Friday, April 24, 2015

Berated or Celebrated?

I've been beating myself up lately.



Have you ever done that...beaten yourself up over your lack of control, lack of faith or lackadaisical attitude?

You see, I've been feeling like a "bad Christian." Anyone ever felt that way...can I see a show of hands?

That's what I thought. You've been there, haven't you?

I missed an opportunity to share God's love with someone because there simply wasn't an opening. But I felt that she needed to know and hear...still...no opening... 

I felt that I had failed God.

My bible reading has grown a bit stale. I even wrote a blog about how to liven it up. 

One of the things I mentioned in that post was moving the apps on your phone so that things like Facebook are not on your main page. I did that. But I know where it is, so I can easily overlook the Bible app to go to Facebook where I can view pointless pictures of peoples' meals and stupid, but cute videos. 

Finding comfort in trivial things instead of God's word.

Again...I feel like I fail God every time I choose something else over His voice.

And prayer? Well...I'm busy. I get up very early, and since I'm not a morning person, I throw up a thank you and help me type prayer...if I remember.

I work a nine-hour day, run home, throw together a quick dinner (because it's important to eat right) and run off the the Rehab to visit with my mom before coming home and preparing my food to bring with me the next day, throw a load of laundry in, shower and fall into bed. I don't even have time to write.

So...I guess I fail God in the prayer department too, huh?

But here's the thing about missed opportunities:

  • I may have missed that opportunity, but maybe she wasn't ready to hear it yet.
  • I may have missed that opportunity, but I heeded the voice of God on something else...something that didn't really make all that much sense to me...and it blew the person away.
So how can I say that I don't hear from God?

And here's the thing about missed bible reading:
  • I may not be actively reading my bible, but I know my bible and when verses come to mind, I ponder them. 
  • I may not be actively reading my bible, but I am reading books and blogs that help my growth in other ways...books and blog posts that include bible verses.
  • Before there was the bible, there was still the Word. I'm not saying that reading my bible is not important. It is. But let's not get legalistic about spending time in the bible, when we are still spending time in the Word.
  • Worship music, with words that are scriptural floods my car every time I get in it.
So how can I say that I don't spend time in the Word?

And prayer?
  • I sent off an email this morning in response to a friend's request for prayer for many of her loved ones traveling today. The email included a prayer. I also included a video and told her that song was my prayer for her today.
  • Not long after that, I read a blog post by someone who was obviously under attack by satan because of her faithfulness to God. In the comment section, I wrote a prayer, as it came into my head for her.
  • The same worship music that floods my car, floods my soul and I pour it back out as a prayer. Sometimes it's a prayer of thanksgiving, sometimes of intercession, sometimes of simple praise.
  • I once mentioned this concern of my lack of prayer to a friend, and her response was, "Every time you write a blog post, you let us in to your prayer closet. Is that not considered prayer?"
So, how can I say I'm not praying?

I am not a failure. And neither are you.

I have not failed God, because God doesn't love me with conditions. He doesn't set expectations of me that cannot be achieved, and then withhold love because I haven't met those expectations.

The same goes for you.


We need to be very careful of how much we berate ourselves for the times we think we've failed, and start celebrating the times we succeed, the times we listen, the times we draw near. 

A berated spirit closes communication to God, and shrivels under the weight of condemnation.

Our walk with God is not about getting it right all of the time, most of the time, some of the time or even none of the time. It's not about "getting it right" at all. 

It's not about what we do, how we do it or how often we do it.

It's about being, not doing.

Can we learn to just be? 

If God accepts us unconditionally, just the way we are, should we not accept ourselves in the same way?

Let's stop beating ourselves up and allow God to move in our lives however He wants to. 

Let's close off the voices of condemnation that come from striving for perfection and performance, and be open to hear God saying, 

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Can we all try to hear that amid the cacophony of voices telling us otherwise?

