Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Voices of the Crucifixion: Pilate: "I Am Innocent of This Man's Blood."

All this week...Holy Week...I am taking on a different character who was involved in some way with Jesus and His crucifixion. While I have made every attempt to stay biblically correct, I have taken some creative license. These blogs are my interpretation of what may have gone on inside these individuals' heads. Our story continues in the governor's mansion, otherwise known as Pilate's palace, early in the morning on the day of crucifixion.

Very early this morning, I was awakened by a crowd of Jews. To avoid ceremonial uncleanness, they did not enter the palace, my palace; I am Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor here in Jerusalem. According to custom, the Jews wanted to be able to eat their Passover meal and I guess cavorting with a Roman governor and all that...as they call it...a Gentile...would cause them to become unclean. We all have our customs, so I went out to them.

The chief priests, the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin (in other words all the important leaders) brought this man to me. They accused him of many things: undermining their authority, misleading the people, refusing to pay taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king---blasphemy. They were furious, adamant and demanding. They wanted justice. I looked at this man called Jesus. He appeared to be a calm and gentle man, hardly dangerous. I asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"


He replied, "Yes, it is as you say."


They continued their accusations, but this Jesus had no response. He never tried to defend himself. I turned to him and asked, "Aren't you going to answer? Don't you see how many things they are accusing you of?"


To my amazement, he never said a word. I had to hand it to him. I was impressed. So, I told the crowd, "I see no basis for a charge against this man."


But they were insistent. "He stirs up people everywhere he goes. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here." 


Ah, I thought, here's my out. I discovered that he was actually under Herod's jurisdiction. I could wash my hands of this mess. I sent him to Herod, who just so happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. How convenient! Well, Herod did nothing but mock and ridicule Jesus, dressing him in a fine purple robe. Then he was sent back to me!


Meanwhile, my wife, Claudia had sent me a note through her servant. I glanced at her in the window of her bed chamber and saw desperation in her eyes. The note said that she'd had a dream that this man was innocent and that I should have nothing to do with him. Ah, Claudia, if only you understood politics.


I honestly didn't see what crime this Jesus had done that was so heinous that it would incite the leaders this way. But I knew that these men had much influence over the crowd, and the crowd was becoming more agitated. I felt conflicted. I wanted to shout, "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?"


As if reading my mind, they began to shout to me what they wanted me to do. It was a Jewish custom to release a prison of the peoples' choosing on the Feast, and I gave them a choice: Barrabas, a murderer, or Jesus, an accused blasphemer? "Give us Barrabas!" they shouted. I had a strong inkling that they were influenced by the leaders, but what could I do? I had to give them Barrabas. 


"What shall I do, then, with the one you call the King of the Jews?" I asked them.


"Crucify him!" they shouted.


I knew I would get nowhere with these people. If I didn't appease them, I would have an uprising on my hands. As I washed my hands in front of the crowd, I told them, "I am innocent of this man's blood! It's your responsibility."


I released Barrabas to them. I had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified. It seemed a cruel and unfair punishment to me; a desperate attempt to be rid of a man who was turning their beliefs upside down and inside out. And I remembered the note my dear Claudia had sent me. I agreed with her. I believed that he was innocent, but the people had spoken...or shouted. I could not back down. Still... I am innocent of this man's blood.


sharing this post with Testimony Tuesday, Unite, #RaRaLinkup

Monday, March 30, 2015

Voices of the Crucifixion: Claudia: "I Knew He Was Innocent."

All this week...Holy Week...I am taking on a different character who was involved in some way with Jesus and His crucifixion. While I have made every attempt to stay biblically correct, I have taken some creative license. These blogs are my interpretation of what may have gone on inside these individuals' heads. Our story continues in the governor's mansion, otherwise known as Pilate's palace, early in the morning on the day of crucifixion.
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

I'm not one who typically gets into "mumbo-jumbo" kind of stuff. I go to sleep and I suppose I dream, but I don't remember my dreams.  I'm usually so tired from caring  for the needs of my husband and our rather large staff, that I just fall into bed, and the next thing I know it's morning.

My name is Claudia and I am the wife of a very important man who makes very important decisions every day. Many times those decisions affect the fate of others. He is a governor. Perhaps you've heard of him. Pontius Pilate. Very important.


