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Sister
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« on: October 07, 2009, 01:50:24 PM »

What God Expects of Us
Colossians 3:12-16a, 17
As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly . . . And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

√ Every person is a child of God.  Always speak respectfully.  One can disagree without being disagreeable.
√ As you patiently listen and observe the behavior of others, be open to the possibility that God can change the views of any or all parties in the discussion.
√ Listen patiently before formulating responses.
√ Strive to understand the experience out of which others have arrived at their views.
√ Be careful in how you express personal offense at differing opinions.  Otherwise dialogue may be inhibited.
√ Accurately reflect the views of others when speaking.  This is especially important when you disagree with that position.
√ Avoid making generalizations about individuals and groups.  Make your point with specific evidence and examples.
√ Remember that people are defined, ultimately, by their relationship with God – not by the flaws we discover, or think we discover, in their views and actions.
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« Reply #1 on: October 12, 2009, 05:41:55 PM »

It is much easier to see the shortcomings, faults, and sins of others.  Yet, it isn’t just “visible” signs of weakness that should trouble us, but rather the “invisible” thoughts within our own minds which should be our first concern.  Are we judging without knowing the full story?  Are we basing our judgments on someone else’s knowledge?  We never really know what is on someone else’s plate or how God is actively working in their lives, in ways which may not have manifested themselves yet.

I confess to you, Almighty God, that I have sinned by my thoughts, my words, and my deeds.  I can blame no other for I understand I am the thinker of my own thoughts, the speaker of my own words, and I control my own deeds.  Lord, I acknowledge these situations where it is I who has sinned.  I humbly ask your forgiveness.  I will seek the forgiveness of those I have harmed.  I am sorry and ask for your help through the Holy Spirit to mend these my weaknesses.  I pray for your pardon through the One who spoke your Word, who obeyed your Word, and who is your Word, every our Lord and our Savior, Jesus our Christ.  Amen and Amen.
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« Reply #2 on: October 16, 2009, 04:37:48 PM »

The Mother
The young mother set her foot on the path of life.  "Is
This the long way?" she asked.
And the guide said: "Yes, and the way is hard.
And you will be old before you reach the end of it.
But the end will be better than the beginning."

But the young mother was happy, and she would not
Believe that anything could be better than these years. So she
Played with her children, and gathered flowers for
Them along the way, and bathed them in the clear streams; and
The sun shone on them, and the young Mother cried,
"Nothing will ever be lovelier than this."

Then the night came, and the storm, and the path was
Dark, and the children shook with fear and cold, and the mother
Drew them close and covered them with her mantle, and the children said,
"Mother, we are not afraid, for you are near, and no harm can come."

And the morning came, and there was a hill ahead, and
The children climbed and grew weary, and the mother was weary.
But at all times she said to the children," A little patience and we are
there."
So the children climbed, and when they reached the top
They said, "Mother, we would not have done it without you."

And the mother, when she lay down at night looked up
At the stars and said, "This is a better day than the last, for my
Children have learned fortitude in the face of hardness. Yesterday I gave
them courage.
Today, I've given them strength."

And the next day came strange clouds which darkened
The earth, clouds of war and hate and evil, and the children groped
And stumbled, and the mother said: "Look up. Lift your eyes to the light."
And the children looked and saw above the clouds
An everlasting glory, and it guided them beyond the
Darkness. And that night the Mother said,
"This is the best day of all, for
I have shown my children God."

And the days went on, and the weeks and the months and
The years, and the mother grew old and she was little and bent.
But her children were tall and strong, and walked with
Courage. And when the way was rough, they lifted her,
For she was as light as a feather; and at last they came to a hill,
And beyond they could see a shining road and golden gates flung wide. And
Mother said, "I have reached the end of my journey. And now I know the end
Is better than the beginning, for my children can
Walk alone, and their children after them."

And the children said, "You will always walk with us,
Mother, even when you have gone through the gates."
And they stood and watched her as she went on alone, and the gates
Closed after her. And they said: "We cannot see her
But she is with us still. A Mother like ours is more than a memory. She
Is a living presence......."

Your Mother is always with you.... She's the whisper
Of the leaves as you walk down the street; she's the smell of bleach
In your freshly laundered socks; she's the cool hand
On your brow when you're not well. Your Mother lives
Inside your laughter. And she's crystallized in every tear drop.
She's the place you came from, your first home; and
she's the map you follow with every step you take. She's your first love
And your first heartbreak, and nothing on earth can
Separate you.