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

sharing this post with Deb at Blessing CountersBarbie at The Weekend Brew, Janis at Sunday Stillness, Laura atPlaydates With God, Joan at Sharing His Beauty, Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly at #RaRa Linkup, Holley at Coffee For Your Heart, Beth at Wedded Wednesday



Saturday, April 18, 2015

Live in the Now!

A few weeks ago, my mother underwent triple bypass surgery. She is now in rehab on the road to recovery.

Last night while we were visiting, her roommate made a comment that I haven't been able to forget:

"I'll never dance at my grandson's wedding."


"Why?" I asked. 

I didn't want to pry, but it seemed like she wanted me to know. She had a knee replacement, and I thought that maybe she was having complications that would prevent her from walking or dancing. But wasn't that why she was in rehab?

Her response?

"I won't be alive."

Okay, now I had to pry. Did she have cancer or something on top of the knee problem?

"Why do you say that?" I asked.

"He's one. He won't get married for at least 20 years. I won't be here then."

Being the Positive Polly that I've become, I had to encourage her. Actually, I really wanted to slap her. I don't know how old she is, but she certainly isn't of the age where dying is a reality anytime soon.

"You don't know that. You need to be positive."

She scoffed. I guessed that she wasn't a very positive person. She was more like a person with a doom and gloom outlook. 

I thought of how Jesus asked the man lying by the Pool at Bethesda, "Do you want to get well?" (John 5:6) Some people identify with their maladies. To take that away would cause them to redefine who they are...they've lived too long that way...to give it up is scary.


No, thank you. I'd rather continue to complain.

I didn't say much else because I'd only just met her. I wasn't sure how much I could say without overstepping boundaries; I certainly hadn't earned the right to slap her yet.

Or maybe I was just chicken.

I thought about her words last night and again this morning. Here is what I wish I could have said to her, and maybe, if the opportunity arises, I just might be able to:
  • You don't know if your grandson will get married in twenty years, thirty years or even if he will get married at all. Enjoy him now.
  • Not one of us knows the day, the hour or the moment of our death. Enjoy life now.

And most important:

By focusing on what you think you'll never do, you miss what you can do right now. Celebrate who you are now.

Enjoy your grandson's milestones. Enjoy the smiles, the laughter, the love and hugs he has to give you now.

I have a friend who lives her life in a wheelchair. When I asked her about dancing, she told me, "I dance in my chair. Who needs legs?"

Dear ones, don't be like Mom's roommate. Don't focus on what you can't do, what you won't have and what you think you'll never be. When you do that...

You rob yourself of the joy of living in the moment. And you rob your loved ones of enjoying the real you.

You miss out on discovering your potential. 

You miss life going on around you and in you. Your vision is so clouded by fear, worry, doubt, or anxiety that your focus remains inward, and you never see the needs or the beauty of others, of nature, of life.

You miss opportunities to laugh.

Not to mention, that you are throwing away the gift of life that God gave you. He celebrates you. You should too!

Live in the moment. Live in the now. 

Don't wait twenty years to dance. Dance now. 


Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

This post was shared with Barbie at The Weekend Brew, Janis at Sunday Stillness, Deb at Blessing Counters, Laura at Playdates With God, Joan at Sharing His Beauty, Holly at Testimony Tuesday, Kelly at #RaRa Linkup, Holley at Coffee For Your Heart, Beth at Wedded Wednesday, Deb at Blessing Counters, Lyli at Thought-Provoking Thursday, Crystal at Thriving Thursdays

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Simplify

Over the past two years, I've learned to simplify my life by saying no to a lot of things I'd like to do, and to many I feel I "should" do (and then kick myself afterwards). 



Part of simplifying your life is 
     knowing when to say yes and when to say no, 
          when to hold on to something and when to let it go.
Recognizing the important, 
     and eliminating the fluff.
Spending time doing what you love,
     not what you think you ought to be doing.
Seeing, really seeing people,
     and taking time to take your time.


Do you need to simplify your life?