Well, anyway, very early this morning I had a dream...one that I not only remembered, but one which caused me great distress. It was so vivid! I dreamed that my husband, the governor, the one who decides the fate of others, sent an innocent man to his death. 


I can still see the man's face. Calm, like a lamb being led to the slaughter. He didn't struggle or defend himself. But he looked right at me, and his eyes pierced my soul, as if he could see everything I'd ever done, yet loved me so much he forgave me all of it. I knew he was innocent.

I couldn't sleep the rest of the morning. My soul felt distressed. My husband was awakened very early by a great disturbance from all the important men. They had a man with them, along with a list of accusations against this man. 


I peeked through the drapes from inside my bed chamber, and I swear, for an instant the man's eyes locked with my own. I gasped with realization! It was him! The man in my dream! I knew that face, those eyes. And I knew he was innocent.

I quickly summoned my servant to give my husband this message. "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him."


I feared he would not receive it in time. I watched as my servant handed the note to my husband, who quickly read it and glanced in my direction. I couldn't hear everything he said, but I heard the crowd. They were becoming more unruly. He needed to do something quickly.


I silently prayed to the gods that my husband would heed my warning. I didn't know who this man was; this man who seemed to have to power to look into the depths of my soul; but I knew he was innocent.


sharing this post with Sharing His Beauty, Playdates With God, Good Morning Monday

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Voices of the Crucifixion: Malchus: "Who Exactly Is This Man Called Jesus?"

All this week...Holy Week...I will be taking on a different character who was involved in some way with Jesus and His crucifixion. While I have made every attempt to stay biblically correct, I have taken some creative license. These blogs are my interpretation of what may have gone on inside these individuals' heads. Our story begins in Gethsemane, on the eve of crucifixion (For my long-time readers, my apologies if you've already read these...I've resurrected...pun sort of intended...them from last year).


My name is Malchus. I am a servant of the high priest, Caiaphus. It is an honor for me to serve El Shaddai, G-d Almighty, through serving Caiaphus. I am committed and loyal by nature, and zealous to serve and protect Caiaphus. 

He is a very important and holy man. He is the only one allowed to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement in order to make a sacrifice for our sins. I am grateful for this holy man of G-d, and for the opportunity to serve him. 

When I stepped forward last night I shouldn't have been surprised at the wounds I would incur, but I am still pondering...who exactly is this man called Yeshua, Jesus?


One of his followers, who called himself Judas, had previously arranged to deliver this Jesus to us. We were sent by the chief priests and the elders of the people to bring this Jesus back to Caiaphus, the high priest, the one I serve. We carried clubs, swords, torches and lanterns in the olive grove. Judas bent to greet Jesus with a kiss, the pre-arranged signal, and Jesus said to him, "Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss? Friend, do what you came for."


What happened next was so fast, yet it seemed to happen in slow motion. It seemed as if Jesus lowered his eyes in what appeared to be sorrow and disappointment at his friend's betrayal, and when he did, my eyes connected with his for the briefest of moments. What I saw in his eyes was not the eyes of a criminal, but something I cannot explain. Peace, love, acceptance, recognition...and forgiveness for every sin I've ever committed and for what was about to happen. How is it even possible for all of that to be in someone's eyes? And how is it even possible to convey that to another person in a fraction of a second? As I said, I cannot explain it.


What struck me odd was that there was complete peace in this man. He never fought back. He never raised his voice or his hands in his defense. It was almost as if he knew it was going to happen. 


As we stepped forward to seize and arrest Jesus, his followers were quick to come to his defense. We raised our clubs and our swords to fight, and one of his followers, who seemed as zealous for his master as I am for mine, came at me with a sword. Before I knew what happened, he had cut off my ear! I stood in shock, wondering if I should try to find my ear on the ground, find something to stop the bleeding or continue to fight against these zealots.


Suddenly, I felt this incredible heat where my ear had been. I found myself looking into the very eyes I had looked into moments before. As he touched my ear, Jesus spoke with such authority that we all stopped. "No more of this!" He instructed. "Put your sword away. Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? It must happen this way!" Did he know this would happen? Was he a prophet?