Not time, not space ... Not even death!

--author unknown
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« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2009, 01:40:19 AM »

If we are careful of silence, it will be easy to pray.  There is so much talk, so much repetition, so much carrying on in words and writing.  Our prayer life suffers so much because our hearts are not silent. -- Mother Teresa
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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2009, 04:10:29 PM »

To face life . . . to face yourself . . . to face your responsibilities . . . stay in the Word of God, because you find yourself in the Scriptures. 
If you’ve ever listened to the devil when you shouldn’t have . . . read about Adam and Eve in Genesis.  If you are trying to run from yourself . . . read about Moses in Exodus.  If you have tremendous challenges ahead . . . read about Joshua in the book of Joshua.  If you want assurance that God will give you victory when odds are against you . . . read about Gideon in the book of Judges.
If you want to see how God gives new life after loss  read about Naomi in the book of Ruth.  If you want to see how God will elevate you . . . read about David in First and Second Samuel.  If you want to see how God will bless you when you seek right things . . . read about Solomon in First Kings.  If you want to see the power of one person’s prayer . . . read about Elijah in Second Kings.  If you want to see how prayer and study go together . . . read Ezra.  If you want to know about struggles in pursuing a dream . . . read Nehemiah.  If you want to see how God gives victory over enemies . . . read Esther.
If you want to know about suffering and loss . . . read Job.  If you want to know about praise and paths . . . read Psalms.  If you want everyday wisdom and guidance . . . read Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.  If you want to know the language of love . . . read Song of Solomon.  If you want to know about comfort as well as judgment . . . read Isaiah.  If you want to know how to work through questions of God . . . read Jeremiah and Lamentations.  If you want to know about new life in a valley of dry bones where you are . . . read Ezekiel.  If you want to know how to survive being persecuted for righteousness’ sake . . . read Daniel.  If you want to know about love that is long suffering, not abusive . . . read Hosea.  If you want to hear about justice for the poor . . . read Amos.  If you want to see someone trying to run from the word of God . . . read Jonah.  If you want to know how to make it not by power nor by might but by God’s spirit . . . read Zechariah.  If you want to know how to do the journey from a doubt to a shout . . . read Habakkuk.  If you want to learn about tithing . . . read Malachi.    
If you want to know who Jesus is and what he will do for you . . . read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  If you want to know how the Holy Spirit will work in your life . . . read Acts.  If you want clarification of what we believe . . . read Romans.  If you want to know about the resurrection of the body . . . read First Corinthians.  If you want to know about becoming a new creature in Christ Jesus . . . read Second Corinthians.  If you want to know how social distinctions between race and sex are dissolved in Christ Jesus . . . read Galatians.  If you want to know about the whole armor of God . . . read Ephesians.  If you want to know about being risen with Christ . . . read Colossians.  If you want to learn of the second coming . . . read First and Second Thessalonians.  If you want to know how to endure hardship as a good soldier . . . read Second Timothy.  If you want to know about faith . . . read Hebrews.  If you want to know how to balance works and faith . . . read James.  If you want to learn about redemption by the precious blood of Jesus . . . read First Peter.  If you want to know about love of God and the love we ought have for one another . . . read First John.  If you need to be reminded that God will keep you from falling . . . read Jude.  If you desire the assurance that when it’s all over, evil will be vanquished and victory will be yours because he . . . our Alpha and Omega who is faithful and true, King of kings and Lord of lords . . . will bring it . . . read Revelation.
To face life . . . stay in the Word of God.
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« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2009, 10:38:36 PM »

The day is at hand . . . the Savior draws near!
Let us watch, and let our eyes be clear . . .
lest the star appear and not be followed . . .
lest the child be born and not be found. 

The day is at hand . . . the Savior draws near!
Let us listen, and let our ears be sharp . . .
lest the cry arise and go unheeded . . .
lest the angel sing and go unheard. 

The day is at hand . . . the Savior draws near!
Let us wait, and let our minds be open . . .
lest the candle go out and not be relit . . .
lest the Rose of Sharon bloom and not be seen.

