

Then I thought it might be a stray eyelash, so I did that eyes-wide-open kinda blinking a few times.  But then a few blinks later, I could feel it again.  This went on several times, until we sat down, and I was able to put my stuff down, and have a steady enough hand to really pluck the offender out of its annoying position.  

Turned out it was a little curly thread or string of some kind.  Probably came off of my sweater.  But I kinda laughed at myself, because I'd tried so many times to get rid of it, the whole time thinking it was a hair or an eyelash, when it was neither.  

Naturally I started thinking about the verse in Matthew that talks about the speck in my neighbor's eye, and the plank in my eye.  It's a verse with a powerful point about judging others when things are not right in our own lives.  We do tend to see others' problems as being bigger or worse than our own. 

But this particular piece of lint taught me something else about that verse.  You see, I knew I had something in my eye, and I tried several times to remove it.  And each time I thought I had succeeded, until I blinked. 

I think we do the same thing with the metaphorical planks in our eyes.  We take a step or say a prayer to rid ourselves of our weakness, and with the slightest improvement, we think we are "cured".  

But the source of the problem in my eye was not the stray hair I thought it was.  If it had been, I would have eliminated it with one brushing motion, or a small toss of my head.  But I was all wrong about the source.  It was a smaller, trickier problem than I thought to rid myself of the irritant.  

So it is with our habitual sins.  Weaknesses that are firmly imbedded in our character are hard to remove.  It might take days, weeks, or even years of prayer to free ourselves from the temptation to fall back into old patterns.  Sometimes need to find the source, and always we need to know that we can't heal ourselves. 


 ~ "If we confess our sins, 
He is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" ~
1 John 1:9
~

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Nobody's Perfect

"Be ye perfect..."
Matthew 5:48

I have a friend with a son who's autistic.  He can be a very sweet boy, but he also can be difficult for her to deal with.  Autistic children can be inflexible, so getting them to conform to society's expectations can be tricky.

He's what they call "high-functioning" autistic, which means that he's able to function independently, and attend traditional school with just a little bit of personalized attention and guidance.  But still, he often zags when everyone else is zigging, if you get my drift...

And a few days ago, his mom shared with me a funny but eye-opening quote from him.   When asked why he asks so many questions in school, and the boy answered, "My teachers want me to be perfect, but they can't explain what perfect is."  

I love that line.  It's so true.  We live in a free country (and I hope you do, too) and yet everywhere we go, there is something expected of us.  Rules in school and work, traffic rules, manners, etiquette, do unto others and love as He loved.

Can I just say?.... it's hard.  Being "perfect" is hard.  Being who my husband and kids want me to be, and who my kids need me to be as their teacher.  Being the daughter, sister, friend and citizen that I'm expected to be. 

And sometimes these things collide.  Sometimes it seems impossible to do more than one successfully.  Or maybe sometimes it really is impossible, and all He wants is for us to do the best we can.  After all, loving someone doesn't necessarily mean they always get their way.

At any rate, I need to remember that the only "perfect" I need to be, is in His eyes.

~ "If we love one another, God abides in us,
and His love has been made perfect in us" ~
1 John 4:12
~

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Think Big!

"Blessed is the King
who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Luke 19:38

I think one of the most ironic passages in the Bible has to be the Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  It's such a wonderful scene in my mind, with the palm branches and the shouts of "Hosanna!" to Him.  So wonderfully appropriate for Him.  He deserved every bit of it.

But the ironic part is why they were welcoming and praising Him.  The word "hosanna" means, "save us, we pray" but why did they wanted to be saved?  Where were these people a few days later when Pilate asked the people if they wanted Jesus released, or Barabbas?  These same people, a few days after shouting, "Hosanna!" were shouting, "Crucify Him!" 

What they wanted to be saved from, was the Romans.  The Roman government ran their lives, and they wanted to be free from that.  At the time of the Triumphal Entry, they thought Jesus was the one to get them out from under the Roman thumb, so to speak.  But then He was captured and tried, and I guess they decided He wasn't the one. 

Jesus is Savior, Deliverer and Redeemer, but in a far bigger way than they imagined.  They wanted to be freed from Rome, but they weren't thinking big enough.  The freedom He promises reaches deeper into our lives, and will impact us into eternity.

I think sometimes we ask God for far less than He wants to give us.  I don't mean material things, but blessings.  He promises good in our lives, and rest; strength and wisdom; His peace and His love, and eternity with Him.  And yet there we sit, asking Him for a new car or a bigger house. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with asking for those, as long as we're wanting His will; as long as we're trusting Him to decide if it's what's best for us.  But don't be asking for something so little ~ like a new house ~ when what He wants is to give you something big.  Like peace, hope, or love.

~ "I will walk at liberty,
For I seek Your precepts" ~
Psalm 119:45
~

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Fun Surprise


"You speak of having plans"
2 Kings 18:20

I got a big surprise the other day.  My sister, brother-in-law, and nephew are in town for the week, for a visit.