Jesus came peacefully with us and we led him away to Caiaphus. His followers dispersed, along with the crowd. Everything seemed to go back to "normal." But I was never "normal" after that. Only a few minutes ago, I had two ears, then I had one, then I had two again! This was no ordinary man. No ordinary man could replace an ear with the touch of his hand. 


He touched me and I was made whole. Both on the outside and the inside. When I arrived in the garden, I was dedicated to Caiaphus, and I will continue to serve him with the same dedication I always had. But within moments, my life changed. Who exactly is this man called Jesus? Could it be that he really is the Son of G-d, the Long-Awaited One, The Messiah?


this post was shared with The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Blessing Counters

Friday, March 27, 2015

When Your Bible Time is Stale

When bread gets stale, it gets hard.  If it's fresh bread, mold will begin to grow pretty quickly.  After a few days of sitting on the counter, it's no good and needs to be thrown out.



Our time with our Lord can sometimes become stale like that bread. 

The longer we stay away and allow the Bread of Life to sit on the counter, the harder it becomes to go back to it.  We forget about it, and move on with the everyday tasks of life.


Unlike bread, God's Word never grows stale on its own. It needs a catalyst to come alive, and it needs a catalyst to die.

We know that the Holy Spirit is the Catalyst by which it comes alive. But what causes it to die?

We do. Our attitude.


Apathy. Blatant disregard. Lack of respect.

My bible time had become dry and stale. It was no longer appealing. I kept trying to "make" it happen. But the fact is, when I did try to read, I was just going through the motions.

I continued to write blogs and even look up scripture, but I Googled what I wanted and moved on. I never really sat and chewed on the Bread.

So what do you do when God's Holy Word no longer stirs your desire or ignites your fire?


CHANGE!

  • Change your routine
If you've been getting up at 5AM to read your bible, and now you're falling asleep halfway through the first line, try lunchtime. Or before bed. Just as our bodies change as we age, so do our preferences and tastes. Try different times and see what works.

  • Change your thinking
A friend let me borrow some teaching cds/dvds recently. One was a dvd on how to study your bible. My first thought was, "Oh, I already know how to do that. I won't watch that." Sure, I may know. I've learned all kinds of ways to study the bible over the years, and implemented many. But by limiting my thinking, and refusing to even listen to it, I may be missing something new and refreshing (we won't talk about the sin of pride here that is evident to all reading...that's a topic for another day).
  • Change your methods
I recently read a blog by Elisha Wolter, who mentioned a new method of studying a specific scripture verse. I found it so fascinating, because it involves using different colored pens, drawing and writing all over the paper *and* a thesaurus! 

I also love how Patsy Paterno actually draws a picture in her bible---right over the words, and then paints it! 



I decided to try both of these methods because they were completely out of the box, and you know what? It ignited the fire! (I did not paint; I used colored pencils).
  • Change your approach
I used to condemn myself for not picking up my bible, then pick up a book that had scripture verses in it that expanded and expounded on those verses. Or I'd get in the car and sing along to a Psalm put to music (Sons of Korah is a great band for that. Watch the video for Psalm 91 here). Who says we have to sit down and actually read scripture from the bible? Why can't it be through music or a helpful book by an anointed teacher of the Word? 

  • Change your bible

I've gone through many bibles over the years, but I always come back to my first one. It's all marked up and I know what side of the book, and sometimes even the part of the page a specific verse is. It's comforting. And comfortable...which can often make it boring. I heard about a journaling bible, one that has a 2" margin on which to write. It's also a different version that the one I seem to be married to. So I ordered it. 

  • Change the location of your apps
I know...it doesn't seem at all relevant to the topic, but it is. One of the biggest time suckers for me was a game I'd installed on my tablet that I somehow got addicted to. Instead of heeding God's voice that I heard in the din, I gave in to playing Panda Pop for hours! I finally uninstalled it from my tablet. I moved Facebook from the main screen of my phone to the third screen, replacing it with the Bible app. Get rid of the digital temptations if you can't limit yourself.



If it's not working, change it up! Eat fresh bread! It's like Manna.



Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

sharing this post with Blessing Counters, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Grace and Truth

Monday, March 23, 2015

Bad Hair Days

I wonder if Jesus ever had a bad hair day.

