Garments

Garments

She laid in bed looking up at the ceiling. Today would be different, it had to be. Another night of restless sleep, she couldn’t do it much longer. She rolled onto her side and pushed herself up off the matt. She walked across the floor of her one room dwelling to the basin to wash. How much longer would this go on? How much more could she take.

She began to layer her garments, today she needed extra layers. If they saw her, if there was any sight of blood it would be her demise. She ran her hands over the once luxurious garments. She remembered when they were new, when they had color.

She loved color. In her past she was known for her unconventional style. When she walked through the streets she drew admirable attention as she carried herself with grace. Those times were long past. Now, these same garments were warn and tattered. With each layer she felt the weight of her illness and the heaviness of her shame. This was a dirty illness. She had scrubbed her garments until they were so thin they were almost useless. Nothing had color any longer and nothing was white. Her life was covered in dull dingy grays.

She pulled her hair back and covered it. She added a second veil to cover her face. She couldn’t risk being recognized. She walked to the door. This wasn’t a home, she had lost that years ago in order to pay doctor bills. Over these past twelve years she had lost everything. She had been drained of status, wealth, security, belongings, relationships, health, and most recently, the will to continue the fight.

She had made her inquiries and knew where he was staying. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find him, these days there was always a crowd. One final check to ensure she was completely covered. She risked everything walking out those doors, she couldn’t be discovered. That would ignite new battles that she didn’t have the means or energy to fight.

She could see the home where he was staying in the distance. She watched as the crowd grew. He must be there, he had to be there. She was a short distance away when the crowd began to shift. “He’s not there,” she thought. “No. He has to be there.” She quickened her pace and in doing so felt the dull pain awaken.

The crowd seemed to be turning as if a great ship pulling out to sea. They turned toward her. She stopped. She waited, squinting to make out the images. Two men were in the lead. They drew closer and she gasped. “It couldn’t be. They hate him! Why is he here? I can’t do this. What was I thinking?”

Still closer, she was sure it was him. He was one of the officers, the temple leaders. He held a great title and with it great power. If she was recognized… If there was any sign of blood… She had been warned twelve years ago when this all began. It was the law and she must obey. Anyone showing any signs of bleeding was sent out. They were expelled from the world they knew until they could be confirmed clean. She couldn’t risk it. They were now yards away and walking in haste. Why were these two men together? And why today?

She took a breath. She didn’t need to stop him, or interrupt, she just needed to brush up against him, touch his hand, or grasp his arm.

She tightened her stomach hoping it would stop the bleeding. She knew it wouldn’t work, it never did. As they passed, she forced a step. She merged into the crowd but they were moving faster then she had anticipated. As she found her stride she counted at least five people standing between her and this man. She was moving faster then was safe to do. He was in her sight and she wasn’t going to lose this chance. She pushed her way through until there was only one person between them.

She kept the pace. Their speed created small gusts of wind catching their robes and forcing them to flow behind. She felt her veil assuring that it was in place. She reached out, hoping to touch his sleeve as his arm moved back and forth at his side. With each step she reached a little further. And with each step, he was just inches out of her reach. She couldn’t keep the pace much longer. The wind blew, the pace quickened, she reached forward, she felt it. She had touched the very tip of his garment. The moment over took her and she fell to her knees.

He stopped. The crowed did their best to follow his lead but not without first bumping into each other. No one notice her.

“Someone touched me,” he said.

“Of course someone touched you,” his follower said. “It could have been anyone.”

“No,” he said with unlimited confidence. “Someone touched me.”

By now the crowd had halted. He turned, and on cue they began to step back reveling a mound of garments, scrunched down in the middle of the road.

“Who touched me?” he asked again in a voice that blended great strength and love into harmony.

She couldn’t speak. She could hardly breathe. And then, she began to sob. She felt him near. She heard his footsteps. She felt his warmth. Then, she felt his hand.

“Was it you?” he asked.

With her head buried in the dirt, she nodded. He waited. Her life flashed before her. All she had lost, all she had suffered. Then suddenly she felt the release, muscles that had been knotted for what felt like eternity began to untie themselves. Her entire being was warmed as if warm oils were flowing through her veins. She couldn’t look up, the other man would certainly still be there. He would have her arrested. He would have her sent away. The little she had left could be ripped from her. But she couldn’t feel the blood any more. She couldn’t find the pain. From the depths of her soul she felt the birth of life. New life. Whole life. She was alive.