The day is at hand . . . the Savior draws near!
Let us touch, and let our touch be lingering,
lest the unborn leap and go unnoticed,
lest the newborn tremble and go unloved.
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« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2009, 12:01:22 AM »

The Prayer of Silence
Imagine a soul so closely united to God that it has no need of outward acts to remain attentive to the inward prayer.  In these moments of silence and peace when it pays no heed to what is happening within itself, it prays and prays excellently, with a simple and direct prayer that God will understand perfectly by the action of grace.  The heart will be full of aspirations towards God without any clear expression.  Though they may elude our own consciousness, they will not escape the consciousness of God. This prayer, so empty of all images and perceptions, apparently so passive and yet so active, is, so far as the limitations of this life allow, pure adoration in spirit and in truth. It is adoration fully worthy of God in which the soul is united to him as its ground, the created intelligence to the uncreated, without anything but a very simple attention of the
mind and an equally simple application of the will.  This is what is called the prayer of silence, or of quiet, or of bare faith.
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2010, 07:41:14 PM »

The Voice of the Heart
Love which is the voice of the heart.  Love God and you will always be speaking to him.   The seed of love is growth in prayer. Ask God to open your heart and kindle in it a spark of his love, and then you will begin to understand what praying means.
If it is the heart that prays, it is evident that sometimes, and even continuously, it can pray by itself without any help from words, spoken or conceived.  Here is something which few people understand and which some even entirely deny.  They insist that there must be definite and formal acts.  They are mistaken, and God has not yet taught them how the heart prays.  It is true that thoughts are formed in the mind before they are clothed in words.  The proof of this is that we often search for the right word and reject one after another until we find the right one which expresses our thoughts accurately.  We need words to make ourselves intelligible to other people but not to the Spirit.  It is the same with the feelings of the heart.  The heart conceives feelings and adopts them without any need of resorting to words unless it wishes to communicate them to others or to make them clear to itself.
For God reads the secrets of the heart.  God reads its most intimate feelings, even those which we are not aware of.  And if these are feelings about God, how could he fail to see them, since it is God who plants them in us by his grace and helps our will to adopt them?  It is not necessary to make use of formal acts to make ourselves heard by God.  If we do make use of them in prayer, it is not so much for God’s sake as our own in that they help us to keep our attention fixed in his presence.  Our weakness often calls for the help of such acts, but they are not of the essence of prayer.
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2010, 01:56:08 PM »

The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others.  He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces.  He was wise, for he has seen a long succession of mechanical toys, arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else.  For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand about it.
"What is REAL?" asked the [Velveteen] Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery tender, before Nana came to tidy the room.  "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up." he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
--from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
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« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2010, 10:32:12 PM »

Thank you Sister for posting these thoughts and prayers.
I am going to come here more often. I find that if I read it one day, I think of my day and what I could have done better and then aim for the better the next day.
 
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« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2010, 12:53:27 AM »

Thank you Sister for posting these thoughts and prayers.
I am going to come here more often. I find that if I read it one day, I think of my day and what I could have done better and then aim for the better the next day.
 

Kat_Gram, how kind of you to say so.  I read something a while back (reading is my passion) about choices.  Let me find it and put it here.  I think you will enjoy it.  Again, thank you for your thoughts.  I too believe in leading an examined life.  If we don't look back at our day, how can tomorrow be better?  The Apostle Paul says we are to lead an examined life.  When I look at mine each evening, I also get the assurance from the Lord how He will help me make tomorrow even better.
If I can't find the piece about choices tonight, I will find it and post it here.
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2010, 10:34:50 PM »

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you will see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. ~ Gibran
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2010, 11:23:22 PM »

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you will see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Mods, will you fix this for me -- it is by Gibran, yipes I forgot to post it with the quote.
Thank you.
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« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2010, 04:44:29 PM »

From Resignation
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

She is not dead, – the child of our affection, –
   But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
   And Christ himself doth rule.

In the great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,
   By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin’s pollution,
   She lives, who we call dead.

Day after day we think what she is doing
   In those bright realms of air;
Year after year her tender steps pursuing,
   Behold her grown more fair.

Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken
   The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
   May reach her where she lives.

Not as a child shall we again behold her;
   For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her,
   She will not be a child;

But a fair maiden, in her Father’s mansion,
   Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion
   Shall we behold her face.