I wonder this because I've been having a lot of them lately...not a bad day per se, but an actual bad hair day. I can't seem to get my hair to do what I want it to do. 


One morning I actually threw the hairbrush and broke it, so now I have no round brush to style my hair with. And I keep forgetting to buy a new one. Perhaps it is a subliminal punishment for my five two-year old behavior.

From all of His pictures, it always seemed like Jesus had a stylist who coiffed His hair before the picture was taken. His light brown, shoulder-length hair sported waves in the perfect places, not right above his ear so that it stuck out like a kid with bed-head, and a flipped curl at the ends. It was always evenly cut, just above his shoulder, as if he had a standing six-week appointment with his stylist. Anything longer would have been too hippie-like, I suppose, and we wouldn't want to identify with him as our potential Savior.

Really...I doubt his hair was always the same length...a non-offensive shoulder length; it was probably much longer, and unruly. And it probably wasn't light brown any more than his eyes were blue and his skin was light.

Forgive me for delving too much into this hair thing, but wasn't Jesus an itinerant preacher? Wouldn't that mean that he had a lot of bad hair days? Where did he bathe? Did he carry a comb or a brush? Beard scissors? (Let's not talk about menopausal beards, shall we?) Did he carry a satchel, a backpack or even a  "murse" (a man purse)?

You know what?

I don't think he had bad hair days at all, because that wasn't his focus. 

His focus was on others. Not on Himself. Not on His hair, beard or clothes. 

The pictures make him look the way he does for our sake, so we can identify with Him. After all, He is supposed to be like us. Hanging a picture of someone who looks like a homeless man on our wall is not someone we can identify with. 


We want Him to look clean and approachable, like us.

But my guess is that it wasn't his outward appearance that made him approachable and desirable.

It was his gentle demeanor. His accepting smile. His forgiving eyes. His merciful spirit. His goodness. His God-ness.

Jesus didn't focus on outward appearance, and neither should I.

I'm afraid that my hair has become my idol. 

EW!


How shallow is that???


Confession:
Every time I look in the mirror, I turn my lip up like Elvis. I am disgusted with the way I look. My hair looks messy and my face looks old. I'm heavier than I've ever been and the way I seem to deal with that is by eating more. 

I'm not happy with my outward appearance.

But in focusing on that, I've neglected to look at my heart in that mirror. Because all I see is me...the outward appearance.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam 16:7).

How is the condition of my heart?

How much time do I spend caring about and caring for others?

Am I so focused on myself and how disappointed I am with myself, that I fail to see the needs of others around me? 

It's time to stop thinking so much about how I look, because the worse I feel about myself, the more I start fishing for compliments from others. And that kind of action propels me backwards into approval-seeking behavior, which perpetuates the belief that my worth and value is determined through others' perception of me. 

EW again.

I want to look in the mirror and see my Savior reflected back. I want to see the heart of Jesus, with all His compassion...both for myself and for others. I want to feel the heartbeat of my Savior in my own. I want my heart to reflect His to the point where it can be seen on the outside, like the picture of the Sacred Heart; where that is what people notice about me, not my hair or the shape of my body. 

For if I cannot love myself the way I am, I cannot love others. 

And I really want to be other-focused. 
Making peace with my  hair 
(after finally buying a round styling brush).
Blessings Along the Path,
Mare


sharing this post with Sharing His Beauty, Playdates With God, Good Morning Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Unite, #RaRaLinkup, Coffee For Your Heart, Wedded Wednesday, Word-Filled Wednesday







Friday, March 20, 2015

Secret Sickness

Apparently, I'm doing a series. It didn't start out that way, but it seems to be evolving into one.

I've been talking about this show I've been watching called Secrets and Lies, and discussed blaming and lying.

Today, I want to talk about secrets.



Of course, there are good secrets, like a surprise party or a gift. And some secrets must be kept. For instance, when a friend tells you something personal in confidence. Or a private prayer request. But those are outward secrets---secrets that involve others.

The secrets I'm talking about are the ones that we keep locked up inside; the inner secrets that cause us to feel ashamed and keep us in constant guilt.