  1. What area of your life have you been saying "Yes!" to when you always want to say "No"?  Do you need to learn to say "No!"? Practice in the mirror!
  2. What have you been holding on to that you need to let go of? Maybe it's something you've been doing for years out of obligation or routine.
  3. What aspects of your life are fluff and can be eliminated, even if you enjoy them, in order to create more time?
  4. What do you love doing? Are you doing it? Or are you doing things that you think you "should" be doing, and not enjoying it? (See #2)
  5. Do you see people...really see them? Do you stop long enough to hear their response to your, "How are you?" or do you keep going? Do you listen when they need to talk, or are you moving on, if not physically, in your mind? Do you take the time to really care about people? 
  6. Do you take time to do everything you do or do you just check the obligations/duties/responsibilities off your to-do list?
  7. Do you take time for yourself?
  8. Do you take your time?


It might be time to give up...

  • Give up a responsibility that can be passed on or contracted out.
  • Give up something you enjoy in order to do something else that you love doing.
  • Give up an obligatory task that has run its course.
  • Give up your need to take care of everyone. That's God's job. And He's waiting for us to give up so He can take over!
Simplify!

Blessings Along the Path,
Mare

I will be taking a blog break for awhile. A family member needs my attention more than this blog does right now. Part of simplifying my life at this time, I guess, is giving up something that I love in order to care for someone I love. I'll be back at some point; I just don't know when.

Sharing this post with Playdates With God, Sharing His Beauty, Testimony Tuesday, #RaRaLinkup, Unite, Coffee For Your Heart, Wedded Wednesday, Blessing Counters, The Weekend Brew, Grace and Truth, Sunday Stillness

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Voices of the Crucifixion: Crowd Member: "Crucify Him!"

In the past, during Holy Week, I've shared these stories. This year I forgot! So, I'll share a couple today, some tomorrow and a few on Saturday. For readers new to my blog-I hope you enjoy my interpretation. For my long time readers, my apologies if you've read these before, but I pray they will still touch your heart.

These stories are my interpretation of what may have gone on inside these individuals' heads. Our story continues outside the governor's palace, early in the morning on the day of crucifixion.


How I ended up in the crowd this morning, I can't remember. I was out early, ready to set up my wares in the market place. Passover was coming. The Feast. A high holy day. 

I noticed the chief priests, the teachers of the law and all the Sanhedrin (I call them "the men of great importance") walking purposefully toward the governor's palace. A crowd of angry people followed. The leaders had a man with them who was bound and stumbling along. I was curious. 

What was going on? They couldn't go into the governor's palace today of all days. He is not a Jew. If they went inside, they would become unclean and would not be able to eat the Passover meal. Maybe whatever was going to transpire would take place outside the palace. My curiosity got the better of me and I left my wares with my brother to see what was going on.

Pontius Pilate came out to them. More people gathered. The men of great importance made accusations against this man, whose name was Jesus. I'd heard of this man. I even heard his teachings. They made sense to me and I liked this Jesus.


What I found most interesting was that these accusations didn't seem to match the intensity of the men making them. In other words, I thought that perhaps they were over-reacting. But, I am a simple man. I am not a man of great importance, like our leaders. What did I know?


I continued to watch and listen, but then I noticed that many of the men of great importance were walking among the crowd, screaming at Pilate, and getting the crowd  worked up. Before I knew what was happening, I was caught up in the turmoil. Our numbers grew and so did our anger.


Jewish custom allows a prisoner of the peoples' choosing to be released on the Feast. Pilate gave us a choice...Barrabas, a murderer or Jesus, a blasphemer? 


"We want Barrabas!" we cried.


In my heart, I knew that Jesus should be released. What crime had he really committed? Even Pilate said that the man had done nothing wrong. But no one else appeared to feel the same way. I was confused. I looked at the faces around me. They were all distorted in anger! I began to feel the same.


Pilate asked us what we wanted him to do with Jesus. Why was he asking us, the crowd? Wasn't that his job? He seemed to want nothing to do with this.


Someone shouted, "Crucify him!"  Probably a man of great importance planted in the crowd. The rest of us went along with it. Before I knew it, we were all shouting, "Crucify him!"