But that's not the surprise.  We've been looking forward to their visit for a few weeks now.

So they came to my Amazing Boy's baseball game, which was especially fun.  My boy's team did great, and he had his best game this season.  My nephew enjoyed watching his cousin play, and we all enjoyed hanging out together, watching and chatting.

My folks were a little late getting to the game, though.  They had an errand to run, and then they picked up dinner for everyone.

In-n-Out burgers.  Yum.

But that wasn't the surprise.  They took our order, so everyone knew that was coming.

No, the surprise was that they picked up something else while they were out ~ my other sister, and her husband. 

Only Mom and Dad knew they were coming to visit for a couple of days.  They had timed their visit deliberately, to take advantage of my other sister's visit, so that we could all be together.   They just showed up at the baseball game with our In-n-Out.  

Surprise! 

It was so much fun to see them, but also kinda fun to be surprised, and I thought about how much fun surprises can be.  

Now, there are a lot of things that happen in my life that I'm not expecting, but I'm not necessarily pleased by all of them.  Maybe it would be different if I try to think of them as surprises.  Unexpected events that God has planned or allowed in my life, for growth, or knowledge, even if not necessarily for "fun".  

I'm often not as "in control" of things in my life as I'd like to be.  But it should be enough for me to know that He's in control! 

~ "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,
says the Lord,
thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11
~

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sometimes Love Hurts


"Most assuredly, I say to you, 
one of you will betray Me"
John 13:21

Do you know the story of Corrie Ten Boom?  She was an amazing woman.  Well, an ordinary woman, who did extraordinary things, during a terrible time.  Corrie and her family lived in The Netherlands, and they secretly harbored Jews, and helped them escape when The Netherlands was occupied by the Nazis.   

photo credit: thegalleryofheroes.com

One day a man came to her saying he needed help hiding someone.  She helped, and the next day she and her family were arrested.  She spent almost a year in the concentration camp where her sister and father died.  She was betrayed by that stranger to whom she had shown love. 

How about William Tyndale; do you know who he was?  He was the first man to translate the Bible into English.  He’s probably largely responsible for that Bible you read.  Tyndale played a key role in making Scripture accessible to the English-speaking world.   

photo credit:  william-tyndale.com

He learned Hebrew and Greek, to understand idioms and expressions in those languages, and then wrote with the intent of bringing understanding to the common people.  In 1611, the scholars who created the King James version drew about 80% from Tyndale’s version. 

In 1536 Tyndale was strangled, and then burnt at the stake for heresy, and for unlicensed possession of Scripture.  He was betrayed by a friend of his.

I've been thinking, as I shared yesterday, about that commandment Jesus gave, to love as He loved.  He was only hours away from being betrayed when He gave that commandment.  And He had just finished washing Judas' feet.  

We sometimes think we have a "good" reason for not loving someone.  Maybe they don't "deserve" it.  Maybe it's just too much trouble, and we have a few needs of our own to take care of. 

The fact is, loving others is not easy.  As a friend of mine says about shepherding, sheep bite.   

But it's even worse than that.  When you love as Jesus loved, you will be betrayed.   And betrayal by someone you love, hurts.

It might even kill you.  

Probably not.  But it might. 

I guess that's why He made it a commandment, and not just a suggestion. 

~ "Love suffers long and is kind...
love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things" ~
1 Corinthians 13:4
~

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A New Commandment

"A new commandment I give to you, 
that you love one another"
John 13:34

I love baseball.  All of it.  I can watch a game between any two teams, and enjoy it as much as when I'm watching my favorite team.

My favorite team is the Dodgers.  They always have been, even when I didn't live in California.  Loyalty to a team is not about geography, though.  Sometimes it's about genetics.  My love for the Dodgers is hereditary. 

Baseball is a gentler sport than others, if you ignore the occasional bench-clearing brawl... Unlike other sports, there is no clock, and every stadium is unique, and this history of the game lends itself easily to both nostalgia and patriotism.

And baseball is a game for optimists.  I think every team, and every fan but the most cynical, believes that at Spring Training, anything is possible.  That this is the year. 

For years, the Dodgers had their Spring Training in Vero Beach, Florida, at a complex called Dodgertown.  It's a storied place.  The Dodgers trained there from 1949 to 2008, and it holds a hallowed place in baseball history.  It was called "Baseball Heaven," and they said that at Dodgertown, the view was so spectacular, you could see all the way to October.

We're getting down to the "difficult part" in our study of John in my Bible study.  We're into the last hours of Jesus' life, and while I'm reading about what happened to Jesus, I've got one eye on what's going to happen.   As I read about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I'm thinking about the cross.  Then when I'm reading about the cross, I'm thinking about the resurrection.  Then when I'm reading about the resurrection, I'll be thinking about when He comes again.