There is a saying in recovery groups,

"You're only as sick as your secrets."

In other words, the longer you keep the secret of your addiction, your sin, your struggles, the longer you will remain in bondage, the longer you'll be "sick."

"Secret" Sickness can manifest in many forms: physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological.

The longer we hold on to those "secret sins," the sicker we become. The secrets we hold in our heads and in our hearts cause emotional turmoil and spiritual separation, because we feel unworthy, ashamed, and guilty. We often lose sleep over it, for fear that someone will discover and expose our secret, thus exposing our shame.

Holding on to that secret can lead to a host of physical ailments and even psychological disorders, because we weren't created to keep our sin hidden. 

There is another kind of secret; one that is neither a "good" secret nor a sin. I'm talking about abuse; something that was done to us that was neither our fault nor our choice---a violation of our rights, our bodies, and our emotions.

Physical, sexual, verbal and emotional abuse not only scars a person, but the abuser typically uses fear and manipulation to keep the abused in a state of insecurity, shame and bondage to the abuser.



Sadly, these secrets are the ones that are usually kept under lock and key. It's too scary to let anyone know. They might not love us anymore. They might be disgusted and leave us. Worse, if we believe what the abuser has told us, they might be harmed if we tell.

You're only as sick as your secrets.

If you are struggling with a secret sin, a secret from your past, or have been the victim of abuse, I want to encourage you to take a step of faith and expose the secret. 

If it is a secret sin, lay it before the Lord. 

The secrets that we lay before the Lord are consumed in the light of His presence (Ps 90:8). He knows the secrets of our hearts (Ps 44:21), but chooses to redeem us because of His unfailing love (Ps 44:26). 

Confess, repent and accept His forgiveness. 

If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 
(1 John 1:9)

If it is a secret you've been keeping to protect someone, pray about releasing that secret, in order to release yourself from that responsibility that may not be yours. It may have consequences, and it may cause damage to the relationship, or even alienation. 

But if it's no longer your job to carry that burden, you need to let it go. 

Prayer is vital in order to know the best way to handle this delicate kind of situation. A pastor, counselor or friend may be able to help you work through the process.

If it's abuse you've suffered, realize that this is not your sin. You were sinned against. 

It was not your fault. You are not bad or dirty or unworthy. You are deeply loved by God. And He longs for you to cry out to Him. He longs to heal your wounds.

You may think He didn't hear you all those years ago when you cried out to Him, but I can assure you that He did. He cared for you then and He cares for you now. I can't explain why He allowed it. I wish I could. I'm sorry that you had to endure that. But you now have a choice: you can remain the victim, or claim the victory through Jesus Christ. You can begin again today.

Don't try to do it alone. Seek professional help if needed. Find a trusted friend, pastor or counselor and ask them to point you in the right direction if it's more than they can handle. 

If you are living in any kind of domestic violence right now, please don't continue to protect your abuser. 

Don't perpetuate the secret. It might be best for you not to continue to live where you are if it is unsafe or unhealthy. As difficult as it may be, seek help. Again, seek the advice of a trusted friend, a pastor or counselor. Don't do anything hastily, but please don't continue to live in an unsafe environment.

I'm no expert in this field...not by a long shot. But I do know about keeping secrets that I ought to let go of. And I do know this:

A secret exposed no longer has control. 
Without control, the secret shatters. 
Once shattered, the secret is powerless. 
A powerless secret leaves room for a 
        powerful God to intervene.

Turn from evil and do good.
Seek peace and pursue it. (Ps 34:14)

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

sharing this post with Tell it to Me Tuesdays, Blessing Counters, Grace &TruthThe Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness







Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Everyone Lies

Yesterday I mentioned a new series that I started watching called, "Secrets and Lies."

For those of you who missed my last blog, I'll recap by saying that the show is a series about a neighborhood being torn apart by the unsolved murder of the young son of one of the neighbors. Ben, the man who finds him, is (we believe) falsely accused of the murder, and he sets out to find the real murderer. In so doing, he ends up jumping to conclusions, accusing people publicly, and alienating his friends.

In the last episode, Ben is talking to the detective, played by Juliette Lewis. He is sure that his latest suspect is guilty of something, and tells the detective, "He's lying!"