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« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2010, 05:18:18 PM »

Mark 14
It was just two days before the Jewish Passover and the feast of the Unleavened Bread.  All of Jerusalem was in the midst of preparation.  Anticipation floated in the air and mingled with the aromas of a city that was getting ready to celebrate the most holy of all holy days.  This was the time for the rehearsal of Israel's long religious history.  There would be feasting and singing and praying. Generations would speak to one another about what it was like when God covenanted with Israel to be God's chosen people.  And the nation would remember again how God had promised them a messiah – an anointed one – who would lead them to victory and triumph!
In the midst of this preparation and excitement, Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on the back of a colt.  Many people gathered and cheered while others laid their cloaks down to make a highway for Jesus as he approached.  Some waved leafy branches they had cut from the fields.  As Jesus rode forth into the city, the people shouted: “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our ancestor David!”
On this festive occasion Jesus was accompanied by his disciples and other faithful men and women who followed him wherever he went.  But not everyone joined the festivities, however.  There were those in Jerusalem's religious hierarchy who were afraid of Jesus because the crowds seemed to be spellbound by his teaching.  Whether anyone else recognized him or not, the chief priests and scribes suspected that Jesus might truly be the long-expected messiah.  Instead of embracing John the baptizer's message of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, they were deeply shaken . . . for they perceived that this Jesus would turn everything upside down – including their status and security.
Jesus was too dangerous.  He interfered with the hard earned relationship that they had slowly established over the years with the local Roman officials.  Just when life had become more predictable and bearable, Jesus began to upset the delicate balance of their power and authority by what he said and did.  He eroded their favored positions of privilege by his very presence.  And besides, he had
insulted them in public and made them look foolish.  They could not save face many more times, for they continued to be outsmarted by his quick wit and verbal attacks.
“Beware of the scribes,” Jesus most recently had proclaimed, “for they devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.  They will receive the greater condemnation.”  There was no question about it . . . something had to be done with this man.  If he was the messiah, God would take care of him!  So the chief priests and scribes went about looking for a way to arrest Jesus and kill him.
During this critical time, the disciples of Jesus seemed to become more confused about his purpose and mission.  Jesus had told them on three different occasions that he would suffer and die.  Apparently they missed the implications of what Jesus meant.  They thought Jesus, who worked miracles, was invincible. Suffering and cross bearing and death surely could not be part of the equation for discipleship.  They protested.  They became anxious.  And they argued about who would be given the best place of honor.
Misunderstood by his disciples and threatened with imminent arrest by the chief priests and scribes, Jesus felt lonely and isolated.  His heart ached for love and companionship.  His body must have been tired and weary.  Perhaps Simon̓s invitation to dinner should be accepted.  Simon the leper had a reputation for his hospitality.  It could be that a dinner party was what they all needed to relieve some of the tension that had been building.  It would provide a time for fellowship and refreshment.  So he went.
Jesus went to Bethany and while he was eating dinner at the house of Simon the leper, this woman appeared out of nowhere.  She burst in . . . uninvited and unwanted!  What a brash and dangerous thing for a woman to do.  She was breaking the Jewish custom that women were not allowed to enter the dining room when men were present.  As if this was not enough to anger any righteous man among them, the woman did another completely unexpected thing.  In front of the astounded and indignant male guests, she broke the alabaster jar she carried and anointed the head of Jesus!
A solitary figure, the woman was as bold and unashamed as she was tender and compassionate.  Whether the woman had met Jesus before is unimportant.  It was what she did in the unsolicited act of anointing that remains unforgettable. Apparently she was familiar with his teachings and took seriously the message about the new age that Jesus proclaimed where all the old values would be turned upside down.  Perhaps she had heard about the announcements he made about his own death and the plans of the chief priests and scribes.  Perhaps her faith enabled her to discern the gravity of the situation.  Whatever prompted her action, the woman willingly went against the accepted place of women in her religion and culture, for she realized that the time to do something for Jesus was soon to be no more.  Out of her resources and possessions, she did what she had the power to do. She poured a senseless amount of precious perfumed ointment over Jesus' head. This was not the common, ordinary ointment that was used every day. It was pure nard.
The cost of the ointment, pure nard, was worth a year's wages for a laborer.  Nard, made from flowers of the spikenard plant that grew on the slopes of the Himalayan Mountains far from Jerusalem, was usually transported overland by caravan.  From Egypt to China, this fragrance was found on the cosmetic shelf of any woman who could afford it.  Nard was a very costly item that would never be used in excess.  Mostly it was touched to the skin in occasional and deliberate dabs or driblets.  To break open a container and pour it all out was an extravagant act that verged on prodigality!  In fact, the woman's excessive response was not so unlike the extravagant behavior of a father toward his son in a story that Jesus had been known to tell.
It was the woman . . . not Simon or the male guests and disciples, who was doing, acting, caring, touching, anointing, giving, and risking.  And Jesus accepted her silent acts of intimacy and devotion with profound respect and reverent silence.  Perhaps Jesus longed for the warmth and comfort of another's touch. Perhaps the cool ointment cascading from his head over his face and neck was like a baptism of sorts.  Perhaps this tender act of mercy brought healing to his heavy heart.  Perhaps, just once, it felt good to receive.  To sit and be passive.  To let someone minister to him.  Perhaps to be cared for and loved was a balm to his soul.  Perhaps this anointing was an act of emancipation for both Jesus and the woman.  Jesus was not ashamed or embarrassed or defensive.  He did not rebuke or resist or reject her.
Rather, Jesus affirmed the woman for who she was and what she did.  The response of the disciples at this occasion must have been a disappointment to Jesus.  After all, they had been with him for a long time.  They had heard the words he had spoken about his suffering and death, and yet they did not perceive his weariness and deep sorrow.  And as soon as the woman entered the room, they saw and heard only what their culture expected them to see and hear.
They saw a woman who had spent too much money to do a foolish thing. The ointment she bought was too costly . . . too luxurious.  They were concerned about how the money could have been spent to forward their cause . . . so it was high finances and social utility that prompted their berating comments.  They were offended not only by her presence . . . but by her action as well.  To them, it was Jesus who seemed not to understand the gravity of the situation.  This was the time to plan a revolution . . . not to sit around and be pampered!  It must have confused the disciples even more when Jesus scolded and rebuked them and then praised the woman and delighted in what she did.  At the moment, they could neither hear his reproach nor see the woman's act of ministry.
Afterward, all the disciples would remember the dinner party at Simon's house.  They would remember the woman and what she did.  They would remember Jesus and what he had told them about suffering and death and drinking from the same cup.   Most of all, they would remember the great price one disciple paid for the ointment she used to anoint Jesus' head and the small price another disciple accepted from the chief priests for Jesus' betrayal.
More than to 2,000 years later, we also remember.  We remember her because this unnamed woman confronts us still.  She will not let us take the easy way out.  She remains a model for us because she was not afraid to give what was uniquely hers to give. In remembering her, we are challenged to do what we have the power to do.  It may be only a little that we can do . . . or it may be much.  This is not even the question.  To do what we have the power to do is more than enough.  It is everything God asks!
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« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2010, 05:53:30 PM »