Later, I would recall how quickly I went from a peace-loving man, whose only wish in life was to provide for my family and live in harmony with others, to a bitter, raging maniac, demanding the death of what I now know was an innocent man. 


At that time, my only thought was, "Crucify him!" because that's what everyone around me was shouting. How quickly I caved in to what everyone else thought. How sad that I did not have a voice of my own.

sharing this post with Coffee For My Heart, Wedded Wednesday, A Little R& R

Voices of the Crucifixion: Mary of Magdala: "I Have Seen the Lord!"

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 concludes outside the tomb where Jesus was buried.
It was early on the third day when I went to the tomb. There had not been sufficient time to anoint his body for burial on the Sabbath, so I brought the spices to properly prepare him for burial, according to custom.

I am Mary, of Magdala. Some call me Mary Magdalene; still others call me Mary the Demoniac. I am fully aware of the names that I am called. It is all right; most do not know quite what to make of me.


It is true-I was a demoniac. At one time, there were seven demons living in me, tormenting my soul. I was prone to violent outbursts, never knowing when they would choose to manifest themselves. I know that it frightened people...it frightened me! I was ostracized, cast out of my village. Eventually, I lost my friends and all of my family. I was utterly alone...except for the demons.


Until He came---Yeshua, Ha'mashiach...the Christ. The one who was crucified. He did not mock me. He did not reject me. He did not cast me away; rather, He looked at me with eyes so full of love, that I could not turn away. And when He touched me...the demons flew! I was healed! Delivered! Instantly! I experienced a freedom like I've never before known. 


I was...ALIVE!

So, I followed Him. I had nothing to lose. I had already lost my friends, my family and my dignity. I had everything to gain. I watched in awe each time another such as I was cured.


Then we entered Jerusalem, where He was arrested, beaten...crucified. It was a death like nothing I had ever seen before---so violent! It will be forever etched upon my memory. 


Watching Him die such a cruel and agonizing death was more than I could bear. How could they do that to Him---my L-RD? He was the only one who ever accepted me. 

No one has ever loved me as He did.

So you can imagine the anguish I felt when I got to the tomb and discovered it to be empty. Someone had taken His body and left the linens He'd been dressed in for burial! How could they? I thought. Wasn't it enough for Him to be brutally beaten and to die a most painful and agonizing death? Wasn't that punishment enough? When would the persecution end? 


I sat outside the tomb and wept. Suddenly, I heard a voice, "Woman, why are you crying?"


Startled out of my grief, I turned and saw a man dressed in white. I thought he was the gardener. Perhaps he knew where my L-RD's body was. 


"Sir, are you the gardener? Please," I implored of him, "if you have taken him, please tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him."

"Mary..." 


He spoke my name as if he knew me. As...as He did...Yeshua. Surely, I thought, it couldn't be...could it? He said He would rise in three days. Did He indeed rise miraculously from the dead? He raised Lazarus from the dead, why not Himself? Oh, He is alive!


"Rabboni!" I cried. "It is You! You have returned, as you said You would!" 

I fell to my knees with the realization that my L-RD, Yeshua, Ha'mashiach, the Messiah, was standing before me. The Living God!

I reached out to touch Him but He told me, "Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, 'I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.'"


He motioned for me to rise. 


Once I was dead...emotionally, spiritually...when the demons inhabited my soul...and He raised me to new life. He had now risen from the physical dead. 

I was given a task to go. 
To tell. 
To proclaim to the others that He is alive! 

I grabbed my spice jar and ran to tell the others. I could barely contain myself as I shouted,

"I have seen the L-rd! I have seen the L-rd!"


HAPPY RESURRECTION DAY!!!
HE'S ALIVE!!!

sharing this post with The Weekend Brew, Sunday Stillness

Friday, April 3, 2015

Voices of the Crucifixion: Roman Centurion: "Surely, He Was the Son of God"

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 at Golgotha, or The Place of the Skull...the place of crucifixion.
I come from a family of centurions. We are soldiers who know how to kill. Some say we are hardened. Hmmm...I suppose they would be right. In order to kill, a man needs to know how to suppress his emotions. It is something I was taught as a young boy from my father, who was also a centurion. Even though my father was a centurion, and his father before him, I moved up through the ranks on my own skill and merit, along with the ability to command many men. 