Her response?

"Everyone lies."

Everyone lies.

Is that true?

Do you lie?



Have you ever lied?

Everyone lies.


I attempted to collect Unemployment for the last month or so, due to seasonal layoffs.  For those of you who don't know, I work for my son's landscaping company, and another company that he is part owner of (two part time jobs which comprise a full time day).

I was denied benefits for the landscape company because I checked "Yes" in the box that asked, "Are you related to the owner?"

The response when I told people?

"Why did you say you were related? You have a different last name! They'd never know!"

But I'd know. And God would know. 


I don't lie well.

At the end of the telephone interview I had (because of the box I'd checked), the claims examiner told me, "You can go online and file for your benefits on Sunday."

Well, that particular Sunday, I would be in Puerto Rico. Since this was my first time at all this, I wasn't sure how to do that if I would be away, so I blurted out, "I'll be on vacation."

"Then you'll be ineligible for benefits while you're away, since you'll be unavailable for work," she informed me. "You'll need to call us when you return, to tell us that you're back"

The response when I told people?

"Why did you tell her that? You should have just had someone else file the claim for you, or did it when you got back."

In other words, lie again.

"But that's wrong."

"No, it's not. Not really."

Yes...really.  It's wrong. Not to mention, against the law.

Some people lie very easily. Others, like me, have never lied well.

The trouble with not lying is that not everyone is in the same camp. 

People don't understand why you won't lie. After all...

Everyone lies.

I have found it very difficult to be different. I've given up trying to explain why I won't do what everyone else does. I allow myself to be ridiculed and the brunt of the joke. I'm okay with that.

Now, I'm not perfect. Yes, I have lied.

Everyone lies.

That's actually true.

We lie to avoid hurting someone's feelings.
We lie to avoid punishment.
We lie to avoid blame.
We lie to avoid responsibility.
We lie to avoid confrontation.
We lie to avoid exposing a secret.
We lie to avoid truth.

Seems to me that lying is a sin of avoidance. 

If I had just checked "No" in that box that asked if I was related, I could have avoided the telephone interview that would eventually determine my denial of benefits. 

We also lie to get.

If I'd lied on my application for benefits, I would have received my full benefits (I would have also committed a crime).

It's also a sin of convenience.

If I had just kept my mouth shut during that interview, I could have continued to claim my benefits with no interruption, and avoided yet another phone call and another interview.

But I would have known that I'd lied.

Maybe that doesn't matter for some people. But it matters to me, because I answer to a Higher Authority than the State of New Jersey.

Lying always seems to catch up with us eventually. And when it does, it has worse consequences than what we would have suffered if we'd just told the truth.

The bottom line for someone who is a follower of Christ is this:

The Lord detests lying lips, but delights in those who tell the truth (Proverbs 12:22).

The consequences of lying are great because they are the consequences of sin. Telling the truth may not always reap a reward, but it always brings delight to our Father. And that alone is enough of a blessing.

Telling the truth certainly didn't cause me to reap a reward; in fact, it was the opposite. I lost out on benefits that I still believe I should have received, but there are apparently laws regarding a parent working for a child. 

I could focus on that, or I could dwell on the peace that I have in knowing that I told the truth, and my Father delights in that. 

What about you? What are your thoughts on lying? Has telling a lie ever gotten you into greater trouble? Has choosing truth over a lie caused you to lose a reward but reap a blessing? Tell me about it in the comments section below!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

sharing this post with Wedded Wednesday, Coffee For Your Heart, Testimony Tuesday, Blessing Counters, Grace-TruthThe Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Secrets and Lies: Shifting the Blame

I started watching a new series called, "Secrets and Lies."

The show opens with the discovery of the body of a young boy in the woods of a tight-knit neighborhood, much like the one you may live in. Ben, the man who finds the boy, is of course the prime suspect of what is obviously a murder. Conveniently...or not so conveniently, but conveniently for the sake of a series...he has no recollection of the evening before because he was on a drunken binge. 

Therefore, the whole series is about finding out "whodunit."

So why am I telling you this?

Because I think the writers are actually quite brilliant. 