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem when he stopped at one of the local synagogues.  It was his custom to preach and teach wherever he could, and this Sabbath day was no exception.  Word had spread that Jesus was in town . . . the very same Jesus who had cast out demons and had made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the lame to leap.
The synagogues were a meeting place for prayer and worship services. It also had an area for the study of and discussion about the Torah—God’s laws by which they lived.  People gathered from the town and the surrounding villages.  They found their way into the synagogue and claimed their rightful places—the men in the main area of the synagogue and the women separated and hidden behind a kind of grillwork with the children and slaves.  They gathered to witness the presence of the one whom others claimed to be miracle worker. Perhaps this day they would see and hear for themselves what Jesus was all about.
At the very back of the room behind the grillwork and close to the women’s entrance could be seen a grotesque shadow.  Nothing but a shadow -- or so it seemed -- gave shape to the figure of a woman bent double.  Curved and folded in upon itself, the deformed body had been her burden to carry for eighteen years.   
If the people had not been so preoccupied with Jesus’ visit, they would have noticed her and denied her entrance into the synagogue.  She certainly had no business being where she was that day!
All was quiet.  Anticipation hung in the air with the incense.  Jesus stepped forward and held up the Torah to read God’s word.  He paused long enough to look at the faces watching him.
But what about that shadow of a woman . . . the one with the misshapen body who slouched and leaned against the wall?  She could not see Jesus, and yet she knew he was looking at her.  She could feel the congregation turn toward her.  It was frightening . . . but she was going to keep standing there until commanded to leave.
Jesus called her.  Out loud.  In public.  In the synagogue.  It was strictly forbidden by rabbinic law that a man give any public recognition to a woman—let alone speak openly to one.  But here was Jesus—this unorthodox preacher—calling her to him.  Surely there must be some mistake.  He should not be addressing her. Not the hunchback possessed with a spirit of infirmity.  Not the one from whom people recoiled and for whom they stepped aside to avoid the risk of her touch.  But there was that clear voice again. Jesus was calling her to come to him.
Jesus’ speech parted the crowd, and there she was!  This time people moved not to avoid her, but to look at her.  It was as if, for the first time in eighteen years, she really existed.  Above the murmuring of the assembly, the shuffle of her sandals against the hard floor echoed throughout the synagogue.  Each step seemed an eternity of slow, awkward, painful motion, but Jesus was in no hurry.  In that long moment between where she had been and where she was going, she knew who was in charge.  It was Jesus who was Lord.
She stood in front of him.  Bowed in upon herself—just as she was.  Because she could not lift her head because she was so bowed over, she could see only his hands and his feet.  She wondered what his face looked like— this teacher, who through the power of his voice parted the crowd and made her feel whole.  Everyone was waiting to see what would happen.
“Woman,” Jesus said, “Woman, you are freed from your infirmity.  Rid of your ailment. Set free from this disease. You are no longer bound. Woman, you are free!”
These words spilled over her like sweet perfume and baptized her with new possibilities. They anointed her lonely, parched heart. They loosened the vicious pain of bone and tissue and sinew that had for days and years turned in upon her body.
“Woman,” Jesus was saying again to her, “you are free from your infirmity.”
In that moment between sickness and health, between brokenness and wholeness, the woman knew the decision was hers to make.  She was held between the grasp of a familiar past and the promise of a future yet unknown to her soul. 
Jesus waited.  He waited until he knew her heart had decided, and then he reached toward her and laid his hands upon her. It was like awakening from a cramped position in a long, hard sleep.  No longer bent over, her body still ached from all those years of being folded in upon itself.  And it ached from the unspeakable goodness and joy of the miracle that lifted her upright.  For the first time in eighteen years, she could see straight ahead of her.  She could look people squarely in their faces. A simple thing most people never think about, but this woman knew it to be a miracle.  It was into the eyes of Jesus that she first looked, and in the looking, she knew the source of her healing and her salvation. And she praised God!