“Did you feel it?” he asked.

She nodded again. She felt his warm hand cradle her chin. In his hand, she allowed her whole being to relax. He drew her head up. She could feel the tears running down her face, mingling with dirt from the road. She looked up at him. His eyes were gentle, like none she had ever seen. In them was the source of life. His face was kind.

“Are you whole?” he asked with a depth of reassurance that could calm seas.

She looked up at the other man. All the fear and hesitation vanished, she was no longer in his control. She looked back into his eyes. “Yes,” she said.

“I know,” he said.

He helped her to her feet, steadying her. She wanted to throw her arms around him. She wanted to fall back to the ground. She wanted him to hold her up forever. Without a word, he released his grasp and she knew it was time to go. She brushed the dirt from her tattered garments, adjusted her veil to reveal her face. She raised her head and began to walk. The warmth of the sun penetrated the layers of fabric and she breathed in life for the first time since she could remember.

He stood watching as the crowd began to separate as she passed. This one who had hidden herself, who was unrecognized, who did her best to be invisible, walked through the crowed as royalty.

After all she was, she had just touched the hem of this man called Jesus, and she was whole.

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Their Devils – My God!

A good friend and I were talking about some difficult interactions we had encountered over the past week or so. The ones where it’s easy for the other person to suck the life out of you – fill your mind with frustrating conversation, and even push a few buttons.

She shared that after one such encounter, she had allowed it to affect her for several days. She didn’t sleep well and her entire day was filled with negative thoughts. On day four she said, “I realized I was allowing their devil to come into my life.” Interesting perspective, I thought.

We talked further about trying to balance difficult individuals in our lives. Mid sentence, she slapped her hand on the table and said, “That’s it! Allowing myself to take on their devils stopped me from sharing the love of my God.”

We’re warned not to get sucked into other’s problems. Not to become an enabler. Not to be a fixer. But why? Until that moment, I believed it was a way to protect ME. It now appears to have a much larger purpose. When I take on your devils, I can’t share my God’s love with you…

…and love trumps devils every time!

Love God, Love Others

Love God, Love Others

Mark 12: 28-31  One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered,“The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

This is the first filter that everything we do, say, or believe, must be put though. Jesus connected these two commands. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.  It’s impossible to justify standing on a soap box preaching condemnation as a way of loving God or others. I’ve heard it said that we should love people but hate sin. The problem is, people and sin are inseparable. 

Loving people is accepting them – all of them, even their sin. Loving ourselves is understanding that we are sinners – not were sinners – we are sinners.  It doesn’t matter how you define ‘sin’; call it sin, shortcomings, failures, issues; we all have them. This is no surprise to God. We are all equal in God’s eyes and He loves us anyway. Truth be told, it’s in our DNA; we can’t not sin and God loves us.

We can only truly love others when we  accept ourselves, our shortcomings, our failures, our sin.  We fail – God loves. We screw up – God loves. We sin – God loves. Love God with your entire being, accept the fact that we are all sinners – all of us – and begin loving others as your equal.

Let me apologize…

There’s a story about  a group of men who brought a woman to Jesus claiming that they caught her in the act of adultery. I love this story for many reasons. The first is that is based on a “sin” that we can all agree on. The second is that it’s a woman being blamed and the group of men are religious leaders. It is a picture of the powerful pouncing on the weak and wounded.

Jesus isn’t reactive. He doesn’t argue or debate their theory, he actually affirms their knowledge of the law. He then follows it up by saying, “You who has no sin, throw the first stone…” After, he quietly waits.

The oldest of the religious leaders begin to back away, for they understood the secret of the law; guilty of one, guilty of all. The scene ends with a woman, standing in her guilt, and Jesus. This is the way every story of someone who truly experiences God’s love ends. We don’t need anyone else to point out our sin. It’s just me, standing in my guilt, and Jesus.

“Where have they gone?” he asks. There is no response. “I don’t condemn you either.” This defines love.

At another time, Jesus told his followers that the world would know they were his followers by their love. In the recent week, I doubt that the church at large is known by its love. But this isn’t a new experience, especially to those in the LGBT community; for many, the church has never been a place of love, forgiveness, or no-condemnation.

To my dear friends, co-workers, and family members who have experience anything other than the love Jesus demonstrated by those claiming to be his followers, let me apologize. I pray that you will experience such love in your lifetime. Please remember, if Jesus were walking around on earth today, we’d be the group he would be hanging with; not the arrogant, big mouth, religious condemners who we are all sick of hearing.