I had the privilege of standing guard at the crucifixion of this man they called The king of the Jews, Jesus. 


I take my job very seriously. Many of my men openly mocked Jesus, casting lots for his clothes. I find that to be an immature quality. Although I did not partake in their boyish games, I did nothing to stop them. Sometimes, they just need an outlet. And criminals are...well, criminals. Not worthy of respect. What harm is there in a little fun? They're going to die anyway. 


Around the sixth hour, it became very dark. For three hours, we waited for Jesus to die. Suddenly, around the ninth hour, he cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!" Then, he gave up his voice. It was finally over. But it wasn't...


What happened next is something I would never have believed, had I not witnessed it. At the very moment Jesus breathed his last breath, the sun stopped shining and it grew very dark and stormy. I heard that the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom! The earth quaked and the rocks split! Then the tombs broke open and dead people, the holy ones, started walking around! 


It couldn't be coincidence. The magnitude of these happenings coinciding with the death of this man they called a king both terrified and awed me. 


The guards who were with me saw these things and can testify to them. For what seemed like an eternity, we could not speak. For someone who was an expert at hiding his emotions, I suddenly wanted to fall to my knees and weep. 

This Jesus...surely this was a righteous man. Surely, he was the Son of God.


sharing this post with   Grace and Truth

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Voices of the Crucifixion: Simon of Cyrene: "I Would Gladly Carry His Cross"

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 on the Via Dolorosa, the road to crucifixion.





Early this morning, I was on my way to Jerusalem from the country, and I saw this crowd gathered. I heard much shouting and jeering. I wondered what was going on, but I'm not one to get involved. I just wanted to take care of my business and enjoy the Sabbath with my family. It was Passover and my wife had a list of chores for me to help her with, so I needed to get home.

But in order to conduct my business, I had to go through that crowd to get to where I needed to go. I waited awhile, thinking the crowd would disperse, but it only grew. 


Suddenly, I saw a break in the crowd, and I seized the opportunity to get through and move on. As I began to cross through the crowd, I saw this man who appeared to have been brutally beaten. He was bleeding so much that it seemed as if I there was more blood than flesh. He was carrying a cross...barely. I recognized this Roman punishment for crucifixion. The criminal was to carry his own cross to his death as a symbol of conformity to the law, which he had broken. 

It caused me to stop. I watched for a moment. The poor man kept falling from the weight of the cross; he was clearly unable to continue to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where he would be crucified.

I couldn't watch any more. This punishment was brutal. I was just about to continue on, when I heard a loud and demanding voice call to me. "You there!" I turned and saw a Roman soldier looking and pointing at me.


"Me?"

"Yes...YOU! What's your name?"


"Simon, of Cyrene," I replied. What did this soldier want with me? I did nothing wrong.


"Well...Simon, of Cyrene," he said with a sarcastic tone in his voice, "Carry his cross."


Now, I'm not a strong man; I prefer to work with numbers rather than lumber. But I had heard this man...Jesus they called him. I had listened to his teachings and I believed what he said. I also believed that he was being unjustly punished. I'm not sure what his crime was, but the Jesus I'd heard was gentle and kind; certainly not deserving of this savage treatment. 


I gladly took his cross.

He was tired and his body was battered. My heart went out to him...yet...I felt something in mine; as if, even in his battered state, his heart went out to me. It wasn't merely a sentiment of thanks for my carrying his cross. It was something deeper-a connection that cannot be explained. 


It was as if he knew me. 

I kept my pace with his; he could barely walk. He fell several times. I wanted to help him up, but that soldier kept his eye on me to make sure I did only what I was told to do-carry his cross. The weight on my shoulders was great, but the weight on his had to be much greater. 


I would gladly carry his cross.

sharing this post with Word Filled Wednesday, Thought-Provoking Thursday, Wedded Wednesday