And that my friends, is how I describe death and resurrection.
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« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2010, 12:05:15 AM »

Good Deeds
  Author Saul Bellow wrote about a rabbi who lived in a small Jewish town in Russia. The rabbi had a secret. Every Friday morning the rabbi disappeared for several hours. The people of his congregation liked to tell people that during his absence from them their rabbi went up to heaven and talked to God. When a stranger moved into town and heard this explanation for the rabbi's weekly departure, he was not convinced. So he decided to find out what was really going on. The next Friday morning, he hid by the rabbi's house, waiting and watching. As usual, the rabbi got up and said his prayers. But unlike other mornings of the week, he then dressed in peasant clothes. He grabbed an ax and wandered off into the woods to cut some firewood. With the man watching from afar, the rabbi then hauled the wood to a shack on the outskirts of the village where an old woman and her sick son lived. He left them the wood, enough for a week, and then went quietly back home.
  After seeing what the rabbi did, the stranger decided to stay in the village and join the congregation. From then on, whenever he heard one of the villagers say, "On Friday morning our rabbi ascends all the way to heaven," the newcomer quietly added, "If not higher."

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« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2010, 11:58:20 AM »

The moving story of Sydney Carton in Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities" is a story of expiation.  Each night Carton would make his way toward his lonely house, only to weep on his unmade bed over his wasted life and lost opportunities.  And yet at the end there is a beautiful scene of self-sacrifice when Carton, for the sake of the woman he has hopelessly loved, exchanges places with Darnay in prison.  As Carton rides on a cart to the guillotine to give his life for another, there is a beautiful light in his face as he envisions the future happiness of the woman he loved in vain.
One life for another.  Isn't that what Christ has done for us?  In perfect, holy obedience to the Father, Jesus takes our place before the judgment seat of God.  He makes confession and forgiveness possible.
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« Reply #18 on: July 18, 2010, 11:40:53 PM »

Luke 18:2-5:
In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men.  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”  For some time he refused.  But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!”