To my family members, acquaintances, co-workers who are the arrogant, big mouth, religious condemners who we are all sick of hearing, I pray that you too experience the kind of love Jesus demonstrated. I am confident that once you do, your definition of love will instantly change and you will want nothing more than to share this love. When that happens, let us know, we would love for you to hang out with us!

Their devils, My God

A good friend and I were talking about some difficult interactions we had encountered over the past week or so. The ones where it’s easy for the other person to suck the life out of you – fill your mind with frustrating conversation, and even push a few buttons.

She shared that after one such encounter, she had allowed it to affect her for several days. She didn’t sleep well and her entire day was filled with negative thoughts. On day four she said, “I realized I was allowing their devil to come into my life.” Interesting perspective, I thought.

We talked further about trying to balance difficult individuals in our lives. Mid sentence, she slapped her hand on the table and said, “That’s it! Allowing myself to take on their devils stopped me from sharing the love of my God.”

We’re warned not to get sucked into other’s problems. Not to become an enabler. Not to be a fixer. But why? Until that moment, I believed it was a way to protect ME. It now appears to have a much larger purpose. When I take on your devils, I can’t share my God’s love with you…

…and love trumps devils every time!

Made in His image

As a kid I envisioned God looking just like us – but bigger, way bigger. A few weeks ago while watching an interview on the Daily Show, Dr. Michio Kaku began explaining the complicity of our brains. He said that it would take a building the size of a city block, six stories high to hold a computer equivalent to our brain. “Made in His image,” came to mind. I looked at our son and said, “Maybe it’s our minds that are made in His image?”  “Of course, it is,” he replied. He is much smarter than I.

God refers to the danger of man’s mind a few times, but there are two that stand out to me. The first is in the Garden after Adam and Eve’s disobedience. God says, “They have become like us.” Those are very powerful and scary words. The other is when all the people of Babel are building a tower to heaven. God says, “They are one people with the same language and now there is nothing they try that will be impossible for them.” Another strong statement made by the Creator of the Universe. As with everyone’s greatest strength, it also becomes their greatest weakness. If indeed our minds are created in His image, it’s no wonder it is the mind that is under the most attach.

I’m no Dr.  Kaku, but if my 10th grade algebra serves me right, A=B and B=C, then A=C. God’s image, our minds. If we could ever get those crazy voices to stop telling us we’re naked, think of the possibilities.

Be Still…

Be Still…

Psalm 46:10:  Be still, and know that I am God

Four little words placed next to each other creating a command that takes a lifetime to understand.

Being still… It takes KFC commercials to remind us to sit down and have dinner. We are not accustomed to being still. Is it possible to be still yet be responsible? If God’s given me an intellect and the ability to solve problems, where is the balance between using my God given talents and being still?

Being still is a state of being, rather than a state of sitting on your ass and doing nothing. Being still reflects a spirit of peace, confidence and ability. Being still requires me to remove all the stress, anxiety and striving to “make it happen’. Being still is a result of Knowing. Knowing that there is a God who loves me, has plans for me, is going before me and has my back; Know God and be still.

There are many who claim to know God and have never experienced being still.  They live in a constant state of stress, unhappiness, worry, fear of the future, and are consumed by the pressure created in making life happen. These may know of God, but it’s likely they don’t know him. On the other side, there are those who appear to be still as they sit around waiting for God to move. They too lack the knowing part of know God.

In the story of Abraham and Sarah, God promises they will have a son. There’s no question of God’s promise – just his timing. For twenty-five years they waited. Did they do nothing during this time? I believe there is only one immaculate conception recorded in the Bible and that was many years later. Isaac wasn’t conceived because Abraham looked at Sarah and said, “I know God.”

Be still and know. Know what? That I am God.

Four little words, a lifetime of learning how to be still. A lifetime of getting to know God. The closer one is to knowing God the easier it is for them to be still.  Know God and be still.

Hey you! It’s time!!

Esther 4:13-14  “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”

Esther is the bible’s fairy-tale story; an orphan girl who becomes Queen and saves her people. If you’ve never read the story do yourself a favor, pour yourself your favorite beverage, find a comfortable chair and read Esther as if it’s a screen play. It’s a great story.