You see, we, the viewers, believe that Ben did not kill the little boy. But in his desperation to find the actual killer, he digs up dirt on every other person in the neighborhood. He watches everyone closely, and finds reason for their guilt. He lashes out and blames everyone who appears the least bit suspicious.  He makes assumptions and accuses others in public. In so doing, he alienates the few neighbors who still believe his innocence. 

We believe each person's guilt right along with Ben, until they explain the secret that he has dug up on them. We, the viewers, quickly go from, "He's shady. I'll bet he's got something to do with it." to believing their explanations and alibis. The only difference is that we don't have to suffer the fallout of our actions, behaviors and words, like Ben does.

The reason I think these writers are brilliant is because even though this is about a murder and it is, of course, blown out of realistic proportions, they capture the true nature of human beings. 

Don't we do the same thing?


I'm curious...

  • Have you ever been quick to blame others when you were accused of something that you didn't do? Or maybe you were caught in something and suffered embarrassment, so you looked for someone else to blame.
  • Have you ever lashed out at others in anger after being accused of something, often in public? (And greatly regretted it?)
  • Have you ever accused someone before you had all the facts?
  • Have you ever made assumptions based on sketchy evidence and discovered that you were dead wrong?
  • Has any of the above impulsive behavior ever resulted in alienation?

My guess is that everyone reading this blog was able to answer a sad and resounding "yes" to at least one of those questions.

So why do we do it?

Well, I have no initials after my name, but my guess is pride. Arrogance. Self-righteousness. The need to blame in order to shift the shame, especially when there is erroneous judgment on our behalf. We feel the need to shift the focus off ourselves. God forbid if we look bad, especially when we're not! Someone must pay, but it won't be me!

We feel angry shame if we have been judged unfairly. 

The need to point the finger dates back to the beginning of the creation of man. 

It stems from sin.

Adam and Eve...you know the story. The serpent deceived Eve, she ate the apple, gave some to Adam and they suddenly discovered that they were naked. And they were ashamed.



Were they ashamed of their nakedness or were they ashamed of their sin?

Hmmm...maybe they were ashamed of the fact that they'd disobeyed God (aka sinned), and now realized that they were exposed...both physically and spiritually. Their sin left them naked and exposed.

So they hid. In their shame, they hid. 

That's what shame does. It causes us to hide from the consequences of sin.



But you can't hide from God, as the first couple figured out. 

So what did they do?In order to shift the shame, they blamed.

"It was this woman you put me here with! She told me to eat it!" 

"It was that serpent! He deceived me!"

Assumptions lead to 
Accusations, which lead to 
Alienation.

But God...

God gave them consequences for their behavior, but He also clothed them. He banished them from the garden, but He provided sustenance outside the garden.

And He forgave them.

So, instead of shifting the blame 
     in order to remove the shame, 
          let's try doing the same.

Do whatever you need to do to stay calm.

Think.

Count to ten.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Pray.

Don't make assumptions.

Then you won't make accusations.

And you won't cause alienation.

Don't be a Ben.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

Sharing this post with Testimony Tuesday, #RaRaLinkup, UniteCoffee For Your Heart, Wedded Wednesday, A Little R&R, Blessing Counters, The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness, Grace &Truth



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finally Free

I didn't write while I was on vacation. I didn't really care about any of that.

I didn't write for a week when I got home either. Apparently, I still didn't care.

There was something that just felt...I don't know...like it had been left somewhere. Like a lost glove or something.

Apathy.

Lethargy.

Slothfulness.

Winter.

I felt like Solomon, who says in Ecclesiastes 2:11(NLT) 

But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless-like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

I like the NKJV, which calls it vanity instead of meaningless.

I kind of felt like everything I do, everything I write is meaningless, pointless. Vain (Even this post...it's all about me...it's so vain). Who cares? And I felt like that about everyone else's blogs and writing as well. I deleted every blog post and devotional that was emailed to me without even reading them. It all seemed pointless, meaningless and...well...yes, a bit vain. 

I just didn't care. So I didn't write. What was the point?

I also didn't commune with God. At all. No bible reading. No prayer except for the occasional grace before meals. No quiet time. Oh, I had quiet time. I played games on my tablet, read books, and watched a Tyler Perry marathon. 