The main character in the story is a widow.  Now it’s never easy being a widow.  In our culture, widows can be wealthy.   They can hold positions of influence.  And even though many widows face severe financial problems, they are at least allowed to work, attend school and own property.
When Jesus told this story, the situation was quite different.  A widow generally had no education, no job, no money, no property, no power, no status.  If she had a son who would care for her, she could survive.  If not, she might become a beggar -- the first-century equivalent of a street person or a bag lady.  She would be a social outcast.
In Jesus’ story, the widow had an adversary.  Some unnamed local villain was harassing her.  Perhaps the person was intimidating her physically; perhaps the person was withholding or stealing funds that should have been used for her support.
In any case, the adversary was winning and she was losing.  The widow had no good way to protect herself, no relatives to see her plight and offer help, no governmental organization to come to her aid.  She had only one shot at warding off this villain --  she could go before a local judge and plead her case, throwing
herself on his mercy.  And that is what she decided to do.
Enter the second character: the judge.  Jesus described him in two crisp statements: he did not fear God, and he did not respect other human beings.
Without fear of God, this judge had no sense of accountability.  He did not respect God’s Word, his wisdom or his justice.  He did not worry that at some future day of reckoning he would have to give an account for his decisions.  Therefore, he made his own justice, decreeing whatever suited his fancy.  Like a loaded cannon loosed on deck, he fired wherever he wished.
Without respect for other human beings, this judge did not care how his decisions affected the people who looked for justice in his courtroom.  Since people didn’t matter to him, he felt free to use and abuse them.  He did not see them as brothers and sisters but as problems, interruptions, headaches, hassles.
And this judge was the widow’s last resort.
It makes you want to say to her, “Don’t waste your time going to court.  The judge is probably in cahoots with your enemy.  He’ll laugh in your face and throw you out in the streets.”  That, of course, is exactly what he did -- but the story doesn’t end with his dismissal of the case.  
Hurt and shocked by the judge’s behavior, the widow gathered her wits and examined her situation one more time.  With grim resolve she said to herself, “I don’t have any other options.  This judge is my only hope.  Somehow I must get him to protect me.”
But how could she do this?  No higher court would hear her case.  Penniless, she couldn’t even bribe the judge.  “I know what I’ll do,” she said to herself.  “I’ll pester him.  Every time that judge turns around, I’m going to be right in his face.  I’ll follow him home, I’ll follow him to work, I’ll follow him to the race track.  I’ll be on him like a shirt until he offers me protection, puts me in jail or kills me.”
So that’s what she did -- and it worked!  She pestered the judge until one day he raised the window in his office and shouted, “I can’t take it anymore!  Somebody fix this widow’s problem.  I don’t care what it takes.  Just do it.  She is driving me crazy.”
The happy ending to this story is that the crooked, uncaring judge finally gave the widow protection from her adversary.  Yet he did not do this from the goodness of his heart, but only because of her extraordinary ability to pester him.
Luke says Jesus told this story to show his disciples “that they should always pray and not give up”! (v. 1).  A lot of believers, having read just this far, make a grave error in interpreting it.  Thinking of the story as an allegory, they look at it like this:
We humans are like the widow.  Impoverished, powerless, with no connections and no status, we are unable to handle our problems alone and feel that we have nowhere to turn.
God, then, must be like the judge, these misguided believers continue.  He’s not really interested in our situation.  After all, he has a universe to run, angels to keep in harmony, harps to tune.  It’s best not to bother him unless it’s really important.
If we’re desperate, though, we can always do what the widow did: we can pester him.  Bang on the doors of heaven.  Spend hours on our knees.  Ask our friends to pester him too.  Sooner or later, we may wear him down and wrench a blessing from his tightly closed fist.  Eventually he may shout, “I can’t take it anymore -- somebody fix this problem!”
Does that interpretation sound right to you?  I hope not.  But how often I talk with people who seem to think God is like that judge!  They are absolutely convinced that the greatest challenge associated with prayer is finding the lost key that will somehow unlock the vault of blessings that God, for some reason, would prefer not to open.
I get tired of reading titles that promise to divulge the secret of getting past God’s reluctance, to reveal the little-known way to pester our way into his presence.  Please, please don’t ever think of God that way!  Jesus never meant this story to imply that God is like that callous judge.
What, then, does the story mean?  Jesus himself interpreted it as soon as he finished telling it.  You’ve heard how the unjust judge reacted, he said; now look at God’s approach.  “Will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (v. 7-8).