I was reading chapter 13 this week, and realizing that Jesus is kinda doing this too.  It's a chapter that includes Jesus telling the disciples that one of them will betray Him, and also telling Peter that he will deny Him.  It's saddening to Jesus, I'm sure.

But in the middle of those two downers, is the new commandment ~ "Love one another as I have loved you."   In the middle of those two difficult subjects, is the subject of love.  It's a reminder to me that the impact of Jesus' love, far outweighs the impact of those who hurt Him.

The pain is what stands out to when we are hurting.  But there's so much more going on.  He is doing things in our lives, all the time, if we let Him.  Growing us, blessing us, blessing others through us.

It matters what you choose to look at.  How far can you see?

 ~ "By this, all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another" ~
John 13:35 
~

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Lesson Within A History Lesson

"may the Lord give you wisdom
   and understanding"
1 Chronicles 22:12

A few weeks ago, I read an article about Horatio Nelson, the British naval hero.  But it wasn't just an article about his many and impressive victories at sea.  Have you ever read something that has been written to correct something else, and you were kinda confused, because you had never read the original, incorrect version?  That's what happened to me as I read this article.

I know the highlights of Nelson's life, and I've seen the statue in Trafalgar Square, in London.  But I really didn't know anything about his personal life.  He was married to Frances "Fanny" nee Nisbet in 1787, and he remained married until his death in the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805.

But eleven years after his wedding, he began an affair with a woman named Emma Hamilton, and that relationship, too, lasted until his death.

I don't think that it's a very big secret that he was having an affair; nor was it at the time.  I suppose in the eyes of the British it doesn't take away from his naval heroics, which are undeniable.  And I suppose there are many who chalk such indiscretions up to "boys will be boys" or something like that.  Which is a terrible excuse, but we won't go into that.

But apparently the other reason why his lack of marital integrity was forgiven was that his wife was widely seen as being at fault for the affair.  Says author Colin White:  "Frances Nelson almost without exception was demonized for the breakdown of the marriage.  She was said to be incompatible with him:  cold, whining..."

Not that that's an excuse, but we won't go into that.

At any rate, this has been the prevailing view of Lady Nelson, until recently.  In 2002, several dozen letters were discovered in a private collection.  They were letters from Frances, Emma, and Nelson to a friend of Nelson's, Alexander Davison.  Frances felt Davison was a confidant, and so she felt free to express her feelings of love for her husband, and her concern for his reputation, despite his infidelity.

Of course, I haven't read the letters, but apparently the more one reads of Frances' heart, the more one can appreciate her innocence, and her forgiving heart.  And though Fanny Nelson's reputation did not suffer during her life ~ she continued to be accepted in "polite society" despite her husband's well-known infidelity ~ the opinions formed of her after her death might have been different if people had known more about her feelings, her actions, and her intentions.

As I say, it was an article that sought to change some people's opinions of Fanny Nelson, but as I had no opinion of her to begin with, I came at it from a slightly different place.  What stuck out to me was the idea of finding something out later.  Of learning something, but not having all the facts, and then how it changes things when you learn them later.

This intrigues me about the Bible, too.  Though we can learn from any reading of the Bible, the details matter.  The details can give us more.  Knowing about the church in Galatia will help us understand why Paul wrote what he did to them.  Knowing how Jacob obtained Esau's birthright will help us understand the animosity in later interactions between them.   Knowing chronology and geography and history will round out the lessons we learn in Scripture.

For instance, read Job 38:22-23, in which God says to Job, "Have you seen the treasury of hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?"

Now read Joshua 10:11 ~ "It happened, as the men of Gilgal fled before Israel... that the Lord cast down large hailstones from heaven... There were more who died from the hailstones than the children of Israel killed with the sword."

It opens up Scripture to see how God brought to reality what He said He would.  Or see how one section illustrates another.  It's about how much there is to understand about a given situation, and how much more there is to know.

Seek.  Ask.  Knock.  

~ "He opened their understanding,
that they might comprehend the Scriptures" ~
Luke 24:45
~

Monday, March 11, 2013

Things I was thinking today..

He is perfect
"He is the Rock, His works are perfect,
and all His ways are just. 
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is He."
Deuteronomy 32:4


His works are wonderful
"They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and I will meditate on Your wonderful works"
Psalm 145:5


He is Judge
"He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. 
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks."
Micah 4:3


He gives salvation
"Yet will I rejoice in the Lord,
I will joy in the God of my salvation"
Habakkuk 3:18


He is invisible
"Now to the King eternal, immortal,
invisible, the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever."
1 Timothy 1:17


He is the answer
"Call to Me, and I will answer you,
and show you great and mighty things,
which you do not know"
Jeremiah 33:3


He is the Beginning
"He said to me,
'It is done!
I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End"
Revelation 21:6
~