Esther has a beloved Uncle who watches over her from a far. When he gets wind that there is a plot to kill the Jews, of which he and Esther belong, he sends word to Esther that she must inform the king. Esther responses with, “that’s not as easy as it sounds.”

Esther 4:13-14 is her uncle’s reply. “Don’t fool yourself Esther. Your position won’t protect you. If you choose not to do anything, God will provide rescue another way. And who knows, just maybe you are Queen for such a time as this?”

I love that God’s plans are not completely depended on my ability. If I’m afraid and choose not to do as asked, it won’t derail God’s plans. It will affect me greatly. God’s plans, however, will work with or without me.  I also love the fact that no matter our status or position in this world, we never become exempt from being part of God’s plan.

For such a time as this; I believe that there are many ‘times as this’ in our lives. It is those times when God slaps you on the back of the head and whispers, “Pay attention, this is for you, it’s your time!”

Our ability to hear and willingness to listen, is what changes our worlds.

 

Who told you you were naked

Genesis 3:11  And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?

Voices are distinct. Often we recognize an actor’s voice before we recognize their face. We have telephone conversation with people we can’t see but are certain they are who they say they are because we know their voice.

Many people claim they hear lots of voices. These are typically intellectuals whose brains never stop. Unable to turn the voices off, they live their lives with continual conversation going on inside their heads. I read once that when this happens, one should try to identify one voice at a time, mentally put that voice in a lidded jar and soon all the voices would have a new home. I repeated this to my friend who only looked at me like I was crazy – he hears lots of voices.

Adam knew only a few voices, that of Eve’s and God’s. After the apple incident, Adam and Eve confessed, “We hide because we were naked.” It is God’s response that clenches my heart as if someone has reached in and grabbed it; “Who told you you were naked?” Adam, who told you?

I ask a similar question; Who told you you are bad? Who told you you are wrong? Who told you you are sinful? Who told you you are stupid? Who told you you are a failure? Who told you you are going to hell? I know for sure it wasn’t God. So whose voice is it? Who are you listening to?

It takes time to get to know God’s voice. It requires putting all those other voices in lidded jars and setting them on a very high shelf where they won’t be disturbed. If you’re not sure which is God’s, I suggest you begin with removing all the ‘you are bad’, ‘you are wrong’, ‘you’re a failure’, ‘you’re going to hell’, type of voices first; those can be jarred!

We fail to hear Him because we’ve allowed all the other voices in. God’s voice is the gentle whisper that says, “I love you. I have a plan for you. I’m right here waiting for you. I know everything you’ve done and it doesn’t matter. Let’s walk together.” His is the voice of love and forgiveness. It’s the voice of redemption. All the others are not.

So I ask you, Who told you you were naked?

A king in the field

Daniel 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

 King Nebuchadnezzar, an arrogant bastard was he. He was the same king that put Daniel in the den of lions and when morning came praised Daniel’s God for his safe keeping. Nebbie knew of God but it wasn’t enough. 

Nebbie has a dream, it’s a terrifying one and Daniel explains it for him. The dream is a warning. Daniel pleads with the king to turn from his selfish, self-centered ways, but as all arrogant bastards believe, their way is the right way. 

Twelve months later as he is looking out over his kingdom, Nebbie reflects, “ My kingdom is great which I myself have built…” While the words were still in the king’s mouth another voice was heard. “Time’s up! It’s time to experience field life until you realize that all you have comes from God.”

Immediately Nebbie’s dream came true, he was taken from the castle and out into the field with the animals. He eats grass, slept outdoors; his hair grew like a wild beasts and his nails like bird claws. Needless to say he wasn’t exactly his kingdom self.

Then as if in an instant, the light turned on. Nebbie raised his head to the sky, his reasoning comes back to him and he sees God for who he is.

Not everyone has to experience field life. You know it when you see it, it turns people into animals. It’s not meant as a punishment, rather a way to get their attention. Nebbie had a whole year to change his ways, and he choose not to. He acknowledged the God of Daniel, however God knew that wasn’t enough. Daniel’s God wanted to be Nebbie’s God. It takes a lot to get the attention of those who think they are God’s gift to the world. For some they must become animal like to understand how small they are in comparison to their maker. 

Nebbie came out of this experience, praising, exalting and honoring God. He wasn’t broken, trembling or wounded from the experience. He comes out stronger than he was before. All of his ability, wisdom, and authority was now centered, not in himself but in God. 

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

He is the God who loves arrogant bastards enough to get their attention and make them kings!