According to Jesus, this story is not an allegory, where elements in the story stand for truths, outside the story.  Instead it is a parable --a short story with a puzzling aspect that forces listeners to think.  This particular parable is a study in opposites.  Take a look at the contrasts.
First, we are not like the widow.  In fact, we are totally opposite from her.  She was poor, powerless, forgotten and abandoned.  She had no relationship with the judge.  For him, she was just one more item on his to-do list.  But we are not abandoned; we are God’s adopted sons and daughters, Jesus’ brothers and sisters.  We are in God’s family, and we matter to him.  So don’t tiptoe into God’s presence, trying to find the secret of attracting his attention.  Just say, “Hello, Father,” and know that he loves to hear your voice.
Second, our loving heavenly Father is nothing like the judge in Jesus’ story!  The judge was crooked, unrighteous, unfair, disrespectful, uncaring and preoccupied with personal matters.  By contrast, our God is righteous and just, holy and tender, responsive and sympathetic.
The psalmist says, "Taste and see that the LORD is good" (Ps 34:Cool.  Don’t think you have to figure out a way to wrench a blessing from him, somehow to trick him into giving up what he would rather keep for himself.  God’s Word teaches that God loves to bestow blessings on his children.  It’s his nature; it’s who he is -- a giving God, a blessing God, an encouraging God, a nurturing God, an empowering God, a loving God.
The Bible teaches that we serve a God who is simply looking for opportunities to pour out his blessings on us. It’s as if he were saying, “What good are my resources if I do’'t have anyone to share them with?  Just give me a reasonable amount of cooperation, and I will pour out my blessings on you.”  This theme shows up in the Old Testament time and time again.
Deuteronomy 28:2-6, 12 says:
All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.  The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock -- the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.  You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.  The LORD, will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you.... The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands.  You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.
All through the Old Testament, then, we see the theme that God is ready and willing to share his resources with his people.  In the New Testament this concept is extended and made even more precious.  There we learn that we have been adopted as God’s sons and daughters and have become heirs, along with Jesus Christ, of his glorious kingdom.
Jesus taught us to call God Father, actually, Papa. (difference in paternity and fatherhood)
In Romans 8:16-17 Paul wrote:
“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs -- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”
What a fantastic doctrine.  God wants to cover us with blessings because he has adopted us as his sons and daughters!  Should we ever fear to tell our Father our needs?
For some reason, though, most of us have a hard time accepting the gifts God gives us.  In the past, when God would bless me with a special portion of his Spirit, I can distinctly remember feeling, “God must have had his wires crossed.  Why would he do that for me?”  In fact, I would feel guilty about my good fortune, as if I had somehow acquired something that God didn’t really want me to have.
I’m  learning to give God a little credit.  If imperfect fathers love their children -- multiply it as far as you can, and you’ll know a little of how your heavenly Father feels about you.  No one’s voice is sweeter to God than yours.  Nothing in all of the universe would keep him from directing his full attention to your requests.
Is anything holding you back from making them known to him right now?
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« Reply #19 on: August 20, 2010, 11:35:40 PM »

The notion of peace in our hearts is beautifully illustrated by a story found in The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers:   
“There were three friends who were eager workers, and one of them chose to devote himself to making peace between people in accordance with “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  The second chose to visit the sick.  The third went off to live in tranquility in the desert.  The first toiled among the quarrels of people, but could not resolve them all, and so he went to the one who was looking after the sick, and he found him flagging too, not succeeding in fulfilling the commandment.  So the two of them agreed to visit the one living in the desert.  They told him of their difficulties and asked him what he had been able to do.  He was silent for a time, then he poured water in a bowl and said to them, “Look at the water.”  It was all turbulent.  A little later he told them to look at it again, and see how the water had settled down.  When they looked at it, they saw their own faces as in a mirror.  Then he said to them, “In the same way a person who is living in the midst of people does not see his own sins because of all the disturbance, but if he becomes tranquil, especially in the desert, then he can see his own shortcomings.” – Benedicta Ward
This story leaves little doubt that tranquility of the heart comes from prayerful self-examination.  It is then that we may be ready to start walking humbly on the road to further God’s kingdom on earth with peace in our own hearts.
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