It snowed. And snowed again. And snowed some more. 

And the more I ignored my writing and my God, the more apathetic, lazy, and depressed I became. And the guiltier I felt.

Until one morning as I lay in bed, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper,

Why are you avoiding me?

That got my attention.

I didn't know the answer.

Then,

Why are you mad at me?

Am I?

I didn't know the answer to that either. 

But I know that God never asks a question because He needs to know the answer. He already knows. He asks so that we will ask ourselves.

There is no insightful spiritual answer here. Sorry. I never did discover the answers...at least to the second question. I didn't think I was angry with God (but I'm still asking myself).

But I did know that I was avoiding Him. Why, I don't know. But I do know that once I started avoiding Him, I felt guilty. And that led to feeling ashamed to come into His presence, so it was easier to continue to avoid Him.


I didn't really ponder this whole thing. I just kept going through my day, bored and restless. Sad and lazy.

Then I got in my car and selected the playlist of an artist that I'd recently discovered...Marshall Hall. 

And this song came on...Finally Free (if video does not display, click on link).

Here are the lyrics:

No chain is strong enough...
No choice is wrong enough...
No mountain high enough that He can't climb.
No shadow dark enough...
No night is black enough...
No road is lost enough that He can't find.

(Chorus)
So if the Son has set us free, then we must be free indeed!
Let the chains fall away starting today.
Everything has changed...
I'm finally free!

No pain is deep enough
No heart could bleed enough
Nothing but Jesus' love
Can make a way (to chorus)

I experienced freedom from guilt, shame, fear, etc. years ago. I lived in bondage to what people thought about me, perfection, and much more. I spent years in "recovery" and therapy and came out on the other side. I typically live a life free from all of that. 

Something happened when I heard this song. I'd backed myself into a corner by avoiding God. I was living in the shadows of shame and guilt. I made choices and then started believing the lies that I wasn't a "good Christian" because I was not "doing" all the things a "good Christian" should be doing.

And because I'd stopped writing, I believed that I wasn't really a writer. After all, a real writer writes every day. I wasn't serious enough about my craft, so I'll never make it.

As I listened to the song, I felt the chains fall away once again. 

The chains of feeling like I have to perform to be accepted, acknowledged, and loved. The chains of feeling like I have to "do" Christianity. If I don't do the prescribed things, then I'm a hypocrite and don't deserve to wear the badge of Christianity. 

The chains of performing as a writer. If I don't write so many posts a week, and link up and create memes yadayadayada...then I'm not going to make it. I don't deserve to wear the blogger badge either.

The chains of feeling like I just don't measure up. Like I'm not good enough. Like I have to "do" to be.

Nothing is too far for God to stretch out His hand and pull us back. Nothing is beyond His forgiveness, mercy and grace.

The freedom that came told me that it was okay that I took a break from writing. I am still a writer if I decide that's what I want to be. I do it for me. Not for anyone else. I get out of it what I decide to put into it, and no one can tell me what is right or wrong. 

It was also okay that I "took a break from God." Now, that might not sit right with a lot of you. Let me explain what I mean:

It's not necessarily okay to actually "take a break from God," but it was okay that I did. That's what grace is all about. Forgiveness. Acceptance. Not having to strive. Messing up and being loved anyway. Anyway. No matter what. Even when we turn our backs on God, He is still there. He never turns His back on us.

Just when I thought I had my act together, I got blindsided!

Even if we have experienced freedom in Christ in a major way through deliverance, recovery, therapy, etc. we must always be aware that it is so easy to slip back into our old beliefs and habits. It often happens insidiously and without our knowledge. We feel like something is "off" but don't really know what it is...or we know and we just don't care.

And if we are too prideful and self-righteous to realize that we have fallen prey to those silent chains, we will never experience true freedom. When we will tell ourselves, "Oh, I've done all that. I worked through my issues," we allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that we are done with all that stuff.

When we allow the chains of pride to blind us, 
those same chains will be the ones that bind us.

We are never done. If we were, we wouldn't still need a Savior. 

We are not done, but it is finished.


Jesus has made a way for us to be free. Without His sacrifice, we cannot claim true freedom. With Him, we have victory over the chains that continually threaten to bind us.

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)